Kinescope: Mitchell film camera mounted in front of a TM-6 monitor – photo kstp
The Apollo photographic record was generated using media from three prime sources: 1) Hasselblad still photographs shot on 70mm film; 2) images from the Maurer Data Acquisition Camera (DAC) filmed on 16mm movie film as one frame per second, or with filming speeds such as 6, 12 or 24 fps, and 3) monochrome or color TV cameras, the source of the transmitted TV material that was later filmed from a special video monitor as ‘kinescope’ 16mm movies – an early process of recording television pictures.
Studies strongly indicate that certain sequences generated for the Apollo lunar surface photographic record were produced using scale mannequins with miniature models, props and sets – a technique regularly used in feature film production.
This paper details my findings and conclusions.
Part 1. Analysis of the Apollo 16 Rover Action Sequence
Over the years online forums dedicated to discussing the Apollo missions have hosted messages proposing that rather than featuring real astronauts, some lunar surface photographs used miniatures. But as these opinions were usually expressed by non-professionals, they were largely ignored. The situation changed however in August 2012 when the Apollo 16 lunar rover action footage was analysed and discussed in a video with a specialist cinematographer, Vsevolod Yakubovich.
Vsevolod Yakubovich is a Director of Photography in the famous Mosfilm Studios in Russia, probably the oldest film studios in Europe. He is an Associate Professor of the Russian State University of Cinematography, and teaches the technology of the Cinematograph process. V. Yakubovich is well known for his work on many famous Soviet movies including the first domestic disaster movie Air Crew (1979), as well as The Diamond Arm (1969), The Very Same Munchhausen (1979), Gardes-Marines, Ahead! (1988), Aybolit-66 (1967).
The short presentation of the Apollo 16 Rover footage by Vsevolod Yakubovich generated quite a furore among viewing audiences. This professional cinematographer, acclaimed for his special effects photographic expertise in more than 80 movies, determined that the sequence was in fact a miniature mannequin seated on a radio-controlled model lunar rover (LRV) in this Apollo film, Lunar Rover on the Moon: Was it an RC model? (extended version).
The LRV travels a circular route. But despite the very uneven surface, as the LRV moves away from the camera and returns again, the driver never moves any part of his body – not a foot, not a hand. The driver’s left arm, initially hovering ‘in the air’ and then held in a horizontal position isn’t lowered until the very end of the run (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The driver's left arm hovers ‘in the air’ parallel to the surface without movement
This raised arm is clearly is not realistic in such a situation. Imagine you are driving a car with your right hand in control, holding the steering wheel. You then stretch your left hand forward so that the forearm, wrist and hand are parallel to the ground. Could you drive two laps in this position, back and forth, twice, making turns – continually ensuring that your left arm never moves?
No, not in reality. A person would instinctively lower his/her hand to the knee if it wasn’t holding the wheel. Compare the above LRV film sequence with the Apollo 16 astronauts’ actions on the training ground at Cinder Lake crater fields, east of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA. The left arm of the driver, sitting closer to the camera, always rests near his hip or knee. And not only when the rover is stationary, but also when they simulate riding about, with the front wheels rotating (Figures 2-4).
Figure 2. Rover training – note position of left arm
Figure 2a. LRV front wheel rotating on a test rig – the driver's left arm is in a lowered position
Figure 3. Training with the rover, Cinder Lake crater fields, Arizona
Figure 4. Rover training – disturbed dust behind indicates that the rover is in motion
The driver’s left hand is always lowered, regardless of whether or not he is wearing a spacesuit. Keeping an arm horizontal is uncomfortable. But a mannequin can keep its arm outstretched for as long as is required.
In addition, V.Yakubovich has noted (as have others) the line separating the foreground lunar soil and the background. The lower and upper parts of the frame mismatch both in color and texture – as has been discussed elsewhere. This credible finding is unambiguous: the boundary line indicates an artificial set up, such as film studio. The lower working area is composed of ‘lunar’ dust on the horizontal plane and the upper part is a separate backdrop component.
What do we see during panning? The camera, following the rover, makes turns of more than 120°. At the same time, throughout the entire ride, the boundary line remains approximately at the same distance from the shooting position, in other words, it travels in circle of a small radius (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Half panorama of the LRV ride, two frames – a dividing line (yellow arrows) is present for the entire journey delineating the lower and upper parts of the frame
The Apollo lunarscape in the film sequence is very similar to a diorama – a full-size or miniature model or even a painting – curved in semicircle, with a foreground composed of soil and three-dimensional objects, which may include structures, real objects and/or props built to scale.
Below is a typical example of diorama, The Battle of Borodino (1812), Panorama Museum, Moscow captures the historic battle between the Russian troops and Napoleon's Great Army. It's not really just a diorama; it is a panorama, an entire circular picture: extending 115 meters; and 15 meters high (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Part of a panorama depicting The Battle of Borodino
The original panorama was painted by Franz Roubaud in 1911-1912. The background is a flat, two-dimensional picture and three-dimensional objects are placed in the foreground with scale models of houses, trenches, cannons and other objects (Figure 7).
Figure 7. Merging foreground 3D-objects into a flat background
If you look closely, you can see the border separating the flat background from the real three-dimensional objects in the foreground (Figure 8).
Figure 8. The border separating the background picture from the foreground 3D objects is clearly discernable
In the above dioramas it is easy to spot the boundary separating the background and foreground. Similarly, in the case of the rover ride the set is actually a sub-frame, a base on which mock-ups, models and props are placed, and the space beyond the borderline is a separate background.
The lunar mountains were either painted onto this background, or it is equally possible that it was a photographic backdrop. Photographic backdrops (Figure 9) are frequently used in movie production.
Figure 9. Cityscape photographic background, for a view from a window
A typical example is the view outside a window. Such a photographic background is installed in the studio at a short distance from the window itself and illuminated (Figure 10).
Figure 10. On the left is the window through which the cityscape background will be visible
And here is an example from the movie Children of Men (2006, director Alfonso Cuarón), the forest below (Figure 11) was a photographic background.
Figure 11. Forest scenery, built on stage D at Pinewood Studios for Children of Men, Universal Studios, 2006
This forest exterior was created by Pinewood Studios, not far from London. This British film and television studio serves as a production facility for movies such as the Star Wars films after 2012. (While Elstree studios, also near London was the birthplace of Star Wars in 1977.)
In a forest all the light comes from above, hence, to imitate such diffused light in a studio, lamps are hung high up in the ceiling area.
Could the background in the rover sequence be a photographic backdrop? After all, two years before the Apollo landings images of the lunarscape were taken from a position on the surface of the Moon, captured by the robotic Surveyor probe (Figure 12).
Figure 12. Surveyor with its TV camera
Since the resolution of the Surveyor TV camera was very low (the maximum quality corresponded to a resolution of 800x600), a photo composite was assembled from more than a hundred overlapping shots taken from the same place at different camera angles. But these panoramic photographs, assembled from multiple television frames, were of such low quality (Figure 13) that they would have been unsuitable for use directly as a backdrop.
Figure 13. Lunarscape at the Surveyor landing site made up of several dozen shots
These photos could only serve as samples of the lunar surface texture and a guide as to how lunar mountains would look in the distance. Until this time nobody actually knew for sure what these mountains and hills would actually appear like when viewed from just above the surface, because through a telescope from Earth or even from orbit the lunar mountains and hills are seen from a completely different angle.
I have concluded that the background for this sequence was created and then positioned as a diorama. And there is one more factor indicating that these were not real full-size rover circuits on the Moon, but rather special effects sequences. This conclusion is further supported by the fact that the footage attempted to simulate filming with a handheld camera.
If you watch the original clip, it will seem strange that the edges of the frame randomly move in different directions. Initially the image was shot with a pronounced shake, and only relatively recently was stabilized using Deshaker software (Deshaker v2.5 filter for VirtualDub 1.9.9).
Video 2. HD stabilised film of the LRV action sequence
But initially (in the original film) the rover moved up and down in the frame. The reason why the rover was filmed with extreme hand shaking is explained. In theory, there should be no such pronounced shaking. This shaking was introduced intentionally to conceal the fact that it was a mannequin on the miniature rover. The production team deliberately tried to intensify the shaking affect when the rover was about to start moving so that the viewer doesn’t have time to become aware of the rigidity of the driver sitting at the wheel. The shaking continued to be used when the model rover moved towards the camera (see Video 3):
And here is what the original two minutes of the rover ride video looks like without image stabilization. You can see deliberate shaking of the camera even before the rover moves (Video 4).
The video has been titled Grand Prix, suggesting that the rover was deliberately staged, 'racing around' to entertain an audience and demonstrate its maximum attainable speed.
Around 15-20 years ago, when the quality of Internet streaming video was very poor (with resolution of 320x240 pixels) it was difficult to understand who was driving the rover. But when a new scan of the 16mm film in HD was made, and the image stabilized, it immediately became clear that this is a motionless scale mannequin which has just one hand slightly shaking on the console.
So why was it necessary to use a mannequin when it would seem that such a simple ride could be captured perfectly well with the real thing, a full-size vehicle?
There are two reasons for this. The first is the difficulty of illuminating the very large area required to be fully convincing. The sensitivity of color photographic films in those days was relatively slow. Amateurs filmed with sensitivity of 50-100 ASA, and 160 ASA film was considered the fastest. It was the latter that was used for filming the rover circuits. Nowadays, on any digital camera you can set speeds of 3200 ASA and more, and the minimum value sometimes starts at 200, it is already difficult to imagine that 160 ASA in those days was considered high sensitivity. For such a low speed film you would need a great deal of light. If on the other hand you were to use 1:8 miniatures, then the entire scene can be shot in a studio that is only 1/10th the size of a football field. It then becomes fully feasible to illuminate such a model stage with a single 60-inch unit, to imitate sunlight.
Figure 14. 60-inch searchlight, commercially available in the US
If the rover had not been scaled down but was shot actual size, then a studio eight times larger would have been required. The space needed would increase considerably along with the lighting requirements. It is simply impossible to illuminate such a large area with one standard device, therefore many of these powerful lighting devices would be required. In other words, it would have to be a superlight. If you wanted to create the illusion of a single light source to simulate sunlight, how would you allocate them? Lighting units in stadiums can be mounted as in this example (Figure 15) but perhaps not ideal in this case.
Figure 15. Horizontal stadium lighting
Therefore, in order to produce a single point source of light, perhaps more like this (Figure 16):
Figure 16. Typical stadium lighting
Large numbers of lighting fixtures are needed to illuminate full-sized film sets, especially when lighting backdrops. That is why, wherever possible, a special model studio stage with miniatures and scale models is the choice for creating extensive, photographic scenes (Figure 17).
Figure 17. Studio layout for the Apollo 16 scale model rover sequence
There is a second reason why scale mannequins would have been used. With a full-size LRV driving in Earth gravity it would be impossible to make the dust fly up high enough from under the wheels. Mathematical calculations show that in lunar gravity, dust grains from under the rover wheels (at the stated maximum speed of 18 km/h) should fly to a height of over two meters, much higher than the rover itself.
It is simply impossible to film such a dust plume with a full-size model. In terrestrial conditions, travelling at a speed of 36 km/h, (that is, twice as fast as the rover’s speed) sand does not rise to a height any greater than one meter (Figure 18).
Figure 18. Under terrestrial conditions sand from under the wheels rises no higher than 1 meter
But with a scale model, it is possible to make the sand soar above the model (Figure 19).
Figure 19. A radio-controlled scale model driving in sand
The use of a scale model enables the generation of high-flying sand grains, twice as high as the model itself – almost as if it were on the Moon. Therefore part of the challenge of creating a realistic effect of an action lunar rover sequence is solved by deploying a model. What’s left is to make the lunar dust fall slowly as if it was actually in 1/6g on the Moon. Since the free-fall acceleration on the Moon is around six times slower than on Earth, the playback speed must be slowed down to the square root of 6, i.e. 2.46 times. In other words, to make the lunar dust fall slower during playback, it should be filmed 2.5 times faster than the standard film speed at 60fps (frames per second), and then played back at the standard 24fps. (For more details see Apollo: Smoke and Mirrors.)
Apollo 16 LRV sequence Summary
According to this research, the rover footage of the vehicle driving ‘on the Moon’ is undoubtedly just a special effects sequence filmed in a studio using a miniature mannequin and a radio-controlled model. The model was about eight times smaller than the real prototype. The lunar background was a painted backdrop, which was positioned in a semi circle. The filming speed was deliberately increased to 60fps to obtain the desired effect when viewed at 24 fps – as if it was all shot in a genuine lunar environment.
Part 2. Scale mannequins and models used in the Apollo TV Coverage
Replacing an individual actor with a mannequin is quite common in feature films. Motionless dolls “came to life" for the first time in 1910, when Vladislav Starevich produced the first puppet animation with beetles in the film studio of A. Khanzhonkov in Moscow.
Figure 20. Vladislav Starevich and his first animated subjects
Inside the scale models was a metal articulated frame (Figure 21) which permitted movement in different parts of the model’s body.
Figure 21. Hinged armature/framework inside a scale model
Using frame-by-frame stop motion shooting, models manufactured in this manner can be manipulated to move around, turn their heads, move their hands, bend, and even curtsy (Figure 22).
Figure 22. Puppeteer adjusts the position of the model’s arms and legs for the next exposure
In order to achieve smooth movement, the animator/puppeteer can change the position of arms and legs, calculated in advance, for each frame. This painstaking work is immensely time consuming. A full-length animated production can take two or three years to complete.
Fig 22a. Example of a scale astronaut mannequin
Many of the scale mannequins that were used in the Apollo photographs were not especially refined. The agency counted on the fact that an astronaut in a spacesuit would generally appear to be a static figure, so any scale mannequins in the Apollo photographs would only need to make the minimum of movements, most often with just one hand, while the other would hang motionless ‘in the air’, and often at a right angle (Figure 23).
Figure 23. Mannequin with a dusting brush approaching a miniature camera
Additionally, mannequins can’t do much in the way of making extreme movements. Even simple shuffling of their feet or pushing dust around, so much loved by astronaut-actors, fails with models. This is due to the fact that these images were taken as static shots, and dust can’t be captured ‘mid-air’. Stationary dust would immediately reveal the fact that it was animated. Therefore, animated, moving mannequins were rarely filmed full height, they were usually shot so that their feet weren’t visible; they were nearly always milling around the camera and only seen down to the waist, or at most the knee.
This is noticeable when the camera photographing the sequence is shaken to imitate the passengers supposedly mounting or dismounting the rover... as if the models really were getting onto the model.
Video 6. Apollo 16, mannequin appears to wipe dust from the lens of a prop camera
Even an inexperienced observer can see that the brush in the hands of the left mannequin doesn’t even touch the camera lens, but just remains somewhere near the prop camera. And the second mannequin, with spread arms, remains still almost the entire time. You may ask why it was necessary to use scale mannequins in such a simple sequence. Wouldn't it have been easier to put live actors in front of the camera? It would be much more convincing.
But actually this sequence is not so simple. The full sequence depicts a very long journey on the rover, where, at first, only the lunarscape is visible, and at the end of the journey both riders get off the rover and stand in front of the camera. It’s one thing to just show the way ahead in a moving shot, but a totally different impression is created if at the beginning or at the end of a long action sequence a person appears in view.
Imagine you are driving a car and shooting New York City streets with a video camera (or cell phone) through the windshield. And you claim you were there – far from convincing, since such a journey could have been shot by anybody. But if at the end of the episode you pan round and reveal the car interior, and there you are, driving, then it is absolutely clear that you were actually in the vehicle as claimed.
That’s why NASA must have decided that the astronauts had to make an appearance at the end of a long panoramic ride to make the LRV tour more convincing.
This shot, which lasts five minutes, begins with the mannequin appearing from the left of frame and apparently wiping dust away from the upper shiny surface of the TV camera with a wide brush. At the same time, it is obvious that the upper mirror-like surface of the camera is already clean, there never was any noticeable dust, and it was actually pointless to try to brush away anything at all (Figure 24).
Figure 24. Mannequin operates with a brush, and then moves around the top of the shiny camera prop
The mannequin comes back, then leaves the frame after which the entire picture starts shaking, as if someone behind is rocking the rover with its attached camera. That’s how NASA portrays the astronaut allegedly climbing onto the vehicle. Despite the fact that, as the training reveals, an astronaut couldn’t climb onto the rover on his own – even when wearing just a relatively lightweight simulation spacesuit. Usually, two or three people would help him climb onto the LRV (Figure 25). And equally, the driver couldn’t get off the rover on his own either.
Figure 25. Two or three people have to assist the driver to mount/dismount the rover
Imagine being an astronaut. Behind you is a portable life support backpack (PLSS), which weighs 54kg on Earth. (Lunar gravity is not going to make any difference to this scenario – it is about the point of balance, not the weight of the backpack.) Because you are wearing this backpack, your centre of mass is shifted to your lower spine. You are sitting on a vehicle leaning back in the seat, legs stretched forward. And now you need to get up. The point of support, your heels, are far forward (Figure 26).
Figure 26. To get off the rover independently, an astronaut must bring his centre of gravity above the point of support
Could you, as an astronaut in a bulky spacesuit, lean forward to such an extent that the backpack becomes positioned vertically above your heels? No, it’s not possible. Let's try another option. Recall how in everyday life you get up from a chair. As a rule, in order not to lean too far forward, you push your legs under the centre of the chair so that your feet are exactly under your centre of gravity. And then, straightening your legs at the knees, you can stand up. And now could you, sitting on the rover bend your knees so that your heels are under the backpack? I think your answer will be that it’s physically impossible.
How, then, to get on (or off) the rover on the Moon, if there are no helpers nearby, as was the case during rehearsals on Earth? They never showed how the astronauts got off the Rover (because of course they couldn’t.) And you will never guess what ‘mounting-the-rover technique’ NASA came up with. This invention was a stroke of genius – but not one that NASA was prepared to show during the 'live' TV transmission, (again because they couldn’t!) instead, the agency created the animated 16mm film sequence of their solution to the problem, and essentially it went like this:
The astronaut approaches the vehicle and stands by its side, then he jumps up and lands his ass on the rover seat... the camera mounted on the rover immediately swings about, as if it was due to the impact, consequently the image jerks around. In the movie business this is called "reflected action" when, instead of the action itself, we are shown how it affects other objects. The astronaut is standing next to the vehicle... then a couple of seconds later, a camera shake... and he’s already sitting on the rover. Simples!
There were no shots of any astronaut getting onto the rover on the Moon in any recording. During the five minutes of the continuous sequence in question we don’t see what actually happened. (First we watch an astro-mannequin in the foreground, then on exiting the frame, the camera shakes and he is seated on the rover.) After this the other astronaut-mannequin appears in the frame, still no more than waist-high, again it leaves the frame, and half a minute after watching this lengthy, boring shot, we see the LRV finally setting off and rolling along the lunarscape. But this time there has been no camera shake to signify the second astro-man actually getting onto the rover.
At the beginning of the trip you will see that the shadows of the rocks fall to the right, but after a few seconds they fall to the left (Figure 27) this means that the rover is going in a circle.
Figure 27. Shadows of the rocks at the beginning of the ride fall to the right and further on, fall to the left
The trajectory changes several times and, in its entirety, it looks like this (Figure 28):
Figure 28. Lunar rover trajectory
The rover dodges and winds around the same place then finally stops at the end of the fifth minute. And only then the scene with the two mannequins is played out (Figure 24). According to NASA propagandists, the rover had driven about 10km across the lunar surface. But in my opinion the entire model rover trip fits into a set smaller in size than a football field. A professional model maker often builds scale models 8-10 times smaller than real objects (Figs 29-30). Apollo model makers would have made mock-ups of the lunar mountains, placed them on the production set, created small ‘craters’ and scattered small rocks, dressing this miniature landscape.
It should be remembered that film directors have always used models for certain scenes. For example Stanley Kubrick incorporated models in The Shining (1980) – a scale model was used to create the elevator 'flood of blood' scene in his classic horror film.
Figure 29. Leonid Konovalov with scale model buildings
Figure 30. Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky checks out the model of a house for The Sacrifice
Models are often displayed in museums and exhibitions. Here is a model of a mountainous landscape:
Figure 31. Scale model of the mountainous region around the city of Sochi, Russia, where the 2014 Olympic ski competitions were held
And here is almost entire city in miniature (Figure 32):
Figure 32. Grand, fully-detailed model of an entire city
And below is a link to the world's largest miniature railway constructed in the city of Hamburg, Germany, the length of railway tracks totals more than 13 km! ...
Video 8. Miniature Wonderland: The largest model train layout
It is physically difficult to watch the Apollo moving rover; not because it is boring and nothing much happens for many minutes, and not because the fakery is so obvious, but because the picture jerks around abruptly for the duration. I have concluded the mannequins move by single frame stop-motion animation and so they only make unnatural gestures.
The animators who filmed this sequence understood perfectly well that they couldn’t get the realism of human motion from a scale model. Only recently has technology appeared that makes it possible to emulate human movements accurately and pass them on to a digital character – motion capture technology (MoCap). An actor wears markers or sensors, and the samples from these sensors is stored in the computer database of 3D points. The algorithm of the sensor's motion is linked to certain sections of a 3D model, which is why the movement of models can now be incredibly realistic (Figure 33).
Figure 33. Motion capture technology
This motion capture system was only available for commercial use in the mid-1990s. By that time high-powered computing technology and computing became capable of such graphics processing and became available for movie post production houses.
A little later in 2001, for the first The Lord of the Rings movie, the technology of capturing not only motion, but also an actor’s facial movements and converting them into 3D computer performance capture was available. Computer characters began to look really alive and photo-realistic (Figure 34).
Figure 34. Using the actor’s motion, performance capture for
The Lord of the Rings film series, New Line Cinema, 2001
Then in 2009 for the ground breaking movie Avatar (20th Century Fox) a small skull cap with a bracket pointing to the actor's face had a tiny camera that captured the actor's facial movements. James Cameron pioneered this technology that allowed these facial expressions to be recorded for the animators to use later.
But in 1969-72 there were no such high-performance computer capabilities. The on-board Apollo Guidance Computer (Figure 35), which was claimed to perform calculations, was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1960s, and the computing power of this unit was far less than of a conventional calculator (and required human input.) (Also see Was the Apollo Computer Flawed?)
Figure 35. Apollo 11 on-board Guidance Computer (AGC)
It should be added that in the pre-computer era, there did exist a means of copying human movements with great accuracy and transferring them to the movie screen, and this technique delivered excellent results. As can be seen by watching any Disney animated film, the motion of cartoon characters is very realistic. The method is called rotoscoping, and was developed by Polish-American animator Max Fleischer in 1914. A live action movie is projected frame-by-frame onto a transparent panel installed vertically. On the other side of the transparent easel an artist traces all the elements onto a celluloid sheet (a cell), attached to the glass. And then the finished, painted pictures on the cells were colored and then re-shot on a camera rostrum. In the resulting animation the drawn character moves in exactly the same way as would a live actor.
This technology was actively used in the 1940s by Walt Disney who examined the kinematics of movement of both people and animals. Feature-length films as Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Alice in Wonderland were produced with this method. In order that dance movements and pirouettes didn’t look awkward in any way professional dancers were hired, and cartoonists copied key details such as the positions of hands, turns of a head, and the flying of a dancer’s dress (Figure 36).
Figures 36. All phases of the dance in the animation were traced and copied from routines performed by a professional dancer, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney Productions, RKO Radio Pictures, 1937
The characters moved naturally and organically in Walt Disney’s animated films and were generally obtained by the rotoscoping method.
Video 9. The technique of rotoscoping
The Apollo moving images were captured on the data acquisition camera (DAC) on 16mm film with a shooting speed of 6fps, rather than the usual 24fps. Later, in the laboratory, each frame was repeated four times to produce 24fps the standard speed of playback. Consequently this created sequences consisting of short snapshots that changed six times per second.
For TV transmission and to produce the video recordings another stage was necessary. As the mains frequency of the alternating current is 60Hz in the United States, films are shown on US television at a speed of 30fps. This footage (now as video clips) of the LRV is therefore playing out at a speed of 30fps. And on examining this sequence with a video editing application frame by frame, there are now six frames per second converted into 30 frames, this results in each frame displaying five times. The first frame repeats 5 times, then the second frame repeats 5 times, and so on. As a result, the jumping and jerking effect is very noticeable.
Video 10. Apollo 16 (51:16) mannequin brushes a camera lens and the LRV continues on
Let’s look at some rover sequences from another mission, Apollo 15. This is a long LRV ride across a lunarscape. These rides were also filmed with the Maurer 16mm DAC camera mounted on the right side of the rover (Figure 38).
Figure 38. The 16mm data acquisition camera (DAC) mounted on the right side of the rover
This long Apollo 15 journey (as with the Apollo 16 sequence) was also shot frame by frame using mannequins and miniatures. At one point the rover stops and an astronaut-mannequin appears from the left side of the frame. For two minutes the mannequin makes some senseless animated movements such as straightening the antenna and then, after a jump cut, a live actor replaces the mannequin in the scene as it continues. Additionally the background behind the astronaut changes (Figure 39); the color balance now taking on a bluish tint.
Figure 39. Merging two techniques – the mannequin (left frame) is replaced by a live actor (right frame) for continuation of the scene
For the 39 seconds that the mannequin is in shot we see its motionless hand – the mannequin doesn’t move a finger. But as soon as the live actor takes over after the cut, he immediately starts using his hands normally, moving his fingers, manipulating a gnomon and attaching it to the back of the rover (Figure 40).
Figure 40. Motionless hand of a mannequin (left) – and then a live actor (right) manipulating his fingers in a natural manner
The actor should then act out getting on the rover (Figure 41 below, left frame), but since we know that he couldn't do it on his own (without the help of assistants) this moment isn't shown. Instead a jump cut and an edit follows, and a motionless mannequin is now sitting on the rover (Figure 41, right).
Figure 41. Live actor (left) is replaced by a motionless mannequin (right)
The static shot (i.e., filmed without any camera movement) with a live actor had to be replaced by a mannequin so that it could ride on the miniature rover among the model mountains in the studio set.
Here is the video clip with the edit (at 14:13: Video 12: Actor replaced with a scale mannequin (14:13)
Moving from a motionless mannequin the camera pans to the moonscape forward view and the rover rides around the same location along its own track (Figure 42).
Figure 42. 90 degree pan from the miniature Hasselblad still camera to the front view of the model rover
Replacing a live actor with a mannequin or dummy is often the solution in feature films. This is used when it’s necessary to achieve a difficult or dangerous stunt. For example, from a close up we might see a man clinging to the edge of a cliff, and in the next wide shot he falls into an abyss, but of course it’s the mannequin that falls. Usually this dummy is the same height as a real actor, but there are many instances when the dummy is just a small mannequin or doll.
Here, for example, a little doll replaces Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925). The cabin, in which the Lone Prospector and Big Jim are sheltering during a snowstorm is blown to the edge of a cliff. In the morning Charlie Chaplin tries to open the door, but he finds it is frozen shut (Figure 43).
Figure 43. The Lone Prospector tries to open the frozen door in The Gold Rush, United Artists, 1925
The Lone Prospector with a running start pushes the door and flies out, clinging onto the door handle over a precipice (Figure 44).
Figure 44. A little man hangs from the miniature cabin over a precipice – The Gold Rush, United Artists, 1925
Having realized that he is hanging over the abyss, the Lone Prospector throws his legs back into the cabin and pulls himself inside. This dangerous trick was performed by an articulated mannequin. Strings were tied to its feet so that it could lift its legs and climb up, to be pulled back into the miniature building.
In the Soviet movie The Space Voyage (Mosfilm, 1935) there are scenes where cosmonauts travel around on the Moon. Due to the low gravity they are able to make giant leaps. But due to an act of negligence one of the cosmonauts falls into a gorge. This terrible fall was made possible by using a dummy in a wide shot. (Figure 45).
Figure 45. Cosmonaut miniature figure on the Moon falls down into a gorge.
In the following medium shot, the model figure is replaced by the actor (Figure 46).
Figure 46. The actor rises from the dust
It isn’t only people who are replaced by dolls, dummies or mannequins, scale models appear in place of real cars, as for example, in the movie Back to the Future (Figure 47).
Figure 47. Production scene from Back to the Future Part III, Universal Pictures, 1990
two cars, one real and the other a scale model
In the railroad episode of Back to the Future Part III, a real steam locomotive was used almost all the time, but for the scenes where the locomotive explodes, a fully-detailed scale model was used (Figure 48).
Figure 48. Screenshot from the movie where miniature were used in Back to the Future Part III, Universal Pictures, 1990
Understanding these film making techniques you may immediately ask, “So, it means that two identical studio sets have to be built? One for real actors and the other for miniatures?” Yes, but that’s not unusual.
There is another benefit of using scale mannequins and miniatures. The filming of models requires far less light, because all the shots are static, the shutter speed doesn’t have to be 1/250th of a second as with the Hasselblad still camera. When photographing models at close range, there is a very minimal depth of field.
Adjusting the diaphragm by closing down the lens aperture permits a far greater depth of field. But reducing the aperture requires an increase in exposure time. When shooting miniatures there is no restriction on shutter speed, as the miniatures are happy to wait patiently, standing perfectly still even if it is for as long as a one-second exposure.
Sometimes during the on-board footage part of the rover wheel appears in frame, or more precisely, the fender above the wheel. But no lunar dust arcs from under the fender as it should (Figure 49, right frame).
Figure 49. In the right frame the rover fender is visible over the wheel – but no dust
Why should dust be seen arching from the wheels? But because as we have seen in the LRV film footage earlier, viewed from the side, lunar dust captured by tire grooves flies out from under the wheels (Figure 49a).
Figure 49a. Lunar dust arcs out from the wheels when in motion
But in the shots from the rover no visible dust can be seen flying out from the wheels. This is because the on-board film sequence was shot frame by frame, as animation. One static frame is taken, the rover is moved forward a little, and the next frame exposed. That’s why there is no flying or arcing dust anywhere.
Below is the longest live-action view taken by the TV camera that I have found. This is from Apollo 16: the astronaut runs towards the LM (Figure 50):
Figure 50. Astronaut runs towards the LM – wide view left frame
There is no physical mountain background in the studio set up where this was shot, the backdrop was just black velvet. This Apollo 16 action scene was taken with the TV camera at an angle of approx 11°. This is apparent from the fact that the figure isn’t vertical.
In order to deceive the viewer and imitate the effect of low lunar gravity, the filming speed of the TV sequence (as well as most of the other Apollo TV coverage) was often generated at speeds of 44fps to 60fps, so the result is a slowing down of the action – see also this sequence from Apollo: Smoke and Mirrors, filming speed section (at 18:30).
In this scene the actor-astronaut actually ran to create the sequence before post production processing to create the slowing-down effect (slow motion) a method used to create all the Apollo lunar surface TV recordings – when this scene was filmed he hardly lifted his legs, he shuffled his feet to scatter dust to the sides.
Video 16: Apollo 16 astronaut runs towards the LM (as it would have looked before processing)
Part 3. Scale mannequins and models used in the Apollo Still Photographs
Apollo 15 and 16 are not the only missions where miniature mannequins were used. Here, for example, is an image from Apollo 14 (Figure 51) which, according to the Apollo photographic record, was taken with the Zeiss Biogon wide-angle lens with a focal length of 60mm.
Figure 51. Apollo 14 lunarscape, AS14-68-9486 – inset uncorrected image
Knowing the focal length of the Zeiss Biogon 60mm lens mounted on the Hasselblad 500 EL camera (Figure 52) it is possible to calculate the distance to the astronaut in this Apollo 14 photo.
Figure 52. Hasselblad 500 EL camera with Zeiss Biogon lens from Apollo 14 – the shutter release button is under the lens, but a pistol grip was used to actually take pictures
Since (according to NASA) with the Biogon lens, the angle between the cross hairs is 10.3° and the figure is 2° in height, it turns out that the astronaut is about 54 meters (59 yards) from the camera. And behind the astronaut the surface area extends at least another 100 meters (109.36 yards) to the horizon. That’s over 70% longer than a football pitch. So are we looking at a giant film studio? How then, if it is a studio, to illuminate it with just a single key spotlight – even if additional lighting was used? – see Apollo 14 ray-tracing analysis of this photograph.
The answer is really simple. A studio required to create this image would be relatively small. The foreground in front of the astronaut is not 54 meters, but just 7 – yes, just 7 meters. Instead of a real actor-astronaut, a scale mannequin about 25cm tall (not more than 30cm) ( 9.8-11.8 inches) is placed onto the model stage. A scale model of the LM is also part of the scene, about eight times smaller than the real thing.
These miniatures look somewhat similar in size to the props as seen in the US show MythBusters Episode 104, 2008 season (Figure 53).
Figure 53. MythBusters (Episode 104) model LM and a miniature astronaut
The entire model film set would have been about 30 meters (33 yards) wide. And easily illuminated by one key artificial light source. And to prevent it being obvious that miniatures were being used technical defects can be added to the picture. For instance, intentional high illumination and slight over exposure of the entire image. Instead of the absolute blackness of space, the result renders the upper part of the image filled with a light gray veil.
Any photographer knows that on a sunny day you really should use a lens hood when photographing into the light. (Figure 54).
Figure 54. Typical lens hood
So what was used in the lunar surface imagery? None of the astronauts ever used a lens hood. Its use would have been particularly important in scenes like this, where the front element of the Biogon lens is very close to the lens rim (Figure 55).
Figure 55. Carl Zeiss Biogon 60mm lens
Of course, any front or sidelight from a bright source will immediately cause glare and lens flare. However, this glare should not affect the entire image to such an extent as in Figure 51, above. After all, the Biogon lens is a high-end professional optic with multi-layer coatings specifically developed to minimise light reflected from the lens surfaces. In other NASA space pictures when looking towards the Sun it doesn't have such an overall graying effect on the entire frame. (Figure 56).
Figure 56. AS11-36-5293 Sun and Earth from orbit
As confirmed by numerous photographs taken over years from the International Space Station (ISS); there is no gray veil covering the entire picture when the Sun shines into the lens. (Figures 56-57).
Figure 57. Photographed from the ISS with the Sun directly into the lens
Therefore why does the Apollo 14 image in Figure 51 (and similar Apollo photographs) look as if it was taken by a camera with a greasy plastic lens? In my professional opinion this degrading of the image was added intentionally. According to the record, the flare was provoked by dust. As soon as an astro-photographer on the Moon uncovered the camera, the entire device was immediately covered with a thick layer of dust. That's why these pictures turned out as they have in this case. And it would appear that this effect is exactly what the NASA photographic team was trying to achieve; to get as many pictures as possible with this look (Figure 58). So, in magazine 68/MM alone, containing 101 lunar surface shots, 23 exposures were exposed with this effect.
Figure 58. Four Apollo 14 consecutive exposures from magazine 68/MM with an intentional washed-out look
Since a mannequin cannot walk or jump, long distant action views are rare in shots of astronaut figures in the TV coverage. Few if any distant views were shot where an actor walks away from the shooting position any farther than about 25-27 meters (29 yards max). (No doubt due to the restrictions of the wire flying rig above.)
In three successive Apollo 15 images, taken at intervals (Figure 60) we see a totally static scale mannequin, frozen in the same, a difficult to hold position in real life, with its left foot slightly raised from the lunar surface (Figure 61).
Figure 60. Apollo 15, three consecutive frames with a totally motionless mannequin
Figure 61. Astronaut in a static position – scale mannequin about 25 cm high
At first glance it seems that the mannequin is doing something, and perhaps moves slightly, but in fact it is absolutely motionless. It’s just the change of camera position relative to the subject. The photographer not only turns to the right and tilts up and down, but also shifts the camera horizontally.
The next three frames (Figure 62) also feature a mannequin.
Figure 62. Apollo 15, three frames with a miniature rover and mannequin
And here again the mannequin stands in an unnaturally unstable position (Figure 63) but doesn’t fall over because it’s supported with one hand on the rover. But this time the puppeteer animators slightly change its position from frame to frame.
Figure 63. Static mannequin in a rather unstable position
And again, as we noted earlier, we see a distinct horizontal line, cutting the image into approximately two parts, the join line between the background and the foreground terrain (Figure 64).
Figure 64. Typical horizontal dividing line – image consists of two independent parts
The lunar mountain backdrop with ravines occupies the upper part of the image and the lower foreground has the miniature rover and the scale mannequin nicely arranged in the model studio.
What other details might indicate that scale mannequins were used here instead of live actors? The clue is the ‘lunar’ material in the foreground: it is too coarse-grained. The astro-mannequins were one-eighth size, whereas the sand-like dust, imitating the lunar regolith, was left unchanged. We know that the regolith particles are of 0.03–1 mm in size, and look more like volcanic ash than river sand. And here, in these photos, the particle grains are unnaturally large compared to the other photos where miniatures were not used.
The following photographs are extreme long shots with the LM and the rover. These are also 1:8 scale models. Here again, these back-lit photos with the LM look as if they 'accidentally' came out over illuminated/exposed, with the blackness of space taking on that ‘milky’ look (Figure 65 – and compare with Figure 57 above).
Figure 65. Apollo 15 extreme long shots with scale models, again with strong flare from the ‘sun’
And as the three images above with a miniature rover and LM are the final shots of a panorama, likewise the beginning of the panorama (Figure 66) was shot on the same set – also with miniatures.
Figure 66. Opening images in the panorama
The astronaut at the beginning of the panorama is again a scale mannequin, frozen in an unstable position with its right hand resting on an object to prevent it from toppling over (Figure 67).
Figure 67. Mannequin at the beginning of the panorama with a support under its hand so the doll doesn't fall over
Scale mannequins were shot in very unstable positions in order to represent or suggest moment captured during an activity. Undoubtedly, had a mannequin been placed vertically with its hands by its side, then even a schoolboy would realize that the picture featured a model.
The team managed to manufacture an accurate scale copy of the rover quite well, since the full-size LRV was a typical mechanical device. The rover miniature seemed very believable indeed, just as collectable scale car models can appear surprisingly realistic (Figure 68).
Figure 68. Scale models of a variety of vehicles
But as soon as an astronaut-mannequin is placed on the model rover, the entire effect tends to disappear (Figure 69). Immediately the scene evokes a feeling that a lightweight, lifeless dummy is just sitting motionless on the rover – indeed, with no tracks in its direction of travel, the rover itself doesn't even seem to be moving.
Figure 69. Static Apollo 17 miniature rover with seated scale mannequin
There are dozens of such pictures of the miniature rover in the Apollo 17 lunar surface photos. The use of mock-ups was the most common technique the NASA photo teams used for generating long shots and lunarscapes. Here are three consecutive images of this miniature (Figure 70):
Figure 70. Three consecutive Apollo 17 shots with static miniature rover and motionless scale mannequin
Following these three images, there are three more of the rover, but from a slightly different position. Of course, these were all photographed in the same setting. But the mannequin doesn’t move a millimetre – despite the fact it would take a relatively long time to even photograph just three pictures with a Hasselblad camera. A Hasselblad doesn’t take pictures in succession as fast as can modern digital cameras or iPhones (a digital camera can even take several pictures per second). So, how exactly does a Hasselblad actually take photos?
After pressing the shutter a light gap runs between two moving shutter curtains exposing the film, then the motor turns winding on the film to the next frame. The process takes about two seconds. It requires time to shoot three images when panning the camera, and then move (in an uncomfortable spacesuit) to another shooting point, aim and start shooting a new series of images. But the Apollo photographers didn’t even attempt to give their pictures any credibility of being real. They just shot this motionless astro-mannequin three times, moved to another place and started over, re-shooting the same static subject.
And as you can probably guess, this entire episode with a rover against the moonscape background, from start to end, was shot in the same location. And in all the hundred pictures in this magazine there are only mannequins and miniatures. All the other panoramas are also shot with 1:8 scale props, these include the miniature LM. (Figure 71).
Figure 71. Apollo 17 – the distant LM is also a miniature
In the magazine roll there are dozens of uniform shots of the rover in the studio set. Dozens of shots – no, there are hundreds of them; images where all we see are moonscapes and a miniature TV camera in the foreground (Figure 72).
Figure 72. Apollo 17 – endless frames of the model rover among prop mountain backdrops
I counted 126 of such monotonous pictures in magazine 135/G. And all these pictures depict just models and props. And in the next magazine there are about a hundred more similar shots. And if an astronaut appears in any photo in the distance, then this will be a scale mannequin (Figure 73).
Figure 73. Apollo 17 scale mannequin placed in distant views, with small rocks scattered in the foreground
These astro-mannequins are always motionless in the photographs, standing or sitting, frozen in the same position. Impervious to the fact that they are being photographed; they remain absolutely still. Only on occasions would the puppeteers raise a model's arm in a frame, but not much more than that. You will never find a sequence of photos in any mission when an astronaut moves from the distance all the way to the foreground, and that’s because it is difficult for the puppeteer/animator to approach the model astronaut to change its position – even if it's only five meters away. Stepping onto the lunar landscape risks inadvertently disturbing the miniature rocks or the surrounding surface. So, any intervention would require the puppeteer to be lowered to the surface from above.
Therefore, the maximum movement was to tilt the camera up and down, or to move the camera position slightly so as to introduce at least some difference in neighbouring frames – and to generate glare every so often. Compare the three consecutive snapshots in Figure 73 above (21811, 21812, 21813) with three consecutive shots in Figure 74 below (20758, 20759, 20760) – all from Apollo 17, NASA number is recorded in the last frame of the series:
Figure 74. Apollo 17 – mannequins always motionless
When we watch the Apollo TV recordings we see that the astronauts are continuously scurrying around, hurriedly moving about, never stopping for long. About half of the time they are in the stage of jumping and (wire) flying, not even touching the surface. If someone photographed them, then about half of the pictures would capture astronauts hovering or partly suspended ‘in the air’ above the surface. But for some reason, all the still photographs are monotonously static.
But not all photos depict astronauts fixed to the surface. There are rare exceptions, for example, in Apollo 15 there is one such picture where action is captured 'mid movement' (Figure 74a); the right foot is raised approximately five centimetres, but the left foot remains just touching the surface. This result was no doubt accomplished by ensuring the shadow of the upper body (and its means of suspension) were out of shot, extending beyond the right of frame.
Figure 74a. AS15-86-11654 exceptional action shot of mannequin walking
Then there are two images that captured astronauts actually ‘in mid air’ – the jump salute.
I am not the first to notice this very strange pair of photographs from Apollo 16, numbers AS-16-113-1839 and AS-16-113-1840 (Figure 75).
Figure 75. Two consecutive Apollo 16 photos – the jump salute
These two photographs depict an astronaut at the peak of his jump. The photos are slightly different from each other. And, judging by two new footprints that appear in the dust, in the photo on the right, these are two different jumps.
Those who did not notice the trick have tried to determine the height of the jump. In the picture the astronaut's shadow is visible, footprints are visible, lunar dust that has fallen off his feet is visible, therefore, the height of the jump can be calculated (Figure 76).
Figure 76. Apollo 16 astronaut John Young jumping and saluting
And those who examined the pictures realized that there was no actual jump as such at all. Unlike the TV coverage shot from the rear, the astronaut did not actually jump for this photograph, not the first time, nor the second. During the time that these shots were taken, the mannequin just hung in the air – suspended. It becomes apparent when overlaying one shot on the other. The frames are slightly different, the location of the flag relative to the LM and the mountains in the background are slightly shifted. The position of the astronaut changes a little as well. The two frames were combined using the flag as a registration mark, and it immediately became clear that the astronaut in these two frames was actually hanging in the same place (Figure 77 – see also Suspended by a Wire, a study by Jack White, c.2005).
Figure 77. Comparison of the two images, using the flag as a registration point
The arm and hand touching the helmet does not change its position at all; the wrinkles of the space suit do not change either on the right or on the left leg, although these were supposed to be two different jumps. After all, if these were indeed real jumps, then the astronaut would have needed to bend his knees before the second jump to give an upward push, and there would be, at least to some extent, different wrinkles on the spacesuit.
Under the feet two new deep footprints appear in the dust but the relative leg position in the two frames doesn't change a millimetre, as if the astronaut didn’t drop back down to the surface; the bends of his legs are absolutely identical. It seems that these additional footprints were made independently, without involving the astronaut.
The conclusion reached very strongly suggests that it is a suspended mannequin. Moreover, so that the figure does not spin around its axis, it was probably suspended on two wires and, by lowering or pulling one of the wires the figure could be slightly tilted, as we see when combining these images relative to the astronaut (Figure 78).
Figure 78. Two pictures combined relative to the astronaut
see also Suspended by a Wire, a study by Jack White, c.2005).
The most convincing facts and details in using scale mannequins in the lunar surface pictures are in plain sight for all to see on close examination. As in the Sherlock Holmes detective stories the best way to hide anything is to place it in plain sight. This statement holds true when it comes to the Apollo lunar surface photography; the most convincing evidence is to be found in conspicuous places, not somewhere far away in the depth of the picture, but in the foreground – the astronauts’ footprints.
There is nothing that shows up the contrast more, between the lunar surface stills and the TV recordings – between the static dummy photos and the pictures where astronauts move around. It’s as if the still photographs and the TV recorded material were shot by two independent film crews, and therefore adhered to totally separate principles. In the TV footage, the astronauts shuffle their feet, move dust about etc., and so it is obvious that no clear footprints in the dust could be left in their wake (Figure 79).
Figure 79. Apollo 14 astronauts plant the flag with constantly shuffling feet, moving lunar dust about
But when we look at the still photos, the opposite is the case, all the footprints are absolutely clear, especially in the foreground. For example in three photographs from Apollo 17, a close up, a medium and a long shot. In all of the photos the astronauts’ footprints are not just clearly visible, the footprints are intentionally emphasized with clarity (Figures 80, 81, 82).
Figure 80. Close up featuring intentionally-clear footprints
Figure 81. Medium shot – distinct footprints in the foreground
Figure 82. Long shot also with intentionally clear foreground footprints
However, I can’t find any video recording, or any film footage where, after an astronaut’s move, footprints are left clearly visible in the lunar dust.
It is abundantly clear after studying every aspect of the Apollo investigation that the Apollo lunar surface images and the TV and films were faked and generated in a studio. Moreover, in parallel with the live action filming of the actor-astronauts in a full-sized studio, many of the Hasselblad still images and some film sequences were scenes with scale mannequins and models photographed on miniature studio film sets.
English translation from the Russian by BigPhil
Aulis Online, July 2019
Editors note: There is a noticeable lack of continuity in the appearance of the same scenes in the Apollo TV coverage and the corresponding still images. These differences are very apparent and were originally discussed in the late 1990s in Dark Moon and What Happened on the Moon? This lack of continuity is therefore all the more likely if many of these differences are due to the fact that the TV coverage featured live actors and the stills were often model shots.
The use of miniatures in model sets also provided a choice of camera height as is very apparent in Apollo 11 with the variety of totally unexplainable differences in the height of the camera for some of the still photos of Buzz Aldrin. On careful examination the position of the horizon varies noticeably relative to the standing astronaut – for example see A disturbing Buzz by Jack White.
About the Author
Leonid Konovalov graduated with honours from the Camera Department of VGIK in 1987. He has been teaching at VGIK for 28 years and now teaches at the Moscow School of Cinema and at the University. He is an Associate Professor in the Camera Department of the Russian State University of Cinematography. Konovalov was camera operator/ additional camera operator on many movies and film series. He was camera operator on the movie The Belovs which received the State Award in 1994.
Leonid is a participant in television shows like The Battle of Psychics, Psychics are Investigating, Secret Signs as well as contributing to TV programs dealing with the Moon landings on major Russian networks such as TV Centre, RenTV and Zvezda.
Leonid Konovalov engineered the non-standard photographic films RETRO and DS-50 at the Shostka Chemical Plant "Svema" which were used in the production of 14 movies. In the magazine Cinema and Television Technology (in Russian) Leonid has published seven articles in scientific and technical topics. He also has written the book How to Make Sense of Films.
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