Oct 21 2013

Dragon Video

These make for light-hearted posts, but occasionally it’s fun to deconstruct viral videos purporting to show something fantastical on the internet. Most such videos are one of the big three – ghosts, UFOs or Bigfoot (or some other cryptozoological creature).

The current video is in the cryptozoological category – a video purporting to show a dragon flying through the skies of Truro England.

Obviously the prior-probability here is vanishingly small, and so it would take a very compelling video to have any chance of being taken seriously, and this video does not come close. Before I take a close look at the video itself, let’s explore the plausibility of the claim.

Dragons are gigantic flying predators, at least in their current Western cultural image. Such creatures if they existed would be voracious. Flying is a high-energy activity and animals pay for the benefits of flight by needing to eat incredible amounts of calories. Bald eagles, for example, eat about 10% of their body weight per day. If we extrapolate that to a dragon, even if light for its size so it can fly, would require hundreds of pounds of food per day.

Each dragon would require a large hunting territory. If there is even a minimal breeding population of dragons, they would frequently be seen in the skies hunting for prey or carrion. Saying they live underground or are stealthy hunters, first is an argument from ignorance to explain a lack of evidence. Further, it is not plausible such creatures could survive under ground (and why would they fly), and you can only be so stealthy when you are that size.

There are also the usual objective to cryptozoological creatures – why are there no specimens of such creatures, no bones, no carcasses, no nests, scat, or remains of their eating? We can invent a special reason why each bit of evidence is lacking, but Occam favors the conclusion that these creatures just don’t exist.

We also have the historical record of dragons, meaning their existence in culture, as a guide. We can clearly see the image of dragons evolve over time, going in different directions in different cultures. Real creatures have a more stable representation in art over time – the artistic style may evolve, but a lion is always a lion. (Here, of course, I am talking about historical time frames of hundreds of years, not evolutionary time scales.)

The Video

It is reasonable to conclude from existing evidence that dragons probably do not exist (as cool as it would be if they did), but let’s take a look at the video with an open, but critical, mind.

As many have already pointed out in the comments to the video, the claim that it was taken in the UK is probably not accurate. The person heard speaking in the video has an American accent. In itself this is not definitive, he can be a visitor or ex-pat. The telephone lines, apparently, are also American and do not follow a UK structure.

This does not directly relate to the alleged dragon, but does relate to the overall veracity of the video. Another problem with the credibility of the video itself is its short duration. Why does it end where it does? It is common for what is made public from such videos to be the best segment, and the bits that would clearly give it away as a fake are edited out. Short duration is therefore always suspect. To be fair the video ends when the “dragon” flies behind the house, but if it were me I would have run around the house with the camera.

Also, if this event occurred – where are all the other videos? Where are the hundreds of cell phone videos we would be seeing? And, where are all the witnesses to corroborate the video?

The two most likely possibilities that need to be definitively ruled out before we should entertain the notion that this video is of a real dragon are: is the video itself a fake, or is the video real but the dragon is fake?

The video itself can certainly be fake. Digital technology these days is sufficient to create such a video, and the quality is not such that major studio resources would be required. Desktop digital animators would do. I do not personally have the expertise to explore this possibility technically. I will leave it for others to do so.

I do think that the possibility that the video is real but the dragon is fake is high. The reason for this is the way the dragon moves. Its wings to not flap like in any realistic manner. Flying creatures tend to have characteristic wing movement patterns, varying flapping and gliding, for example. One almost universal feature, however, is that their wings bend on the upstroke to minimize wind resistance, and then flatten on the downstroke to maximize wind resistance.

The wings of the dragon are stiff and simply move up and down in a regular pattern – just as if they were the rigid wings of a mechanical model. The creature itself also moves in a stiff way, and does not appear to be flying realistically.

It is possible that the dragon, therefore, is a flying model. Another possibility, however, is that both the video and the dragon are fake – meaning that the dragon is a model that can “flap” its wings, but cannot really fly, and so the video of the dragon suspended from wires was added to the rest of the video to make is seem like it was flying in the sky.

These days, of course, there is a good chance that such viral videos are deliberate ad campaigns. Maybe this was made to promote a video game like Skyrim, or an upcoming movie. If so, then we should hear about it eventually.

In any case, there is one thing this video is not – compelling evidence that dragons are real.

11 responses so far

11 thoughts on “Dragon Video”

  1. TCKnight says:

    Seeing as how the dragon moves and the way it looks, it makes me think of the dragons from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Wouldn’t take much to edit a video that inserts the flying dragon animation from the game over real-world footage.

  2. ConspicuousCarl says:

    In response, the president of the Royal Society of London has posted this video analysis:

  3. locutusbrg says:

    It does look like a dragon but the animator has its head too small in comparison of the tail. It would not be very bright literally a micro-brain in a flying predator. Maybe it looks more convincing in motion but I cannot view video.
    Sorry, but I will point out an obvious small typo-the telephone lines do not follow a UK structure.

  4. darwhite says:

    The “Dragons!” iPhone app does this same thing, blending flying dragons with the phones camera view. On the screen as you scan around the room, you see dragons flying around. Pretty awesome really.

  5. I think it’s pretty clear that dragons are pan-dimensional creatures, which is why there is no evidence for their existence. That, or they don’t exist. But I’m willing to bet my collection of D&D books on the former.

  6. Donna B. says:

    I, for one, am pleased to see that Puff has finally surfaced from his despondency when Little Jackie Paper grew up.

  7. Davdoodles says:

    “In any case, there is one thing this video is not – compelling evidence that dragons are real.”

    Dragons are real, because the Bibble* tells me so. But that blurry dragon is not a real dragon. First, that blurry dragon is black, not red. Second, it only has one head, while the inerrent word of some long-dead dude who wrote Revelations specifies seven heads, which have, between them apparently, only one mouth. But, that is one heck of a mouth, as it vomits out frogs. Waay-cool!

    Now that is some barrel-proof QED-ing right there:

    “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” (Revelation 12:3)

    “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon…” (Revelation 16:13-14)

    *Like the Bible, only one “b” more truthier-er.

  8. BillyJoe7 says:

    ” because the Bibble* tells me so”

    I am wondering wht the bible is often referred to as “the bibble” by the faithless.

    Interestingly, my son has been conversing over the internet with an Albanian girl who is muslim but who assured him that she has also studied “the bibble”!

  9. 123FakeName says:

    To me the most obvious thing to do first with a video like this is check out the uploader’s Youtube channel to see what other sorts of videos they’ve uploaded. In just the last month they posted these videos:

    UFO Over The Wilderness Of Virginia In USA
    The Giant Dog (A video of a dog that’s taller than a man)
    Real Mermaid Caught On Camera in Mallorca on Oct. 20, 2013
    Real Jumper On Tape (A video of a guy teleporting)

    On top of that the uploader doesn’t hide the fact that all of these videos are intended for commercial use, since every video has this description:

    Video Agency of Audio Color World own all distribution rights of the uploaded videos on our YouTube channel. If you like to use videos for uploads or commercial use please contact “info@videoagency.audiocolorwo­­rld.com”

    There are also some videos without visual effects that look like they’re intended to be sold as stock footage.

    My take is that the dragon video and all the other videos on that channel are the work of someone who is either in or trying to get in the FX and film industries. And since the “Real ____ caught on film” videos are so CG-heavy it’s probably a good bet that the stiff movement of the dragon is poorly animated CG (the uploader seems to be more focused on compositing and FX than animation), rather than a physical model.

  10. dsleitner says:

    I really like this one. It’s a nice break from the usual cryptids! I do have one question. You make the claim that

    “Real creatures have a more stable representation in art over time – the artistic style may evolve, but a lion is always a lion. ”

    Do you have a source for that claim? I’m a cultural anthropologist and I’m not familiar with this line of thought. There are very naturalistic cave drawings of european lions from roughly 40kya at Chauvet Cave in France, but medieval lions (in heraldry, for instance) look stylistically very different. That said, the differences are not nearly as great as those between european (largely anglo-french) dragons and Chinese dragons, at least in terms of their associated personalities and characteristics.

    Obviously this in no way takes away from your main argument (that there is no evidence for the existence of dragons). I’m honestly just curious about your statement and would love to follow it up if you do have a source for that.


  11. SimonW says:

    Speaking as someone not so very far from Truro, I think the power cables look plausible. I’d want more evidence than a Youtube comment.

    Also the complete lack of local coverage is a bit of a red flag.

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