THERE IS NO PHOTOSHOP ENHANCE FEATURE
The policeman stood over me, looking over my shoulder. “Zoom in,” he said. “…No, zoom all the way in.” I was struggling to get Photoshop to enhance a mugshot.
He was a South Burlington, Vermont police officer, and I was in his jurisdiction. He had just handed me evidence of a crime that I then transferred to my Toaster. My computer was a VT3, not the Toaster you’re thinking of. Or the other toaster you’re thinking of.
It was 2003, and the police officer had video of the suspect. Well, the term “video” is a bit gracious; it was a series of image files from a disc he was clutching—an image sequence at 5 to 10-second intervals.
But having “video” in the old days was too gracious a term for video. The ultra-low quality black and white footage looked more like some twisted alternate reality helmed by Jackson Pollock where a gun was ostensibly pointed at someone.
Image sequences were the dawning of a new day in commercial video surveillance, as far as I could tell. No more tapes that were recording over and over in the backroom of a gas station until some shit went down. Then it was up to law enforcement to request the tapes and mull over them.
I’ve seen what that type of footage looks like (at the same gig); it was as terrible as you might expect. If you’re old enough to have ever recorded over your VHS of Clarissa Explains it All with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then you are well aware of what a re-record looks like.
For any millennials reading this, the quality was massively worse than the Ring camera you bought for your parents to keep them safe (spy on them).
THE CSI EFFECT, OR PHOTOSHOP ENHANCE FEATURE
The cop pointed to the nose of the bank robber’s face, “we want to zoom in right there, forget about the hat and everything else.”
So, I did. It was a pixelated mess.
What the hell is this dude looking for?
My assumption, being new to local television, was that he knew what he was doing. Or was a Psychic, and the mess of blacks and smears of whites were telling him something…
“Ok, great,” he said. “Now, Enhance!”
Law enforcement searches out quality evidence to find and finger their cutpurse. And if they catch the suspect but can’t cop a confession, it could ultimately find its way in front of a jury and help get a conviction.
But, because popular tv programs of crime scene investigation elicit lofty expectations for evidence, that is no short-order.
This is my non-expert understanding; feel free to correct me in the comments.
The CSI Effect is the “belief that crime programs are skewing jurors’ courtroom expectations, ultimately making it more difficult to win their cases and convict defendants.” It was named for the CBS program CSI, whose mission was to give viewers an inside view of Crime Scene Investigation while delivering shit catchphrases on purposes.
Uhm, so is the “CSI Effect” still even a thing with television having splintered into a slew of watch you want when you want it, where you want, options?
THEY WANT PHOTOSHOP ENHANCE
It’s a good thing no one remembered the Will Smith movie Enemy of the State, which was CSI hijinks on bath-salts. With feds chasing a framed man with all of the taxpayer’s money, and I mean all of it. The feds used Photoshop enhance, old ass computer screens filled with garbage font explosions, Jack Black, matrix cams, and a goddamn repositioning satellite.
But, it’s a good thing more people remember CSI over The Enemy of the State. The Enemy of the State effect would have had the cop asking me to matrix cam the bank footage then perform the Photoshop enhance.
One NIJ article on the CSI Effect describes a juror openly complaining that law enforcement “didn’t even dust the lawn for fingerprints.” The article continues with a quote from a DA complaining that jurors expect to be presented evidence that utilizes “the most advanced technology possible.”
While I haven’t spent much time in courtrooms, I feel like I’ve seen the CSI Effect creep its way into my profession, as illustrated above.
I’ll spare you by not going into the clone stamping blood off a corpse to help identify a deceased individual for the Albany Police incident. That was my second local news gig, and there was also a photoshop enhance request there.
WE DIDN’T HAVE PHOTOSHOP ENHANCE
No, we didn’t have that Photoshop enhance technology in the early 2000s. By the way, have you seen how big our cellphones were around that time? Do you still think we somehow had a Photoshop “enhance” button?!
We have none of the magical technology CSI utilized to find bad guys hiding in perfect detail in a couple of pixels. Or green squares and tech SFX for increasing a specific portion of your composition. Shit, there’s like one sound effect in Photoshop that is there to tell you that you f*cked up something or it f*cked up something and is now crashing. It’s an abrupt “HRUMPF” that heralds something terrible about to happen.
So, no, there is no photoshop enhance button, at least nothing commercially available.
THE PERFECT BANK HEIST
Therefore, if you want to commit the perfect crime, or more precisely, the perfect bank robbery, all you really need is a time machine. “Oh, that’s all I need?! What would stop me from using my time machine for something like murdering awful dictators of the past by killing them as children?!”
BTW, are you that optimistic that killing a future tyrant in the past wouldn’t shake your own present so inextricably that you would recognize any of it? Would you even still exist after all that? 2000 era bank heists sound way safer right about now, right?
Plus, the heist money would more than pay for the R&D necessary to develop a working time machine. And it’d pay for the Puff Daddy music video lifestyle that follows.
In the early 2000s, the native image resolution, at least for banks in the South Burlington area, was at best a width of around 150 pixels. Think about it like this, the recommended dimensions for Twitter profile images are 400×400 pixels, and that’s for your tiny ass profile pic.
The 150 pixels include the robber, the counter, the background, everything else in the picture. The robber’s head took up about 5% of the image, and the officer wanted to zoom just on that 5%.
And even though we were packaging the image for the evening’s news, which in 2003 was still 4:3 or 720 x486, it was woefully too small an image.
THERE ARE LIMITS TO MY TIME HEIST SCHEME
Anyway, in 2005 everyone seemed agog over the “cellphone bandit.” A brazen bank heistress that robbed banks while gabbing away on her cellphone. It was the total me-generation moment before the me-generation had been officially recognized.
One of my co-workers was perplexed, “why the hell does she need to rob banks when she’s that hot?”
And I was all like, “how can you even tell she’s hot? The surveillance image is like 20 picas in any direction.”
With the surveillance footage being as shitty as it was, it was no wonder she kept successfully robbing banks. For a second…
Her big mistake was by capturing the imagination of the entire country with her particular brand of millennial-ish, Instagram friendly larceny.
She was robbing banks in Virginia, and far north of there, we were putting her mugshot up on tv screens. And so was practically everyone else.
So, if you go back in time to rob banks, don’t rob a bank with that Instagram influencer gusto.
Just throw on a lame white Nike ballcap.
WHO EVEN WEARS NIKE BALLCAPS?
Actually, I was pretty convinced homeboy was gonna’ get caught over that Nike ballcap.
To me, the all-white Nike hat with black Swoosh was the dead giveaway. No one wears a Nike ballcap. At least not on purpose.
Everyone knows that white Nike Swoosh ballcaps are reserved for the folks who get fantastically drunk at a wedding party in the Desmond Hotel and could only find a Dick’s Sporting Goods open the next morning.
Dick’s loves the white Nike black Swoosh ballcaps. Sure, they also carry local teams, but no one is walking out of Dick’s with a Siena Terriers hat.
Hungover sap makes the right choice picking up one of those white caps to sling over his face for the bus ride home while he waits for sweet eternity to hurry the f*ck up.
That person is the only person who should be wearing a white Nike ballcap on purpose.
And so, someone in northern Vermont had to know the white Nike ballcap misfit that wore just a Swoosh on his head to rob a bank. I was convinced of that.
WHAT’S YOUR BEEF WITH NIKE HATS?
It’s not just the hats; I don’t really want any apparel with giants swooshes all over it. It’s not that they make bad polos or headbands or anything; I just wear Nike footwear 85% of the year.
What’s going on in my mind is like, the Bayer Aspirin TV ads that worked so well at convincing people they need to buy Bayer and keep it around in case of a heart attack. And then the Bayer just chills in a medicine cabinet unused, forever.
The heart attack ads work so well that it forced Bayer to remind folks that it was also suitable for pain relief (to some mixed reviews).
The same sorta’ thing happened to me for Nike shoes. They belong on your feet, not your head.
Also, sorry, VHS Daffy Duck advert, if it’s not like a: New Era or Kangol, I’m probably not wearing that either.
WHERE WAS I, OH FIGHTING CRIME
Being a graphic designer at a local TV station meant a large part of the time was being spent, sorta’, fighting crime.
Unfortunately, in society, terrible people are doing terrible things. And most television markets are in cities where these terrible things happen quite a bit.
Aside from bank theft, there were armed robberies, armored truck heists, many drug offenses, and a ton of sexual deviants.
There was even the frightening case of the butt-slasher in Virginia, which by the way f*ck that guy.
If I was looking at your picture at work, you either had done something wrong, or you had been wronged.
More often than not, though, I was staring at police sketches. And at times, they could be terrible sketches.
Like the multiple ninja-looking police sketches I thought were ridiculous– granted they were a decade or more before covid. I guess everyone looks like a ninja now.
SO WHAT HAPPENED TO THE NIKE SWOOSH BANDIT?
I kept inquiring over the White Nike hat crook when the police department visited with new footage for me to clean up and get on the air. They often times had no idea what I was yammering about or pretended they did and said, “no, not yet, but we’ll get him.”
“I really thought someone would recognize that Nike hat,” and I was serious.
“I got a feeling about this candidate,” said the officer flopping a new disc with a new mugshot on my workstation. “She’s wearing sunglasses, but she has a neck tattoo, and it looks like a dragon.”
We started zooming and doing the little we could to clean up the image. The cop asked that we split the screen to display the suspect’s face while, on the other side, showcase the dragon neck tattoo.
The officer knew better than to ask me to photoshop enhance the image; I think he was pretty sure I just sucked at Photoshop.
The tattoo took up maybe 1% of the original image, and by the time we blew it up, it looked like a coelacanth had a child with Ms. Pac-Man.
PHOTOSHOP ENHANCE ISN’T A REAL THING
It’s not real.
Crime scene investigations mirror real-life in the same way that car commercials resemble real life.
So, while a truck may not explode during an actual police investigation, it does not mean the evidence being presented to you is shit evidence.
Have you been asked to enhance something ridiculous in Photoshop? Do you have a time machine? Do you have a Photoshop enhance button? Let me know below!
And for the record, if I was sent back to 2003 with the bank robber and forced to edit a highlight reel of the bank heists for modern-day Instagram or some shit, I would go with the VT3 over AMC 99 times out of 99 times.