Vandalism or hoax? Internet videos show demolition of Utah rock formations

Local News

UPDATE 12/12: The Utah Department of Natural Resources confirms the videos are fake:

“While the experts believe these videos are fake, the fact still remains that many of Utah’s natural resources are damaged from careless and irresponsible act of vandalism and destruction. These acts include spray painting over rock art, carving into sandstone and outright destroying natural rock formation. In these cases, those involved are demonstrating poor judgement and disrespect.”

[Previous report]

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A pair of videos posted to the internet seem to show the destruction of rock formations in southern Utah but is it real vandalism or a very realistic looking hoax?

One video, posted Friday by someone calling himself Tobias Muir is titled “Leaked Video: Eco Terrorists Attack Utah”.

A second clip posted Sunday is called “Utah Hoodoos Destroyed”.

The videos are realistic enough that the Utah Department of Natural Resources has turned them over to law enforcement for analysis and sent out personnel to look for damage.

Communications Director Nathan Schwebach released a statement reading in part: “We are currently working to determine the authenticity of both and reaching out to other state and federal agencies to identify the exact locations….The destruction of natural rock formations on public land is a crime and will be prosecuted. Formations like hoodoos and arches take tens of thousands of years to form and can be destroyed in seconds when people act carelessly and irresponsibly.”

ABC4 showed the demolition videos to a digital special effects expert who says while they look real, they’re an elaborate fake.

Ben Burrell, the Visual Effects Supervisor for Salt Lake City’s Cosmic Pictures creates digital explosions for television, films and commercials.

“This looks very artistically done, art directed, in that they did it a bunch of times to get it to be the way that they wanted to look the coolest,” Burrell said. “In the computer you can blow it up as many times as you want…All of this is also crumbling at camera so its staged in a way to show off how good the simulation is.”

After examining the videos frame by frame and pixel by pixel, Burrell says with specialized computer software this type of project would take one to two weeks and cost $10,000 to $20,000.

“Very well done. Very high level of attention to detail,” Burrell said. “If someone showed this to a effects house they would be offered a job I mean, I would hire this person.”

As of Tuesday evening the arch video had over 34,000 views on YouTube and the hoodoo video had around 9,100.

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