Case 58

Sonora and Camarillo, Calif.

1 November 1967 (Sonora); 27 December 1967 (Camarillo)

Investigator: Hartmann

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PLATES for this Case


Two objects photographed in unrelated incidents by Universal City Studios are judged to be real but of little probative value in establishing the existence of extraordinary flying objects. These objects can be attributed easily to airborne debris.


Time: 12:10-12:15 p.m. PST CS); 10:00 a.m. PST (C)

Location: On location near Sonora; Broom Ranch near Camarillo

Camera Data: 35 mm motion picture camera; 24 frames/sec; Eastman Color film processed by Techniscope; approx. f9; f.1. 30 mm (S) 100 mm (C);

Scene (from "A Man Called Gannon"): 59A-2, "A" Camera CS); 317A-5, "B" Camera (C).

Direction of view (both cases): eastward, elevation about 30° above horizon.

Weather conditions: Cloudless deep blue sky in both cases.

Sighting, General Information:

During the filming of a feature motion picture, "A Man Called Gannon," two lengths of footage, when developed, showed unidentified images drifting across the field of view. In neither case did any of the film crew or actors recall seeing an object. According to film company personnel, this was the strangest aspect of the case, because the cameramen habitually look for aircraft or contrails, especially in historical dramas. In situations where aircraft are filmed, the


scene is immediately reshot, and the footage showing inappropriate detail is rejected. However, in these two cases the images were discovered only during the editing, when the processed film was being viewed.

The first case, shot at Sonora, Calif., 1 November 1967, showed a small bright source drifting slowly toward the top of the screen (Plate 63) at the very beginning of a sequence, while the camera slate is still being shown. The slate is removed and the scene shows only deep blue sky and the drifting object, which leaves the upper margin near the left corner after roughly ten seconds, before any subsequent action starts. The object is below or near the resolution of the film and resembles a wide-angle shot of the moon, except that the camera was stationary and the object is drifting.

The second case involves film shot on the Broom Ranch near Camarillo 27 December 1967. During a dialogue sequence the camera was focused on the head and shoulders of an actor who was astride a horse. The horizon is out of the picture. At this time a pale, circular extended object, which appears to be an out-of-focus image of a point source or a small bright source, drifts across the screen from the right edge to the left edge in roughly 15 sec. (The image does not reproduce well in black-and-white.) The object definitely appears to pass behind the actor as it is not visible against several dark portions of his clothing. Again, the camera was fixed, although there is a sudden offset to compensate for a movement of the horse. The shooting of this scene will not be cut from the final motion picture.


At my request, Mr. William J. Wade, head of the camera department at Universal Studio, used his standard depth-of-field tables to check the depth of field in each case. These tables are based on a circle of confusion of 0.002 in. diameter. In the Sonora case, the camera was focused quite close (after the slate is removed and the UFO has disappeared, an actor jumps into the foreground). For a 35 mm lens at f8, focussed


at 25 ft., the depth of field is 7 ft. 2 in. to infinity. Thus an object passing anywhere in the background would be in focus. This is consistent with the small, apparently unresolved, bright image. In the Camarillo footage, the longer focal-length lens had less depth of field. For a 100 mm lens at f8, focussed at 20 ft. (the approximate distance of the actor) the depth of field is 16 ft. 1 in. to 27 ft. 2 in.; at 25 ft. it is 19 ft. 2 in. to 36 ft. 8 in. This restricted depth of field is consistent with the image being badly out of focus, assuming that the object passed at a distance greater than some 30 ft.

There is no reason to suspect that any fabrication is involved. The officials with whom I spoke were helpful and appeared genuinely puzzled. There has been no evidence of any attempt to capitalize on the event. Had the studio wanted to fabricate a UFO, the facilities were readily available to create a much more vivid result.


It is concluded that real objects were photographed in both cases, consistent with the camera geometry. The information content of the films is so low that the cases are of little value in establishing the existence of "flying saucers." In addition, it strains credulity to argue that a single film crew would unknowingly and accidentally photograph rare, extraordinary objects on two occasions occurring 56 days and approximately 275 mi. apart.

Alternatively, it is easy to argue that both objects may have been some sort of wind-blown debris, either natural, such as a bit of milkweed-type plant debris, or artificial, such as a bit of white tissue. A two-inch diameter white object at about 50 ft. distance would be consistent with the observations. The camera crew, checking for aircraft, would not have seen anything. The object would be in focus in the Sonora case, out of focus in Camarillo. In the Sonora photographs the object would subtend an angle of only 0°.2 and show up as only a small bright source. During the shooting, the object would be unlikely to attract the attention of the camera crew, being neither "up in the sky" at infinity, nor in the region of focal interest.


Sources of Information:

Personal visit by W. K. Hartmann to Universal City Studios, Universal City, Calif.; personal discussions with Howard Cristie, Producer, and William J. Wade, Head, Camera Department.