Night Vision Technology

Night Vision Technology in Popular Culture

The creation of night vision technology was inspired by one simple question. Can we improve night operations? The technology proved to be a game changer, an unparalleled tactical advantage to soldiers and nations who wield it. Since its inception in the 1930s, night vision technology has become increasingly ubiquitous in the defense industry. However, the defense industry is not the only industry that has come to understand the advantages of night vision. The entertainment industry has started to realize its potential as well. From movie sets to video games, night vision technology can be used to create stunning shots, build suspense, and film in the darkness. The marriage between night vision technology and the entertainment industry is new, but it can teach important lessons about modern warfare.  

Zero Dark Thirty is an Oscar award-winning film directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Its dramatic depiction of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden might have been the movie’s calling card, but it was a small detail from the movie that captivated audience’s attention. Zero Dark Thirty depicted the use of night vision technology like few movies had done before. Shots of Chris Pratt and other famous actors wearing panoramic night vision goggles inspired countless popular imitations in television, movies, and video games. Illuminating the infiltration of Bin Laden’s compound with nigh vision also highlighted the bravery of the soldiers who carried out the mission. 

Panoramic night vision technology is not the only night vision technology to capture the public’s attention. Sicario and Sicario: Day of the Soldado also have dramatic scenes that rely on night vision and thermal technology. In landscapes dominated by darkness, characters with night vision technology move like ghosts, executing their missions to dramatic effect. 

The Call of Duty franchise often utilizes night vision technology to create compelling combat scenes. The first game to do so was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which incorporated AN/PVS-7B’s into multiple levels of the campaign. Since night vision first appeared in the game, it has become a mainstay in the series.  

Night vision technology and the entertainment industry have become so intertwined that new night vision technological innovations, like the ENVG-B, are referred to as video game-like. De-classified documents revealed that the CIA helped produce Zero Dark Thirty to ensure the film’s accuracy. The marriage of the entertainment industry and night vision technology is here, and it has some drawbacks. Gamifying night vision technology and combat risks depersonalizing the full costs of modern warfare. Movies and games can build triumphant, inspiring narratives surrounding events that are far more complicated and tragic.  

However, the marriage can also teach a lesson. As viewers follow the protagonists in Zero Dark Thirty and Sicario, it is not just the night that is illuminated. It is the courage of modern warfighters, the difficulties of combat, and the tragic consequences of violence. Night vision technology illuminates a world that was previously hidden. In movies and games, it creates transparency between civilians and the experiences of those who served. As night vision progresses, and subsequently its depiction in the entertainment industry, the reality of warfare will only be more illuminated. There are few better reasons for conquering darkness.  

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