How to optimize your chances of bagging a live one
by Daniel Drasin
(Version 1, 4-8-22)
I’m a lifelong professional filmmaker and UFO researcher, and have been evaluating anomalous photos, videos and audio for over 50 years. Unfortunately, the vast majority of submitted media don’t provide enough information for an effective analysis. So in hopes of garnering more robust evidence I’ve composed a brief guide to photographing unidentified aerial phenomena.
• Shoot video whenever possible.
• Include stationary reference points in the environment.
• Hold your phone horizontally, keeping it as stable as possible.
• Submit only raw, unprocessed, unedited files for evaluation.
• Include as much circumstantial information as possible.
1. SHOOT VIDEO WHENEVER POSSIBLE
Probably the single most evidential characteristic of a genuine UFO is its quality of motion.
Aircraft are easy to identify — they tend to fly in straight lines at a constant speed and often emit visible contrails. Balloons, including fake-UFO balloons, drift and tumble with the wind. Most birds’ flight characteristics are familiar and easy to spot, even if they’re distant enough to appear as tiny white spots reflecting sunlight or city lights at night. Satellites move across the night sky in smooth, continuous arcs.
But if an object remains absolutely motionless in the sky for an extended period of time, or if it changes speed and direction instantaneously as if grossly ignoring the laws of physics, and appears to be under intelligent control, it’s likely to be the real deal.
Obviously a still photo can’t provide any such information. A sequence or burst may sometimes be better than a single frame, but it still fails far short of what’s needed to provide a sense of an object’s motion over time.
Neither will still photos give us a clue as to whether the object is silent or may be associated with a particular sound.
So whenever possible shoot video. Keep shooting until the object disappears. If other witnesses are present and are willing to go on camera, by all means interview them briefly to record their impressions. Keep your questions neutral and don’t prompt them. They may have noticed things that you missed when you were concentrating on your videography.
2. INCLUDE REFERENCE POINTS
Zoom in tightly on the object only if it has a discernible structure. And then only long enough to get a clear sense of it. Then zoom out as wide as possible to show the object’s relationship to its environment. Clouds, Trees, hills, etc., can provide a frame of reference for the object’s motion. But whenever possible include artificial objects such as buildings, roads, utility poles, etc., whose sizes and distances are much easier to determine than those of natural objects and landscapes.
Shaky footage is hard to evaluate.
If you’re a serious UFO hunter, use a video-style fluid-head tripod, which will eliminate camera shake and let you track objects smoothly. If your video camera of choice is your smartphone, a phone clip will allow you to mount your phone on your tripod. See recommendations below.
If you happen to stumble on a UFO and have your smartphone handy, first be sure you’re stable and safe — not driving, biking, blocking traffic or walking on hazardous terrain. Then start shooting video, holding your phone horizontally to capture as much of the surroundings as possible in “landscape” format. Use two hands, to keep the phone as stable as possible. For additional stability you might lean against a car, a building, signpost, etc.
Ideally you should not pan with the object all the time. If possible, also hold on a static shot. That way the object’s quality of motion can be most easily discerned relative to stationary landmarks.
To prepare for the possibility of filming a UFO, you might practice on airplanes and birds so you’ll be well rehearsed when the real thing shows up.
Cameras can capture only a limited range of brightness from dark to light — far less than the human eye. So today’s cameras automatically compensate for bright and dim light by adjusting their sensitivity to favor the majority of what’s in their frame. For example, when you aim your camera at the night sky your camera will increase its sensitivity to compensate. But if there’s also a brightly lit street, building, window, billboard, etc., in the frame the camera will reduce its sensitivity accordingly, and your unidentified object may then be too dim to evaluate. So in this type of situation you might aim your camera to avoid these sources of light, or stand behind a lamppost, sign, car, building, etc. to block out as much unwanted light as possible.
5. PRESENTING YOUR PHOTOS OR FOOTAGE TO WEBSITES SUCH AS UNKNOWNCOUNTRY.COM AND EARTHFILES.COM
Please send only the raw, original, unedited image or video file. No processing, editing, photoshopping, titles, etc. This way all of the file’s original information and metadata will be preserved, and after-the-fact manipulation can be ruled out.
Please provide as much detailed information as possible about time, place, weather, and any other circumstances that might be relevant to your sighting, such as proximity to military installations, industries, population centers, notable geological features, etc. Does this area have a history of UFO sightings?
These days everyone owns a smartphone with a decent camera. If you’re an active UFO hunter, you might consider a real video camera in the $1,000-$2,000 range or a night-vision camera such as one of the Sionix models.
There are many lightweight tripods on the market, but the Velbon Videomate 638 is inexpensive (Under $120), lightweight and compact, sets up very quickly, and has a very smooth pan head. Click here to take a look.
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