JFK assassination film hoax
The blur mistake
Everyone knows that if you take a photo of something moving, it will come out blurry on the photo.
During the assassination,
JFK’s limousine was moving down
Photo experts know that there are two ways to photograph a moving car without it coming out blurry:
1. Move the camera to follow the car while you take the photo; or
2. Use a very fast shutter speed, so that the shutter is only open for a very short time.
Zapruder’s camera had a shutter speed that was fixed at 1/40 of a second. This was too slow to stop the car being blurry.
Zapruder could move his
camera to follow the limousine traveling down
Almost all of the frames in the Zapruder film are correctly blurred, like this one.
But in their rush to publish something, the forgers made mistakes. Two weeks after the assassination, Life magazine published nine color photos that they said came from Zapruder’s film. Two of these photos are incredibly sharp:
We will concentrate on this second photo. Notice how sharp the limousine and the motorcycle are, including JFK, his wife Jackie, Governor of Texas John Connally (sitting in front of JFK), and the cop on the motorcycle. Notice the keyhole below the front door handle of the limousine.
Now look at the man in the foreground, with his fingers in a “V” shape. To his left you can see the edge of a black umbrella (just above the back wheel of the limo). In the background you can see a tree. The leaves are sharp against the shaded trunk. Look at the red shrubs behind. You can see many bright spots. Look also at the two men (who, strangely, aren’t looking at the President at all!). Compare them to the people shown in the frame at the top of this page.
Just by looking at it, you can see that there is something wrong with this photo. But we can also use the laws of physics to check that it is impossible. This is the sort of test that would be used in a court of law to prove that the film is a forgery.
The first thing we need to know is how far the limousine moves while the camera shutter is open. We can work this out by looking at the film frames before and after this frame on the “Zapruder” film:
(Note that these images, published in 1997, show a lot of mold damage.) If we follow one object on the limo, like the bright reflection on the “roll bar”, we can see how much the limo moves from frame to frame:
The shutter on Zapruder’s movie camera was open almost half of the time. This lets us figure out how far the limo moved while the shutter was open for one frame:
Either the limo (and everyone in it), or the whole background (and the man and umbrella in the foreground), or some combination of the two, should be blurred this much. It obviously isn’t!
Here are some rough images that have been created to show you how much a genuine frame would be blurred. If the camera was not moving, the limo and motorcycle would have been blurred:
If the camera was moving to follow the limousine, then the background and foreground would have been blurred:
A final possibility is that the camera was moving, but not fast enough to keep up with the limousine.
The least amount of overall blur would happen if the camera was only moving half as fast as it should to keep up with the limousine. This is what the frame would then have looked like:
This might look quite similar to the frame that was published in Life magazine, but if you compare the two, you can see that the Life image is much too sharp:
Watch the face of JFK and his wife; the window frames, tire rims, and keyhole on the limousine; the stripes of the American flag; the fingers of the man that are forming a “V”; the windshield on the motorcycle; the leaves against the trunk of the tree; the bright spots in the red bushes.
Some people might ask: could Life magazine have just “sharpened” the image before publication?
It was possible to sharpen an image in 1963 using "unsharp masks", the forerunner of today's digital equivalent. However, doing this selectively on one part of the image (the limo), and not another (the background), would produce telltale effects at the "joins", unless more advanced film editing tricks were used. There is also no evidence that Life ever performed this sharpening.
Rather, it is most likely that the frame shown in Life magazine is a high-quality forgery, probably created by cutting and pasting together real photographs and film frames of the assassination.