Member Commentary

Video Evidence: Evaluating Videos of UFO's

Shane Hill writes:

The ufologist: part detective; part psychologist; all mad scientist

The advent of the video camera has both negative as well as positive connotations for the UFO researcher. Firstly on the positive side the vast number of cameras means (do the math) that if UFO's are real, then there is a fair chance we will eventually capture one on video tape. There are 20 million plus cameras pointing at family picnics, barbecues, grandma blowing out candles on her cake, occasionally they are pointed at the sky. The chances are increasing every day that somebody somewhere will point their video at the clouds filming the genuine article.

On the negative side video is easy to fake, a delicate balance of cleverness with computer software have made it possible to create some very convincing footage. The cost of the video the camera is dropping all the time, if the hoaxer himself doesn't own the right gear Ill lay odds that he knows somebody who does.

Next there's the question of just how far will a hoaxer go. Have you ever heard a ufologist claim the process of faking a certain video would be far too involved, that nobody would bother? Not recently, we now know that some hoaxer went to all the trouble of breaking down a video frame by frame then inserting UFO footage one piece at a time. This would have taken days to accomplish. (see the 1996 Mexican footage).

If one person will go to all that trouble, why wouldn't another hoaxer go to the trouble of running a fishing line across half a mile of open lake water? No reason, the result speaks for itself.

The result, for a time enough people took both these footage's as genuine. That in itself would be enough to prompt many hoaxers to action. Then there are the financial rewards. What? I hear the dedicated researcher what financial reward? none of these people ask for money you can download their video right off the net. Yes you can, considering the fact that they are not actually asking for money does on the surface make them appear more genuine, but then isn't that what its supposed to do?

Take the case of Jonathan Reed's screaming alien. Dr Reed didn't ask for money, not right up front. However there were the video sales, the fees for talking about his amazing encounter, along with all the publicity from the Art Bell show. Which will no doubt sell a lot of books.

A reasonable effort went into the screaming alien affair, photographs, models, video, getting your friends in on the act. Money was made. Reed didn't just supply video his concocted story included everything from mysterious MIB's to sound files an astounding case which I hope to cover in detail at a later time.

Santinelli sold his Roswell footage, had it syndicated around half the planet, that made money, no two ways about it. All this being taken into consideration UFO videos are still turning up I made a few myself, more on that later, ufologist's are still arguing over diverse bits of footage. Then of course there's that greatest of revenue generators for UFO video's, the ufologist himself. Whether or not you believe a piece of film you still need to view it in order to argue for or against it. Viewing means you need to have your own copy. In the case of some of the more commercial enterprises there are enough armchair ufologists to support most people for a few months. Don't forget the better the job, the greater the controversy, the more sales.

With this in light I present a few thoughts about video, a few questions that the serious researcher should ask when examining any piece of footage.

Video if it looks too good to be real it probably is. If there is absolutely positively no way it could have been faked then it probably is a fake.

Could it have been faked?
This is the first question you should ask. Keep in mind that just because it could have been faked doesn't mean it was. Any special effects artist will tell you the easiest thing to fake is real life. As nothing in the movies is ever real. Explosions are bigger, sounds are louder, lighting is just right. Real life however means just pointing the camera, hoping for the best. To get a good feel for this try watching real life documentaries. Watch the national geographic channel, animal documentary makers must wait sometimes for hours to get two seconds of film. movies however happen on que. This is a clue in itself.

Does it look suspiciously like the UFO (or model) was waiting to be filmed. Is the camera man sneaking through the woods mumbling some really poor reason for having his camera on in the first place, then suddenly shock horror surprise "hey what's that" camera points up, we see the FUO.* Is the camera pointing out the window for no reason? There is to the mind of a film critic nothing more telling than cameras pointing out through windows on the flimsy excuse of wanting to film Mums washing on the clothesline.

Does the camera appear to come into play after the object is sighted. i.e. people at a family function spot a UFO so somebody rushes inside to get the camera. The footage picks up after the event, not before as if the event was fully expected.

Does the entire story make sense? Are you asking the right questions? We saw this object, auntie Maple says "get your video out dears that one of them UFO things". A fake need not be all that technically correct to fool some viewers. I have seen the most shockingly put together pieces of video or super8 film accepted as real because of the story that accompanies them.

This is one of the greatest enigmas about film making, once you understand it then it would be possible to make the best UFO video ever in fact some of the videos now being toted on the net are making me wonder if some amateur hasn't already figured this one out.

Heres the scenario crocodile hunters in the Amazon or the Everglades (there are two such films) are traveling along suddenly one is taken by a crocodile the next few seconds of film is amazing, the struggle for life as some hapless individual is dragged to a horrid death by the large reptile.

You would have seen the type of thing in videos with titles like shocking Asia or faces of death. Heres the clincher, were was the cameraman. Have a look at these types of true life documentaries again, ask yourself were was the cameraman.

Typical of this type of filming is the secret ceremony footage. Which clearly shows some secret tribal ritual in deepest darkest Congo. But ask again were was the cameraman. Why wasn't he killed instantly after walking in on this secret ritual. Why do none of the natives appear to notice the camera crew or all of the equipment?

In the case of the crocodile film why didn't the camera man yell out as he saw the crocodile, sneaking up on the victim. In a real court of law the cameraman could possible be charged with failure to assist thus being an accessory to man slaughter. How do we explain the sudden close ups and view changes? as if the camera crew had twenty minutes to film a three second event.

Possibly the best example of this is The Blair Witch Project. Was it a documentary or mockumentry. People all over the world actually had to be told that it was all fake. Even the so called story that it was based on was fake. Nothing about it was real it was all made up. Yet for a time people believed or wanted to believe that it was real. Even though the story was full of holes, the film itself being unscrupulously full of errors people still wanted it to be real. Only after the makers came forward and said its all a joke did they change there minds. It was only then that people accepted the errors that the film contained .

These weren't technical errors they were the type of mistake that show up the story as false for example. How did the batteries in the camera last so long. At no time does it appear that the students who are lost in the woods have any spare batteries for their camera. Once they had lost the map why didn't they simply rewind the video tape and look for the last place it appeared in the film then back track and get it. And who the hell is holding the camera when all the students appear on the film?

Is there an object of reference?

Many UFO videos are nothing more than small lights darting about a black screen. The problem here is that it could just as easily be camera movement creating this effect. What is needed is a point of reference, stars or other objects in the shot that are not moving thus proving that it was the object darting about. Rather than a nervous photographer or bad camera work.

How much does the person know or appear to know about UFO's ? I was actually involved in a case were a witness had presented photographs with videotaped evidence, until that day this person told us "I never believed in them wasn't bothered with them". During the interview however I noticed that Mr unbelievers book case was full of books on UFO's including numerous titles concerning contact.

In another case this time in Western Australia, we examined an almost convincing piece of video again the person claimed no interest in UFO until that faithful day. One week later however this person was talking at a senior citizens club as guest speaker. Selling himself as an expert on UFO's. Claiming to have been in contact with 'them' (people from alpha seven) for years. It was pretty obvious that he was trying to set up his own UFO sect or cult.**

If there an edge to the footage?
By this I mean is there any point where the object or even a part of the object disappears out of the frame this is often a very good clue that the footage has been faked using the crane method which Ill describe in detail later but for the moment it may mean (not always) that part of the object was purposely left out of the frame to hide the fact that it was being supported by something.

Is an end to the film?
Seems a lot of videos are actually only parts of longer videos, we rarely seem to see the object arriving or leaving why is this? Could it be that the beginning or end of the film might have incriminating vision of the object not leaving or arriving. Think about it.

Have you viewed the area?
v The dedicated amateur or serious investigator when given the opportunity, should wherever possible follow up visiting the location where the footage was shot. Sometimes simply by standing in the spot where the cameraman stood can reveal much about the video. You might for example find that the craft or action does not match the frames in the film. There is also the possibility that one day, they will match, you might have the genuine article. But until then look around don't just stare at the space where the thing was look for places where the thing might have been supported. Keeping in mind that if you can figure out how to fake it then they can figure it out as well.

Also look for after effects of the film by this I mean real life continuity for example there was a very well know piece of video, which supposedly showed a small light actually making a crop circle the makers however forgot that all crop circles are recorded in great detail by people who are right into that sort of thing. Strangely no record was ever found of that particular crop circle.

In another case the object rotated around a tree later the tree could not be found. Either the aliens removed the tree or there never was one.

Computer software
A few thoughts on why video works

Regardless of mechanical methods computer methods are easier even far less expensive than you might think. Some years ago I gathered a few friends together who know about this stuff, took a cheap video camera, an Amiga 500 (ancient dinosaur cave computer) some software, (Deluxe paint V) an hour later we had the Batmobile sitting in my drive way, my fiancee appeared in a StarTrek episode top this off an we had a very convincing piece of footage showing a UFO moving over the Dandenong Ranges. Let me clarify three things I don't own a Bat mobile my fiancée is a Star trek fan but has never appeared in the show, there was no UFO over the Dandenong's. Not this night anyway. It was all done by combining our video skills with our collective skills in illusion. The UFO video fooled several people including a Ufologist as well as an expert from Kodak.

Heres one problem, I understand the UFO phenomenon I also understand what the human mind will see or not see given certain situations. Therefore by combining these with a few other skills I was able create a very convincing few seconds of footage.

Heres the other issue I'm not the only one. Most people who create these videos are aware of the amateur ufologists need to believe, the need to find evidence, perhaps even the need to jump on things that are to the naked eye, highly suspect in nature.

In days gone by there were ufologists that would it appeared believe everything that came up. Everything from pieces of film to some of the most amazing theories were excepted on face value. Happily these days are long gone. But the vestige of this still remains in new unexplored areas such as video. The ufologist is unprepared when it comes to video trickery. Sure we all know that it can be done, many of us are highly critical about the films. Yet for every one of us who says hey this looks faked there are five thousand others who believe that the footage is genuine. Primarily this is not because of the footage but the story that goes with it.

We all know that a bunch of high school kids with a MAC can create a good fake video, but if those same high school kids created the right story to go with the footage then many of us wouldn't even look for the possibility of a fake, not straight away anyway. That's high school kids, what about somebody who actually wanted to fool people, somebody with the resources or contacts who understood how ufologists think, imagine if this person was also a reasonably good liar.

What you would have then is a long running argument about a certain video. Two camps those who believed, those who were highly doubtful. Problems would be generated in two areas. One, is the footage genuine, two does the story make sense.

I would refer the reader to the case of Billy Miere, any one who knows anything about UFOs recognises this long running case. Look at the results of those arguments. Whether or not the footage is genuine seems to matter less to some people than the fact that Miere may in contact with Aliens called paleideans. Even if it is proven conclusively with out doubt that the footage or photographs produced by Billy are fake, there will still be people who believe Miere can reveal strange amazing proofs through the medium of his extraterrestrial contacts.

So the serious researcher should keep this in mind when dealing with any filmed evidence, especially video, it implies motion, realness even solid-ness to the mind. Our natural instinct to assume that things appearing on video tape are genuine.

Now to the nitty gritty, how can we spot software induced video. There are several methods. Most rely on the fact that anything created by software can be unmade or pulled apart using the same software. In most cases the 'object' is not actually on the video but over it then re-filmed onto a separate tape. This gives pixelization. So simply blowing up the image then counting the pixels is enough. Compare the number of pixels in the 'object' with the pixels in the background if they do not match you have reason to be suspicious.

Next check the movement rate of the object. Comparing it with every thing else on the tape. I.e. lets suppose you have a video of an object moving about, below it appears car moving down a road, there are trees which sway in the breeze, a bird or two may fly past or heaps of other activity appears on the film. The first thing to do is measure the movement of all objects appearing in the video then match this to the movement of the supposed UFO. If they don't correlate then you are definitely looking at a fake..

Clouds are forever moving even in the most minute of ways. Often in videos clouds are the only point of reference you might have. See many of the Mexican tapes which were taken during the famed 1994 UFO eclipse.

If you have a video where the clouds are not moving you would defiantly be looking at a faked film. Don't jump the gun too quickly though sometimes the movement will not apparent to the naked eye. But it is there. Frame by frame examination should pickup even minute subtle changes in the clouds. If it doesn't then you are looking at a back ground image not real clouds. I.e. a photograph of real clouds with video on top.

Is the lighting on the object at all different to the lighting in the rest of the film. Try to forget for a moment the natural tendency of humans (especially ufologists) to make excuses or to fit the evidence to a theory. Difference in lighting does not mean that the craft may be transferring from some 'other reality' or that a force field is appearing on the video (OK it might ) but it is very more likely caused by the near impossibility to match fake lighting with real lighting tones.

Look at the Shadow All real objects have shadows (daytime footage) shadows created using computer imagining software are not real, here are two methods of spotting them.

Firstly position, does the position or angel of the shadow match others in the footage. Secondly computer generated shadows can not be seen through. I often marvel at the number of experts who forget this simple fact. Real shadows are simply faded areas on the ground or other objects like walls. The viewer can still see the wall or the ground through the shadow. Computer generated shadows however are drawings or images placed over the original footage as a result cover the original footage. Therefore you can not see the ground through a fake shadow.

There is a way however to cheat this, with a bit of effort you can make it appear as if the viewer were looking at a real shadow simply by only using every second pixel of the shadow image. However by magnifying a frame one could see that not the ground is visible .

Most people are innately aware that the viewers attention is drawn to the object itself not always the other things in the film. I've seen a few cases were footage was examined in minute detail with blow ups, magnifying the frames, splitting, light analysis shadow enhancement, tone enhancement, embossing single frames, a fair amount of work possibly more work than it required to fake the original footage.

Only of the UFO was given this treatment, nothing else in the footage was given the same treatment. This presents several problems, firstly when ever this happens there is always argument, no real conclusions can be drawn about these footage's, even with all this effort very little is actually discovered.

Secondly it is damn near impossible to spot a fake within a fake. Any competent faker will reason that the footage will be examined in great detail. Especially if it is good footage. So rather than fake the craft why not fake the whole lot, making all the bits match this would be almost undetectable because the craft is not made over some original footage as the investigator expects. Each object in each frame perfectly matches all the elements in the film because they are all faked. Contrary to what some people think about time or effort employed by hoaxers, this has been done it will no doubt be done again.

The crane method
There are several videos moving about now both in clubs or downloaded from the net which at first appearance are quite stunning. These feature the UFO bumping into or touching something such as a tree or building or skimming the roof of a house. To the untrained eye such things can ad to the apparent genuineness of the tape it ads that touch of realism. A little mistake by the ufonuaght or the aliens demonstrating the real solidness of the craft by having it rotate around a tree. However ask any magician or even a small kid who has read a book on magic (prestidigitation), you may get a different answer a different way of looking at things.

Lets take the standard levitation, the magician stands near the beautiful assistant she moves in front of the wizard (blocking the audience view of the wizard) after a few touches of showmanship, waving of hands or placing in a trance she begins to float in the air, unsupported.

David Copperfield can fly or so he would have us believe. As viewers wanting to enjoy the show we allow our imaginations to take over escaping for a few moments into fantasy. We know its not real so why should we believe that UFOs can do what they do, especially when the same method might be in use.

Heres how it's done. Mind you as a magician myself I'm sort of under oath so I can not reveal all the methods all I am doing here is showing commonly known methods that could easily be used to make it appear that some object such as a woman or a strange craft might be levitating or flying about. There is a thing in magic called the X frame a device worn by a magician which enables him make it appear that somebody standing in front of him is floating. Actually the person is not they are being supported by the magician. The device uses the leverage of the magicians body position combined with his weight to support the floating assistant. Provided the audience angel is right i.e. they are in front of the show, the device can not be seen because it is hidden by the assistant.

This same device or a crude home made version of it could easily be attached to a tree enabling even a full sized model to whizz around the tree. How do I know this? Well if you know what to look for you can see the thing attached to the tree. All you need to do then is film from the right angel (the angel which perhaps by coincidence is where these videos are also filmed), hey presto one UFO video.

Second method is the crane ever seen a magician float his assistant, then pass a large ring over here to prove that there are no wires. This can be done by two major methods (there are others but they are too secret) both are easy, if you think about it you could easily come up with your own especially if your are trying to think like a magician or create clever ways to fool people into thinking you had just filmed a flying saucer.

The first is a simple bent wire that allows the ring to pass over the abject, the human mind always tends to stay with the obvious or the known when we think wires or stings we think straight, we don't always think bent or curved. Basically the wire supporting the object has a very big bend in it that allows it to move over or around objects as if there where no wire there at all. Neat trick

Second is the over head crane or cherry picker method. The device used to float the lady UFO or almost anything else is actually rather a long way from the object itself. You can look at the video all you want you wont see anything holding it up because the device is completely out of the shot, you wont see something that hasn't appeared in the film.

Given the motivation or the need to make a very convincing fake add a bit of knowledge a competent hoaxer could easily cause a UFO to float over a body of water having it far enough out over the waves that fakery would seem impossible, simply because it appears that there is no way you could get some wires or cable out there.

Contrary though it is actually quite easy the device could be on the shore using either telescopic cables (one method) or a boom type device you are able to make your UFO appear anywhere you want.

There is however a way to spot if this technique or any variation of it is being used. slow spin wherein any sort of crane device is used the object being supported will spin one way, reach the edge or apex of it spin then start to flow in the other direction as if to take up the slack. The whole process repeats several times, you can see it yourself just dangle your pendulum watch how it rotates one way then the other. When a magician uses these methods on stage he incorporates the slow spin into the act, making it look as if that's part of the levitation. The same way we might look at a video of a canister shaped UFO almost expecting it to have a slow spin.

There are several videos around right now that exhibit all these factors.

I'm not for a moment saying all UFO videos are faked, merely pointing out that the process is actually quite easy. I am hopeful that one day some where a genuine video will turn up I am even open to the possibility that the genuine article already exists. But the arguments about it are so strong that we cant see it right now. It may indeed be right under our noses yet hidden by the fact that the large number of fakes has spoilt it for the genuine video. When it turns up perhaps nobody will believe it.

*FUO fake unidentified flying object
** see my other article UFO's and Little old ladies


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