OPINION: The movies get antennas all wrong

True story: About five years ago or so one of our techs got a rather strange phone call. It was from someone who wanted to buy an antenna and was bragging about the last one they bought. They said they bought one of our HDB8X antennas to be used in the filming of a movie.

When our tech started asking more questions, they got quiet and didn’t give details. Eventually they claimed the antenna would be used in some movie about firefighters. But, they wouldn’t give more details.

The X factor

And then, a while back, I saw Logan. Take a look at this screen capture from about three-quarters of the way through the film:

I’m going to enhance that top part right above the roof but you know what’s up there already:

Those X-shaped elements are unmistakeable. Clearly this is the movie that person was talking about. Maybe they couldn’t admit it at the time or maybe they were ashamed that they chose to make our antenn look so old and distressed.

I’m glad to see our antenna up on that roof but clearly the set designer got it wrong. It’s far more likely that an old cabin like that would have a classic hybrid yagi/log-periodic antenna like this one:

Our HDB8X antenna just hasn’t been around long enough to look that distressed, and it’s not the sort of antenna that would have been used when that mountain cabin was new.

Another example

Photo: Sony Pictures

In this scene from Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, most folks were concentrating on Brad Pitt looking far more amazing than anyone his age should. (Seriously, every other guy in his 50s should be embarrassed.) Of course, because I’m a total geek I wasn’t looking at the 6-pack, I was looking at the antenna.

Credit where credit is due, this is a period-accurate antenna. It’s very likely to have been scavenged from a local home in the area. It’s the sort of antenna that was needed for a home in the Hollywood Hills. No, my nitpicking goes far further.

Here’s a screenshot from Google Earth showing line of sight between 10050 Cielo Drive, where Mr. Pitt was supposedly standing, and Mt. Wilson, where the TV antennas are. Mt. Wilson is to the northeast and yet, as far as I could tell by watching the movie, Mr. Pitt aims the antenna to the south. (I guessed that based on the position of the sun in the shot.)

There are a lot of in-universe explanations you could make, but the simplest one is that the producers aimed the antenna so the shot looked good, not so it was accurate.

My point?

Every time you see a TV antenna in movies it’s being used wrong. I don’t know why. Either it’s treated like an antique or it isn’t being aimed right. Obviously set decorators have no interest in promoting antennas properly at all. That’s a shame because over-the-air TV is a real, vital thing and I wish more people knew about it. It’s the easy way to get dozens of channels of free TV without needing internet or paying for cable.

I guess I’m hoping that some antenna advocacy group will google this post at some point and find it. Hey, there, advocacy person — let’s work together to get Hollywood to show antennas more accurately. It’s not too late!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.