# Skinwalker Ranch - Season 4 Episode 10 - 3600 MPH UFO Claim

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An analysis of the claim that a camera couldn't focus on a fly. It involves calculating the hyperfocal distance.

The operator is wearing a Photron shirt. A camera with 1024x1024 resolution and at least 2000fps framerate is https://photron.com/fastcam-mini-ax/ This was needed to find the sensor size, which is 20.48 x 20.48mm with 20um pixels. The Circle of Confusion (mm) referred to the focal plane (on the sensor) is 20.48/1500=0.0137. What remains is to guess the missing inputs. This can be done!
Sensor (mm)Circle of Confusion (mm)Focal Length (mm)Focus distance (m)
 F-number
 Hyperfocal (mm)
 Near focus (mm)
20.480.0137

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What is the Field of View? We can use a known object in the picture plus the distance from the camera. Travis is 1.85m tall and measures about 117 pixels. Kaleb estimated them to be 100-150 feet away.
1024/117 * 1.85m = 16.2m for the Field of View. 125 feet = 38.1m
Edit: these numbers are wrong, to be updated.
Edit 2: I'm going to use Mick's estimate for Angle of View, but I will be using these numbers for something else later.

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I think the first thing to note here is that the footage shown on TV seems to be a degraded version of the original. There's a YouTube teaser for S04E03 that actually has better quality.

Stabilizing it we see the object looks like a fly.

Compare with the broadcast version.

And while it's a relatively minor point, the distance travelled of a giant, fly-like object at the mesa would be just 0.2 miles.

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What is the Field of View? We can use a known object in the picture plus the distance from the camera. Travis is 1.85m tall and measures about 117 pixels. Kaleb estimated them to be 100-150 feet away.
1024/117 * 1.85m = 16.2m for the Field of View. 125 feet = 38.1m
The Google Earth scene fit I did above gives a horizontal field of view of 50°

That's angle of view, and certainly a better approach. Thanks, I can continue with my analysis.

The clip refers to "broadcasting a range of frequencies" (for no apparent reason), which sounds a whole lot like the people on "(not) Finding Bigfoot" trying to call to it at night, or listening to various animal or bird sounds and saying apprehensively to each other "Sounds 'Squatchy'".

Stabilizing it we see the object looks like a fly.
Is your stabilized version real-time? If so, the wing beat looks much too slow to be a fly, but rather a somewhat larger critter like a bird. Here's a chart of selected insect wing beat rates, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insect_flight

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It's not realtime. I believe it's slowed down 83 times. My guess is about 250 beats/second. I can confirm this later. Thanks for the chart! I'll make use of that later. Right now, I think I can calculate how far away the insect is and how fast it's travelling.

Just to note, if the original image was a square 1024x1024, it has to be cropped to fit the 16:9 widescreen aspect of HDTV. If you crop it to 1024x576, then scale it up by 1920/1024=1.875, you get an HDTV 1920x1080 image. It should be noted that the original image will seem blurry on TV even in the best of circumstances.

To put this simply, the original had to be zoomed in 2x to fill the screen, because you zoomed into a square until it filled the screen.

This is good in a way, since any arguments about the quality being degraded by compression are less. The HD image could be degraded in quality a lot, but if you scale that back down to the original size, it's actually shrinking the artefacts in half.

To put this simply again, say you take a video and blow it up to double the size, degrade the quality, then shrink it back. You are shrinking any artefacts you added, which helps to preserve the quality. Or you could picture it this way - say you had a picture, enlarged it by 2x, then got a scratch on it or something. If you shrink it back to the original size, obviously the scratch is now half the size, so it's less noticeable or almost invisible. In the end, you shrunk the scratch, but the picture is back to it's original size. Hope that makes sense!

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Calculating the Focal Length

The formula, in Excel pseudo-format is:
Focal Length=1/(2*TAN(Angle of View/2*PI()/180)/Sensor Size), with Angle of View in degrees and Sensor Size in mm.
FL=1/(2*TAN(50/2*pi/180)/20.48)=22 mm. This isn't an available prime DX lens, but easily in the range of an ultra wide zoom (such as 10mm-24mm). The camera takes DX lenses. It's reassuring that the numbers are very "clean".

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Object width

I'm getting about 17 pixels width for the object. Remember that the video has been scaled up as I mentioned before, by 1920/1024=1.875 times. Likewise, the original size of the object was 17*1024/1920=9 pixels wide. No wonder it's a bit blurry!

The physical size depends on how far away it is. If we take a housefly to be 7mm long (viewed from the side, this becomes width of the object), how far away is the fly?
Edit: I'm getting 2.8 feet away, to be confirmed

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Is your stabilized version real-time? If so, the wing beat looks much too slow to be a fly, but rather a somewhat larger critter like a bird.
Must admit, I wondered if it was an owl. Then I thought, it looks like a puffin- perhaps unlikely!
(Then again, which is more likely- a puffin, maybe an escapee from a zoo, or a 3600 mph wing-flapping alien UAP?)

Anyway; the actual wingbeat rate rules out a bird- including hummingbirds, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummingbird:
The highest recorded wingbeats for wild hummingbirds during hovering is 88 per second, as measured for the purple-throated woodstar
Content from External Source

My guess is about 250 beats/second.

If Curious George's estimate is correct, or at least in the ballpark, a quick look at Ann K's wingbeat chart gives a candidate
Here's a chart of selected insect wing beat rates

D.L. Altshuler et al (2005) "Short-amplitude high-frequency wing strokes determine the aerodynamics of honeybee flight"
citing O. Sotavalta (1952) state 240 beats per second https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.0506590102#body-ref-ref17.

I found several conflicting values for bumblebees,
"Frequency analysis of a bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) wingbeat", J. Santoyo et al (2015) indicates that bumblebees flap their wings approx. 200 times a second https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10044-015-0501-3

I've been trying to determine if the wingbeats in Mike West's video support the object being a bee (e.g., angle from horizontal at maximum elevation, apparent point of attachment to body), but I won't pretend to have come to any conclusion.
I kept looking at this YouTube video from michiganshooter, uploaded 2015, "Honey bees in ultra slow motion".
michiganshooter wrote,
Honey bees flap their wings up to 250 times a second. The Phantom v2511 camera can shoot more than 1 million frames per second (creating slow motion upon playback). Here we're using one to capture footage for a documentary about bees.

-Apologies, I can't seem to sort out time-stamping; 2:07-2:25 give the best lateral (side-on) views:

Maybe the thing in question is a completely different insect. But I think it's more likely to be a UABee than a UAP.

Working Distance to Field Dimension, requires Angle of View
WD=FD/2/TAN(AoV/180*pi()/2)
AoV in degrees, WD in mm (or whatever you measured FD in)

Working Distance just means distance from a camera. Field Dimension means, imagine a projector screen at that distance from the camera, well, this is how big it would be. Angle of View means the angle the camera can see out. Think of a cone with this angle, well you can see everything within this cone.

Now I need to find FD. Imagine the video is on a projector screen as I mentioned, and the object is a small spot on that projector screen, how big would the projector screen have to be for the spot to be 7mm?
FD=real width/(image portion), FD in mm, width in mm, image portion has no units.
real width = 7 mm, image portion = 17/1920 pixels.
FD=7/(17/1920)=790.6 mm

So this is the projector screen size. Now how far away is the projector screen?
WD=790.6/2/TAN(50/180*pi()/2)=848mm
To find feet from meters, multiply by 3.28.
WD=.848m * 3.28=2.78 feet

So, if the object is a fly of 7mm, it must be 2.78 feet away.

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We need to calculate some more scenarios. How long is a Honeybee? I found 15mm. How far away would it be? Everything is proportional, so if an object is twice as big in physical size, it must be twice as far away to look the same as the object. This is the essential ambiguity in judging the size of anything you see.

 Physical Size (mm) Working Distance (mm) Working Distance (feet) 7 791 2.78 15 1694 5.96

How fast the object is moving, if it's a small, close object like an insect

Now that we know how to calculate the Field Dimension, and knowing how long the object took to cross the screen, we can estimate how fast it's going. I've already explained FD. For the timing, I'm using a quote:

__________TRAVIS (at 11:21)
That field of view across there is across the whole mesa [so] that's about a half a mile. And it's 2000 frames a second, so he just went a half a mile in...

__________OPERATOR (at 11:28)
1.12 seconds, I believe?

 Physical Size (mm)
 Field Dimension (mm)
 Time to cross Field (s)
 Speed (m/s)
 Speed (MPH)
 7
 791
 1.12
 0.7
 1.6
 15
 1694
 1.12
 1.5
 3.4

These values are somewhat in the range of insects, but not a great match. However, the bigger the insect, the faster it will appear to be going, and a larger bee could fit the range. More analysis is needed.

Also regarding the idea that flies don't go in a straight line, bear in mind that this was only a short segment of flight for 1 second. It seems possible a fly could go straight for that amount of time.

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How fast the object is moving, if it's a small, close object like an insect

Now that we know how to calculate the Field Dimension, and knowing how long the object took to cross the screen, we can estimate how fast it's going.
That's something you can always estimate independent of the camera parameters: if an object 17 pixels long travels in a straight line at 170 pixels per second, it's traveling at 10 times its own size per second. This is invariant under perspective: if we see the object at an angle, that shortens both its length and its flight path proportionally, so the relation holds.

If a 7mm house fly travels at 2m/s, that's 30 times its own length. A Boeing 737-800 is 40 m long and cruises at 530 mph, that is 240 m/s or 6 times its own length. Even if don't know any of the optical parameters, we can distinguish them.

If we consider wind-blown objects, these considerations obviously depend on the wind speed, but if we can determine that, we obtain the approximate size of the object as a result.

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The flying height of the object might be useful in identifying the best match for a flying insect. The wind speed and direction, if known, can be useful as well. Honey bees seem to prefer flying at around 7m high when traveling over longer distances, if the wind isn't strong.

Regression lines gave ground speeds of 7·5 and 6·5 m./sec. respectively for unloaded and loaded bees, the difference being significant (P<0·00l); in neutral winds these speeds were 7·8 and 7·0 m./sec. respectively. At wind speeds above 4 m./sec. bees flew just above the ground instead of at 7·8 m., and thus maintained a fairly constant ground speed.

Off topic: I can't do proper screenplay formatting without fixed spaces, they don't seem to display. I change the font to Courier New but I can't save it.

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That's something you can always estimate independent of the camera parameters: if an object 17 pixels long travels in a straight line at 170 pixels per second, it's traveling at 10 times its own size per second. This is invariant under perspective: if we see the object at an angle, that shortens both its length and its flight path proportionally, so the relation holds.
Excellent observation, thanks!
Physical Size (mm)Size (pixels)LengthsDistance (mm)Time (s)Speed (m/s)
717
 113
 791
 1.12
 0.7
1517
 113
 1694
 1.12
 1.5
2517
 113
 2824
 1.12
 2.5
3.2 m17113361 m1.12322.7
The last one is a UFO using a corrected version of Travis's assumptions, travelling about 720 MPH, about MACH 1, and .2 miles away, and 10.5 feet wide.

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We definitely have a range that can match to insects, but now I need to verify my estimate of wing flapping speed. I also want to verify my optical calculations by seeing if Travis's height in pixels matches predictions.

After that, I want to check the focus. (hint: I'm getting near focus about 1.6m, that's actually perfect for a 15mm object). The argument that a fly being so close would be too blurry isn't true; you can get a wide range of distances in focus at once, in fact this is a photography technique.

It's looking very plausible that it's an insect. Being blurry sways it towards being an insect also.

If it took this UFO 10 feet wide a second to zip across the sky, how come no one saw it? It was a visible light camera, not thermal, not IR.

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Off topic: I can't do proper screenplay formatting without fixed spaces, they don't seem to display. I change the font to Courier New but I can't save it.
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Maybe the thing in question is a completely different insect. But I think it's more likely to be a UABee than a UAP.
Possible, but I think it's more likely a regular old housefly. Here's some I videoed at 240 fps in my backyard

I don't think we'll get the precise species - I tend toward housefly or similar because of the horizontal body (bees seem to be more tilted down at the back) and the downward sweep of the wing (bees don't seem to sweep down that far).

Heres a variety of flies in very slow motion

Here showing the full downward (and forward) sweep of the wings. This is just takeoff, not level flight, so more body tilt here.

Compare:

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I don't think we'll get the precise species - I tend toward housefly or similar because of the horizontal body (bees seem to be more tilted down at the back) and the downward sweep of the wing (bees don't seem to sweep down that far).

Heres a variety of flies in very slow motion

Here showing the full downward (and forward) sweep of the wings. This is just takeoff, not level flight, so more body tilt here.

Compare:

I noticed that as well, though I thought that, being close to the camera and above the center, it may be the far side wing that is visible on the down sweep.

A precise count for wing beat frequency in the video can narrow down plausible species. As it is, with the 250hz estimate, houseflies would be excluded since the figures I have seen for them so far are no higher than 200hz. With Curious George's calculations so far, the speed of a potential adult housefly in the video would be quite low for what you'd expect of one flying in a straight line (as seems to be the case from the video). As can be seen in a study about fly chase dynamics, their velocity hardly ever drops down to 0.7 during their very acrobatic chases and remains mostly between 1.2 and 1.6 m/s https://sci-hub.st/https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.1986.0018 (section 3.4). 1.5 m/s for a 15 mm size is not a great fit for a honey bee, either, I think. I was reading earlier about 7-8 m/s for foraging trips, though I don't know what speed would be expected during other behavior.

After some more looking around, bottle flies make a good match for the available data https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_green_bottle_fly
It's native to the location, 10-14 mm body length resulting in a 1-1.4 m/s speed in the video, male typical wing beat frequency close to the estimated one:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5307768/ (results section)

[...] Males of L. sericata are strongly attracted to wing flash frequencies of 178 Hz, which are characteristic of free-flying young females (prospective mates), significantly more than to 212, 235, or 266 Hz, characteristic of young males, old females, and old males, respectively. [...]
Content from External Source
I wasn't able to find anything on what speed to expect from a bottle fly, yet. Also, it's become apparent that you can't reduce a species wing beat frequency to some number... it is a generous span, and you can't exclude candidates as simplistically as I did with the house flies, though they still don't match with the estimated speed.

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There are literally thousands of species of apoidea and diptera etc, green bottle flies in the UK alone can be one of several species, some species can only be differentiated by examining the genitals under a microscope. There's no point going to that detail because you can't determine it. The object fits the characterization of a flying insect and that's pretty much as far as you can go from the information presented.

And so our Skinwalker friends fail again. This time with a fly. How hilarious do you want to have it.
I wonder how many times they want to try to shove their stupid narrative down our throat.

And so our Skinwalker friends fail again. This time with a fly. How hilarious do you want to have it.
I wonder how many times they want to try to shove their stupid narrative down our throat.
Sadly they haven't failed, they've sold a story to the faithful and they are lapping it up.
I put it to a mate of 45years (a dyed in the wool conspiracist) and whilst he considers that 96% of UFO's are mistaken reports of earthly origin, he won't accept Travis and the gang are frauds, as previously demonstrated by the misrepresentation of compass deflection see https://www.metabunk.org/threads/se...ch-simple-debunk-of-magnetic-deviation.12524/ ) and now this nonsense.

In response to my sending Mick's side by side 'trailer' v 'broadcast' https://www.metabunk.org/threads/sk...isode-10-3600-mph-ufo-claim.13023/post-293054 clearly showing an insect, his response was to quote Taylor's erroneous calculations and a 'I bet you never watched the full episode?'. In this respect he was correct and I bet I never will.

Rather than further reacquainting myself with Brandolini's Law it was easier at this point to resort to sarcasm to close the conversation and do something more rewarding , make a cup of tea.
Last e-mail I asked him if it was usual for UFO's to employ wings for flight? Have 'they' reversed engineered them from a crashed insect - or have they started to abduct insects, evidenced by the decline in some invertebrate populations, as they are more to offer than the usual US hick? That should do the trick.

The irony is, if the Skinwalker "Unidentified probably-a-Fly Object" is indeed a fly, there's a chance some of its relations play a real part in "cattle mutilations".
The action of maggots -particularly around orifices, mucous membranes and wound sites- probably account for some of the reports of clean, bloodless soft tissue removal observed in found carcasses.

Oh, found this- don't think it's from Skinwalker Ranch, though

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I'm concerned also about the mismatch in speed; my speeds seem too low. But, I want to point out, that the insect could be flying into the wind, so without more information, any lower speed is perfectly plausible (it could even move backwards in a strong wind).

Last e-mail I asked him if it was usual for UFO's to employ wings for flight? Have 'they' reversed engineered them from a crashed insect -
This is terrestrial technology.

Ornithopter (1902):
Article:

DelFly (TU Delft):
Article:
DelFly Nimble is our newest and most agile design which can hover or fly in any direction (up, down, forward, backward or sideways). Unlike its predecessors, which are controlled like a conventional airplane via deflections of control surfaces located on the tail or behind the wings, the DelFly Nimble has no tail nor such control surfaces. Instead, it is controlled through insect-inspired adjustments of motion of its two pairs of flapping wings. The lack of the tail makes the DelFly Nimble less vulnerable to damage and highly agile, allowing also outdoors operation in light winds.

Festo - BionicOpter:

Though we think it's also popular elsewhere:

ust to note, if the original image was a square 1024x1024, it has to be cropped to fit the 16:9 widescreen aspect of HDTV. If you crop it to 1024x576, then scale it up by 1920/1024=1.875, you get an HDTV 1920x1080 image. It should be noted that the original image will seem blurry on TV even in the best of circumstances.

To put this simply, the original had to be zoomed in 2x to fill the screen, because you zoomed into a square until it filled the screen.

What they actually did is quite interesting. They not only cropped it vertically, the cropped a section in about 4:3 ratio and then stretched it horizontally to get what they finally showed.

Which means that the insect appears a bit skinnier in the close up than it actually is. The image above shows it in the correct size.

The wider shot has also been similarly cropped and resized.

Here's a single full-frame 1024x1024 image. All of the shots seem to be taken from the same 21.833 second 43666 frames recording, so the clouds are basically stationary.

Calculating the Focal Length

The formula, in Excel pseudo-format is:
Focal Length=1/(2*TAN(Angle of View/2*PI()/180)/Sensor Size), with Angle of View in degrees and Sensor Size in mm.
FL=1/(2*TAN(50/2*pi/180)/20.48)=22 mm. This isn't an available prime DX lens, but easily in the range of an ultra wide zoom (such as 10mm-24mm). The camera takes DX lenses. It's reassuring that the numbers are very "clean".
Here's the camera. A Photron NOVA FASTCAM

The lens has a Nikon cap, and the gold on it looks like Nikon. It seems to have a thick adjustment ring at the back, and a narrow one at the front, and a bit of a neck.

Seems like a Nikon AF Zoom-NIKKOR 24-85, and appears to be set to about 28mm.

The aperture would be significant here. It looks like there's a manual aperture ring at the back. You can see the white marker and the orange 22s, suggesting it's around f/5.6 or f/4.0

However that may well not be what was used, as that image has the camera with no monitor (it's during setup), and later it is seen with a monitor, and with the focus being adjusted.

Excellent work Mick! This is truly a Sherlock moment

The sensor size remains 20.48mm.

The AoV is incongruous to the Google Earth estimate, this should be resolved -but in any case, the image is what matters, and these formulas I'm using are for a thin lens model, a simplification of a real lens. The only way to be better is if this model of lens shows up in Zenmax (a popular optical simulation program).

The aperture estimate will be useful for calculating hyperfocal distance.

The cropping deduction of course comes from the software screenshot.

I will look at resolving the AoV (often called FoV) to the Focal Length (FL). These numbers rely on the assumption of a 20.48mm sensor size. All models of Fastcam Nova, which also look like the picture, have that size.

 FL AoV 22 50 24 46 26 43 28 40

@MickWest can determine if one of these are a better match to the Google Earth method.

@MickWest can determine if one of these are a better match to the Google Earth method.
50° horizontal field of view is what Google Earth gives me, matching the width of this image.

Note though that there's a "Zoom Ratio" of 72.6%. If this is actually zoomed in to cover 72.6%, then that would suggest a higher raw HFOV, like around 60°

I think the Google Earth fit is the ground truth here, at least as a reasonable ballpark.

Wow, I just noticed this:

__________ EXT. EAST FIELD - DAY

__________ OPERATOR - BURDETTE ANDERSON (at 11:00)
Can you take a look at this and tell me if it's a b- ... bug or a bird or ... what you think?

Travis puts on his reading glasses to examine the monitor.
Travis ignores the suggestion that it's a flapping animal despite prompting.

A high-speed camera records a mysterious creature-like object flying at insane speeds
Even the description of the preview video on the History channel calls it a creature.

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Travis Taylor and Erik Bard are claiming that a fly would be a blurry blob. But would it?

50° FOV seems about right. On my Canon 7D with a 17-50mm zoom and the built-in 1.6x crop, that needs about 22mm.

I think this would be a reasonable camera setup for comparison. What if I duplicate this image, how far away would the fly be? Would it be in focus?

I set up a test with drywall screws turned head on to the camera as rough analogs of flies. The camera is focused at infinity

To be most conservative I used the widest aperture available f/2.8

As expected, flies close to the camera are very blurry. But blurrier than the SWR fly? Here's what the images look like at the same scale.

Narrowing the comparison to 5,6,7, and 8 feet:

And if we use the higher resolution version they accidentally released in the trailer:

The amount of blur seems consistent with something at 7-8 feet.

That was at the widest aperture. At a narrower f/5.6, the blurriness is similar around 5-6 feet.

(Note my images are raw, so have pixel-level grain, but no compression artifacts. The SWR teaser fly is compressed, so the blur gets jaggier.

So it does not seem like there's any real obstacle to the fly being a few feet in front of the camera.

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Meaning of 72.6% zoom, part 1
Mick West writes:
Note though that there's a "Zoom Ratio" of 72.6%. If this is actually zoomed in to cover 72.6%, then that would suggest a higher raw HFOV, like around 60°

I got the manual to the software they are using. There is an analog zoom controlling the lens itself, if a Micro Four Thirds lens. There is also a digital zoom. The full sized 1024x1024 image would display as shrunk to 743x743. I assume the Quick Toolbar, digital zoom is used in this case.

Source: Photron FASTCAM Viewer for High-Speed Digital Imaging, User's Manual Rev. 2.06 E
https://photron.com/photron-support/

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