ILM Weighs in on Human Birdwings Video

Fun & Games
ILM Weighs in on Human Birdwings Video

Gizmodo asked the CGI experts at Industrial Light and Magic to look at the human bird wings video that we, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, and a bunch of other sites posted yesterday. Eleven experts cry foul (fowl) and offer some pretty compelling evidence that it’s most likely a well-crafted hoax.

CGI Experts Say Flying Bird Man Is Fake

Man Flies with Self-Made Bird Wings

28 thoughts on “ILM Weighs in on Human Birdwings Video

  1. Derek Walsh says:

    It’s fake. I can tell by the pixels.

  2. MAKE | Man Flies with Self-Made Bird Wings says:

    […] Update: See the follow up post, about this most likely being a hoax, here. […]

  3. Made: you look says:

    Seems like everyone but editorial staff already knew.

  4. Vanessa Carpenter Møbius says:

    Dear Make.
    Even if this is indeed a fake (looked at the documentation on the site and no engineering alarm bells there) I think it is really harsh to yell FAKE in such a loud manner. I think you need to be very certain that this individual has deliberately been building up to fool everybody for months with fake videos, research and documentation.
    Has anybody gone over the engineering to see if it actually make sense?
    I find it discouraging for makers out there to see how easy your hard work, lovingly shared with the internet community, can be turned against them in the court of unstudied opinions.

    1. Rick Harris says:

      By conventional aerodynamics the wind loading is too high to achieve flight at a slow flap rate. A quick search for video of ornithopters will show at MUCH low wing loadings they have to flap quickly to achieve flight.

      Flapping flight has been done but for much less time AND with MUCH more effort to sustain flight.

      I vote for at least a stretching of the true circumstances.

    2. macegr says:

      Jarno Smeets is a character created for the sole purpose of this production. His twitter account appears to have been oriented to this goal from the day of creation. One of his former employers on his LinkedIn profile states that they never heard of him, he never worked for them, and he needs to stop claiming that he did. So I don’t think MAKE should feel bad for calling a spade a spade, since Jarno is not going to be discouraged after all the hard work he didn’t do.

      I think we do need to be quick to debunk these kinds of publicity stunts, even if we catch a few real innovations in the crossfire (every one I’ve seen has come back much further on top after being proven true). These stunts appear to be aimed at our community and attempt to exploit common dreams as well as holes in technical knowledge. Why should a fake innovation overshadow the countless real innovations being created every day?

      1. Elliott S says:

        Well said.

    3. johngineer says:


      I don’t think your criticism is fair. In the first place, Gareth is simply following up on a post he made earlier on a subject which has had widespread interest and generated enormous discussion. For him _not_ to post an update after certain professionals have put forth serious misgivings would have been a real unfairness.
      Secondly, this update post hardly yells “FAKE”. In fact, compared to most of the posts like it on other sites (which have been merciless and in some cases downright mean), this is pretty fair-minded. After all, he does not say it actually _is_ fake, only that certain experts have evaluated the video and have cause to say it was digitally composited.

      1. Vanessa Carpenter Møbius says:

        You have a good point – and it wasn’t fair, upon reviewing it, I can see I was reacting to both articles (the previous one also, and the comments there) and am aware they are presenting other’s research.

        I think it was simply a reaction to “Lying High”, and seeing comments everywhere bashing the work – of course there’s a damn good chance it’s fake, I only want to stress having a good environment online, I’m tired of people and sites criticizing and being negative, in this case, Make is indeed presenting research so it is constructive.

    4. Vanessa Carpenter Møbius says:

      I think these are really good points, and the article with its experts points out great points as well – the point is more to focus on a positive tone on Make and other similar sites, encouraging and debating. This is happening to a large degree, look at this comment thread as an example :) I also appreciate the lengths Make has gone to – asking experts and doing research, I want to contribute to a positive environment of making and reporting on making. I agree – debunking hoaxes, or ‘pruning dead branches’ is very important and valid. Maybe I just reacted to the “lying high” part, feeling that it could have been presented better, a question mark afterward to promote discussion? Sometimes it’s the small things.

  5. Aarne says:

    Yeah, it’s not destructive to wonder/beauty/innovation to prune dead branches. It’s helpful.

  6. kenzrantz says:

    To quote MST3K, “Pull up, Icarus, pull up! “!

  7. jpotisch says:

    Whether you call it a hoax or an art project, he has publicly admitted it was fake:

  8. Remember three years ago when the response to unbelievable stories seen on the Internet… » Why Aren't You Outraged? says:

    […] ILM Weighs in on Human Birdwings Video Gizmodo asked the CGI experts at Industrial Light and Magic to look at the human bird wings video that we, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, and a bunch… […]

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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