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Hi, I’m a professional 3D artist working mainly in the gaming industry with more than 15 years of experience. While video games are less photo realistic than movies we employ often similar tricks and we can be required to produce photo-realistic small movies (eg: for a trailer).

Background:

A few days ago, at my office some workers sent the clip about MH 370 and I immediately dismissed it, but after taking a closer look and especially finding about the stereoscopic version I must be honest faking this would be hard. I will try to explain what would be required to create such content and some of the decision involved if someone wanted to create a similar clip.

See, when you want to create a clip (whatever its a trailer or a fake UFO clip) you try to cut down the cost a lot. The more complex and ambitious you make the footage the more time and potentially resource it will take you. Assuming this is a one man show (more on that later¹) it is critical to restrict yourself and I see a few redflags.

Challenges:

Two clips with very different style, one of a FLIR and another one from a satellite. They must both show the same event and be in sync The satellite one is stereoscopic (this significantly increase the challenge).

Now to be fair there are a few things that also point to cutting down the complexity.

The footage is very grainy and noisy (easier to hide defects) Recording of a screen with a phone or a camera is a cleaver trick that allows to add more details that it really has and contribute to add to the story. The mouse dragging is also very trivial to do. The plane itself could have been done in 3D adding an extra camera for stereoscopic view is not hard to do.

Possible Timeline:

Creating a timeline of the various events around the video help us to get an idea of the complexity / amount of work to create something like this:

8 March 2014:

Around midnight MH 370 takes off. Around 1 am the flight loose communications and disappear from radar. I would find unlikely a predator drone and a satellite are ready to record a random civilian plane (more on that later ²). While most network communications are lost, automated pings are sent at regular interval during several hours (this was not known immediately). Around 8 am the plane send its final automated message.

11 – 13 March 2014:

By then an extensive search and rescue operation is launched. We also learn the aircraft stay airborne for several hours sending automated pings. This is when the world started to realize the mystery would be much deeper than initially thought. Our artist must have started working on it around this time. This gives us around 9 days to create the entire first sequence. I think a combination of 3D rendering (the plane itself) and 2.5D for the clouds. People think it must be either in 2D or 3D but in reality you often combine several techniques like rotoscoping, mattepainting, etc. It could also be from an existing footage where the plane and orbs are added in post production.

19 March 2014:

The first clip feature the satellite stereoscopic view is published. I assumed 19 is the day when the clip was published. Sure the description says otherwise but this could be easily faked.

12 June 2014:

After noticing the first clip did not get any traction, our artist decide to create another footage to try to get some buzz this time showing the infamous FLIR clip. By using the existing 3D animation, adding particles to the plane and orbs he / she creates the second footage. This clip also fails to get any traction on both Youtube and twitter. Nobody really cared for several years.

Present days 2023:

The clip is re-discovered and the rest is history.

Recreation in Blender

This was a quick attempt (in less than 1 hour) to re-create the sat view with the cloud depth etc. I just took a random cloud picture and separated in several layers to give it perspective. The camera itself is way above with a crazy zoom and lens setting to emulate a satellite flying overhead weirdly focusing on the plane.

https://preview.redd.it/x6tow5bbg5ib1.png?width=808&format=png&auto=webp&s=a009c6b3b81330a3a5da8711030d1d29843f5e3f

I could easily spend a few more hours to improve the result (eg: the edges of the clouds are rough, the plane material, adding orbs, etc). But I hope this gives a bit of an idea what is possible to do. The technology I used would be available in 2014, the rendering time was a few seconds on my RTX 3080 but its likely 2014 GPU could have achieved something similar. I rendered it directly in Blender, recorded the result with a camera and clicked / dragged the rendering view of Blender.

I also cranked the video compression to the max trying to add as many artifact as possible while still being plausible. You can see the border of the fake clouds in the begging but once the plane is fully inside the fake sky it becomes quite convincing, again all of this is using fake 2.5D done in 10 min in Photoshop.

https://reddit.com/link/15r9fne/video/ophwtwmmg5ib1/player

If you want to see a similar scene made by a team of professional for a movie check out this VFX breakdown. They used the same technique I used for my version, with obviously more time spend to make it look better. You will notice most of it is 2D planes put in perspective. https://youtu.be/CLOWVYRe96o?t=236

Conclusion:

First, it is sad, that the families of those who were lost in that plane are still without closure despite so many years. After spending a few hours experimenting with the footage and my own recreation I have a hard time deciding if its real or fake, so I present what I think are the best arguments for both.

If its fake:

¹ The project is doable by one dedicated person or a small team would could take it as a challenge or for an art project.

Using the mouse to pan / drag the footage is quite cleaver and make it seems someone recorded it to leak. Doing the FLIR view would be much more challenging because it involves particles (its not my specialty to be fair, so someone with more experience might be able to do it more easily).

The timeline also point to the first clip not doing the impact they hopped for thus recycling the 3D flight in the FLIR clip. I also have a hard time believing we (humans) record any square foot of our planet especially in a remote location in the middle of an ocean. Yes we have drones, satellites etc but most of those are not real time. They usually need multiple orbits to create composite pictures of various location.

As the why someone would do this, I cannot speak what goes inside the head of people but I could imagine the challenge to create something like this to become a buzz can be motivating. After all people create all kind of ARG and everybody loves some mysteries.

If its real:

Holy shit, that would open way more questions. After all there are satellite recording 24/7 and monitoring our planet for various reason. See this massive volcano for instance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcFropu7uWw

² There also are loitering drones flying in some pre-made pattern ready to be dispatched to a location if needed to investigate what happened, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loitering_munition. Now I will not speculate on this, but if this was some kind of experiment (similar to the Philadelphia experiment) you bet there will be drones to monitor what is going on.

I must say I’m humbled by this mystery and initially I thought It would be an easy thing to dismissed it turned more complex than anticipated.

submitted by /u/No_Seaworthiness_441
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