Fade to Black
During the Pinocchio’s Nose event in Chopper 5, the picture quickly fades to black. The fade takes place over 3 video frames, about 1/10 of a second (fig. 32).
This is bizarre on its face, because ordinarily there are no fades-to-back in live news.News switchers are trained to switch between shots, not fade. And they are trained to switch to something, anything, other than black.
A fade to black is easily consistent with the compositing hypothesis. Someone, quite likely Kai Simonsen on board Chopper 5, realized the nose-out error, and instinctively pulled down a fader, pushing it back up again once the airplane layer was turned off.
Attempting to support the real plane hypothesis, three explanations for the fade-to-black have emerged:
- Signal Interruption
- Automatic Gain Control Malfunction
- Lens Extender Engagement
I now consider each of the three “official” explanations for the fade to black.
The fade-to-black cannot be a signal interruption. To be sure, signal interruptions from news helicopters can and do happen, all the time. But they do not cause a fade to black. Rather, signal interruptions of this type will show up as “static”, or a “freeze frame”, or “pixelization”.
There were broadcast antennae on top of the North Tower, but these had nothing whatsoever to do with communications from any news helicopters. A news helicopter signal is sent up to a satellite by microwave, then relayed back down to the TV station.
In video, “black” is a picture. To transmit a picture, be it black or anything else, video sync must be maintained. During the Chopper 5 fade to black, video sync was never lost.
Above (fig. 34) is an enlargement from a video frame (two adjacent video fields) at the beginning of the fade to black. Notice that one set of scan lines has gotten darker, while the other set has not. Were this a signal interruption of any sort, the coherence of the scan lines would not be maintained.
The signal interruption explanation is false.
Automatic Gain Control?
Steve Wright has offered an idea about Automatic Gain Control, or AGC. AGC is a circuit present on all video cameras, even consumer models. AGC detects the overall brightness of the picture, and will adjust the iris and gain attempting to keep the brightness within a target range. If the picture gets too dark, it will open the iris or gain up a little. If the picture gets too bright, it will shut the iris or gain down a little.
Wright suggested that the flame seen emerging from the face of the tower was so bright that it caused the AGC circuit to “overshoot” and shut the camera down to complete black. This explanation fails to hold up to any sort of scrutiny.
First, the flame is rather small in the picture, occupying less than 1/100 of the total picture area. Flames are captured on video all the time, including on 9/11, without causing a blackout.
Next, observe fig. 35 above, during the fade to black. We still see picture, but it is quite dark. The AGC circuit is supposed to keep the brightness correct. Why would it make the picture this dark? Furthermore, if it did make it this dark, why would it keep going all the way to black?
I’ve experimented with various models of video camera, pointing them at very bright light sources, even at the sun. All of them had AGC, all of them responded by darkening the picture, but none of them went anywhere near completely black. Repeat the experiment. See for yourself.
Finally, Chopper 5 cameraman Kai Simonsen offers a completely different explanation (see next section). No evidence has been brought to support Wright’s AGC idea. Wright’s AGC explanation is rejected.
The cameraman onboard Chopper 5 was Kai Simonsen. In a conversation with Jeff Hill, Simonsen was asked about the fade to black. He stated that the effect was caused by his engaging a 2X lens extender at that moment.
Said Simonsen, "You're seeing the edge of the extender pass over the focal point."
It is certainly interesting to hear from the person who was there, but the lens extender explanation is impossible. Passing the edge of an object across the focal point, be it a lens extender or anything else, will darken the picture unevenly. We simply do not see this. We see the entire picture very evenly fading down to black.
Also, a 2X lens extender will magnify the picture and change the focus, that being its purpose. A half second later, when picture fades back up from black, there is no change in magnification or focus. No lens extender was engaged.
The fade to black was exactly what it appeared to be: A fade to black. The only remaining question is whether it was an accident, or intentional. Accidents do happen, but given the training of network news broadcast switchers, it is very unlikely. The fact that supporters of the airplane hypothesis, such as Steve Wright and Kai Simonsen, go out of their way to offer alternative ideas, false though they must be, ultimately serves to reinforce the conclusion that an accidental fade-to-black is not plausible.
More Blackouts. Coincidence?
A fade-to-black is done by pulling down a fader on a video console. Was it an accident? Yet another astonishing 9/11 coincidence? Fox 5 weren’t the only ones to have “technical problems” right at the time of the second strike.
Figs. 36-37 show the live airplane sequence from CNN, who were showing a version of the ABC Chopper 7 footage. They too incorporate a blackout.
Immediately after the airplane image passed behind the tower, and before the explosion, CNN dissolved from the Chopper 7 shot to a close up of the north side of the towers. During the dissolve, there is video noise.
Where does this noise come from? We know that the Chopper 7 shot did not break up, because complete copies of it survive. We must surmise that the noise was present on the tower close-up. Why would a video switcher dissolve away from a camera that just showed a clear view of an airplane crossing, and to a camera with a bunch of noise?
In any event, the next frame is black (fig. 38), which holds for about 5 frames (1/6 of a second), then fades back up from black to the close up, then dissolves back to the Chopper 7 shot. The CNN blackout occurs during the same time as the Chopper 5 blackout, which is also the same time that is missing from the Naudet footage.
All three of these blackouts occur within ¼ of a second of each other.
Logically, either these blackouts were accidental or they were on purpose.One accidental blackout is very unlikely. What are the chances that two different networks and a documentary film all coincidentally lost picture, right at the time of history’s defining moment? The odds would easily be a billion to one against.
For a side by side synchronized comparison of the 3 blackouts, see Appendix C.
Under the compositing hypothesis, the video technicians were prepared to go to black to help cover up any mistakes that might occur at the crucial moment. The Naudet brothers removed the time period that would show the fate of Pinnochio’s Nose, rather than have to deal with inserting a flame consistent with Gamma Press.
Thus the Chopper 5 fade to black event and the CNN blackout are shown to have a simple explanation under the compositing hypothesis, but are astronomically unlikely under the real plane hypothesis.