1. Jumped from about 800 views to 3,300+ views in under 48 hours (Ok, that part doesn't bother me).
2. Become the tin-foil hat crowd’s flavor of the hour (again).
3. Stuffed my inbox with no answers, just more conspiracies.
As you may or may not know, this video is a remake of an early Archive minisode. The reason I remade it was so that I could have a 5-minute (or less) video to submit to the 2013 ConBravo Indie Video Showcase. Well, that, and to submit a pre-written video to show off the (meager) rise in Archive’s production values.
The video was submitted in May (if memory serves), rejected, and reposted to (at the time) blip.tv and (to this day) YouTube after the Con wrapped that July (full disclosure: it was uploaded to YT in May, but remained unlisted until late August). When the video was finally publicly released, it was met with a resounding thud, netting only about 800 views in its first 10 months.
To recap: The episode revolves around debunking the theory that the U.S. Government had created a film of the Star Spangled Banner (henceforth, “SSB”) littered with subliminal messages, imploring the American people to “trust the government” and that “rebellion is not tolerated”, etc, etc. The film in question was sent to TV stations nationwide and was broadcast at sign-off and sign-on for years to come, thereby brainwashing the (places tongue-in-cheek) practically hundreds of viewers that actively watched their local stations sign on and off. A copy of the “subliminal” sign-off appeared on YouTube in 2009. An amateur, off-air recording (from 1984) of this film (minus any signs of tampering) surfaced on fuzzymemories.tv in 2010.
Anyway, finally getting to the point, I hope to get as close as I can to putting this one to bed. In the last day-and-half, this pic has been popping up in my inbox, asking for my input. The image in question:
The concept that this theory is missing is a little A/V quirk known as “overscanning”, the idea of something being intentionally overshot for broadcast (and later, home video) use, knowing that about 5-10% of the image’s perimeter area will be lost to broadcast equipment and (further lost to) consumer TV’s.
Contrary to what the above image tries to sell, a bigger picture area does not equal a completely different version of the film. Indeed, the picture of what appeared on the embattled 1984 WMAQ Sign-Off was likely cropped a bit further when viewed on an old CRT-TV. Depending on FuzzyMemories’ analog-to-digital transfer process, the image has been presumably restored to the “size” broadcast via WMAQ. Either way, it is not at the full size provided by the original 16mm film.
Some other points that are being missed here (and that were already noted in both versions of my Oddity Archive episode) are:
1. This Star-Spangled Banner film was (apparently) produced by a branch of the U.S. Government sometime in the first half of the 1960’s and was distributed via 16mm film.
2. 16mm has a tendency to fade to red over time (as shown above).
3. By 1984, most stations had long since gone over to other versions of the SSB for sign-off and sign-on.
4. Though I’ve no concrete proof, I think it would be safe to guess that the February 1984 amateur off-air recording of this SSB is one of the last times it was ever broadcast. WMAQ (again, speculation) may have been the last in the country to use this film as part of their sign-off. Barring the discovery of any further off-air recordings and 16mm copies of this film, the point is moot.
Some further points:
1. The technology of the ‘60’s and ‘80’s were quite a bit different. The text on any copy of this film were done by hand (as opposed to computer-generated) and superimposed via green-screen (or some similar means). The idea that this would’ve (or could’ve) been accurately reproduced is unlikely. Taking the overscanning into account, the lyric text lines up the same on both copies of the film.
2. This conspiracy theory assumes that not only did the government still have access to the exact same equipment by the ‘80’s, but also the means/time/budget/patience to exactly reproduce the old print minus the transition between lyric lines. A lot of work for a very little potential payoff.
3. Computer technology in the first half of the ‘80’s (standard in production use by this time) would NOT have allowed for such a perfect reproduction. Any new text at the time would’ve been noticeably “digital” by comparison (plus, the same font on a Circa, early-‘80’s Chyron system is unlikely). Any digital-flavored artifacting on the WMAQ sign-off is more likely the work of the broadcast and/or the VCR used to record it.
4. The “film effect” that spells out the messages on the (allegedly) government-approved “subliminal” copy of the film would’ve been tough to pull off at all in the ‘60’s.
5. The subliminal messages proper, while in the same font, don’t seem to match the main words (i.e. – the SSB lyrics). Indeed, the “subliminal” copy of the film reeks of digital scrubbing on the transition between lyrics, exacerbated by the poor, compressed image quality of the transfer of said film.
6. As of 2014, the 1984 WMAQ footage seen and referred to here is the only available hard proof of this particular sign-off being broadcast. Ever.
7. The conspiracy theorists have WAY too much faith in the U.S. Government.
It’s far from perfect, but here is a screenshot of the two films side-by-side, the “subliminal” version roughly cropped to match the (uncropped) version from WMAQ.
Oddity Archive: Episode 30.5 – Nat’l Anthem Conspiracy Theory (REDUX)
Oddity Archive: Episode 4.5 – National Anthem Conspiracy Theory (or, Sign-Offs, Vol. 2)
WMAQ Sign-Off (2/16/1984) (SSB starts at 3:53)