Examples of image zooming/enhancement cliché from movies/tv.
October 30, 2009 6:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of the film and tv cliché where images from surveillance video or photos are magnified and enhanced (usually to a ridiculous degree).

I know about Enemy of the State and this clip from CSI (I'm guessing one of many examples from that show) is what made me think of compiling a list. They don't necessarily have to be things that are impossible in the real world, I'm more interested in the dialogue than the image being enhanced. If I get enough good ones I may make a supercut.
posted by dunk to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As usual, TV Tropes has this one covered.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:34 AM on October 30, 2009

Best answer: I couldn't name you the exact episodes, but they do this on Law & Order: SVU all the time. It's kind of hilarious. I remember a scene with I think Benson and Stabler being shown a surveillance video by the Asian-American tech dude who is able to zoom in on some grainy surveillance video to some minute detail and then make that small area crystal clear somehow. Maybe to read a license plate or something? The people I was watching it with and I all thought it was funny, so it was definitely noticeably unrealistic.
posted by ishotjr at 6:35 AM on October 30, 2009

Best answer: you wil find it in tons of csi miami episodes
posted by 3dd at 6:38 AM on October 30, 2009

Best answer: There was some pretty ridiculous use of this in Eagle Eye.
posted by nitsuj at 6:39 AM on October 30, 2009

Not a video clip but a funny parody of the sort of thing you're talking about: check out this image.
posted by ejazen at 6:40 AM on October 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There's a scene in Patriot Games where the CIA is watching in real time a special forces attack on an IRA camp via satellite. I think it starts with a zoom up, but I can't recall precisely. Prior to that, they do a zoom up on a still satellite photo (recalling now), and Jack Ryan can spot the red head who was the getaway driver for a man trying to kill him.
posted by Atreides at 6:40 AM on October 30, 2009

Spooks are frequent employers of that tactic - amazing how many number plates and faces are recognised by "enhancing" fuzzy surveillance footage.
posted by liss at 6:55 AM on October 30, 2009

There's a scene in Zoolander in which they use the zoom-and-enhance feature on old, grainy newspaper photos to get impossibly clear images of Katinka Ingaborgovinanana.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:03 AM on October 30, 2009

There's always Antonioni's Blow Up, which I think ultimately makes for a really interesting complement because it is ENTIRELY about someone who blows up an image to absurd levels because he's convinced he sees something in it. It's kind of like what would happen if someone actually did try this trope in practical reality.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:04 AM on October 30, 2009

Almost every episode of Law and Order: SVU does this.
posted by condour75 at 7:07 AM on October 30, 2009

First thing came to mind for me was Decker (Harrison Ford) examining the replicant's snapshot in _Blade Runner_.
posted by aught at 7:11 AM on October 30, 2009

Best answer: My favorite is Taken. They find a photograph, want to know who took it - they zoom in on a faint reflection of the guy in a WINDOW in the background.
posted by Windigo at 7:14 AM on October 30, 2009

Best answer: I remember an early episode of CSI where they found a reflection of a porthole in a girl's eye, and determined her picture was taken on a boat. The dialogue is here in the transcript:

"WARRICK: Well, maybe ... if I enhanced the reflection in her eye with the right combination of algorithms ..."
posted by illenion at 7:26 AM on October 30, 2009

In one of the early episodes of Twin Peaks, Dale Cooper was watching a videotape of Laura Palmer, and was able to see the reflection of a motorcycle in her eye.

No enhancement, just the use of the pause button.

But he's Dale Cooper and is made of pure awesome, so I am not surprised he was able to do this.
posted by Lucinda at 7:29 AM on October 30, 2009

Best answer: Every second episode or so of Alias.
posted by Kurichina at 7:41 AM on October 30, 2009

I came to mention the ridiculous moment in Enemy of the State, but I see TvTropes has it covered:

In Enemy of the State, they take a frame from a security video, and then rotate the image in 3-D, Matrix-style, in order to see a shopping bag hidden behind someone's back. There is some handwaving about how the computer is simply "speculating", and the baddies waffle about how the bulge "could be nothing, could be everything".
posted by knapah at 7:50 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Super Troopers makes fun of this too.

Enhance. Enhance. Enhance.

Just print the damn thing!
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:54 AM on October 30, 2009

This is done to an almost ridiculous extent in Deja Vu.
posted by pasici at 7:59 AM on October 30, 2009

I remember this happening on an episode of Star Trek TNG. A sliver of a woman's head was visible in a photo, and they basically deleted the person standing in front of her to reveal her entire face. It was one of those "I know that woman... but this photo was taken... 300 yeeeears ago!" situations. I'm afraid I don't know the name of the episode, though.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:05 AM on October 30, 2009

Aaand that's in the TVTropes link as well.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:06 AM on October 30, 2009

Even sillier CSI spoof
posted by w0mbat at 8:11 AM on October 30, 2009

posted by teraflop at 8:22 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

There was that episode of Numb3rs that had the suspects reflection that was distorted on something shiny and they ran some algorithims to straighten out the the image. Its probably been used a few other times on that show and the best part is that there is some somewhat real math talk to back it up.
posted by buttercup at 8:25 AM on October 30, 2009

Best answer: Fail Safe
posted by rhizome at 9:04 AM on October 30, 2009

At one point in The Dark Knight, Batman removes a chunk of wall with a bullet hole in it and, by firing dozens of different bullets into the same type of wall and having supercomputers compare the impact craters to the original, he not only determines what type of bullet was fired, but reconstructs the fingerprint on it.

The fingerprint. By comparing the impact crater to other impact craters.

You can see the scene in all its wildly impossible glory (sans dialogue) here.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:04 AM on October 30, 2009

I remember an early episode of CSI where they found a reflection of a porthole in a girl's eye

That was just the start - that was at least somewhat believable, by that I mean it was a little far fetched but not completely outside the realm of what you'd expect from TV, the picture was a straight on shot of the girl taken with a decent camera - its theoretically possible that they could get something resembling "porthole" from that.

In the CSI: NY clip they get man wearing a t-shirt, carrying a basketball from the reflections in the eye of someone who wasn't even facing the camera and the picture was a still off cctv footage, taken at night! I don't think it really gets much more far fetched than that (excluding spoofs - like that red dwarf clip)... though I haven't seen CSI: Miami in a while.
posted by missmagenta at 9:18 AM on October 30, 2009

Holy forensic science, Batman! Apparently the scene I mentioned is based somewhat in reality:

"We have developed a method that enables us to 'visualise fingerprints' even after the print itself has been removed. We conducted a study into the way fingerprints can corrode metal surfaces. The technique can enhance – after firing – a fingerprint that has been deposited on a small calibre metal cartridge case before it is fired. For the first time we can get prints from people who handled a cartridge before it was fired. Wiping it down, washing it in hot soapy water makes no difference - and the heat of the shot helps the process we use. The procedure works by applying an electric charge to a metal - say a gun or bullet - which has been coated in a fine conducting powder, similar to that used in photocopiers. Even if the fingerprint has been washed off, it leaves a slight corrosion on the metal and this attracts the powder when the charge is applied, so showing up a residual fingerprint. The technique works on everything from bullet casings to machine guns. Even if heat vaporises normal clues, police will be able to prove who handled a particular gun."
posted by Rhaomi at 10:15 AM on October 30, 2009

A real-life classic was the NASA scientist photo enhancement of the bulge on the back of George Bush during the Bush-Kerry debate. Thought to be a radio receiver by the conspiracy nuts, it was later revealed that Bush was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Not to be confused with the bulge enhancement in Mission Accomplished.
posted by JackFlash at 12:01 PM on October 30, 2009

Best answer: The Esper from Blade Runner. Careful enhancing 226 to 25 too much, or you may crack the mirror in the photo.
posted by davemee at 5:43 AM on October 31, 2009

There is a pretty funny resizing in Peter Jackson's fake documentary Forgotten Silver.
posted by MrMisterio at 10:27 AM on October 31, 2009

that was at least somewhat believable, by that I mean it was a little far fetched but not completely outside the realm of what you'd expect from TV, the picture was a straight on shot of the girl taken with a decent camera

Sure, but I brought up that example because the dialogue was available online, something that the OP mentioned they were more interested in than the actual image.
posted by illenion at 9:26 PM on November 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for your suggestions. I'm slowly building a collection of clips which I think can be edited down to a fun couple of minutes.

Transcripts from twiztv are helping me avoid trawling though hours of bad tv but they're missing a lot of the best image enhancement shows like Law and Order: SVU.

TV Tropes mentions an episode of MacGyver with this line: "Create a bitmap. Now increase the Z-axis while holding the X and Y axis steady." I'd love to know which episode that came from.
posted by dunk at 6:06 AM on December 2, 2009

Response by poster: Wait. Go back. What's that? Are they subtitles? Let's use the search algorithm on these srt files? Got it! Season 4. Episode 5. Send that over to the download lab.
posted by dunk at 2:48 AM on December 5, 2009

Response by poster: The finished video. Enjoy.
posted by dunk at 2:52 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I watched your video because a friend posted it on Facebook. Small internets world. Glad you found something from SVU, even if my answer got no love. ;-)
posted by ishotjr at 7:50 AM on December 19, 2009

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