Film expert explains why Moon landing footage would have been impossible to fake

Moon landings footage would have been impossible to fake – a film expert explains why
Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Credit: NASA / Neil A. Armstrong

It's been a half-century since the magnificent Apollo 11 moon landing, yet many people still don't believe it actually happened. Conspiracy theories about the event dating back to the 1970s are in fact more popular than ever. A common theory is that film director Stanley Kubrick helped NASA fake the historic footage of its six successful moon landings.

But would it really have been possible to do that with the technology available at the time? I'm not a space travel expert, an engineer or a scientist. I am a filmmaker and lecturer in film post-production, and—while I can't say how we landed on the in 1969—I can say with some certainty that the would have been impossible to fake.

Here are some of the most common beliefs and questions—and why they don't hold up.

"The moon landings were filmed in a TV studio."

There are two different ways of capturing moving images. One is film, actual strips of photographic material onto which a series of images are exposed. Another is video, which is an electronic method of recording onto various mediums, such as moving magnetic tape. With video, you can also broadcast to a television receiver. A standard motion picture film records images at 24 frames per second, while broadcast television is typically either 25 or 30 frames, depending on where you are in the world.

If we go along with the idea that the moon landings were taped in a TV studio, then we would expect them to be 30 frames per second video, which was the television standard at the time. However, we know that video from the first was recorded at 10 frames per second in SSTV (Slow Scan television) with a special camera.

"They used the Apollo special camera in a studio and then slowed down the footage to make it look like there was less gravity."

Some people may contend that when you look at people moving in slow motion, they appear to be in a low gravity environment. Slowing down film requires more frames than usual, so you start with a camera capable of capturing more frames in a second than a normal one—this is called overcranking. When this is played back at the normal frame rate, this footage plays back for longer. If you can't overcrank your camera, but you record at a normal frame rate, you can instead artificially slow down the footage, but you need a way to store the frames and generate new extra frames to slow it down.

At the time of the broadcast, magnetic disk recorders capable of storing slow motion footage could only capture 30 seconds in total, for a playback of 90 seconds of slow motion video. To capture 143 minutes in , you'd need to record and store 47 minutes of live action, which simply wasn't possible.

"They could have had an advanced storage recorder to create slow motion footage. Everyone knows NASA gets the tech before the public."

Well, maybe they did have a super secret extra storage recorder—but one almost 3,000 times more advanced? Doubtful.

Moon landings footage would have been impossible to fake – a film expert explains why
Apollo Lunar Television Camera, as it was mounted on the side of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module when it telecasted Armstrong’s ‘One small step’. Credit: NASA

"They shot it on film and slowed down the film instead. You can have as much film as you like to do this. Then they converted the film to be shown on TV."

That's a bit of logic at last! But shooting it on film would require thousands of feet of film. A typical reel of 35mm film—at 24 frames per minutes second—lasts 11 minutes and is 1,000 foot long. If we apply this to 12 frames per second film (as close to ten as we can get with standard film) running for 143 minutes (this is how long the Apollo 11 footage lasts), you would need six and a half reels.

These would then need to be put together. The splicing joins, transfer of negatives and printing—and potentially grains, specks of dust, hairs or scratches—would instantly give the game away. There are none of these artefacts present, which means it wasn't shot on film. When you take into account that the subsequent Apollo landings were shot at 30 frames per second, then to fake those would be three times harder. So the Apollo 11 mission would have been the easy one.

"But the flag is blowing in the wind, and there's no wind on the moon. The wind is clearly from a cooling fan inside the studio. Or it was filmed in the desert."

It isn't. After the flag is let go, it settles gently and then doesn't move at all in the remaining footage. Also, how much wind is there inside a TV studio?

There's wind in the desert, I'll accept that. But in July, the desert is also very hot and you can normally see heat waves present in footage recorded in hot places. There are no on the moon landing footage, so it wasn't filmed in the desert. And the flag still isn't moving anyway.

"The lighting in the footage clearly comes from a spotlight. The shadows look weird."

Yes, it's a spotlight—a spotlight, 93m miles away. It's called the sun. Look at the shadows in the footage. If the were a nearby spotlight, the shadows would originate from a central point. But because the source is so far away, the shadows are parallel in most places rather than diverging from a single point. That said, the sun isn't the only source of illumination—light is reflected from the ground too. That can cause some shadows to not appear parallel. It also means we can see objects that are in the shadow.

"Well, we all know Stanley Kubrick filmed it."

Stanley Kubrick could have been asked to fake the moon landings. But as he was such a perfectionist, he would have insisted on shooting it on location. And it's well documented he didn't like to fly, so that about wraps that one up… Next?

"It's possible to recreate dinosaurs from mosquitoes the way they did in Jurassic Park, but the government is keeping it a secret."

I give up.


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How conspiracy theories followed man to the Moon

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Jul 10, 2019
But https://www.elite...eorists/ is so compelling!

I chalk this kind of crap up to people incapable of accepting that amazing people exist and have done amazing things in the past. Idiots in the present use these conspiracy theories to make themselves feel better about being insignificant. From denying the genius of individuals, to denying extraordinary events and achievements. It all leads back to a mode of thought to make the extraordinary, ordinary so they dont have to feel so depressed about not being part of it or not being special.

Jul 10, 2019
@Darth Ender

Here here

mqr
Jul 10, 2019
the doubt is due to the fact that the USA government lies and lies and lies. Lile the child's tale, the boy lied so much that nobody believed that the wolf was coming.

The rich in order to manipulate keep the poor uneducated and especially keep them away from being able to evaluate if an idea is true or false. To the point that some people today can not understand that the planet is spherical.

Knowledge and truth are closely related. Saying that we live in post truth, means that there is no more knowledge but superstitions and myths. Obviously trump knows very few truths, for example he does not understand at all how his body works, or how to regulate his eating, he has a painting of a slim trump on his office because that is what he would like to do with his body, but lying and lying mess with your knowledge, and your effectiveness on the world is reduced.

Max Planck mentioned that the possession of the truth means enhanced effective action on the world, he was so right.

Jul 10, 2019
You seem to think the only nation in the world that believes that past achievements or extraordinary events didn't happen is the US. That is not the case. Other countries with other backgrounds have citizens that believe the same thing.

It's not about the have's or people in power lying to the poor masses so the poor masses dont believe what they are told. Since even the have's and people in power share these opinions.

This is human nature. It's in the same vein as needing to humanize nature by creating gods that behave like themselves because it's easier than believing the alternative. It's in the same vein as believing that ancient aliens are responsible for anything relating to human achievement or evolution vs the alternative. It's in the same vein as believing the holocaust didn't exist or 9-11 had to be an inside job.

It's skepticism that's warped to serve one's personal ego because the alternative is too upsetting to them. Has nothing to do with government.

Jul 10, 2019
That's an interesting thesis, @Darth. I think you may have something there.

Jul 10, 2019
@Darth, we cross-posted.

I think there are quite a few conspiracies of the kind @mqr is talking about, but they're not the massive sorts of conspiracies, like faking the Moon landings, chemtrails, or faking global warming that most conspiracy theorists maunder about. Most of them are small, a few dozen people at most. And most of them are political, financial, or sexual (subgroup illicit sex, most commonly).

Jul 10, 2019
Darth Ender...I would think that landing on the moon would make everyone on earth feel special.

Jul 10, 2019
I must have missed the part of him debunking the idea that we couldn't have made it past the Van Allen radiation belts with little to no insulation against the radiation. Or managing to take film for the cameras through the radiation not once but twice. Or managing to speak with President Nixon with virtually no lag time. Hmmm....

Jul 10, 2019
The effect occurs after the event or person, not during.
Every generation believes they are the pinnacle ...because it makes somewhat logical sense that things progress as time moves on. Things that occur or happen that are beyond the present but happened in the past are aberrations that people generally dislike and it becomes easier to disbelieve them the further back in time they are. For instance, if we had kept going to the moon and it was now easier and commonplace, there would be no significant belief that we faked the moon landings back in the 60's. But since we haven't, it rubs people the wrong way that there exists this incredible thing we did and that some people were part of and that currently we have regressed from.

Intelligence and personal achievements are even easier to discredit a generation or more removed since it's far less desirable to exist in a world where you've achieved so little and some can achieve so much with less.

Jul 10, 2019
I must have missed the part of him debunking the idea that we couldn't have made it past the Van Allen radiation belts with little to no insulation against the radiation. Or managing to take film for the cameras through the radiation not once but twice. Or managing to speak with President Nixon with virtually no lag time. Hmmm....


it takes 1.3 seconds for light to reach the moon. That's how long the pause would need to be and it doesn't sound like it would be very noticeable when having a conversation. Current day nasa feeds have a much longer synthetic pause due to them buffering a few seconds of live footage so they can cut the feed if something unexpected happens before the public can see. Also, current day digital communication requires time to encode and decode that older analogue methods did not. We sacrifice latency for bandwidth.

as far as radiation goes, recent stories suggest it's long term effects are less than it would sound.

Jul 10, 2019
I must have missed the part of him debunking the idea that we couldn't have made it past the Van Allen radiation belts with little to no insulation against the radiation. Or managing to take film for the cameras through the radiation not once but twice. Or managing to speak with President Nixon with virtually no lag time. Hmmm....


You must have also missed the part where I said it was shot on video and not film, so therefore no film cameras passed through radiation - not even once, let alone twice. You seem to understand that the footage was transmitted from the moon (in order to make your point about the lag), yet fundamentally haven't grasped that to transmit film it would have had to have been developed first.

Jul 10, 2019
A note to the conspiracy. Faking the moon landings would have been more difficult than making the moon landings. There are virtually no actual US conspiracies. No one in this country can keep a secret.

Jul 10, 2019
Two-aspects exist on everything, one is the reality itself and the other an interpretation of the feeble-mind. Similarly, mentally-challenged humans concocted WTC attack (inside job) as planned by the US government.

Jul 10, 2019
This author is a moron.

This is not the Kubrick conspiracy theory. The Kubrick conspiracy theory is that the moon landings were very real. Real footage was taken and shown, but a lot of it was grainy. The government wanted something larger than life for the magazines, to maximize the public relations win, because we were in a cold war and had been losing every "first" to the Soviets up until Apollo.

The Kubrick theory is that Kubrick doctored the genuine photos and some of the backgrounds to make reality look even better.

How else do you explain the moon room with the witch in the Shining?

Jul 11, 2019
Dude, they were using Hasselblads: the film isn't the size of a couple fingers, it's the size of your fist. Medium format, not 35mm. You ever even seen a Hasselblad?

Jul 11, 2019
This author is a moron.

This is not the Kubrick conspiracy theory. The Kubrick conspiracy theory is that the moon landings were very real. Real footage was taken and shown, but a lot of it was grainy.

The Kubrick theory is that Kubrick doctored the genuine photos and some of the backgrounds to make reality look even better.
You've cherry-picked 'the' Kubrick theory least risible to intelligent readers, but the original was 'thoroughly faked-landing' stuff.
'footage' pertains to motion-picture stuff. What would Kubrick have to do with retouching 'photos'?
'Grainy' This entails actual emulsion-film motion-pictures made by the astronauts. You cannot retouch or 'doctor' film to remove grain: you have to have selected a fine-grain emulsion from the start, or use very wide film size. He chose 70 mm for 2001. He wanted the best. So you have to go all the way: Kubrick simply re-did the entire scenes from scratch with fine-grain 35 mm at least, film.
IT SURE DON'T LOOK IT!

Jul 11, 2019
Yes, some of it is grainy and very real. Some of it is very, very slick and good for magazines. LOL.

No the total fake was a CIA red herring designed to drive people down the wrong rabbit hole. Either you believe the MSM or you believe they faked it.

Truth is they doctored it, meaning they faked some of it, photos not movies.

Jul 11, 2019
This author is a moron.

This is not the Kubrick conspiracy theory. The Kubrick conspiracy theory is that the moon landings were very real. Real footage was taken and shown, but a lot of it was grainy. The government wanted something larger than life for the magazines, to maximize the public relations win, because we were in a cold war and had been losing every "first" to the Soviets up until Apollo.

The Kubrick theory is that Kubrick doctored the genuine photos and some of the backgrounds to make reality look even better.

How else do you explain the moon room with the witch in the Shining?


Ignoring your insulting comment about my intelligence aside - thanks for that though - you should be aware of the various Kubrick conspiracy theories and know that there isn't just one. There is an often repeated theory that Kubrick filmed it in a studio for NASA, which is the one I touched on here... for fun. The bulk of the article is nothing to do with Kubrick.

Jul 11, 2019
Yes, some of it is grainy and very real.

No the total fake was a CIA red herring

Truth is they doctored it, meaning they faked some of it, photos not movies.
So you're delimiting your claims to doctored photos. I can't see them bothering Kubrick, or Kubrick wanting to be bothered, for something so trivial. The CIA would have had the best experts in the world for that job.

MSM. Aha, now we're getting to the crux of the matter. Alex Jones, Infowars will expose the plot. It was probably Hillary, or George Soros. Tear away the moon-hoax, and there's Soros pulling the strings. He who controls the moon-narrative controls the world.

The 'totally faked' theory originated with the flat-earth society, and it was the original. You must think Langley awfully stupid to think people would be taken in by the augustly magisterial FES.

Jul 11, 2019
Hasselblads take really awesome pictures if you know how to operate them.

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