Night Vision Myths Vs. Reality: Demystifying the Hollywood Hoopla

March 16, 2023
Night Vision Myths Vs. Reality: Demystifying the Hollywood Hoopla, Steele Industries Inc

What comes to mind when you think of the words “night vision”? Perhaps you imagine a World War II soldier crawling through mud in the dark using a pair of high-tech binoculars, or you envision a movie where the protagonist searches out a monstrous alien with green-glowing goggles.

Though there is some truth to how night vision devices are used in low light conditions, night vision myths abound in the media. Learn more about this commonly misunderstood topic in the following guide.

Night Vision Goggles and Devices in 3 Popular Movies

You may have seen one or most of these films in which the characters must solve problems using glasses or goggles to improve vision and overcome night blindness. These devices, in general, convert light on the infrared spectrum to images that are visible to human eyes with good vision (thermal imaging goggles, in contrast, use a thermal signature, or heat given off by a living being, to produce images that the naked eye can see).

Troll (2022)

Troll is a Norwegian-based Netflix production involving characters chasing down a chaotic troll they awakened in the mountains. The characters frequently use night vision devices to improve their vision in the darkness. However, the goggles during a pivotal scene do not feature the characteristic “green glow” on the character’s eyes when he lifts them to his eyes to see in the dark.

The POV shot where the audience sees the shadowy shape of the troll form is more accurate as it looks like we are peering through analog goggles with a scope. Visually, though, these devices tend not to look so green in eyesight (or include bright green light points) unless they have some extra filter on the lens. They also had a reticle which is not present in goggle systems.

The filmmakers here may have been working with a tighter budget or did not have the post-production capability of duplicating night imaging or using real goggles. Overall, these scenes were done well and in a way that enhanced the plot of the film, but they were not entirely accurate.

Sicario (2015)

There’s a scene in Sicario — a film about hitmen, drug cartels, FBI agents, and night raids — where special agents infiltrate a compound while a few members of their team check in on them via helmet-mounted cameras.

Like in Troll, there are a few inconsistencies with the night vision shots, but they’re done well enough not to affect the movie as a whole. While the POV sight shots look quite realistic, the character who wears the helmet seems to have placed the monocular upside down!

True Lies (1994)

As a secret agent with a double life, Arnold Schwarzenegger shines in this action-packed comedy. Does the tech in the film hold up to real life? For the most part — yes! Our main character, Harry, is surveilled by his partner in one of the movie’s first scenes.

This giant scope was actually a real device used by the Navy, and it does have a greenish glow to it. It’s a mostly true-to-life scene, though there are a few thin black lines running through the picture that aren’t found in real life. They may have been placed for dramatic effect.

Do You Want To See in the Dark?

What other films can you recall that used night vision as a plot device? Maybe you can now tell which movies used an idea or myth to enhance the plot — and which were shot and edited in a way that felt more authentic to human eyesight.

Even for an ordinary healthy person, your eye health has nothing to do with your vision in low light conditions. Unfortunately, eating carrots won’t allow you to see in complete darkness. If you wish to see in low light, it’s best to try out these devices in real life. Learn more about real-life products at Steele Industries, and feel free to contact us with questions.