Conclusion: Escamilla's "rods" are motion-blurred bugs

Many "rod" believers insist that, while they know that bugs can look like "rods" when videographed at slow shutter speeds, that doesn't prove that all "rod" pictures are just bugs. However, time and time again, when the evidence for "rods" is carefully examined, especially with respect to the pattern produced on consecutive video frames, we see that the similarity between "rods" and bugs is not just superficial. Time and time again, in Escamilla's own images (including his most recent ones) or other images published on the Web, we see that "rods" are not only similar in general appearance to the blur streaks caused by bugs, but when sequential video frames are examined, they also show one of two distinctive patterns: an apparent motion of "two rod-lengths per frame" (or one length per field) for NTSC interlaced videos, or one length per frame for progressive-scan videos. These patterns are exactly the same as the patterns produced by blurred images of flying bugs or flying tinfoil balls. These patterns are easily explained by the mechanics of the video capture process: This is the expected result when the field exposure time is the full length of the field capture cycle. The camera captures the full flight path as a continuous streak, but in alternating, interlaced fields for NTSC video.

So, what we are left with is a claim that these mysterious animals fly "too fast to be seen" (which, by the above relationship, is only 30 feet per second or 21 MPH for a six-inch "rod"), and they never land (which implies that either they sleep, eat, drink, and breed at those "incredible" speeds or, unlike ordinary earthly animals, they don't need to do any of those things), and they never die, either naturally or by flying into something (or their bodies immediately disappear when they do). Yet the only evidence that these extraordinary creatures exist is completely indistinguishable from flying bug pictures!

For the record, here is a summary of the facts and reasoning that Escamilla continues to ignore, even while continuing to claim that he has "ruled out" motion-blurred bugs:

  1. If an NTSC-format camcorder is shooting at its slowest shutter speed of 1/60th second, or if a progressive-scan-format camcorder is shooting at its slowest shutter speed of 1/30th second, then ordinary bugs (or tinfoil balls or any small object flying past the camera) will easily make a "rod," and they don't have to be flying very fast to do it. The length of the "rod" is just the distance traveled in the exposure time of 1/60th or 1/30th second.  A bug flying 21 MPH will make a six-inch rod at 1/60th second or a foot-long rod at 1/30th second, and if the bug is actually closer to the camera than it appears, then a bug flying half that fast or even slower can make an impressive "rod," just because it moved forward many times its own width in that exposure time.  For example, if a 1/4-inch wide bug is flying a mere 10 MPH, then it makes a 3-inch "rod" in 1/60th second, which is 12 times longer than it is wide.  If you don't know how far away that bug is, then it might look like it's a yard long, or it might even look like it's a hundred feet long if you assume it's a long way off.
  2. NTSC video is about 30 frames per second, but each frame is actually two "interlaced" fields of alternating scan lines: The first field has the odd numbered scan lines and the other field has the even numbered scan lines.  But the fields are captured consecutively, not simultaneously, so NTSC video is actually about 60 fields per second.  (TV monitors draw the first field in 1/60th second, skipping the even-numbered scan lines, then return to the top to draw the second field in those skipped lines in the next 1/60th second.) Progressive scan video, oh the other hand, is not interlaced; the full frame is captured at once.
  3. If an NTSC camcorder is shooting 1/60th second exposures while it's capturing 60 fields per second, then the exposure is really continuous, so the "rods" made by a flying bug or tinfoil ball will form a continuous streak across all the fields. If a progressive-scan camcorder is shooting 1/30th second exposures while it's capturing 30 frames per second, then any flying object also produces a continuous streak across all the frames.
  4. If you put those "rods" from all the NTSC fields into one image, then you see that continuous streak.  However, if you only take one field from each frame (which is what some VCRs do when paused and advanced), then you see the "rods" separated by gaps the same length as the "rods."  The fields that aren't being shown, however, have "rods" in each of those gaps.  (This is not an issue with progressive scan: Since full frames are captured at once, consecutive frames always show a continuous streak.)
  5. ALL of Jose Escamilla's "rods" (except for one) and ALL the others that I've found on the Web show one or the other of those two patterns.  And Escamilla's one exception shows the precise pattern produced if the camcorder was shooting a bug with 1/100th second exposures instead of 1/60th -- gaps that are 2-1/3 times longer than the "rods" -- which "just happens" to be the next step up in most camcorders.

Instead of answering to (or even acknowledging) these facts, Escamilla and other "rods" believers persist in offering the following reasons for rejecting the "bug-rod" theory, while completely ignoring the simple rebuttals:

  1. "Rods can't be motion-blurred bugs because they have been videographed with fast shutter speeds."  In fact, Escamilla has never offered a shred of proof for that assertion, despite numerous requests from many people.  In fact, if you can find Escamilla's original "sky fishing protocol" on the Web, you will see that he advises that you should set your camcorder to the "sports" setting to get high shutter speeds.  In fact, that doesn't force high shutter speeds; it simply allows them, if the auto-exposure program determines there is enough light.  But in dim light, or if the auto-exposure program "sees" a mainly dark background (or clear blue sky!), it will take the exposure all the way down to 1/60th second to try to get the best exposure.  The only way to force a high shutter speed is to use a camcorder that allows a manual override to the A/E program. The world is still waiting for Escamilla to prove that he has even one "rod" video shot with a forced high speed.  In fact, most "rods" were captured accidentally while shooting something else, and there would have been no reason why the cameraman would have used either the "sports" setting or a manual override.
  2. "Rods can't be motion-blurred bugs because they have either multiple pairs of wings, or single long 'undulating membranes' along their sides."  In fact, if bugs flap their wings 2 to 4 times during a 1/60th video exposure (and it's a known fact that they do), then they can produce both of those illusions.  If the angle to the sun is such that the camera only captures the wings when their angle is just right to reflect light toward the camera, then the image will look like multiple pairs of wings.  If the wings can be seen more or less continuously during the exposure, then they can look like "undulating membranes" the full length of the "rod" simply because they are moving up and down.
  3. "Rods can't be motion-blurred bugs close to the camera because they are sometimes seen flying behind distant objects."  In fact, a motion-blurred bug close to the camera can appear to fly behind an object when it really didn't.  The illusion is caused by assuming that it's really a solid rod-like object: If it's a solid cylinder, then it should block the camera's view of anything behind it.  But in fact, if it's really a motion blur instead of a solid cylinder, then it's mostly "not really there," so you can indeed see things behind it.  For example, there is one video of a "rod" appearing to fly behind a telephone wire.  It appears that way because you can see the telephone wire clearly where it crosses the "rods" flight path.  But if it's really a motion-blurred bug, then the reason you can see the wire is because the small bug isn't really doing much to block the camera's view of the wire.  That is, the bug was only in front of the wire for a small fraction of the total field capture time, so for 90% or more of the capture time, the camera had a clear view of the wire, so it captured it in the image.  If a bug simply flies 10 times its own length during the exposure, then the "rod" that it makes is 90% transparent.  Although the illusion can be strong, mainly because of the non-linear way our eyes react to brightness and contrast, a close examination (such as the Albany rod that appears to fly behind a cloud) can sometimes reveal that indeed the "transparent motion-blur" hypothesis is definitely a better fit with the facts.

I sincerely hope that my work here has helped you to reach your own conclusion.

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Please see these pages for more evidence:

Jose Escamilla's "Rods" Sequence Pictures

More "Rods" Around the Web

Flying Bug Sequence Pictures

More Escamilla "Rods"