Saturday, July 19, 2014

Creative license in technology

One of my favorite bullshit TV conventions is when the cop/detective/investigator/president/terrorist/curious bystander asks the technician to enhance the screen. Somehow they can zoom in and get crystal clear images.  Zowie!  They can see mirror reflections, read fortune cookies sticking out of pockets, identify hair follicles. If only this technology actually existed.  Here is a fun montage Duncan Robson made of all these moments.  Hopefully, it will enhance your enjoyment of procedurals... and mirrors.  

20 comments:

Scooter Schechtman said...

They're fantasies of technological competence the Police State happily endorses. Let the subjects enjoy the computer cartoons rather than ponder the realities of SWAT teams invading houses and machine-gunning innocent victims. Or beating the shit out a crazy lady on an LA freeway.

Toledo said...

I kinda wish software existed to enhance photos and video, i.e., create picture detail where none exists. Then, I could fix up some of my old family photos and VHS videos, which right now look like crap.

Anonymous said...

Given the infinitely high resolution these cameras seem to have, why don't they just keep zooming in until they can SEE each strand of DNA and just read it off?

Richard Y said...

Someone had too much time on their hands - although I am still amazed at the crappy pics we still get out of banks, etc when the police want us to recognize the bank robber. One would think that they would have better resolution and camera placement.

Paulo Nuin said...

I guess this is the worst one

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uoM5kfZIQ0

Toronto Blue Jay said...

Ken -- You & David are two of the few (living) writers who have read the bibles for multiple top shows: M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier, Big Wave Dave's. Can you share any character backstories that didn't make it onto the screen?

James said...

I'm a photographer. I always cringed when I saw the same thing done with photographs. Let's take this 35mm negative and zoom in on that tiny little section, and it's always as crisp and clean and fully detailed as the original image. But if I try to do the same on my own equipment, it'll look like a sand-painting.

Graham Powell said...

I think Blade Runner was the first to do this, back in 1983. But that was science fiction! Of course, a lot of stuff we have nowdays was science fiction back then.

As other people have said, you just can't get information that's not there. You can do a few things to clean up, sharpen, find outlines, etc., but it's all limited.

JP said...

Reminds me of this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMIHNiR3CP8

Paul said...

JP, I had entered the captcha information wrong, then realized that I had not scrolled down the whole page. Good thing I did. I would have been embarrassed to repeat the exact same video directly after you. My favorite example of the trope.

Ed Liddle said...

@ Richard Y: The reason that bank video is so poor when it comes to showing a bank robber's face is because it isn't primarily used for that reason. The video in a bank is mainly there to keep an eye on the tellers and to watch their movements. It doesn't need to be HD quality to see what a teller is doing during their shift. Banks are far more worried about employee theft than they are about getting robbed.

Kendall said...

Stupid Friday Question: Nobody using a computer on a TV show seems to have a mouse. They just get on their computer and start typing and information shows up on their screens. Wouldn't it be easier to point and click?

David G. Whitham said...

Actually, I think the first to do this was the episode of the Brady Bunch. Greg was able to blow up a photograph of his girlfriend to show that a receiver had his foot just in bounds 30 yards down the field, using a 50mm lens, and the feet were sharp as a tack.

James Lamb said...

Agree with Kendall. Why is there so much typing required for enhancing photos and video?

Kelly Sedinger said...

Not all of these are fair...I'm willing to give BATTLESTAR GALACTICA a bit of a pass, since they have big FTL spaceships, for example. The Harrison Ford example is from PATRIOT GAMES, in which all the "enhancing" does NOT result in a super-sharp slam-dunk of an image -- all it does is give him a blurry image that allows him to make an educated guess about which he is less than confident.

The "Let's enhance the image off the eyeball!" thing is bullshit, though...and I remember an episode of CSI MIAMI that had "the killer" using someone's camera, and he partially had his finger over the lens, so they were able to sharpen that blob enough to get an identifiable fingerprint. (And there's another thing: wouldn't those searches through huge databases go faster if the computers weren't having to display each record as they search? You always see this rapidfire montage of faces!)

DBenson said...

"High Anxiety" mocked the whole notion by having a character blow up a photo to the size of a barn to prove Mel Brooks was in a distant glass elevator (perfect focus, of course) just as a phony Brooks was shooting somebody in the foreground.

And that wasn't enough to kill it.

I used to produce print ads now and again featuring logos from clients and such. They'd provide low-res website jpegs or textured business cards with tiny halftoned images. Increasing resolution and "sharpening" only made them look like abstract paintings. We had to lecture presumed experts.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

The reason for all the typing is that they are using PCs or IBM clones.

Werner von Wallenrod said...

I'm sorry; I think you have to give Star Trek a pass on this one.

JC said...

This has driven me crazy for years. I work with digital images all the time and what they do on TV is total BS.
It's funny because my father was a police officer and it drives him crazy with all the tests and lab work they run on CSI-type shows. He would laugh and say if only the police department had a budget to do all that.

I always wonder how doctors and lawyers feel when they watch their respective fields on TV?

MikeN said...

This sort of thing is making it tough to convict as juries are expecting CSI level of evidence.

On the other hand, prosecutors are now throwing in lots of charges, figuring the jury will convict on some to split the difference, and pressuring people into plea bargains as a result, which is now 90% of cases.