Hoaxes and Other Mischief: A Saucer a Day

A Saucer a Day

The Internet overflows with more UFO videos than anybody could watch in half a lifetime. More—probably hundreds—are added every day; one site, iUFOsightings, posts a fresh video daily, 365 times a year. How can that be possible? Hint: it can’t.

Makers of UFO videos coax viewers with such adjectives as ultimate, shocking, craziest, kick-ass, and (of course) best. If anything is shocking, it’s the gullibility of a lot of people.

Obvious mistakes and missteps in spurious UFO videos are easy to discern: craft that cast no shadows; light sources that don’t jibe; relative quality of light that seems wrong; issues of scale; UFOs that appear to fly through solid objects; clumsy relative movement of objects in the foreground, middle ground, and background; peculiar color shifts; perspective that seems “off” given the position of the camera; footage that plays against a bed of dramatic music (as if the visual material cried out for a boost). There are many others, but the most damning is probably this one: crystal clarity. Some fabricators forget that when objects recede from our sight, they become less distinct. Fine detail vanishes and colors grow muted. And even when a video UFO’s placement suggests a continual close-up view, the craft’s visual detail is often unrealistically sharp.

Web content that exposes fraudulent UFO videos can be helpful and a lot of fun, too. Ufotheater.com, for example, maintains a splendid “UFO YouTube Black List” that notes fraudulent UFO-video makers and the particular style and offenses of each. Some technically adept video makers show how fake UFO footage is created, letting you see each step. Others dissect existing videos, demonstrating how the original perpetrators created them. One of the best of the latter is “UFO Over Santa Clarita,” a handsome faked video that went viral in October 2012, and that was neatly dissected by its makers four months later, in a video called “UFO Over Santa Clarita VFX Breakdown.” (The surprise here is that everything in the spurious video is CGI: landscape, sky, clouds, setting sun, lens flares, power towers, automobile interior, driver’s hand, UFO—everything.) Yes, the truth is out there, but you have to look carefully to find it.