There are many mysteries in the skies. There are things spotted overhead that scientists, government officials and the military just can’t explain.
These things may not be spaceships filled with little green men. But as long as these objects can’t be identified — and there are countless numbers spotted all over the world every day — they are, in the strictest sense, UFOs.
However, we can now close the book (did someone say «Project Blue Book»?) on the UFOs videotaped over New Orleans and broadcast on NBC Oct. 23, when many of us were trying to enjoy the Colt-Saints football game.
When the network returned to the game after a commercial break, it showed a brief, 29-second shot of the historic St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.
Such sequences — called «beauty shots» — are typically run during sporting events to give viewers a taste of the city hosting the game.
Keen observers noticed some brightly lit objects streaking across the sky, and when a home viewer videotaped the NBC footage and slowed it down, even to frame-by-frame examination, it appeared that the NBC camera had captured a very large, rod-shaped object topped with glowing circular lights (see image below right) and moving behind the cathedral.
These streaks of light, to many viewers, seemed to be a sign of intelligent life in the universe, and faster than you can say, «ET, phone home,» a clip of this video went viral.
After the 2nd and 3rd generation video swept around the Internet, leading to wild speculation about whether or not these objects were huge UFOs or tiny insects flying close to the camera lens, NBC cameraman R.D. Willis contacted The Huffington Post to set the record straight — because he shot the original video.
It can now be told definitively: Willis is a time lapse photographer. And because he taped the sequence at super-slow speeds, the objects just seem to be lightning-fast spacecraft. Yet, the objects in question were commercial airplanes.
«If you watch Sunday Night Football on a regular basis, you will recognize my time lapse videos throughout our telecasts,» Willis told HuffPost exclusively.
«I move and manipulate my Nikon Still DSLR camera with a computer controlled pan head and dolly. This technique makes my time lapse video motion seem more like ‘real time’ motion when, in fact, they are a series of still images played back very quickly.»
Using his special rig that combines a camera, computer and dolly, every Friday night, Willis (seen below standing near his camera setup in New Orleans) goes out and shoots videos of different scenes in the host football city he finds himself in.
The entire video that shows rod-shaped objects moving behind the cathedral lasts nearly 30 seconds, but in order to end up with a sequence that appears to be moving in real time, it took Willis much longer to capture the scene.
«I’m a time lapse photographer, so the interval — the amount of time between shutter clicks— varies based on the subject matter,» he explained. «I want to shoot a clock for an hour so that I can see that minute hand spin all the way around.
«In real time, it took me about an hour and 10 minutes, standing there with my motion control track set up in front of the [cathedral] gates. And that’s how I got all those images.»
In the video that shot around the Internet, it wasn’t easy to make out the cathedral clock that Willis refers to. But in a more pristine copy of the original that he provided HuffPost (and viewable at the top of this story), not only is the rapid motion of the clock hands clearly seen, but people and cars are seen zipping along at tremendous speed at the bottom of the video, all while the motion of the camera on the dolly makes it appear to move at normal speed.
And Willis clearly remembers seeing the airplanes flying behind the cathedral (see image right) that night while his camera was rolling.
«The flying ‘rods’ that are seen are actually single airplanes that happened to fly through the screen during each long shutter exposure,» he added. «Because of the precise repetitive nature of my camera support rig, one plane pass seems eerily like a UFO streaking through the sky.»
Coincidentally, within minutes of HuffPost’s first contact with Willis, another professional time lapse photographer chimed in after the original video and story broke.
«I believe what you are seeing is a time lapse footage shot with a dolly rig — hence, why the camera’s perspective is moving,» Etienne Rheaume, a Vancouver-based photographer told HuffPost.
Interestingly, Rheaume has created very similar time lapse videos for networks, including some for the 2010 Winter Olympics, where very similar UFO-like streaks can be seen in the sky.
«They are simply helicopters or airplane lights streaking as each image in the time lapse was shot with an exposure long enough to capture the nighttime scene,» Rheaume pointed out.
So now the New Orleans UFO-rods-insects controversy has been put to rest, but it still doesn’t explain all of the numerous UFO videos and photographs that have come forward in the last decades.
CHECK OUT THE CAMERA RIG USED BY R.D. WILLIS TO SHOOT HIS AMAZING VIDEOS:
But even after the explanation of these objects seen in the sky over the city nicknamed the Big Easy, there will likely be people who will still believe the UFOs had to be spaceships or, even, insects.
«People want to believe what they want to believe, and it’s as simple as that,» said Willis. «And I was afraid, frankly, that [The Huffington Post] was going to take the same approach, because some people think it’s more of a story if you can’t explain it.»
We’re still keeping an open mind on this subject.