Analysts say that a video released by the Islamic State group last month, showing the beheading of 22 Syrian soldiers, took between four and six hours to film, and cost an estimated $200,000.
The propaganda video, released on November 16 and called “Though the Unbelievers Despise It,” shows the simultaneous executions of the Syrian soldiers as well as the beheading of US aid worker and hostage Peter (Abdul Rahman) Kassig.
The US-based terrorism research organization TRAC (Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium) and a UK-based counter-extremism think tank Quilliam analyzed the production techniques used to make the video in an effort to identify victims and their killers and to locate the exact location of the brutal killings.
Based on lighting and shadows, the analysts estimated that the video was shot in multiple takes over a four- to six-hour period.
They also noted several inconsistencies in the line-up order of hostages and killers. In certain frames the jihadists can be seen chatting among themselves, passing time between takes.
TRAC said that the professional-quality footage was filmed with multiple high-definition cameras and edited with state-of-the-art software.
Veryan Khan, a TRAC researcher, told TIME magazine that the video would have likely had a director, producer and editor, who may have used storyboards like traditional filmmakers.
Khan pointed out that not only did the executioners posses a certain physical aesthetic, they also represented varying ethnicities and nationalities, a way for the Islamic State to demonstrate the global reach of its self-proclaimed caliphate.
Although almost all of the 22 killers are unmasked and potentially identifiable, only one has been formally named: Maxime Hauchard, a 22-year-old convert to Islam from France.
In the video, the killers appear to be led by a masked “Jihadi John,” the British IS militant believed to be responsible for the beheadings of Kassig, as well as James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haine and Alan Henning. However, TRAC analysts said that the film’s transitional sequences may show that the British jihadist was replaced by a body double during the actual beheadings.
In light of the large numbers of radicalized foreigners who have joined the Islamic State, analysts from all over the world have been studying the clip in an effort to identify the rest of the killers.
A recent UN report estimates an “unprecedented” influx of 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries, who have joined the Islamic State’s relentless campaigns in Iraq and Syria.