Monday, March 17, 2008

Evan Fairbanks

Evan Fairbanks

Maybe some of the blue from Ghostplane magically leaked out into another video. On September 11, 2001, professional videographer Evan Fairbanks was working at the Trinity Church, on Liberty Street, just southeast of the twin towers. He shot a very strange version of the South Tower event.

The Fairbanks video is hand-held, camera very low to the ground, aiming up at the towers. A man, rumored to be an FBI agent, is in the foreground. The man does not seem to notice what would undoubtedly be the screaming sound of jet engines. Viewers of the video don’t notice any sound either, because the video is completely silent. A plane enters from behind a building at the upper-left of the screen, crosses, and neatly slips into the tower. It’s another “ghostplane” – no crash physics at all. The tower explodes, and only then does the man react.

At the bottom of the frame, behind the man, is a car windshield. In the windshield is seen a reflection of the towers. This presented a nice challenge for the compositors. A copy of the plane had to be flipped vertically, then distorted so as to mimic the naturally curved windshield reflection. Such distortion filters are standard faire in digital compositing software programs.

The color of the Fairbanks video has been adjusted. The colors are over-saturated, and shifted towards blue. The sky is a striking cobalt blue - quite beautiful, but unnatural. In digital compositing, tweaking the colors can be a way to help blend disparate elements which originally don’t quite look like they belong together.

Where is the audio? No audio has ever accompanied any showing of it. For a long time, it was claimed that Fairbanks turned his video over to the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, who gave him back a copy with no audio. In a January 2008 phone interview with Jeff Hill, Fairbanks now says he accidentally forgot to record audio in the first place.

As with the Hezarkhani video, the biggest problem with Fairbanks is the complete lack of crash physics. It looks fake. Fairbanks himself has admitted as much. In one televised interview he said, “The image of that plane just coming into the frame and just disappearing into the side – into the south side of the tower - as if a floor had been hollowed out and it was a hangar that it was just landing in. We’ve seen these images in movies and we know that it’s all artificial, and that Hollywood makes it.”

In another interview Fairbanks said of the airplane image, “It just disappeared. It disappeared like a bad special effect.”

He’s right. The plane did disappear like a bad special effect. A good special effect would have been looked more realistic. The plane would smash up against the side of the much stronger tower. The nose of the plane would have crumpled, and the whole plane would have rotated around. Flaming pieces would have broken off and fallen earthward. It would have been a big mess, like a real plane crash.

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