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  1. #1
    4 Star Lounger
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    I know that this is probably a silly question but I figured I should ask anyway.

    You always see on movies or cop shows on TV, where they have a fuzzy picture of the back of the getaway car, taken from an ATM camera and they ask the Tech Guy to "clean it up" and boom, now you can plainly see the license plate and what type of car it was and everything is just beautiful. I really don't think anything like that exists but if it does, are there affordable, or free, programs that can do that?

  2. #2
    2 Star Lounger
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    I'm familiar enough with imaging software to be infuriated whenever they go "ENHANCE" and magically pull incredible detail out of shapeless blobs of pixels in television and movies. This technology is fiction.

    This being said, you can "clean up" an image to a very limited degree using Photoshop filters (sharpen, dust and scratches, etc), provided the resolution of the image is somewhat high.

  3. #3
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    You cannot add details to an image where such details are lacking. And "fuzzy" usually equates to lack of details.

  4. #4
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    I hear what you are saying Keely but I am not convinced the technology is totally fiction. Certainly you can't create information where there was none before but the principles of image enhancement should be able to make the detail of some images more discernible to the human eye.

    Although I have no first hand knowledge of how image enhancement would work, this website mentions separating the image into parts. This would make sense as a screen colour pixel is made up from the inputs of three colour sensors Red, Green, Blue. If you separate an image into the three separate parts and examine each colour plate then you may be able to alter the relative weights of each colour and hence arrive at an 'enhanced image' simply by reducing the effect of one colour that is 'more noisy' than another. Any improvements are going to be subtle though.

    In the case of where there is video footage, whilst each single frame may be very blurry there is a large number of equally blurry shots (eg 30 frames per second) showing essentially the same thing. I would think that it is mathematically possible to overlap these images to average out more pixel detail of the same object across hundreds of slightly different pixel configurations. Essentially this would be building a single sharper image by combining the averages of many slightly different shots.

    I would guess that the level of enhancement shown on TV is greatly exaggerated but I would be very surprised if some enhancement is not possible. This video on the Vimeo website demonstrates creative use of the undo button - Image Enhancement Hollywood Style.
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  5. #5
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    Another app that may help to clear up blurred photos is Unshake. This is one of those apps that I believe Ian "Gizmo" Richards has discussed in the past, in the March 25th, 2010 edition of the newsletter.
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  6. #6
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    Indeed there are some efforts towards this issue, such as Genuine Fractals. But in line with above mentions, it's totally against common sense that anyone could turn a single pixel to a detailed image of someone's face - which is pretty often the scale seen. Maybe the exaggeration in these cases went a few steps too far in the name of showiness.

  7. #7
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    Have you ever wondered about the quality of (old-fashioned) movies? A 35mm camera film is movie film turned sideways, which is to say a much larger area of film, and generally higher-quality film to boot. Now look at a movie screen and reconsider your assumptions about resolution. That giant image comes from a film image smaller than a 35mm cameraís.

    Perception and deception are two sides of the same coin. Forget the camera and the cinema, for purposes of instruction, and head to the nearest art gallery.


  8. #8
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    I kind of figured it was all fantasy but hey I continue to be amazed at what we can do, so I'm still glad I asked. Thank you everyone for your input.

    I guess being able to "create something out of nothing" goes into the same category as "everyone that works in a police crime lab is hot". ;D Thanks.

  9. #9
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    Letís play Cops and Robbers, which is what we did when I was a kid before we even had television, much less computers. I will update it to answer your question, and then send you back to the precinct or newsroom or classroom with a lesson. In fact I will tell you the lesson first and you can guess the rest if you see where I am headed.

    Whether you are Dick Tracy (detective), a reporter, or an academic researcher you must never single-source what you report unless you have no choice but to do so, and if that is the case then report it as such by saying that there is no independent evidence to support it. Donít go to one witness, or opinion, or book, or worst of all one web site. Blanket the territory.

    While you are at it, cite your sources: that is why Word has provision for citations, references, cross-references, footnotes, endnotes, bibliographies and all the rest of it.

    What if there is more than one photograph, or one or more series of photographs? Hey, thereís the robber. Junior (Dick Tracyís Ďkidí) is snapping shots with his Baby Brownie Special, but someone over there has a camera as well, and in this day and age most of the witnesses may be aiming their cell phones and beaming the shots straight to somewhere else.

    The lab has a mountain of stuff, with frontal and left and right profile and three-quarters profile for the robberís face, a doorway shot to get his height, a ceiling shot to show that he has male pattern baldness, (Tracy wears a hat and the Kid was famous for his cowlick, and I canít remember whether or not he ever wore a beanie). This is not from a single photograph but from truckloads of them. If it is video, every move he makes gives you a different angle.

    A movie is a long series of pictures, the sum of which contains a lot of data, because there is different but related data in each frame, and you can borrow details from one frame and insert them into another in which they are missing. That doesnít mean that you should mess with the primary evidence, but it does mean that you can fill in the blanks, so long as you can explain and demonstrate how you did it. It also means that my experts may discredit your experts, or vice-versa.

    Wait, I just spotted a tattoo. There it is again. Itís an anchor. Popeye did it!

    Get the picture?


  10. #10
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    I guess I'm a little late in responding to this subject; don't visit the Lounge as often as I should.

    I have used an application called Focus Magic for several years and it does what Donebb originally asked. Someone recently emailed me a photo of a car at an accident scene that the sender thought might have been a witness. Problem was, the license plate was too fuzzy to read. After running the same photo through Focus Magic, we were able to discern the number, thus locating the 'witness'. There's a similar photo on the Focus Magic web site. I also recently ran a photo of a house through the program to 'sharpen' the house number so that it could be read. I've even 'fixed' photos that had camera shake during exposure.

    I know it doesn't sound feasible, I thought the same until I tried it. Fact is, many police departments, FBI, etc., use software similar to this in their investigations.

  11. #11
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    Corrections have been around since at least the view camera which, with its bellows, could correct for the limitations of photography itself before the shot was recorded. Now they do the same thing electronically after the fact. Both audio and video can be and is enhanced for modern users: your glorious CD of Casablanca is being viewed in finer form than it was ever seen in its day (I think they used four different copies of the film to remaster it), and the same is true of old sound recordings. (An obvious 'fingerprint' of a recording is the length: depending on the era they were typically recorded to last the length of the medium of the day, so a 78 rpm record has a precise duration.)

    'Sending it to the lab' is a standard: I have 64-bit Photoshop but I wouldn't dream of using it myself since I don't have the greyware (the stuff between your ears) to use it. I'd work with a lab (or better still hire an expert assistant with whom I could collaborate) to make, say, a book or at least a calendar, although a calendar is standard do-it-yourself stuff. Office has piles of downloadable templates for calendars, and if you want to show off your own photos you can send calendars to all your friends for New Year's. If a gang of you do it, you may end up with a calendar in every room.

    If you are a glutton for punishment, you could google 'filter theory'.

  12. #12
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    I know it doesn't sound feasible, I thought the same until I tried it.
    Actually the numbers and letters part sound very feasible because there are certain expectations obout the shape and size of numbers and letters especially if the pattern or outline can be somewhat seen and there's a decent to good contrast, even though its like looking at a pretty hard gaussian blur. By pulling like to like in a sophisticated high pass sharpening it can clarify things greatly, not make them better quality, but definitely clarifying tones and shades. Its still just very educated guesswork though and a reflected sunshine can turn an 8 into a 3 for example (but its still useful to be narrowed to two possibilities and directly related to the rest of the letters or numbers) and expectations for unfamiliar or greatly variable items should not be nearly so high.

  13. #13
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    I suspect that a lot has to do with what went wrong in the first place. If you were out of focus it makes sense to expect that the image can be corrected using the information that you recorded, and if it was camera shake, it makes sense that there would be an 'unshake' correction for the image that you recorded. If what you tried to record was beyond the capabilities of the medium and your equipment, then what you may one day see - or think you see - is an image or recording that has been' corrected', which is to say concocted, by human intervention, be it airbrush, photoshop, or pure substitution. How many Hollywood movies have you seen in which the voices were dubbed, or did you really think that so-and-so could sing like that?

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