We’ve seen a lot of fake UFO encounters over the past few years – digital film tools have made it easier than ever to craft impressive extraterrestrial crafts and “capture” them on video (we’ve come a long way from the days when guys would use their Super 8 camera and a pie tin on a fishing line to simulate a UFO visit, that’s for sure), but Aristomenis Tsirbas’ UFO Over Santa Clarita is in a class all by itself.
At first glance, the 38-second clip looks like a lot of other faux alien encounters. A guy’s driving along in his car, futzing around with his cell phone, when he spots a giant alien craft in the sky overhead. He films it (complete with shaky-cam effects and dodgy focus) for a few seconds and then an even bigger mother ship appears before the film cuts out. Pretty standard stuff.
However, what sets Tsirbas’ video apart from all the other videos out there is that it's not just utilizing CG for the alien ships – everything in the video was created with computers. The car, the phone, the sky, the clouds – none of it physically existed. That’s really impressive.
Tsirbas, who directed the CG film The Battle for Terra, has long been a champion of CGI effects. While film purists often decry the move toward computer-generated imagery and away from practical FX work (guys like me…), Tsirbas set out to prove that you could actually create something entirely out of CG and make it look convincing. We think he hit his goal – in fact, the actual mundane items are far more interesting to us than the UFOs…
The filmmaker explains his ambitions in a chat with Wired:
“The point of the video was to prove that CGI can look natural and convincing. Everybody assumes the background and car are real, and that the UFOs are probably fake, especially the over-the-top mothership at the end. The general reaction is disbelief, so I usually have to prove it by showing a wireframe of the entire shot to prove that nothing is real.”
Tsirbas goes on to add that making the car and the surrounding environment was actually much more challenging than creating the UFOS – and took up the bulk of the clip’s four-month production schedule.
“Without a doubt the ‘real’ stuff was the toughest because everybody knows what an actual car driving down a desert should look like. The digital versions either worked or they didn’t. Getting it ‘mostly’ right wasn’t good enough. We had to nail the car and desert perfectly, otherwise the gag wouldn’t work.”
We’d say that he essentially nailed it – because even on repeated viewings it’s not obvious that the entire clip is CG. Kudos on that, Mr. Tsirbas.
Now that he’s revealed the full extent of the hoax (and hopefully convinced some folks that CG isn’t quite as evil and soulless as some of them think it is), the director and CG whiz is back at work on some “secret projects at Blur Studios” and writing his next screenplay.
Check out UFO Over Santa Clarita below and let us know what you think.
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