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The Five Biggest Tech Myths Perpetuated by TV Shows and Movies

Security camera in Colorado cannabis shop | Image: User O'Dea

Movie and television shows are commonly critcized for their "Hollywood" presentations of certain issues and situations. If something in a film or television program is too far off the reality mark, there is generally backlash from the viewing public. One realm that is difficult to acurately portray in media presentations is computers and technology. There's never enough time in a movie or TV show for sufficient explanations of computer oriented tasks, nor to portray the length of time they typically take. 

The article linked below lists five of the biggest technology myths perpetuated by TV and filmmakers, according to experts. The first myth cited regards security camera footage. To quote the article,

The Technique: “Cleaning Up” Security Footage
The Myth: 
“Magnifying/enhancing” recordings can show police a detailed shot of a perp’s face.
As Seen In: Ocean's ElevenNCIS
The Expert: 
Trevor Newton, sales director for Tyco Security, a company that makes surveillance cameras and equipment
The Reality:
 “We call it the ‘CSI effect,’” Newton says. “Because whenCSI first came out, we’d go do a presentation, and people were like, 'Wow, I should be able to get these cool things,' and we have to be like, ‘No, that's not really reality.’ On TV, a casino, for example, can digitally zoom in and do all these magic things — and then suddenly, they can see a person's reflection in a spoon. That's not possible. [HD video] is about the number of pixels you're recording; like a still photo, you can only zoom in so much. And there's no way to fix that [afterward].”

But do they make cameras that are high-definition enough to catch the killer in a spoon’s reflection? Well, yes — but also no.

“Right now, technology doesn't allow those high-megapixel cameras to actually stream that information fast enough,” Newton explains. “There are different factors here. One is: How many pixels do I have? Then, how fast can that information be relayed back to the system to record it? It's really like trying to eat an elephant — when you have too much information, how fast can you actually eat that? How many frames can I swallow when there are so many pixels? With high-megapixel cameras, usually the frames per second is a lot slower. You can get a lot of information, but it won’t be fluid on the screen. In the case of real-life casinos, they kept analog cameras for a long time [because] they have regulations; security cameras need a certain frame rate for the fluidity. There are cameras that can stream faster, but they can’t use them because the images won’t be high-enough resolution.”

Read about the other biggest tech myths perpetuated by television and movies here. 


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The bottleneck isn't often the back of the camera, but on the circuit board. I've used high speed cameras where the bottleneck is how fast things can be read off the sensor, and you can increase frame rate by reduce the number of rows of pixels read each frame. Even with its overhead of using a shared network, a 1G ethernet can handle several such cameras pushing a lot of pixels. Other, much more expensive cameras will run at speeds where they are limited by how fast memory can be filled by the images, while others would be limited by the speed and max sized handled by a dedicated chip for compressing the images into a reasonable codec.

Besides, I suspect a lot of the problem is just that security cameras are cheap: optics that won't matter if you had a higher resolution sensor, and sensors/electronics based on mass produced consumer goods because they are cheap. You can find better cameras, just don't expect it to be called a security camera and expect to pay for it. At some point though, the camera is probably worth more than what it is watching.
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Now, let us talk about hackers. I have met professional hackers. They work for industrial security companies. If you are willing to pay $50K to $100K, they will hack into almost any network they have legal permissions to visit. It will take less than a week. Likely less than a day.
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You are not missing anything. The explanation is wholly inadequate.

I install HD security cameras. The HD VCRs they plug into can easily record 8 or 16 cameras at a time. Even with that level of detail, zooming in on a small section does not work. The issue is trading off detail for field of view.
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That is odd. Coaxial cables (or fiber optics) can push a whole lot of pixels really fast. You get HD channels on cable, and they use coaxial cables. You can even stream HD content on-the-fly, and your connection just chugs along. HD content are usually delivered from servers that may not physically be near your home, while HD CCTVs may be transmitted from a camera on your front porch, and viewed on a screen/PC upstairs.

Or am I missing something here?
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