The "Bigfoot of Best Fit" Challenge: Comparing the Munns Report to the Steadman Report

You don't have to be a Bigfoot Believer, but...

If you have an interest in perspective, projective geometry, CGI, cad design, architecture, optics, photogrammetry, virtual reality, or scale models and model making---

or perhaps even expertise or professional experience in one of those fields---

or even if you're a student looking for a 'whiz kid' type of science fair project idea---

this could be your lucky challenge!

Note: If you are already well familiar with Bigfoot research, the Patterson Gimlin Film, and The Munns Report, please feel free to skip way down past the introductory material to the section entitled "The Steadman Report": A Virtual Reconstruction Success Story in Art History-- with interesting similarities to the Munns Report"

A PDF on the PGF: The Munns Report


"PDF" is a widely known acronym (or initialism) used to refer to the "Portable Document Format" developed by Adobe Systems. Although "PDF" is probably familiar to just about everyone who may read this hub, the abbreviation "PGF" may not be quite as likely to ring a bell. Unless, that is, you happen to be someone with an avid interest in following, promoting, or debunking Bigfoot/Sasquatch research. Then you would very likely know that "PGF" is commonly used in Bigfoot-savy circles to refer to the Patterson Gimlin film. The Patterson Gimlin film, which I will hereinafter refer to by the much more compact "PGF", has been since its genesis in 1967 a generator of not only much debate, speculation, and controversy, but also of interesting and insightful scholarly research. A recent entry in that research is The Munns Report, which I'll describe in more detail below. First, though, I'll include some introductory sections for those not familiar with Bigfoot studies.

Also, if you haven't seen the PGF before, if you scroll all the way to the bottom of the hub, you can watch a couple of Youtube versions of it.

Frame 352 of the Patterson Gimlin Film (enlarged and cropped)
Frame 352 of the Patterson Gimlin Film (enlarged and cropped)

Human or just Humanlike?

Now despite my opening comments on the relative sizes of the radar signatures of the terms "PDF" and "PGF" in the public consciousness, one single still image from the PGF footage is probably even more widely known than the ubiqitous term "PDF". That image is commonly known as frame 352, and shows the hairy subject of the film turning to peer at the camera operator. Who or what is the subject of the PGF film? Some believe it to be a species of North American great ape, perhaps some type of hominid closer to humans than are the currently known great apes. Some believe it to be a human in a "monkey suit". Many others are undecided, pending further evidence, but may confessedly have a leaning towards which way they hope any forthcoming evidence will lead, and in the meantime enjoy speculating on possibilities and probabilities, pros and cons.


Nix on the "I don't need no steenking evidence"

Evidence is a major concern (to put it mildly) for that scholarly research mentioned above. If you are doubtful that it's possible to bring mainstream academic research methods to bear, in a serious fashion, on the problem of Bigfoot's possible existence, a good place to start might be Dr. Jeff Meldrum's "Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science". Meldrum's book is accessibly, clearly written, and illustrated with top-notch anatomical drawings. Meldrum, an Associate Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology at Idaho State University, has researched and written on the evolution of the foot skeleton and the development of human bipedalism. Accordingly, Meldrum delves into the subject of Bigfoot/Sasquatch from the vantage point of his specialization in vertebrate locomotion, examining (among other things) how purported Sasquatch footprints exhibit characteristics that seem to indicate having been made by a functional, articulated, anatomically complex, flesh-and-blood foot, rather than by man-made tools/artificial feet employed by would-be hoaxers. Meldrum's book also looks at other possible evidence for the existence of Sasquatch, and describes research and conclusions made by earlier researchers.

John Green

One such earlier (and still active) researcher is John Green. Green, a Canadian journalist who became and remains a leading name in Bigfoot research, almost literally "followed in the footsteps" of the PGF's purported Bigfoot, as well as of Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, the two men responsible for capturing the PGF footage in an isolated area of northern California along Bluff Creek. I couldn't possible do justice here to trying to describe the work of Green and many other researchers of prominence in the Sasquatch field.

But for an entertaining taste of Green's writing, follow the Amazon link (over on the right) to "The Making of Bigfoot: The Inside Story". The book itself is not by Green, but rather by Greg Long. But if you scroll down to the "Customer Reviews" section of the Amazon page for the book, you will see that Green himself has posted a review of the book-- a rather drily amusing, biting, and understatedly acidic review, entitled--get this-- "an obsession gone astray". If nothing else, it may whet your appetite to learn more of why Green seems to consider Long's putatively skeptical approach to the PGF to be instead rather gullible.

A selection of Green's own published books appears further below.

The Munns Report

A current, ongoing-as-we-speak research effort into "Bigfoot Phenomena" is entitled "The Munns Report". The Munns Report is the "PDF on the PGF" that prompted me to write this hub, and is available for download in the aforementioned PDF format at the link that appears above right. The Munns Report is written by Bill Munns, who has extensive experience in movie special effects, particularly creature costumes, and in building museum quality replicas of living and extinct great apes.

Just as Dr. Jeff Meldrum approaches Sasquatch from the viewpoint of his academic specialization in understanding foot structure and bipedal locomotion, Munns initially approached the Patterson Gimlin Film from the viewpoint of his own expertise and experience in making and using creature costumes for movies, and familiarity with the work of other costume designers.

If you've ever watched the PGF and thought that it was easily explained as a local yokel in a monkey suit, it might be rewarding to temporarily hit the pause button on your sense of disbelief and cruise over to one of the many threads initiated by Munns at The Bigfoot Forums (see link above right) which analyze and debate in great technical detail the problems in making such a suit and in wearing such a suit. Even if you remain unconvinced, you may come out of it having learned a lot of great in-depth detail about what goes into Hollywood practical effects, and having gained an appreciation and respect for the thought and effort that goes into the 180 degree view of those who do believe the PGF depicts a real nonhuman creature.

Eventually, though, Munns became interested in other aspects of the PGF besides the "costume questions", and this led to The Munns Report. Munns had the idea that it might be possible to virtually recreate the setting (or at least landmarks in the setting) at which the PGF was filmed, by using software to find a best fit for data extracted from various frames of the film. This allowed Munns to compare his findings with measurements and maps prepared independently by earlier researchers who visited the Bluff Creek site soon after the filming of the PGF. Also, unexpectedly, the results of Munns' preliminary findings led him to question previous assumptions about the lens used on the camera that was used to record the PGF.

This was not the first time the PGF has caused assumptions to be challenged (and likely not the last time either). The frames per second film speed of the the filming is another aspect of the PGF which has been minutely analyzed. The actual speed setting of the camera at the time of filming the PGF could have implications on the probability of whether or not it is really possible that the subject of the PGF was a human in a suit. Similarly, Munns' findings/initial conclusions about the lens used on the camera have led him to an initial, calculated estimate of the size of the individual in the film, which may have implications on the probability of whether that individual is human or nonhuman.

Munns is still working on his Virtual Reconstruction of Bluff Creek as it was on the day of the filming of the PGF, and the included Virtual Reconstruction of the perhaps-or-perhaps-not-human subject of the film.

"The Art of Painting", by Jan Vermeer
"The Art of Painting", by Jan Vermeer
"The Milkmaid", by Jan Vermeer
"The Milkmaid", by Jan Vermeer
"The Music Lesson", by Jan Vermeer
"The Music Lesson", by Jan Vermeer

"The Steadman Report": A Virtual Reconstruction Success Story in Art History-- with interesting similarities to the Munns Report

Because of my background in art, reading The Munns Report reminded me a lot of another intriguing effort to reconstruct a 3-D site with data extracted from a series of 2-D images. That other effort was the brain-child of Phillip Steadman, who used a series of paintings by the 17th Century Dutch Painter Vermeer to attempt a virtual reconstruction and scale model of the original studio structure in which Vermeer worked. In the process, Steadman was enabled to unexpectedly arrive at a very strongly supported conclusion about Vermeer's usage (often considered controversial) of an optical device called a Camera Obscura.

Steadman is a British professor of architecture, with strong expertise in linear perspective/projective geometry. Noticing that quite a few of Vermeer's paintings seem to be "set up" in the same room, (look at the setting of "The Art of Painting", and the "The Milkmaid", shown on the right), Steadman had the idea that it might be possible, due to the extreme precision and consistency of Vermeer's perspective, to reconstruct the actual size and proportions of the room. Even details such as the decorative tiles shown edging the bottom of the wall in Vermeer's painting "The Milkmaid" (shown at the end of this hub) were important in the reconstruction, since the size of the tiles and the factory where they were made could be identified to the accuracy of Vermeer's painting. Similarly, the large map that hangs in the background of "The Art of Painting" (and other Vermeer paintings) also helped to reconstruct the size of the room, since actual copies of the map still exist, making its exact dimensions known.

The techniques by which Steadman applied "reverse" perspective to reconstruct the actual dimensions and size of Vermeer's studio is explained in great detail with illustrations in his book. His website, Vermeer's Camera, (linked at right) also explains much about the research process. The really exciting thing, though, was that Steadman was able to do much more than just reconstruct the room in which Vermeer worked.

Steadman was able to show, using the geometry of perspective, that if the view shown in each of Vermeer's paintings was "projected" through the viewpoint/focus, indicated by the painting's perspective, onto the wall of the reconstructed room, the perspective "projection" would very closely MATCH the size of the actual painting. This suggested VERY strongly that with a camera obscura lens Vermeer had literally projected an image onto a canvas placed on the wall of the studio.

Steadman's findings have been the subject of a BBC documentary. I highly recommend taking a look at a page on Steadman's website, called "Vermeer's Room" (linked above right). Clicking on each thumbnail of eleven different Vermeer paintings will take you to a page that shows a drawn reconstruction of the painting, as well as a physical scale model of Vermeer's room photographed with a studio camera from the implied viewpoint of the painting. It's amazing to see how well the photos of the scale models replicate the compositions of the paintings-- the "people" in the scale model photos are wooden dolls dressed in painstakingly recreated miniature costumery.

Other researchers before Steadman had hypothesized Vermeer's use of the camera obscura to create his celebrated paintings. But Steadman's geometrical reconstruction based firmly on the images themselves took the idea to a whole new level. This, at least to me, suggests it would be very worthwhile to intensify efforts to create a virtual reconstruction of the Bluff Creek film site from the images contained within the Patterson Gimlin Film itself. Bill Munns already seems to have found unexpected information through his own efforts at a virtual reconstruction (although his findings remain controversial and are not accepted by all). I believe that as more people devote effort, time, and thought to virtual reconstruction of the PGF, the probability will markedly increase for one or more of those people to have an unexpected insight into the PGF.

And a parting thought for Sasquatch Researchers who take the PGF seriously, to consider:

 Steadman's findings about Vermeer are so compelling because his results can easily be compared to a benchmark for accuracy, the original paintings themselves.  With a virtual reconstruction of Bluff Creek and the PGF, such a direct comparison is not possible.  

That is not to say it's impossible to use Photogrammetry or other methods  to accurately reconstruct the PGF environment in three dimensions.  However, the average person on the street may find it less than convincing, since Photogrammetry is a rather abstruse and esoteric field of study.  

Here's a way that the public might become more convinced of the validity of techniques that Munns and other researchers bring to bear to extract that 3-D data from the frames of the PGF...  

Which is, host a competition in which participants would each try to make a virtual reconstruction of a film... but a film with a key difference from the PGF.  In the competition, independent control data would be recorded in synchronization with the film.  The control data would be kept secret until after the deadline for submission of virtual reconstruction entries, after which the control data would be compared with each reconstruction to determine its level of accuracy.  This comparing of control data to reconstruction would be analogous to Steadman comparing Vermeer's actual paintings to Steadman's reconstruction of Vermeer's studio.

Such a competition might be called the "Bigfoot of Best Fit" Competition...


Now, by the way, what do I mean by "control data" I mentioned above?  What I mean, in general terms, is to use appropriate technology to record additional three-dimensional location and motion information while simultaneously a normal film camera is used to make a film of someone of unknown size following a somewhat meandering path through and over a terrain of varying topography, which has various landmark objects scattered throughout, and strong directional sunlight causing landmark objects and the walking subject to cast shadows on each other at certain points along the walkway.  While this film is being shot with a camera, preferably a camera of the same sort used to film the PGF, control data must simultaneously be collected and recorded.  In fact, even before the subject walks through the terrain, the terrain's topography should be captured and converted into a three-dimensional virtual version.  Then, when the subject walks through the terrain, radio transmitters or other motion capture methods should precisely record the subject's position as he or she moves along their walkway path.  All control data should be synchronized with the frames of the film caught on camera.  The competition would then be to hand over a copy of the film to any person or team who wants to try to use photogrammetry, etc. to make their own "blind" virtual reconstruction "from scratch".  After the submission deadline is closed, the various competing reconstruction entries can then be compared one-by-one to the control data, to find out who has made the best, most accurate reconstruction/s of the test film.

Validate and Calibrate?

It might actually be good to have a preliminary elimination round with a film that is not quite as difficult as the original PGF to reconstruct.  Eliminating those who could not come reasonably close to reconstructing the "elimination round" film would narrow the field to seriously qualified competitors who then would try to reconstruct a film which was carefully designed to raise most or all of the same questions and challenges that face someone trying to reconstruct the PGF.  If desired, even uncertainties about film speed settings and the exact lens used with the camera could be introduced into the competition final challenge film, with the participants trying to determine the answers to those questions in the process of trying to put together an accurate virtual reconstruction.

What would be the benefit of such a competition to PGF researchers?  It would be a way to prove that certain techniques of reconstruction do or do not work, and encourage development and refinement of techniques.  

A HUGE bonus benefit would be that anyone who NAILED the competition with a highly accurate and VERIFIABLE virtual reconstruction that precisely matched the control data, would have  a much better chance of the public at large taking seriously efforts by that person to accurately reconstruct the PGF.

Something to think about.

Meanwhile, for anyone who wants to try a simple introductory project in virtual reconstruction, below is a link to a photogrammetry science fair project with a Pizza...

mmmmmmmm...

(and if you find you have a natural knack for reconstructing those pepperonies, then you might want to try your hand at reconstructing the PGF)

http://flasprs.org/blog/?p=54

photogrammetry science fair project with a pizza



Comments 1 comment

Peter Allison profile image

Peter Allison 5 years ago from Alameda, CA

Nice hub. And nice photo too! I love Vermeer ;) This hub is quite technical and though it takes you a while to basically say "the jury is still out from a 'special effects' POV" I like how you surface this type of analysis. One of the amazing things about the Patterson film is, if it is faked, how perfectly they nailed the costume. This was taken at a time when the Planet of the Apes movie series was popular and whatever Patterson cooked up (or not) was far better than the best makeup/ special effects of the day. Not knowing he and his buddy's professions I'm quite sure they weren't Hollywood types. I recently viewed the film after many years of not seeing it and found it as intriguing and spooky as ever. But no longer a youth is search of thrills and hopeful of the existence of the paranormal, the first thing I thought was, in that beautiful part of the world, why the heck would anyone be pointing their 8mm camera on that dried out, deadwood strewn, eroded creek bed?

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