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Could the Mexico City UFO Video Be a Hoax?

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: One of the most impressive daylight UFO videos ever seen was shot over Mexico City on August 6, 1997. Self-professed anyalysts and experts of various sorts weighed in with opinions on how the video might have been hoaxed. But how easy would it be, really, to create such a video? Not easy at all, as it turns out.


[One of the most impressive daylight UFO videos ever seen was shot over Mexico City on August 6, 1997. Stills from the video appeared on the web in early October, and quick-time versions of the 30-second original appeared a few weeks later. Self-professed anyalysts and experts of various sorts weighed in with opinions on how the video might have been hoaxed. Some said suspicious digital artifacts could be found in the still frames, casting doubt on the entire piece.

But how easy would it be, really, to create such a video? Not easy at all, as it turns out. Maybe so difficult, in fact, that no one would bother. This video is pretty impressive -- and of course, there are those pesky dozen or more witnesses who say they saw the same UFO from the various points arround the city. If the video is a fake, so are they. But that's a conspiracy... or an awful lot of people, apparently unknown to one another, who just felt like lying when famed Mexican newsman Jaime Maussan interviewed them about their alleged sightings. Is that likely?

The following essay by Mitch Randall is food for thought. It's not proof of anything, one way or another. But it does demonstrate pretty well, we think, that faking that video is a bigger challenge than first meets the eye.

Mitch Randall is a resident of Boulder, Colorado. He holds a masters degree in electrical engineering and works full time designing radars and lidars for atmospheric remote sensing at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, while also pursuing a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Colorado. He can be contacted at mitch@ncar.ucar.edu.]

Copyright 1998 by Mitch Randall
All Rights Reserved. Printed with permission.

The controversy of the Mexican UFO Video will continue and, like all of ufology, will not be resolved until aliens land on the Whitehouse lawn. Until then, we each have to make our own decisions based on any information we can get. Video evidence provides a plethora of quantifiable information such as approximate size, shape, velocity, acceleration, etc., but there is also much more, less easily quantifiable, information that can be gleaned that we should also consider. By looking closely at what is involved in the making of such a video, we can gather quite a bit of the "unquantifiable" information which shouldn't be overlooked. Although this information may not lead to a definitive conclusion (which is also true of the quantitative information), it could certainly help you and me form an opinion which gets closer to the truth.

For the moment, let's assume the video is a hoax, and look closely at what would be involved in creating it:

Any motion picture which attempts to create realism requires several production functions. A few of these are, Front man, Producer, Director, Screenwriter, Storyboard artist, Special Effects Technician, Actors, Cameraman, etc. Any moviegoer knows from watching movie credits that it takes hundreds of people to make a feature film. But it's not so obvious that ANY realistic movie requires these functions. Even though all these skills may be rolled up into one person, nevertheless, they must all be applied in order to create a realistic movie. Let's explore how several of these pieces would have come together to create the "Mexican UFO Video".

First, the Frontman: Someone had to back the making of this video. As stated in an [internet] post, $5000 could create such a video. This Frontman, then, is the one who found the money and/or time and/or energy it took to create this video. The Frontman needs to be convinced that the idea is profitable in some way before he will invest in the making of the video. It could be that the fun of tricking everyone is the "profit" that will be made. The important thing to remember is that someone felt that all the time, effort, and expense (we'll discuss later) would pay off.

The Producer is the one who works out the details of how to get all of the necessary talent together to achieve the final goal. In this case the Producer would have organized not only the video, but the hiring and training of several bogus eyewitnesses. He would have had to hire a large number so that the researchers going door to door would have a good chance of finding at least a few. They would have been instructed not to come forward with their story unless they were sought out by researchers so as not to rouse any suspicion. He would have had to find these bogus eyewitnesses very discretely so that no snitch would blow the whistle on his scheme.

The Director is the one with a critical eye for realism. He sees that the pieces that actually appear on the video are exactly as they "should" be. He would reject scenes that don't appear real, yelling "cut" and calling for another "take". The Director would be the one to add details such as the realistic sound track, or a nice touch like the cameraman's anticipation that the UFO would appear on the other side of the last building. The skills of the Director are very different from that of a special effects technician in that he is concerned with the "feel" of the movie, not just the technical accuracy. Good Directors usually start out making promising movies and year after year go on to create more and more realistic movies. An important thing to remember is that the first one is never perfect.

The Screenwriter and Storyboard Artist create and depict the concept of each scene. This gives a unified goal for the cameraman, special effects technician, actors, etc., to work toward. You can't just go out and randomly shoot at some buildings and hope that it can be made into a good hoax. The important thing to remember is that you have to plan ahead in order to get the "feel" of the movie to be right.

The Special Effect Technician's job is well known. Most all of the discussions about hoaxes center around the technical aspects of special effects. But think of it from another angle. The Special Effects Technician is usually at odds with the Director. The Director wants ultimate realism and will ask for effects that are not yet technically feasible. Or he may ask for details that don't make much difference in the movie but make a huge difference in the difficulty of the special effect. There are several details in the video that fall in this category. It would have been easier to make a UFO that did not wobble. It would have been easier yet if it did not rotate. Still easier if it did not pass behind a building. Even easier if the camera did not shake. Even easier if the camera did not zoom. Still easier if the UFO did not white-out in the smog. Still easier if it did not have the fuzzy boundary. Even easier if it did not grow bigger and smaller as it travels. The important thing to keep in mind is that realism and simple special effects are opposing requirements, not likely to be well balanced by an individual.

Actors: I have not heard the soundtrack to the video so I can only say a limited amount about it. But it is reported that it sounds very real. I have seen enough locally produced car and furniture dealer commercials and daytime TV to know that acting very natural is not easy. The realistic soundtrack would not only require the skill of the Director's eye (ear), but would have also taken some acting skill as well.

The Cameraman's job was not as easy in this video as one might first think. Although the final image needs to look only as good as that taken by an amateur videographer, this cameraman had to carefully follow the storyboard including the nuances requested by the director (such as mentioned above). The important thing to remember is that this cameraman had to do something specific yet make it appear as if it were natural. The skill of the cameraman should not be understated.

After going through this exercise, it seems apparent that the actual special effects that were involved in this video represent only a fraction of the total effort. I've read many arguments which state that this video would be easily hoaxed based on the current state-of-the-art of computer graphics and video manipulation software. Many have claimed that THEY could do as well or better. However, this argument and these claims are focused only on the special effects aspect of the video. They overlook the many other skills that must have come into play in order to achieve a video with this much realism. For fun, let's look closely at these types of claims, but use our new broader perspective. Assume someone hoaxes a new video to show us all how easily it can be done:

1) Until someone actually comes forth with their version, they have not performed the function of the Frontman. Remember, he is the one who actually comes up with the time and/or energy and/or money to get the job done.

2) If the new hoaxed video is just a copy of the original video (same scenario but with their version of the special effects), then they have not performed the function of the Screenwriter, Storyboard Artist, etc. In order for the new fake to make a good point, it must be different, yet just as convincing.

3) Given the conclusion from item #2, imagine how a computer graphics hot shot would coordinate a hoaxed video with 12 (or more) eyewitness stories.

4) The new video must also have a convincing soundtrack. That requires Actors, not just special effects software.

5) What nuances would be in the camera work. Would the video be shot in Mexico? Would it shake too wildly or not wildly enough? Would it behave as if there were a UFO in the viewfinder even though there was not? Does this have anything to do with the state-of-the-art in computer software? (No.)

The technical aspects of the special effects may be the most obvious and most quantifiable information in the video, but represent only a fraction of the total information we can look at. If we broaden our view to include all the other aspects of the production, we find a great deal of other information available to help us form an opinion which brings us closer to the truth.

When I look at this information, I can't help but conclude that it would have been tremendously difficult to hoax this video. I would have to say that, until a saucer lands on the Whitehouse lawn, this video will remain one of the most enigmatic in history.


A major TV special on the UPN network will feature the already-famous daylight UFO videotape shot over Mexico City on August 6, 1997. Though stills from the video and a quick-time version have been posted on the web, this UPN special, scheduled for Wednesday, March 11, will provide the first opportunity for most Americans to learn about this Mexico City event.

Posted promo on the show reads as follows:

"From executive producers Henry Winkler and Ann Daniel ("Sightings"), this riveting one-hour special centers around never-before-seen video footage of a recent UFO sighting in Mexico City, and explores the phenomenon of unidentified flying objects while examining other recent, mysterious observations in the night sky. Stephen Kroopnick is the co-executive producer. The special is produced by Fair Dinkum and Ann Daniel in association with Paramount Network Television."

Since the UFO video was released to Paramount by respected Mexican newsman Jaime Maussan, CNI News expects the TV special will also include excerpts from Maussan's videotaped interviews with Mexico City eyewitnesses who saw the August 6 UFO. This should be a good program.

The special, titled "UFO Sighting!" airs Wednesday, March 11 at 9pm Eastern time. Check your local listings.

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