Sunday, December 19, 2010

Let's Enhance That!

Let's Enhance

Here's a trope that always bothers me, The Magic Enhancer. It's usually employed in detective shows, where the cops are studying some grainy, blurry, black-and-white image snagged from a super-cheap closed-circuit convenience store camera recorded on the one VHS tape they bought with the camera ten years ago and have been recording and re-recording (and re-re-re-re-re-recording) ever since.

Always, the cops find what they suspect is their perp and have the computer lab guy "clean up the image", usually while having the detective tell him to "enhance" this or that 4-pixel blob. Invariably, through some form of magical technology, the killer's license plate or driver's license number or what-have you come into crystal-clear focus.

This is what is called "bullsh**".

The various flavors of the crime procedural CSI (CSI, CSI:Miami, CSI:New York, CSI:Dubuque, CSI:Your Mom's Basement, etc.) manage to take the Enhance Button to a whole new level. The wonderful takes an excellent and incredibly detailed look at the phenomenon of the fabled and magical Enhance Button, citing numerous examples such as these whoppers, all of these just from the CSI franchise:

  • CSI likes to rely on the NTSC overscan to find hidden details in an image. In one episode, they are able to reconstruct a recognizable image from the reflection in someone's eye. At night. In the dark. From a grainy CCTV image. Another similar example involved getting a recognizable image of a person behind camera from the reflection of someone's sunglasses in the window of a car.

  • CSI had an egregious example when they showed off a 3D crime scene scanner. Such a device does actually exist, using a laser to create a 3D image of an area, but then they used the computer to ''lift the body off the bed to look at the stains on the sheets underneath it''. It's the equivalent of taking an ordinary photographic image and being able to "strip away" the skin and muscles to get an image of not just the structure of the person's bones, but what color they are.

  • [CSI New York] takes the cake when they zoom and enhance an image so much they can see the reflection in a person's eyes. Said reflection... is of course... crystal clear.

  • An even more outlandish example occurs in one episode where the original image was on a BOLT on the back of a car, which they turned into a crystal-clear, completely undistorted, image that showed the killer's face perfectly.

  • CSI New York were able to pull a fingerprint off of a still from a grainy video when the suspect put his hand in front of the lens.

This is a hilarious parody of CSI Enhancing gone to extremes.

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