The Santa Clarita UFO prank, all CGI

Another anatomy of a hoax. Explained.

The Making of the Ultimate Fake UFO Video (Where Absolutely Everything Is Fake).

Last month, filmmaker Aristomenis “Meni” Tsirbas revealed to Wired that an elaborate UFO prank video he had created was far more than what it seemed: Not only was the UFO fake, but so was everything else in the video, from the vivid blue sky to the car the “cameraman” was supposedly driving. In a new “making of” video titled “UFO Over Santa Clarita VFX Breakdown,” the director of the computer-generated UFO clip shows how he and his crew of students from the Gnomon School of Visual Effects crafted the amazingly photorealistic visuals where they dropped their obviously bogus alien craft.

“The video is 100 percent CGI through and through,” Tsirbas told Wired. “The electric towers [seen alongside the road] are 3-D geometry and the sky is a 3-D dome that has a texture map on it that’s a combination of painting, volumetric clouds and photogrammetry.”

For Tsirbas, a longtime champion of photorealistic CGI, the prank proved his point: That computer-generated imagery can look totally real if used wisely. Reaction to the revelation has been “very positive overall and at times oddly controversial,” Tsirbas said, with most people expressing surprise that the everyday elements are completely fake.

Here’s the video showing how it was done:

UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts, Slenderman, etc. There is NO video evidence that we can assume is 100% genuine. If you recall, we had a similar story a few weeks ago regarding the Bird Abduction hoax, produced by film students. Don’t forget the Jerusalem UFO hoax. Also popular and fooled a lot of people. Here is another one deliberately designed to get web hits.

Not only is CGI a consideration, but even the most mundane things, like frisbees and floaty balloons cause sighting reports. And don’t forget the ubiquitous Chinese Lanterns. Remote control devices or LED quadcopters are become more common as hoaxes. Seriously, it’s hard to get excited about video as evidence since it is JUST so easy to fake this stuff.

Tip: Jamie A

  6 comments for “The Santa Clarita UFO prank, all CGI

  1. Chris Howard
    March 5, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    It seems like a chronological documentary about known UFO hoaxes (earliest to current) would put things in perspective for a lot of folks.

  2. March 5, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    >Seriously, it’s hard to get excited about video as evidence since it is JUST so easy to fake this stuff.

    Agreed, though I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s ‘so easy’, given how it took a whole team of professional artists many hours to make the Santa Clarita video.

    Over-the-counter CGI tools are getting more powerful, and stuff that got important Hollywood studios an Oscar 15 years ago is now in the hands of teenagers.

    As a professional interior designer, I’m somewhat versed in 3D computer rendering software, and even though I’ve never been completely satisfied with my own work, I’m amazed of the stuff I can do now with a few commands and a few hours of computer power.

    But why not talk about the flip side of the coin? Back when the Russian meteor videos started to flood the web, there were many people who assumed the videos were fake, and the reason for this was the nonchalantly attitude of the Russian drivers, who even though their cameras were recording a once-in-a-lifetime event, they kept on driving at the same pace without swerving or hitting the brakes.

    That got me thinking about how many armchair researchers are so quick to dismiss clips on Youtube mainly using the argument that “real people don’t act like that when facing an unknown.” What the Russian meteor proved IMO is that people react in all sorts of manners when confronting something outside their normal frame of reference.

  3. terry the censor
    March 5, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    > many armchair researchers are so quick to dismiss clips on Youtube mainly using the argument that “real people don’t act like that when facing an unknown.”

    To be fair RPJ, the UFO proponents use the exact same armchair psychology as evidence: abductees that report fear are taken much more seriously than those who don’t. Fear is used as an indicator of earnestness in the Hill case, and is pushed by later investigators such as Hopkins and Jacobs. Hypnotist James Harder went so far as to suggest fear to abductee Pat Roach — while she was hypnotised! — because her emotions were ambivalent.

    So I would agree that this kind of psychologising by proponents and skeptics is useless.

  4. March 5, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Very good point, Terry.

  5. J
    March 5, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    Most interesting to me is the quote at the end: “But the most unusual comments come from a growing chorus of people who insist that the announcement of the hoax is actually part of an elaborate government plan to cover up the fact that the video is real. I even received a mildly threatening personal e-mail from one of these people.”

    I suppose if it were all real the conspiracy confabulist (theorist is quite a misnomer) still deny the whole thing, wouldn’t they, or even make up alternate narratives. But maybe this is how they learned to socialize?

  6. Chris Howard
    March 6, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    Yeah J, I believe survival of the conspiracy “theory” narritive as a faith is fast becoming the norm.

    The Journal of Contemporary Religion calls it “conspirituality.” It’s apparently considered to be an NRM, comprised of New Age women, and Conspiracy Theory men:

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