Seeing what you want to see when what you see is fake
This post is based on my Skinny Bob tweets analyzing the Skinny Bob footage, based on the work done by Reddit users (mostly on r/SkinnyBob). My particular interest is the second video where I believe the evidence shows a modified Mars Attacks puppet was probably used.
This puppet was first suggested (to my knowledge) by Reddit user BrooklynRobot who has my gratitude. I expanded the analysis, looking into the armature and paint job of the puppet and illustrating not only the similarities to Skinny Bob but the plausible modifications to the head that may have been done.
Four videos relating to Skinny Bob were uploaded to YouTube by Ivan0135 in April-May 2011, supposedly KGB film footage from 1942-69 of alien visitors. (The videos are referred to here as SB1-4.) The videos are 5 min total - I’m focusing more on the 37 seconds depicting grey(s) in motion. These videos are the only evidence we have. It's 8mm/16mm film projected onto a screen and recorded with a video camera that also picks up the audio of the flickering projector. The video has a timecode at lower left.
I'll briefly look at the footage as a whole, then talk about how a Mars Attacks puppet may have been used in some scenes.
Like other “real deal!” UFO video out there, the Skinny Bob videos use tricks to hide the fact the footage is artificial: terrible quality, short scenes with choppy cuts, unstable camera, high contrast black & white, low resolution, motion blur, and dirt filters added. Skinny Bob himself doesn't manipulate objects or speak in SB2. (He does walk in SB4.)
Without even looking further, these factors make the footage suspect. But there are other reasons to doubt the footage depicts anything resembling what Ivan0135 claims.
Video cameras that used an aspect ratio of 16:9 were rare prior to 2011, and all were digital. Yet the Skinny Bob video includes analog artefacts (horizontal grey lines, rainbow moire), a clue that these are added effects. The timecode font is Consolas (Microsoft), released 1/1/2007. So the video was made after this date. The fades, ghosting, dirt & scratches look like old projected film - yet they affect the video timecode. Therefore these were layered on top after 1/1/2007.
The film scratch overlay was tracked down to a piece of stock footage (earliest upload found is 2009) and was probably created with a plug-in, Sapphire Film Damage for BorisFX. This video (timestamped) from Small Town Monsters goes over that evidence.
The unconvincing explanation from Bob-believers for the fake overlays is that they were added to real vintage footage to obscure its origin or to make this Top Secret leaked real footage appear fake. Yes, it just so happens that leaked footage of aliens walking this Earth looks just like fake footage using obvious workarounds to disguise the limitations of animation and CGI.
For me the most curious part of the SB2 Skinny Bob footage, if real, is that his entire eye sockets and surrounding face are "in shadow". Given the shadows don't move when his head moves, it's clear these areas have been painted black. We all know how easy it is to spot fake "realistic" humanoid eyes on film, no matter how realistic the rest of the figure is.
One way to overcome this is to not show the eyeballs. On just a couple of frames from SB2, the eyeballs can possibly be detected after enhancement. Two Redditors (Smooth Imagination and Ben Philips) showed their enhancements, but when I did the same (background image below right), adjusting brightness & contrast etc., I got something slightly different. (We all used different settings, I guess.) If my enhancement is accurate, it appears to show the eye white. I "painted" over it to clarify what I believe could be there: beady eyeballs. Despite other scenes in the Skinny Bob footage showing typical huge alien Grey eyes, it seems to be generally accepted by both sides of the argument that Skinny Bob has normal sized eyes, and wears shades in other scenes.
Bob's eyelids, on the other hand, seem to be built for much larger eyes. They cover the entire eye socket when he blinks, which means they aren't even touching the eyeball. (The function of blinking is to clean the eyeball.) My guess is the lids are CGI. The left lid stretches as the 3D mesh is put under stress. It is also a very odd shape as it lowers.
Note the puppet's armature has only three fingers (like Skinny Bob) even though the completed puppet has a pinkie.
When a composite image of the camera pan of Skinny Bob from SB2 is created, we can compare his body proportions with the puppet. All the joints line up, which means all the "long bones" are exactly the same length. Eyeball-to-crotch length is also the same. Bob appears to be wearing shoulder pads and the thickness of his outfit makes his limbs thicker than the puppet's. He even has the same bulge at the elbow. The skull has been modified as discussed elsewhere.
Looking closer at the hands, every phalange is the same length, the long dark fingernails match, and even that bulge at the base of the thumb matches the underlying metal armature joint. The shading on the fully painted puppet gives the appearance of tendons on the B&W low-res Bob footage.
(From photos across the internet it's clear the puppets were finished with various different paint jobs, and there are slight variations in shape and thickness due to the foam latex.)
And looking closer at the head: if Bob is the Martian puppet, the lower jaw and teeth were removed (Bob's jaw is never seen to open), and the brains cut away. The eye sockets and sharp cheekbone look similar. The angle and length of the cheekbone also matches.
The plastic skull underlying the foam "brains" fits inside Bob's head, the shape of which could have been built up with modeling clay.
Skinny Bob's face is unnaturally immobile. His brow moves - the puppet has an articulated brow - but otherwise there's no muscle movement around mouth, cheeks, or eyes, even when he parts his lips and blinks. Both these effects may be CGI enhancements in postwork. Or the lip movement may be claymation. Indeed the entire face and skull of Skinny Bob look suspiciously like clay (in texture) overlaying the Mars Attacks puppet armature.
The pan or tilt-scan of Skinny Bob in SB2 starts at the knee, so we can't tell how long his shins are. From the crash scene in SB1, we can see he has usually long shins. I superimposed the puppet's slightly bent leg on Skinny Bob's slightly bent leg to show they match. (Thanks to coolranchsnails on Twitter for giving me the idea to check this.)
SB4 ("Family Vacation") depicts supposedly secretly shot aliens walking along a wall. Are they living breathing aliens who crash landed on Earth last century to be captured by Russians, and who later formed a treaty and then got mad when they noticed someone filming them (per the silly text cards)?
A clue that SB4 is stop-motion is that the walk cycle is improperly animated on one of the aliens - his arm just stops swinging in its natural arc.
Everyone jokes about the impossibility of an alien Greys having that skinny neck supporting a humongous head. The creators of Skinny Bob must've been aware of this, and they've given Bob a nice thick neck. The problem is that thick neck muscles themselves require other anatomical changes. Big muscles need big insertion points which means big bones. A large head also requires a large support structure in the rest of the body, including a broad chest and sturdy hips. Yet below the neck, Bob is scrawny.
If Bob wasn't animated with stop-motion, maybe he was animated by a puppeteer with her hand inside his head operating the articulated brow, and her wrist serving as his neck. I lined up Bob's skull with the puppet's using a photo that included a human hand, and the wrist is the correct size.
What about the impracticality of a turtle-neck sweater when one sports a humongous head? There does appear to be a seam down the front of Bob's top to address this issue. More interesting to me is that the neck and shoulder part of the outfit (the yoke) appear to be a separate piece.
Going back to the curious fact that the footage is shot, edited, and aged to obscure animation flaws, note that we never see Bob actually do anything in SB2. He moves his head (easily achieved by a puppeteer) and raises his arm, but he doesn't manipulate anything with those stupidly impractical long fingers (only visible in 6 frames with no evidence of fingers moving). Is his arm simply on a stick?
This life-size prop of the Mars Attacks puppet was possibly used to create Skinny Bob's handprint in SB3. The phalanges exactly match, with one finger removed and some image editing to blend the hand, lengthen to create a heel, and to add crease details (although the prop already has fairly realistic texture on its palm). Below, the prop's fingers are superimposed onto the handprint.
In my Reddit post and Twitter thread I lay out evidence that UK puppet maker Ben Philips may have been involved in creating the Skinny Bob footage (again, following up others' initial work on Reddit). Ben wrote extensively about the footage a few years ago but never once remarked or even seemed to notice that Skinny Bob bears a striking resemblance to his own puppet creations over the years.
If Skinny Bob in the SB2 and SB4 footage is a Mars Attacks puppet, the necessary modifications aren't too extensive for a skilled puppetmaker:
Were the puppet and animation prohibitively expensive? Remember:
We don't yet know every detail of the animation and postwork used to create the footage of Skinny Bob, but my conclusion is that a Mars Attacks puppet with modified head, animated with stop motion or puppetry with CGI enhancements, is the closest match to Skinny Bob in the SB2 and SB4 footage.
I'm blogging about the Three-Dollar Kit.