Friday, March 21, 2008

Private Eyes Investigate UFO Drone Story (Greg Bishop)

Two former Northern California law enforcement employees have been hired by a woman representing the Open Minds Forum to investigate the people behind the famous UFO "drone" photos and stories which heated up the internet and late night radio last year.

They are treating the case as a whodunnit rather than a UFO case, which is perhaps the only way to reasonably go about it.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this direct approach to reach beyond the constraints of the web. "The Open Minds Forum" has really done some incredible analysis of the Drone case and it's not nearly as cut and dry as you may think. Some of the photo and document analysis is frankly beyond the depth you would expect from that kind of forum.

If you REALLY dig into the Drone story there remains no "nail in the coffin" proof that this is a fraud (although others would have you believe otherwise). Much of the confusion can be attributed to businesses using the meme to promote their products (Halo3 and more recently Alienware). This investigation however will likely change all that and I say hurray!

Either the drone tale is a culture jam or some kind of surveillance program. Either answer will give a large group of open minded fence sitters a nice big fat smile.


Mac said...

If you REALLY dig into the Drone story there remains no "nail in the coffin" proof that this is a fraud

Um, except for the images being littered with digital "fingerprints"?

W.M. Bear said...

How can anyone "prove" anything about a case like this unless, if it is a hoax, one of the perpetrators comes forward with a convincing confession. In the absence of such a confession, everything in this case will remain speculation and we can only say what the pictures LOOK like.

I agree with Mac's point and would just add this. Given the amount of fine structure in the drones and the fact that they seem to be levitating without any obvious propulsion system, we can say that one of two things is true:

1) Either they really are levitating devices of mysterious provenance relying on something like "antigravity" for to fly


2) They are elaborate models that were constructed and digitally photographed, and then the digital photographs were "PhotoShopped" onto backgrounds like the telephone pole that make them appear to be levitating.

Now, I don't know about you, but given the general nature of our common reality, plus the apparent evidence of photoshopping, I would have to go with 2) as a working hypothesis.

I frankly doubt the PI route is going to turn up anything new unless, of course, they actually find the hoaxers and get them to fess up.

Mac said...

One more: the images are bogus. They're littered with the sort of digital anomalies expected from FX jobs. In this case, we don't need a "confession" because we already *know*.

mr. intense said...

I would have to agree with Mac, that the "drone photos" show obvious signs of having been fabricated, either wholly CGI, or, more likely, a scale model that was fabricated and then digitally composited into outdoor photos.

The most obvious "tell" is the one photograph which shows one of the "drones" hovering over a telephone pole with wires underneath--except that if you look closely, and blow the photo up, you can see one of the wires has partially disappeared under the drone model--if the drone were "real", what would account for the underlying wire partially not showing under the drone?

I would refer people who are interested to an interesting series of papers, including a Phd thesis, by Micah Kimo Johnson of MIT, of the use and development of digital forensic software tools that are proving useful in the analysis by computer of the lighting sources on photos to aid in the detection of fraudulent or digitally modified photography:

These kind of new, high-level software tools will be increasingly used to help determine more accurately just how and in what specific details some photos, like the drone ones, have been fabricated.

In fact, I think someone ought to contact Johnson with the drone photos to use them as a test case--I'm absolutely convinced such software analysis would should in much more detail just exactly what the evidence for fabrication is in this case.

If this were done, and an analytical report produced, and then shown to "believers" like Whitley Strieber and/or Linda Moulton-Howe, I wonder what their response would be. I think I already know, and it would not be to their credit or ability to discriminate the truth. Which is quite sad.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Intense actually brings up a fantastic example of how personal bias can distort visual perception (or the willingness to look deeper). There's an excellent analysis of the "cable above craft" photo here: . As you can CLEARLY see, the cable twist is comprised of two elements and it is running beneath the object. The lighter cable gave many the false impression that this was above the craft. Another piece of drone misinformation was born.

Digital artifacting is another tricky issue that isn't nearly as cut and dry (digging through my link archive for you guys). It's important to note that other potential explanations fill that gap including; compression algorithms specific to different digital camera, physical camera lens defects, scanbed artifacting (look into the history of how certain photos made their way online).

My point being that even if this is a hoax, the CGI angle is by no means the nail in the coffin you think it is (more likely a physical model). I also think you'll find that there are far more fence sitters than crackpot "true believers" on this one.

I love the parallels the Drone story has to the face on Mars in that we tend to filter our information based on personal bias, even when presented with something which is contrary to our assumption. The PHB crowd knows better than to assume things based on popular opinion (or supposed "expert" analysis). That's why I come back here.


mr. intense said...

"Mr.Intense actually brings up a fantastic example of how personal bias can distort visual perception (or the willingness to look deeper)."



I'm more than willing to "look deeper," however your link was attenuated by the limited horizontal line spacing available; can you use to create a link one can actually use to go to the webpage you cite?

Then I can comment on what is noted there. I will also include other citations on the web which show pretty clearly that these rationalizations ("compression algorithms specific to different digital camera, physical camera lens defects, scanbed artifacting," etc.) are not likely to apply to the case photo under discussion. But I'm willing, once again, to consider any new evidence that would suggest otherwise, if you provide a link that can be used.

Also: have you considered the possibility it may be _you_ that has a bias, in favor of the drone photos as being credible?

W.M. Bear said...

One more: the images are bogus. They're littered with the sort of digital anomalies expected from FX jobs. In this case, we don't need a "confession" because we already *know*.

Mac -- You know, and I know, but I meant for the "believers" that a confession is, I guess, what it would take. They seem oblivious to the digital evidence, which, I would have to agree, although compelling, is not absolute enough to convince everyone, apparently.

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry about that Mr.Intense. Not much good making that argument without a working link ;)

I think it's important you guys understand that I'm not a supposed "true believer". I count myself as a fairly balanced and intelligent person, yet I have seen no "nail in the coffin" proof that this is CGI. And not to rub my own horn but I DO have experience in the CGI and compositing industry which is why this bugs me so. I feel that this is likely someones pet "culture jam" project but more likely a physical model composited into a scene. Like many others, I am simply irritated by the number of people who claim strict CGI evidence when those arguments tend to fall apart under scrutiny. There are alternate explanations for these abnormalities and I think it's important that objective, intelligent folks like yourselves realize that.

Speaking of which, it might be more productive if you guys point me to the CGI proof you keep mentioning. I can almost guarantee (in an opposite Mr.Intense kinda way) that I can find you a contrary argument to all of these claims with the same level of reasoned validity.

But I am willing and ready to eat my hat ;)


mr. intense said...


I went to the link you cited just above, inspected the photo, and now have to agree that, in fact, the telephone pole wire I had said "disappeared" is actually there--this particular wire is a twisted pair, and where I had said it was an indication of a CGI flaw or tell, in actuality it is a portion of a light beige twist of the wire concerned.

So, I was wrong, and I apologize to you for claiming otherwise. I had looked at other versions of this photo, that were smaller and not enhanced, and it did appear there was no wire, but now I can see what you were talking about.

Also, I never claimed the drone was wholly CGI--I agree with you that it is most likely a scale model, the image of which was composited into the telephone pole picture. In fact, I noted in my first comment here, "more likely, a scale model that was fabricated and then digitally composited into outdoor photos." So, while I was wrong about the wire in this specific photo, I still think the drones are a hoax.

See? When presented with evidence, I can agree to what is now obvious, and admit my mistaken impression about that wire.

Anonymous said...


I'm of the same mind. If I see some evidence of CGI manipulation that actually holds up to scrutiny I'll gladly change my position. To date however, nothing that obvious has ever been validated. More importantly, supposed "artifacting" and digital fingerprint theories simply don't hold water under closer inspection. That's mainly due to the numerous alternate explanations we find ourselves facing in the digital age. Other supposed "tells" including radiosity and various high end rendering techniques are fantastic theories yet no one has been able to competently replicate the subtleties of the photos (even self espoused experts). They tend to miss little things like purple fringing, microsurface detail variances, natural light diffusion and accurate depth of field focus. Small details that make this "hoax" so interesting, so complex.

Ultimately I don't think it's possible to prove this as a pure CGI construct without work proofs and raw compositing materials from the hoaxer(s) himself. A hoax at this level of technical savvy puts it in another class. Its a bit like trying to prove a model thrown into the air and photographed is in fact just a model but the drone photos offer more complexity than that. Unfortunately, with so many obsessed with the CGI kneejerk we aren't even looking at other possible explanations.

I find the Drone story interesting precisely because of the way people interpret the photos. For many it seems good enough to trust "the party line" but looking more closely it's much less of a cut and dry issue. I think there's an important lesson here for those willing to listen.

The Drone is likely a hoax yes (physical model composited or physically placed within the scene) but GROWL, the CGI thing is driving me bonkers :)