Impossible image enhancing is a well-known cliche in movies and TV shows. When law enforcement computer whizzes get their hands on a photograph or video still frame, anything seems to be possible.
It seems a movie finally got image enhancing right. The 36-second clip above is from the 2014 movie Algorithm, a movie that’s (fittingly) about a freelance computer hacker who discovers a shady government program.
While reviewing some surveillance footage, one of the investigators asks, “Can you enhance that resolution a little bit?” Instead of typing a few keystrokes to magically improve the image quality — why isn’t that done automatically, anyway? — the whiz responds: “I can increase the contrast a little, but I can’t add resolution that doesn’t exist…”
Here are two other examples of people getting it right (Futurama and Castle):
In case you’re wondering what it’s like when people get image enhancing wrong, here’s an example from CSI:
The enhancements are often so ridiculous that there are a number of parody videos out there poking fun at the concept: