Altering the Zapruder Film

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Let me get going here with a short few words about what it is we hope to accomplish here. A few words of general interest here. Everything I'm showing here is called Optical Effects. Altering existing footage in SOME way to accomplish a scripts, director's, producers, and/or studios goal[s]. In many situations these effects are performed to correct errors made by inexperienced cameraman, mechanical defect's or accomplishing a shot for the film that the budget just would not cover. Such is the case with this problem.

We need 1000 people escaping a multi-story building[s] -- burning city into the nearby water. Our problem is we've only got the budget for 250 extras and a single story building city. The scene last's for 10 seconds or 240 frames.

What's this got to do with Zapruder? You'll see ...

Here's what I'd do as Director, Build the single story city set on the banks of a river. Build a camera platform high and away looking down on the site at a 45 degree angle from a distance of 300 yards. Have the stage manager or 2nd director organize the 250 extras to the right side of the city (stage left) at the base of the single story buildings, get the camera in it's fixed position - lock it down and DON'T touch it for the duration of these shot's.

Roll film: Have the 250 (stage left) make their escape to the waters edge and beyond - stop the camera, move all the folks to the (stage right) side of the city and do exactly the same thing - stop the camera, move everyone to the (center stage) area and 50% of the folks up the street a bit between the buildings and do exactly the same thing. ALL three area are showing mass confusion and Chaos, what you'd expect a whole fleeing city's population to act like.

All right we've got a total of 30 - 40 seconds of finished film (3 cut's above numbered 1-2-3 ), the film is processed this is what they look like, your happy and this is what happens next. You tell the Creative Director I want the Optical Printing lab to give me matted sequences (the corresponding matte sequences are numbered 1a, 2a, 3a) of the best 8-10 seconds of each area escape (left, center, right). then have the studio artist[s] put together a matte sequence with brushes (in other words do a painting a damn realistic one I might add which includes second - third- fourth story['s] for the buildings in the scene (comprises the upper 1/3rd of the frame). The location mattes are color coded for ease and the Lab painted matte sequence is in the yellowish cast.

The smoke and other effect's was done with another pass on the printer[s].

Note: we could even simulate with the optical printing effects the ground shaking from an explosion I we desire to.

BTW, this sequence really happened, I believe this was a Hollywood produced film from the early 50's. Anyway throw them ALL together with their mattes and gaze at the next few images, the drop shadows are in place to give more definition to how the *full frame comp* is put together.

The final production image is the B&W in 29zapup.

So WHAT does this have to do with the Zapruder film, actually nothing other than the fact: if an optical print tech and matte artist wanted Jack Paar to suddenly appear and do a *double and a half gainer off the trunk of JFK's limo into the SS escort car rolling through Dealey Plaza I wouldn't say it's a complete piece of cake to do, but, I wouldn't lose one second of sleep over it either, not ONE second.

I might add ALL this information is readily available. Anyone wanting references may contact me at anytime, I'll provide any and ALL information and references I have. AND once again I'm NOT declaring that the Zapruder film has been altered, but I'm making clear as a bell (at least in my own mind) the possibility certainly exists that it was. The knowledge, equipment, technique and craftsmanship has been aptly demonstrated.

Yes Virginia ...


(c) 2002 David Healy