Partizan's Nicolas is UFO hoax architect

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The world is safe from imminent Armageddon once more (until the rapture of course)—the eerily authentic video footage of UFOs hovering in the evening sky over Haiti and the Dominican Republic that inspired millions of views on YouTube and screenfuls of discussion on sites like AboveTopSecret are pure CG.

As first revealed last week by the L.A. Times, the videos are the work of Partizan's David Nicolas (also known as the directing unit Numero 6) and they represent the germ of an idea for an as yet untitled feature film about, naturally, an eerily authentic UFO hoax that spirals out of control.

For Nicolas, known for his animation work through Numero 6, including lauded clips for Super Furry Animals, Superman Lovers and the "Super Sub" spot for Coke spot, the UFO videos were an atomic case of procrastination gone horribly right. Nicolas had been working on another, animated, feature called Peter the Astronaut for Partizan. In New York visiting his girlfriend, he became fascinated with UFOs and began creating videos featuring alien space craft while messing around with a new software package. He returned to Paris with not much progress on Peter but shared his UFO work with Partizan head Georges Bermann and the idea of the second film was born. Bermann and Nicolas are now collaborating on the script for the UFO feature.

Nicolas says the whole exercise was part research for the film and part sociological experiment. He created the all-CG videos with a Mac Book Pro and a combination of off the shelf software including Vue 6 and Lightwave and posted them in early August under the name Barzolff814. Within days ET believers and mainstream news outlets alike were aflame with speculation as to the clips' origin and authenticity. "Haiti" has racked up over 3.6 million views on YouTube (the video is ranked only slightly behind Miss Teen South Carolina's trenchant analysis of U.S. America's education system in the Most Viewed of the Month list).

Perhaps the intensity of the debate came in part from the fact that Nicolas tried to design the space craft counter to any preconceived human notions of what such conveyances should look like. "I wanted it to be a real alien creation," says Nicolas (who spoke from Paris in turns directly and through his interpreter/girlfriend.) "I wanted to depart from typically human engineering ideas—something that would inspire dis-ease and worry." The director himself admits he didn't achieve his goal and is working on new versions of the craft for future use. Nicolas says he was surprised at the scale of the reaction: "if I had known there would be so much scrutiny I would have worked harder on it" he laughs.

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