After I originally published this article back in 2003, David Lifton sent me an email message, requesting that I post a "rebuttal" from him on this matter.
I immediately replied to him: "Just a reminder, David...Any "rebuttal" I post needs to meet my editorial standards for acceptance. You know my "drill" - plenty of citations, no heresay (that should kill your rebuttal), and only the best evidence and best sources currently available (another point that should get your rebuttal rejected)."
Haven't heard a peep from Lifton since.
David Lifton is a major contributor. Lifton's chapter is over 100 pages in length, and in those pages I can find only one specific argument for "proving" alteration.
And that one argument is easily proven INCORRECT...not by me, but by the gentleman who literally invented the Kodak emulsion that Abraham Zapruder was using that day.
You would think that an honest researcher would use the BEST AVAILABLE experts when writing such a chapter. One would further think that an editor would demand that only the finest resources be contacted when publishing a book on any topic.
But not David Lifton nor Professor Fetzer.
In addition, John Costella offers "alteration" arguments that have been dis-proven for years now by respected researchers.
But there IS a NEW REVELATION in this book! Jack White and John Costella are wandering around Dealey Plaza last year, and they discover what they term MYSTERIOUS LISTENING DEVICES picking up their conversation! There's even PICTURES of these BLACK OPS devices in Fetzer's new book!
The "devices" are, in reality, humidity / rain sensors - which send their sensed data to a computer to turn landscaping sprinklers ON and OFF.
If that is the type of NEW information you want - then please purchase this book.
What follows below is...
- David Lifton's single alteration assertion - that the Zapruder film must be a forgery because no one can re-create full image penetration into the inter-sprocket area of that media, and
- a response from Roland Zavada - including two Zavada test images showing full image penetration into the inter-sprocket area - proving Lifton's argument as baseless.
September 24, 2003
Lifton's lone assertion... printed verbatim from his chapter...
In this instance, with the 16 or 35 mm "optical master" having been created, and the goal now being to create a "Kodachrome original," there would have to have been two passes made through the camera - one, with the sprocket holes masked out, to get the main image area exposed (as when making a "normal" print); and then a second pass (with the main area masked out and the sprocket hole area available) to put image in the sprocket hole area.
And then, having exposed the film in this manner - having made two passes - the film (which if done as described, would be a composite of sorts) would then be sent out for processing (and to a Kodachrome plant, such as Hawkeyeworks).
Moreover, because the film would have been "manufactured" in this way, the sprocket hole area could well have a different tint (which clearly shows up in the black and white prints) as if there was a piece of magic mending tape running up and down on the left side.
All very well, one might say, that is an interesting hypothesis - but how can you prove it?
How can you prove that this (nefarious process) is in fact why - if one asserts that the 8 mm is a forgery - there is image in that area? How can you prove that this is why a line appears to run down the left side of the film, separating the "sprocket hole area" from the rest of the film?
The answer turns out to be surprisingly simple, and it was something that Kodak expert Rollie Zavada ran into as the ARRBs term of existence was coming to an end. Doug [Horne] watched him struggling with this sprocket hole issue.
Here is the nub of the matter. Groden was right, in a way. There is image in the sprocket hole area on the socalled original film. But what Groden didnt notice, and what Zavada ran into in working for the ARRB and attempting to explain the various "anomalies" is not that there is "no image" at all, but that there is too much image!
This point is crucial: in the case of the supposed camera original, there is not just "some image" in the sprocket hole area (the image doesnt just "bleed over" a little bit); rather, the image goes all the way to the left! To the left margin of the film!
That this is so can clearly be seen even on the frames of the Zapruder film published in Volume 18 of the 26 volumes. But is that possible? Can the Zapruder lens do that? Can it put an image on the film that is full flush left?
In connection with his ARRB work, Zavada purchased some half dozen cameras at garage sales, he took them apart, he put them back together. The man really worked hard on a wide variety of problems and issues.
And then he went to Dallas, and took test shots, putting his wife in Dealey Plaza, and exposed all sorts of scenes at a variety of settings.
Then these pictures - these test shots - went into an appendix in the final report, which was delivered within hours of the ARRB going out of existence. A report that was supposed to "explain the anomalies."
What Doug Horne noticed was that not in one instance - not a single one - could Rollie Zavada get the image to go full flush left.
It couldn't be done, because the camera just isn't designed that way.
So what this means is that the sprocket hole image - not because it isnt there at all, but because there is too much of it, because it goes "full left flush" - is the definitive evidence that the "Zapruder film" at the National Archives, supposedly a camera original, cannot have been exposed in Zapruder's camera.
Oh, it's on Kodachrome stock, all right. That is true. So it must have been processed on a Kodachrome processor - somewhere.
But because it has a full left flush margin, which is obvious (for example) up in the 290 area and beyond, it could not have been made in Zapruders camera.
Here are Doug Horne's own words, from a conversation I had with him recently (August 2003):
"I discovered that he could not replicate the full flush left, even though he was using an identical camera... [the] same make and model.... and identical telephoto setting, which is full telephoto."
"The margin is a different density."
"I not only noticed it, but when Rollie took his beautiful photographs [and used them in] the original report, its really noticeable, and its really striking."
Doug also described how Rollie tried to get around the problem.
"At the last minute, he found these two old [technical] reports... and they were... at least one of them was speculation on... a report saying that... there are appendices.... in his report... all these ghost images in the intersprocket area, based on aperture and other reasons." The thing is he could never reproduce in the lab the type seen in the actual film.
He couldnt reproduce those in the lab, even though he tried. So to me the theoretical explanation is not viable. To me it's not, because he couldnt reproduce it empirically. Its not science. Its just a hypothesis, that he could not verify by experiment. So to me its still a mystery.
The color density is different... corresponding to a marked difference in contrast in the b and w reproduced images.
By going flush left, they - the forgers - did something the camera can't do.
Let me now add that there is a small problem with Rollie Zavada which Doug experienced repeatedly. Zavada is committed to the view that the Z film must be authentic. This is not all that clear at first. When I spoke to him in September 1998, he went out of his way to say that he had not tested for authenticity. But that is not the way Rollie speaks anymore. Now he talks as if he has accomplished something that, at the time, he was careful to say he had not done - he now behaves as if his mullti-volume report somehow establishes the film as authentic.
Well, it does not. In fact, the "full flush left problem" which anyone can see by just looking at the frames in Volume 18 of the Warren Commisssion 26 volumes - proves the point.
From David Lifton, "The Pig on a Leash" (pp. 309-426) in The Great Zapruder Film Hoax: Deceit and Deception in the Death of JFK. Chicago: Catfeet Press - Open Court Publishing Company, 2003, James H. Fetzer, Ph.D., editor.
Mr. Zavada retired - as a Standards Director for Imaging Technologies - from Eastman Kodak in March 1990. His past responsibilities included coordinating the activities of the Consumer Video and Broadcast Telecine Television Evaluation Laboratories, a product engineer on reversal motion picture films, and as a principal member of the teams that introduced Kodachrome II, Ektachrome Commercial and Kodachrome Film - and that developed the Super 8 system.
He has a BS from Purdue University, a degree in Photo Science from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and a MBA from the University of Rochester.
He began his standards activity with the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) in 1962. In 1966, he assumed responsibility for the National and International Standardization of the Super 8 system, becoming chair of the SMPTE's 16mm and 8mm Technology Committee, chair of the Super 8 Technology Committee of the ISO TC-36, and subsequently became chairman of several national and international committees, including leader of the United States delegation to ISO-TC36 - Cinematography. Work with the Society culminated with four terms as the Society's Engineering Vice President, 1976-1983.
Mr. Zavada received recognition for his technical contributions by receiving Fellowships from the SMPTE, the British Kinematographic Sound and Television Society, the Audio Engineering Society, and the Rochester Engineering Society.
In 1985, Mr. Zavada received the SMPTE Progress Medal for Technical Achievement and was awarded the Leo East Award as Rochester's 1985 Engineer of the Year. In 1986, he received the SMPTE Agfa Gevaert Gold Medal for outstanding Achievement in film and video imaging interface.
In 1994, Mr. Zavada was elected as a Life member of the Foundation of Motion Picture Pioneers Inc.
In 1995, The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers conferred its highest award and greatest distinction of Honorary Membership to Mr. Zavada.
I requested that Mr. Zavada respond to the above writings by David Lifton. Here is Zavada's reply.
You asked me to respond to an extract of a specific section of David Lifton's contribution to a new book, "The Great Zapruder Film Hoax: Deceit and Deception in the Death of JFK" by Professor James H. Fetzer. As I have not seen nor read the full scope of Mr. Lifton's challenges to the authenticity of Zapruder's "In Camera" original retained by NARA, my depth of response may be somewhat limited or addressed to issues referenced elsewhere. I shall restrict my remarks to a few of the comments made by the author.
Extracts you provided are in bold italics, and my comments follow.
In this instance, with the 16 or 35 mm "optical master" having been created, and the goal now being to create a "Kodachrome original." there would have to have been two passes made through the camera - one, with the sprocket holes masked out, to get the main image area exposed (as when making a "normal" print); and then a second pass (with the main area masked out and the sprocket hole area available) to put image in the sprocket hole area.
And then, having exposed the film in this manner "having made two passes" the film (which if done as described, would be a composite of sorts) would then be sent out for processing (and to a Kodachrome plant, such as Hawkeye works).
First: "...with the 16 or 35 mm 'optical master' having been created..."
It appears that here, again, proponents of Z-film alteration believe that the creation of all the required steps to achieve special effects in theatrical motion picture are easily and equally applicable to 8mm film taken with amateur consumer quality cameras rendered in such a way as to replicate an original "in-camera" film without tell-tale image structure characteristics. Nothing is farther from the truth - and the author's choice of the word "created" may well be significant.
The reader of this dissertation is cautioned to consider the complex characteristics of typical special effects cinematography.
Simply stated, to achieve special optical effects, it is necessary to begin with a "family of film types." Kodak designed camera original color films to work compatibly with laboratory intermediate films and print films as spectral dye "sets." Professional camera negative films were never viewed directly and their transmission spectrum matched the spectral sensitivity of intermediate (and print) films and the transmission dye set of the intermediate films matched the spectral sensitivity of the final print films. The print films dye transmission had reasonable visual response with arc (or if printed properly) with tungsten projection.
In the case of the Zapruder film, the spectral sensitivity of a daylight camera original Kodachrome reversal film was balanced for about 5900 deg. Kelvin with nominally parallel curves having gammas of about 1.8. Because it was a reversal (i.e., it yielded a positive image), the spectral transmission characteristics of the dyes were designed for visual response when projected with 32-3400 deg Kelvin illumination. The film was not designed for printing response so that its dye set matched the spectral sensitivity of laboratory intermediate negative or positive films. A reversal duplicating film was available, but that was for direct simple copies, and not expected to be used as an intermediate. Further the films daylight sensitivity: contrast and spectral characteristics do not render it receptive for use as a "print" medium - hence, one "hell-of-a" problem for someone trying to replicate a Kodachrome original (Note: the goal now being to create a "Kodachrome original" by using special optical effects!
The goal to create a "Kodachrome original" provides further insurmountable challenges. Special optical effects for the cinema are designed to fulfill story telling support in scenes rendered in such a way that they are not obvious or disturbing to the audience. The author wishes us to believe that unknown persons with unknown advanced technology and film resources were able to create a "Kodachrome original" that would be subject to undetectable microscopic examination and evaluation by multiple researchers. The "evidence" offered are scene content anomalies and an a priori technical capability and expertise.
The limited comments above do not even begin to address image structure constraints of grain; contrast and modulation transfer function losses. However another constraint requires comment and that is the requirement in optical effects of maintaining "cancellation" of film positioning variables due to: positioning/repositioning the film in the camera and optical bench projectors; processing shrinkage; relative humidity controls and heat control from projector light sources. Pilot pin registration is the typical method used and required for 35mm films. Sixteen-millimeter films also use "edge and point guiding" as a possible method for very limited effects. Either of the above requires a reference perforation(s) or edge and a perforation reference for adequate image positioning for the required masks.
With the Zapruder film you have neither. The reference edge (i.e., fixed rail side in the camera) is lost after slitting as the spring-loaded guides are adjacent to the images being formed on the double-8 (16mm width film raw stock). Add to this the manufacturing (standardized) tolerances of: variation of slit width and perforation size and the required tight tolerances for optical special effects of scene content or as implied "alteration," cannot be achieved.
A further complication in the equation derived by the author is that the final result is "printed" onto Kodachrome II daylight raw stock with the appropriate manufacturing marking and processing laboratory codes. Any commercial source of the film would not suffice, as it would contain: product code, date and strip number. I am not aware of the film source implied by the author - i.e., possibly involving a major film manufacturer in the implied conspiracy, or trying to derive an unmarked 8mm width slit (extracted) from within wide gage film - now requiring the perpetrators of alteration to have slitting and perforating equipment.
Other researchers have addressed the "time-line" and the fact that the "same-day" copies would have also required "matched alteration." I'm exhausted envisioning the logistics of this purported set of "miracles."
Further, the author also references "sent out for processing (and to a Kodachrome plant, such as Hawkeye works)." I know of no Kodachrome processing available at Hawkeye (an equipment division). At Kodak, all processing was done through the unified film processing division. Kodachrome II required a complex multiple tank process. However, if processed at a Kodak lab other than Dallas, the "X" Lab's ID and date would appear on the film not Dallas'! If the lab code printer were turned off, then another image reproduction issue is introduced into the equation. I am unsure if the author addresses this constraint or its purported solution.
Second: "This point is crucial: in the case of the supposed camera original, there is not just "some image" in the sprocket hole area (the image doesn't just "bleed over" a little bit); rather, the image goes all the way to the left! ! To the left margin of the film!
That this is so can clearly be seen even on the frames of the Zapruder film published in Volume 18 of the 26 volumes. But is that possible? Can the Zapruder lens do that? Can it put an image on the film that is full flush left?
Under the correct circumstances of lens and light - yes, the image can fill the area between the sprockets. See my test shots; Study 4, figure 4-28 and Study 3, Figure 3-12. The Red Truck was taken in Dallas the same day in the same camera as the shots of Carol. Also in my report to the Movie Machine Society & SMPTE (the upper-right test targets) I show a test target with the image in the preceding and the following frame. To ensure this is available, I am providing this image:
These two images show this inter-sprocket image characteristic with full penetration to the limit of the camera aperture cutout.
Note: Anthony Marsh effectively addressed this topic in his Web article:
Third: "Then these pictures - these test shots - went into an appendix in the final report, which was delivered within hours of the ARRB going out of existence. A report that was supposed to "explain the anomalies."
"What Doug Horne noticed was that not in one instance - not a single one - could Rollie Zavada get the image to go full flush left.
"It couldnt be done, because the camera just isnt designed that way."
I have no idea why a respected author needs to revert to hearsay to support his arguments. The tests referenced above are described on page 41 of study 4 - including the reason for the limitation of full intersprocket image penetration (we simply didnt have enough studio light available).
"A report that was supposed to explain the anomalies. The Appendix referred to, pages 50 through 55, do not contain photos. Rather, it contains selected and detailed microdensitometer traces of the inter-sprocket area of two cameras showing their comparable intersprocket image area capture characteristics and claw shadow. In that sense it provides a significant contribution to "explain the anomalies." An Appendix is "part-and-parcel" of the report and the appropriate place to include analytical data of a scientific study.
Dougs comments about the inter-sprocket images surprise me. He was an extremely busy man near the time of the deadline for our report - but always a great help. Obviously he did not see my multiple camera test results and apparently did not remember my conclusions about the inter-sprocket area. He apparently also forgot how the failure of the ARRB to exercise expected initiative with the DOJ caused months of delays and unnecessary rewriting (in the summer of 98) of the report format that was subsequently acceptable. Dougs role helped resolve the problem - so he should have remembered the reasons for the last minute "midnight oil." However in retrospect: SO WHAT - the complete report was delivered ON TIME!
Finally: "Let me now add that there is a small problem with Rollie Zavada which Doug experienced repeatedly. Zavada is committed to the view that the Z film must be authentic. This is not all that clear at first. !When I spoke to him in September 1998, he went out of his way to say that he had not tested for authenticity. But that is not the way Rollie speaks anymore. Now he talks as if he has accomplished something that, at the time, he was careful to say he had not done - he now behaves as if his multi-volume report somehow establishes the film as authentic." In the work agreement with Kodak, the ARRBs request to analyze image content of the "Z" film was not accepted and the ARRB expressly acknowledged that there would be no "statement of authenticity" required because of the "analysis of evidence" nature of the study.
Lets put the Kodak report to the ARRB in proper perspective.
WHAT WE DID WAS: provide a knowledge and factual database. Thus, using our report, the Archives, the DOJ, researchers and students can make their own authenticity determination. (i.e., we gave them "tools" for authentication).
Our Program of Work was structured as studies to address the:
Medium - vintage of the films
Method - processing technology and markings, printing technology and characteristics, camera image capture characteristics
When combined, there is a high degree of assurance that the film identified by the archives as the Zapruder in-camera-original - is!!!
The Kodak study did not address - in writing - characteristics about the technical constraints or expected visual delectability of any possible alteration scenarios. The probability of alteration by applying laboratory optical effects or simple A-B printing techniques (to remove selected frames) after transfer of the original to an intermediate as proposed by some researchers was also reviewed. These topics were discussed and reviewed with NARA and Doug Horne of the ARRB while at NARA. Further, my careful viewing of multiple scenes and my knowledge of optical effects technology convinced me (at that time) that a dissertation on the probability of alteration was not needed.
Note: Subsequent to my report being filed with the ARRB I had another opportunity to further examine the "In-camera original" with the NARA subcommittee on preservation - which further confirmed my beliefs.
When my contract with Kodak expired, I was in a position to express my personal views. Simply stated:
There is no detectable evidence of manipulation or image alteration on the "Zapruder in-camera original" - and all supporting evidence precludes any forgery thereto.
The film that exists at NARA was received from Time/Life, and has all the characteristics of an original film - per my report.
The film medium, manufacturing markings, processing identification, camera gate image characteristics, dye structure, full scale tonal range, support type, perforations and their quality, keeping shrinkage and fluting characteristics, feel, surface profile of the dye surface all indicate NO evidence of optical effects or matte work including granularity, edge effects or fringing, contrast buildup, etc.
Rollie Zavada, 9/23/03