Saturday, February 16, 2008

Roman Centurion? Animadverto verum.

In October of 2007, Mr. George Gunn, a member of the Outwood Community Video Club, shot some footage on a British footpath. When he reviewed the footage he found a strange image that fades in and out through the course of the clip.

The BBC covered the story, and you can read that here.

They also did a video bit, heavy on the comedy, which you can view here.

Alison Smith from Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal sent me a link to the clip and asked me to take a look at the video. The BBC version was just too shoddy to get any kind of image analysis from, and the audio is completely out of sync with the video. But, in the bit they do seem to get the right of it in their analysis - they just don't show how they reached their conclusions. (One reason might be that seasoned videographers might intuitively recognize such camera problems without working through any of the steps to come to their conclusions.) At any rate, at one point in the BBC video one of the announcers says, "Don't talk rubbish, it's just the sun on the lens."

True enough. But how can we tell?

There are a few things to notice when you watch the footage:

  • It is a windy day and although you can't see the clouds you can infer them in that the light fades in and out as they intermittently obscure the sun.
  • The raw video (available here ) shows one break at the beginning where George moved his camera, perhaps to get it a bit out of the path from the runners.
  • The ghostly image never moves.
  • Nobody notices the ghostly image or acknowledges it in any way.
  • The intensity of the ghostly image is directly proportional to the amount of sunlight. (This is better demonstrated in my video response, where I can speed up the video so that it is very easy to see that this is a light phenomena.)

George Gunn had several things to say about the matter. He says he doesn't believe in ghosts. But, he certainly thought something was strange about this video. Or at least he was certain that some might find it intriguing.

"Some of the club members said it was a trick of the light but some thought it was definitely a ghost. A lot of people have said it was flare from the sun. What I can't understand is that it was underneath branches."
George is saying that the image appears to be underneath the branches, but that is an illusion. If the image is truly a lens-flare, or similar lens phenomena, then it is happening at the camera - not up ahead on the path. Also, it wouldn't matter whether the camera was in the shade or not - as long as light could be reflected into the lens to create the effect.

"There was a terrible breeze at the time and if there was movement above and around it that should have shown up on the camera, which it didn't."

Well, I'm not sure what he meant here but when the video is sped up you can see that there is a direct relationship to the intensity of the sunlight and the clarity of the image. It's a dead giveaway.

In this image if you compare the brightness of the light on the sidewalk you'll see that the image is much "sharper" when there is more light. This is in itself also an illusion because there is no particular "image" to get sharper - it is just a light glare. Any similarity to this image and a centurion is purely coincidental.

Oh, and here's a link to the band from the video: The Divine Madness.

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