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C2C DOA or how 'Chad' faked it.

(reply posted on 21-6-2007 @ 07:53 AM)

Freelance 3d Character Artist and Digital Sculptor

Wayne Robson is an experienced freelance Digtial sculptor and character designer with advanced expertise in a number of applications and skills. He is available for selected projects and teaching assignments to help you reach your goal faster.

Under the user name 'DarthWayne' he has released a number of DVD's on Digital Sculpting in ZBrush and Mudbox, in a attempt to help those who once started out as he did and give something back to the world of 3D. (Wayne also has many free videos on many more applications available to all on this site.) Waynes upcoming ZBrush book (entitles 'essential ZBrush') is now available on Amazon and WH Smiths (and many other places to!)on pre order. it runs to 700-800 pages and comes wiht an in depth DVD and all workfiles and many extras.

If you would like to enquire about Wayne's availability for a project please use the form on the contact page with your enquiry clearly stated. He will get back to you as soon as is possible.

Visit Wayne's website here.

Fake Drone Image

Springer approached me a few weeks back with the intention of me basically in a nice way I suppose 'putting my money where my mouth was' and replicating the C2C photos 1st put out by ' Chad '. As I had a lot on with my last DVD release (came out Monday by the way ), it sort of had to wait a little while. However once the DVD was out I had a couple of hours to try and replicate it. (Feel free to buy it from www.kurvstudios.com by the way ... just look for the Mudbox ones on the front page, ok advert over back on track. lol)

By doing this (bearing in mind that I took only 2 hours to render and composite the photos due to time being short) I learned a few things that to my mind unequivocally prove the images are faked. 'Chad ' cocked up right royally and there's evidence of this in the 1st images. Rather than re-render in Maxwell (which when used for high quality renders usually likes to take between 12-24 hours, but gives perfect results), he did a 'bodge job' to save himself render time.

Without this turning into an 'advert', let me tell you what I used to make this image. Everything was done within 3d studio max 8, using a render engine called 'Maxwell' (the light simulator). Whereas other render engines (the things that turn the 3d model into a picture to see rather than being just within the application itself viewport) 'fake' real lighting, Maxwell 'simulates' it, with some very complex algorithms indeed.

This means Maxwell is MUCH slower by far, but with a shorter 'set up time' before hitting the render button, and gives as near real life perfect results as you can get without spending a fair bit of time. There were certain things' in the images by ' Chad ' that screamed 'Maxwell' at me. This isn't something that's easy to put into words; it's more of an experience thing from being round the 3d block a fair bit.

This is the workflow I used to come up with 1st my recreation, and then I'll outline how I realized ' Chad ' had 'cocked up'.The main model you see is a combination of a one someone posted here in a thread and some changes and additions of my own. While it is easy to replicate the model for any competent 3d modeler, time was of the essence for this and bearing in mind that apps can easily handle above a billion polygons at the moment, then geometry' isn't an issue. (In fact just last night I hit 1.2 BILLION polygons in a test I was doing for a job. I do have the screenshot in case anyone doubts this BTW.) So there was no point reinventing the wheel for this.

With the model finished inside of 3d studio max I added some UV's to it.
These tell any textures I may add where on the model and hence in 3d space to be.

My second job was to place the model to match the imported background shot I'd be using (in this case ' Chad 's' with the model painted out. This wasn't in the renders just for reference.) I matched my angle to make it pleasing and similar enough, and check my camera was set to a 35 mm lens type.

Next up I started doing one of two passes I did for the render. A pass can be broken down into things like the specular reflections, shadows, diffuse (actual color info), and ambient occlusion etc. But as it turns out ' Chad ' was lazy and went for a 'beauty render' (all except the ambient occlusion pass at once ...but more of this in a second.) Normally each render pass of a frame or a single frame for a still image, is a separate image that is later used in compositing.

What is compositing?

It's basically sticking images of the same thing with light and shadow and the surface itself reacting in different ways together to create a realistic final image. In this case I used Photoshop. Firstly because everyone and his dog has it, and secondly because it's not outside of the price range of a young modeler. Using different blending modes, the image is built up from these.

For my 'Ambient occlusion' pass . Which proved to be one of the most useful things to help bust this one. I used the internal mental ray render engine in 3d max. The reason for this is it is simple to set up and would perfectly match the Maxwell render later. An 'Ambient occlusion' pass, which is also sometimes called a 'dirt pass' gives a completely white image with the color getting darker the nearer together two bits of geometry are.

So if you have a corner of a room for example you would see a dark grey / black color fading quickly out to white where the flat of the wall would be. You can see an example of this below.

Using Maxwell was a matter of finding a DEFAULT SHADER from the Maxwell internal settings that matched as near as possible 'Chad's'. I expected to have to do some serious tweaking and rewriting here. But was surprised to find it a pretty damn spot on match when composited later. The chances of any 'real object' having this shader are remote...so remote you'd probably have more chances of winning your local lottery two weeks running!

As time was of the essence and I didn't wish to tie up my PC while work is busy right now, I cut a few corners and instead of a 12-24 hour render in Maxwell I set it to only simulate for about 15 mins. This is so short it's unreal. No one in their right mind would set it like that unless in a rush (and I was.) Bear in mind I expected to have to set it away on the 'main render' overnight. it turns out I didn't.. again our friend ' Chad ' was in a hurry as well. Below you case the result of this render before compositing.

As I rendered out to a floating point image format, the light levels (which can be mixed in real time in Maxwell by the way) could be sorted out later.

In Maxwell I'd set it to use a generic outdoor HDRI (high radiance floating point image format) that I found free online somewhere ages back. I keep a few hundred of them handy on my drive all the time. both free and commercial ones.) Using a HDRI for my illumination and reflections /refractions etc means I get the benefit while rendering not just of Maxwell's built in simulation, but of a quicker light set up.

In Maxwell you can set the time, location in the world and date to match any given point on the planet at any time as perfectly as currently possible. I set these to match the info that came with the 'Chad' images and took a basic rough guess at the time from the photos. I also made a rough guess at the 'air type and quality' and set these as well.

Now with all my 'pieces in place' I set about the composite.

For Chad 's image as stated I used his image with the 'ufo' (and I use that term in its loosest extent!) painted out. I imported the renders into Photoshop along with the background image and firstly set the levels of the 'beauty pass' to match Chad's as close as possible (about 2 mins max by the way), then added ambient occlusion pass over the top. This was colorized to a sort of cross between a light brown and a bluish sort of color to give a decent look of dirt etc in the corners etc of the craft.

In my 1st attempt I realized something starring me in the face!

'Chad' had set his samples too low (i.e. used the default and didn't know to increase them or simply forgot), so my ambient occlusion pass was much smoother quality.it looked too it looked too good to match.At this point I re-opened 3d max and made a 'Amb Occ' pass with defaults only, complete with that 'GRAINY LOOK'. (You can see this clearly in the originals first released.one of the biggest clues to bad CG.) I've shown both together above.

Once composited in place and a few level tweaks I had the image you saw at the beginning of this. The stuff done as tweaks to levels in Photoshop is really basic stuff anyone with basic knowledge could do in a few minutes. Bingo! One C2C craft!

Now please bear in mind that firstly Chad had god alone knows how long to render out and model for his images, I took a couple of hours only. Also bear in mind ' Chad ' wasn't replicating anything. he was creating from scratch which in my opinion is a heck of a lot easier.

Additional: I decided before showing Springer the image I'd banged out, to do a render as I would have done it myself, to show how wrong 'Chad' got it due to either laziness or inexperience. I used the same model, same HDRI and an image I pulled from Google. In mine I split it into a few basic passes and wasn't 'replicating' but giving a total simulation of how the light would behave if the craft was in the image I used. I knocked this out in about 15 -20 mins.

Conclusions (or the bit for lazy people or those too busy to read the rest...)

Chad messed up in some key areas.

1 - He lit his model too 'light' and didn't know, or realize that he had saved it to a HDRI or 32 bit floating point image he could have redone the light levels later without washing his images out..

2 - Chad isn't a mental ray or Maxwell 'guru'. (Render engines used and both freely available BTW). He messed up the ambient occlusion map by leaving it at default samples. This giving his early images a 'grainy almost dirty' look in the corners and crevices. This also explains the 'blown out photo look' they have as it was a simple way to cover up a whole load of problems.

3 - Chad is lazy or in a BIG hurry. Either that or doesn't have a clue how to PROPERLY use his applications. This is clearly evident from number 4.

4 - Use of a 'default' pre-packed shader that comes with Maxwell 1.5. This screams 'amateur night' at me I'm afraid. What are the chances of a 'real ufo' being made of the same materials; with the same IOR (Jeff Rizz knows what I mean here I think), that Maxwell are simulating? Anyone want to put money on that one?

5 - Far from been an amazingly talented modeler/renderer/compositor, he was just another run of the mill guy in the field.
No 'leet dude' who should be working for ILM here I'm afraid.

So in my professional opinion Chad was an amateur with about 6 - 12 months experience most probably. Who has some ok modeling skills and no idea whatsoever of how to properly use his render engines. He obviously has a decent eye for design though to give him credit for that from a purely artistic point of view.

As they say in the Mythbusters TV series... this one is BUSTED.
(If you're still a believer these images are real after this thread nothing I or anyone else can say or do will convince you.)

Wayne .

PS I just want to point out to anyone with suspicions that I'm not 'Chad'. I'd like to think that being part was through the releases of my DVD tutorial series would go some way to prove that. Also do not fire 'requests' for images or poses of this craft, I do this for a living and really do not have time to debunk this any further. I feel I've done my 'bit'.

I should bill 'Chad' for my time. should he ever surface.