The Battle of Britain

Re:  "Star Wars Weapons Range and Targeting"


Remember, if you will, that in the introduction on the Battle of Britain index page, I identified 90% of Wong and Ossus's attempted rebuttal as crap based on my first read-through.  I was actually being rather generous . . . out of the 22 pages they attacked, this is the only one which they attacked with anything conceptually valid, meaning their percentage falls closer to 95% crap.   However, with that five percent leftover, I now get to nibble on a little crow.


Note:  The page is entitled "The (Not-So) Long and The (Very) Short of Star Wars Weapons Ranges"

[Editor's note: in this page (and yes, that's the actual title of the page), RSA tries to prove that SW weapon range is roughly 200 metres. Seriously. 

And I was right, if even for the wrong reason.

What happened relates to this little equation:  

"ObjectDistance / ObjectLength = ImageDistancetoLens / ImageLengthonFilm
or,
OD/OL = ID/IL
"

It's a simple way to figure out the distances on a photograph.   Due to a misreading on my part, supported (if even inadvertently) by other data, I was under the mistaken impression that something else could be used in the place of "ImageDistancetoLens" as a default parameter, instead of simply using a default image distance to the lens.  

You see, two years ago there was a debate on ASVS.   Wayne Poe had posted a link to a now-defunct page regarding the weapons range of the Millennium Falcon, trying to prove that the scene where Han and Obi-Wan both report a TIE fighter as being out of range really meant something else.   One of the pictures involved was this one:

The above shot is part of the scene in ANH when the Falcon comes out of hyperdrive near the remnants of Alderaan.  A TIE fires on them and starts running back to base, pursued by the Falcon.   The above scene occurring right before Han says "he's almost in range".

Given how visible that TIE is, and the small size of a TIE fighter, it's patently obvious that the Falcon's weapons range is positively horrible . . . and yet, like clockwork, the rabid Warsies were trying to say it wasn't.  So, as the debate progressed, I decided to see if there was a way to find out just how horrible the weapons range was.  Of course, the debate ended when Poe plugged his ears, cursed everyone, and jumped ship, but I eventually went ahead with the effort anyway.  

I'd never delved into photography at all (unlike physics, for example), and thus didn't know the appropriate jargon for what I needed.  I tried looking for a decent primer, preferably one that would involve what I needed, but was not able to do so.   Basic sites seemed to have too little information . . . 'Point.  Click.  Yay.  And did you see "Bridges of Madison County"?  He had a camera.'   The other sites were written as if you'd been playing with a camera for years, the site authors  whipping out "down-conversions", "gamma" and "lookup" tables, "1.6 apertures", "1/4 pro mists", you name it . . . that's just the tip of the "photobabble" iceberg.   (Even better, you have to convert some camera numbers to get the same number for a different camera (one basic example being the necessary conversion between digital lenses and normal camera lenses), and even the manufacturers say it's not an exact science.)  Some of it is easy to partially decipher . . . it's not hard to figure out what the aperture is, for instance.  And it helps if you've played with image editing software (which is what allowed me to translate "gamma", not that I needed it for my purposes).   But still, it was generally a pain in the ass to figure out what a lot of it meant in English, especially with some random unit thrown in like "1.6 aperture" or "1/4 pro mist" . . . 1.6 of what?  And most importantly, what does that actually look like?   In short, there were stupid sites and there were expert sites, and it seemed like there was no middle ground.  It was as if someone had told me "hey, there's this show called Star Trek about people on spaceships", and then all the sudden there I was watching the last half-hour of Voyager's "Threshold", trying to figure out what the hell was going on.  I started to really dislike the field of photography.

Finally, I came to this page on shuttle photographs from the University of California at San Diego.

By that point, I was aware of certain issues of film stock . . . 35mm film versus 70, and so on, referring to the actual width of the film negative.  The webpage above makes reference to 35mm lenses at the same time as it makes reference to 35mm film without clear demarcation, and it's pretty easy to see how the untrained reader might think these were relatively interchangeable for the purpose of the equation the page presents.  In further searching, I found a website which suggested that the best way to simulate a natural, eye-like perspective with one's CGI efforts was to rig the raytracing program's lens setting to 35mm (i.e. the distance from eye lens to eye retina, roughly), which reinforced the concept that this was a good "default" position.  And, last but not least, I cross-checked the simple equation against the actual field-of-view equation (as I use on the warp maneuvering page), and in the example SW ship shot I used the results were almost exactly the same (which follows, of course).

Thus, I felt I had a pretty solid basis for trusting the equation and explanation provided on the page, as I'd understood it.

Now, I knew all too well that issues of zoom or intentional camera effects (such as the really nifty "lengthening hallway" effect seen in one of the Poltergeist films, or the reverse seen in others) could allow for some distortion, and that therefore there was the potential for a margin of error.  As an example, sci-fi model photographers (such as the guys who filmed the DS9 model) would often use different lenses to create the appearance of a larger object . . . for DS9, a 24mm lens (as I recall) was used to make the already-huge station model appear even larger on camera, thanks to the wide angle.  I'd seen the Poltergeist film and read the DS9 comment ages before the debate, and had always remembered both . . . these were not new concepts.  However, that simply suggested to me that one would need to be cautious, using the method only when necessary and only when it was clear that such 'perspective gamesmanship' was not occurring (or, more precisely, "wasn't supposed to be obviously occurring").  (That was especially true at ASVS, where camera issues were not allowed as a topic.)

But, I digress from the tale of how it happened . . . I do have that crow to nibble on, after all.  The reality of the situation is this:  

There is no relation between the film negative's width of 35mm, and the 35mm lens figure I was using it in the place of, in reference to the distance equation.  

The method as I used it, however, is perfectly acceptable in a quick-&-dirty sense (literally "eyeballing" it . . . i.e. ignoring any unknown zoom and assuming the camera is an eyeball).  Thus, all the calculations still hold, more or less, even if the actual reason is different.  

This is especially true in reference to the TIE fighter chase scene, where the interior shots and exterior shots match up rather nicely (meaning one cannot claim wonky zoom or perspective distortion effects).  Note also the Falcon's closure over the course of the chase:

I've therefore pretty much covered this objection.   They nailed me on the erroneous background for the method, but the conclusions still stand.  (What can I say? . . . I'm better than a stopped clock.   Instead of only being right twice daily I was always telling the correct time, just not correctly explaining why it was correct.)

Of course, Ossus and Wong heap various incorrect assertions on top of their correct ones . . . they never can let themselves be even within range of being totally right, after all.  Ossus claims I was struggling with the math and butchering the math (the math was flawless), Wong says I misinterpreted the definition of film, and so on . . . standard moronic Rabid Warsie fare, but I'll let some of it slide this time around.  (Very generous of me, I'd say . . . after all, unlike them, I actually eat crow when its served.)

But, some of it is still just too ridiculous:

He bases this on the TIE fighters attacking the Millenium Falcon in ANH, and acts as if this was the longest-ranged exchange of fire ever seen in Star Wars. 

Hey, just because I fouled up the background of the method, it doesn't mean that I'll let Wong get away with lying, trying to paint me as being as much of a dishonest extremist as he is.  On the bottom of the page, I explicitly point out that Trade Federation battleships have been seen to fire from much greater range.  That does not, however, alter the fact that the maximum range of a smaller ship like the Falcon is hella-short.

Anderson assumes that the Falcon only needs to hit a box the size of the TIE's panels, while making this calculation. In reality, the Falcon is attempting to hit the TIE in the cockpit section (the ball). The cross-section of the ball is vastly smaller than a box drawn around the panels. 

I don't know where Ossus gets the idea that Han waits to shoot for the balls (heh) . . . if you can get fire into the box zone, you can at least pull the standard Star Wars trick of "spraying and praying" at your foe.  Han's certainly never been above that any other time . . . why would this be different?   And why wouldn't a hit to the fins be of any value?   These are TIE fighters, after all . . . the thing will blow up if the pilot had baked beans for lunch.  At the very least, it might slow him down and let Han get closer.

This is a self-contradiction. Note that he claims in TPM that the shots destroying droids off of the Queen's transport were actually misses, as there is no canonical evidence that they were firing to remove the droids specifically. The droids would have been within a box drawn to encompass the engines and the top of the transport, clearly demonstrating that Anderson would take the majority of shots that hit the TIE fighter's box that Anderson provides the Falcon with as misses, since the circle formed by the "ball" cockpit takes up a great deal less than one half of the area of the box.

In other words, Ossus somehow feels that I've contradicted myself through a ridiculously convoluted chain of stupidity on his own part.   Of course any shots that didn't actually hit the TIE fighter would be misses.  Duh.  And what's this crap about TPM?  I never claimed what he says I claimed. With wild shots flying all around the queen's ship, are we supposed to believe that some shots that hit droids (but would otherwise be near-misses) don't count as having hit something, at least?

Now, what I do claim . . . that there is zero reason to believe they were targeting the droids . . . is indeed contrary to the peculiar popular Warsie belief, but (naturally) not contrary to common sense.  Warsies argue that the Trade Federation battleship intentionally stopped trying to damage the ship and make it stop so that they could concentrate on killing droids trying to fix the shields.   That idea is absurd . . . with the shield generator hit, one would think it would be a really good time to actually try to damage the ship, its engines, and so on.  It wouldn't have mattered if they got shields back, in that case.    The idea is also contradictory . . . if you suddenly decide to pull a William Tell and start shooting little things off the top of something larger without hitting that larger something, wouldn't it be a good idea to have the accuracy to support such a maneuver, and not have wild shots all over the place?  Gee, I dunno . . . ask William Tell's son.


[Editor's note: I like the way RSA tries to appear as if he's being reasonable by saying that his math and logic are flawless, but he'll graciously allow us to have >200 metre ranges anyway. What kind of person would be taken in by this? 

Anyone else who saw the movie.

Naturally, he has to finish this section of his page with yet another nonsensical claim:

We have never seen her fire at ranges further than this, so there's nothing in the canon to overrule it.

Nothing in the canon to overrule it? How about the fact that hand weapons shoot many times farther than this in the Battles of Hoth and Geonosis

1.  Leave it to Wong to start blabbering about hand weapons in response to us not seeing the Falcon fire at greater ranges than her stated maximum.  

2.  Leave it to Wong to ignore my comment that it must've been an issue of effective range and not maximum range, so that he can try to paint me as an extremist of his type.

3.  I, for one, am very curious to know where longer ranges were shown at Hoth.  In the scenes in TESB, the only weapons fire seen against the AT-ATs comes from the heavy weapons . . . there's no trace of smaller bolts.  Oh, sure, we see the guys in the trenches firing their rifles, but we never see so much as a near-miss from these weapons.  

As for AOTC, we do indeed see hand weapon bolts which are fired at targets greater than 200 meters away, though the hit percentage seems to be miniscule at best (I didn't notice one in my quick skim through the movie).

He loves to accuse people of "falsehoods", but I think you can judge for yourself who is guilty of falsehoods here.

Hehehe . . . it took all of them, all working together, to come up with just one thing I'd actually messed up on . . . something which doesn't even affect the calculations it was a part of!  But, oh, of course, we should all bow down to the Rabid Warsies and accept their belief that they're always right?  Suuuuuuure we will.   I'll even predict when it will be:



Note:  Rabid Warsies believe (or at least claim) that I stalwartly refuse to accept any suggestion that I might ever be wrong or mistaken, in spite of the numerous times I have admitted error or agreed with a conclusion different than the one I originally came to on my own.  To the Warsies who hold that peculiar belief, my fondest wishes for a speedy recovery from the heart attack they just experienced.


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