Home » Edge of Apocalypse » EoA: CSI: Zoom in. Now… Enhance!

EoA: CSI: Zoom in. Now… Enhance!

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 265-268 (Chapter Forty-Six)

As you might guess, this part of the chapter is slightly guilty of the Enhance Button trope, which has been associated with CSI Episodes, and has been parodied a few times. πŸ˜›

Along with that, have a kick-ass Cotton Eye Joe dance style remix. πŸ˜€ (note: the image in the youtube is somewhat NSFW, it’s a still of a scantily clad woman.)


So, John Gallagher’s ready to do his FBI thing, as he’s hot on the trail of Atta Zimler and is damn close, he feels, to actual proof that Zimler was present in the USA! He’s gonna miss his flight, so he decides to book a train trip instead that’ll get him into New York first thing the next morning.

Meanwhile, he’s viewing surveillance footage.

Gallagher’s eyes were fixed on the paper-thin flat-screen monitor on the wall.

The time and date were running in the lower right-hand corner of the black-and-white video as the image of an empty corporate building lobby was cast on the screen.

“Sorry they didn’t use color footage. But these building owners always go the cheap route.”

“No, this is better,” Gallagher muttered. “Black-and-white gives you better definition. At least for what I want.”

I have no idea if B&W is actually better for what he wants to do, but I have heard it said that sometimes photographic negatives can reveal more about a picture than the picture itself, because the negative has higher contrast. So perhaps the better contrast you can get in B&W is what Gallagher’s hoping to benefit from.

Roll some film, and … Bammo!

“Stop there!” Gallagher shouted out.

They froze the frame.

A man of medium height. Well dressed. Broad shoulders. Confident strut. But his head was slightly turned away from the camera.

A shiver crawled up Gallagher’s spine.

“Zoom in.”

The tech guy brought the image closer. It blurred a little with magnification.

Gallagher stared at it. He had to know. Was it Atta Zimler?

Well, this part’s realistic – Parshall notes the blurring with magnification, which you might expect, since the original video has finite resolution.

Okay,” he said, “roll it, but very slowly, frame-by-frame.”

So the tech did.

The man in the lobby, as he was caught in each sequential, choppy frame, had kept his face turned away.

(…)

And just then, as the man in the lobby was approaching the elevator doors, he gave a side glance toward the watch on his left wrist, revealing about half of his face.

Got ‘im! πŸ˜€

Now for some of the technical stuff that might be a bit iffy and veering into the CSI type zoom-and-enhance thing:

The tech magnified the frame until a face could be partially seen.

Gallagher walked right up to the screen. He touched it with his index finger.

“I know it’s you. I know it!”

Then Gallagher wheeled around. “Can we get an immediate high def JPG image of this emailed to somebody?”

First, the extra magnification might cause enough blurring that even having a close-up to help facial identification might fail to work. Second, JPG is lossy. Gallagher would not want this, since the image extraction would drop stuff the algorithm “knows” isn’t important to the average human eye viewing an average image (e.g. a photograph of, say, your new tree you planted in the backyard), but in his case, if he wants the best shot at getting that image processed, he ought to ask for a PNG, which is lossless normally.

After Gallagher’s on his way to the train, he calls the image processing guru to get a rush on that picture identification.

On his way to the railroad station, Gallagher called the private home number of Sally Borcheck, the facial ID guru at the Bureau.

She was watching TV. After nine rings she picked up.

“Sally, it’s John Gallagher here.”

“Geez, John, I’m here at home in my pj’s. What’s up?”

He manages to convince her it’s pretty damn important, and we get more of the CSI style zoom-and-enhance business:

“Where’s the image from?”

“Lobby surveillance footage.”

She groaned again.

“Those are usually pretty lousy.”

“You’re a genius. You can make it unlousy.”

She won’t be able to add resolution that wasn’t there in the first place, though. And to be fair, this isn’t like the story in the TV Tropes page of literally four pixels somehow resolving into a totally clear face. πŸ˜€

I’ll mostly give Parshall a pass on this since a lot of people are conditioned (through TV shows like CSI, as well as movies) to believe computers can enhance just about anything, and in that paradigm, this portion of the chapter kinda sits in between the very realistic touch-ups on surveillance photos of suspects in ATM fraud or the like, and the ridiculous Enemy of the State style 3D rotate and reveal kind of enhancement.

We’ll revisit Bill Cheavers next section.

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11 thoughts on “EoA: CSI: Zoom in. Now… Enhance!

  1. That’s some pretty incompetent writing. I think the readers would’ve been fine if John asked to send ‘an image’ or ‘a digital image’. You don’t have to say the encoding. But if you’re gonna do it, for fuck’s sake, don’t take the single worst popular format for this job. I guess they wanted to sound hip and techy by dropping some terms, but didn’t have the decency to take a 2 minute trip to wikipedia. My guess is JPGs are the most used encoding on websites, so that’s the format they knew about. But just about any other encoding would be a better choice than JPG. Sad, really sad.

    I wonder if there’s a program that can make an image sharper by using multiple frames of a video. It’s multiple pictures of the same subject. you might be able to ‘average’ the various blurry frames into one set of information. Of course, the subject will move, but you might be able to let the computer correct for that. Or input by hand how much the subject has moved and rotated. I don’t think it’s theoretically impossible to enhance an image that way, but I have no idea if it is already practically possible.

  2. If it’s a CCD-based device, you get 3x the number of sensors on the same die because you’re not dedicating them to individual color channels. Same sort of thing applies to chemical film, but it’s not quite as simple as that. That said, there are always different-resolution sensors available anyway.

    I agree with Ivan – “JPG” was just thrown in to sound high-tech. “A high-def image” woud have done the job.

    And multi-frame techniques have been used to get subpixel resolution on imagery from space – Bob Kanefsky was working on this 15+ years ago for NASA. (If you have a satellite orbiting Mars, you know exactly where it was when each shot was taken, which helps a lot.) It’s trickier when you have a 2D record of a 3D rotating object, and even more so if the object is changing shape, but you can get somewhere.

    • Sounds like Parshall would have done better to have Gallagher ask if he could get the security tape and physically carry it with him to the FBI office in New York. Or ask for the relevant frames to be extracted to high resolution images and forward to the facial recognition expert pending getting the raw security tape.

    • I have a suspicion that Gallagher will save Joshua’s life, but the latter won’t deem it necessary to thank him for it. And even if Jordan does thank him, it will be short and the most of their meeting will be spend on praising Jordan for hiding bravely from the US Government.

    • I agree, he’s a much more interesting protagonist. And he still qualifies for the LaHaye-douchy-quota by, at the start, lamenting what a spineless worm his president is for not nuking North Korea of the map in retaliation. (I do so wonder if the writers intended for the audience to see that as a flaw in the man. Normally I’d say yes, because they told the audience the entire incident was caused by an American plane violating North Korean airspace, an American blowing up a North Korean communication array, and then a single North Korean captain who is already dead deciding the lost communications mean the American plane already nuked North Korea and retaliating without orders. But given which writers we’re talking about here…)

  3. Then Gallagher wheeled around. β€œCan we get an immediate high def JPG image of this emailed to somebody?”

    *twitch* That just spiked my IT horsehockey detector, which has been stuck in the ‘overload’ range since Sneakers. Which was about ten times better than this because it at least treated the universal decrypter as a McGuffin for the characters.

    Sure, Gallagher. You can get a lossy high-def image of a bunch of pixels that sort of resemble a face. Admittedly, I was unaware that there was interpolation capable of making a face look a little less pixelated, as Firedrake mentioned above. That’s actually kinda cool! I’m not sure if it’ll help here, but in that case, Gallagher should not be asking for a single frame, but rather the entire tape. In fact he should have the entire tape.

    And a paper-thin monitor? What, does Gallagher work in Atheistopia now? That’s the sort of tech I’d expect from them! =D

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