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CSI: unrealistic?


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59 replies to this topic

#1 of 60 David Susilo

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Posted September 13 2003 - 02:32 PM

Let's make a list of unrealistic things on CSI

I don't know about many unrealistic things on CSI but the show always irk me when they try to show how they are isolating sound elements from a recording.

For example, CSI season 2, disc 2, 911 recording.

The original recording is one-track phone conversation. So how can they suddenly have multiple discrete track (operator's voice, victim's voice, engine noise)?

Worse, they tried to make it look more realistic by showing the forensic dude changing a knob or two on his mixing board to isolate sound even further.

Nothing is realistic in their ways of showing sound analysis.

The big question is, anybody else in the field (or similar) can point out other stupidities in this series?

PS: I love the show, btw

#2 of 60 Eric F

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Posted September 13 2003 - 04:07 PM

You mean when you can see the corpses breathing in HD? Lol.

It's a TV Show. It's not meant to be real. Sure, some of the science is real, but it's all so heavily dramamtized that most of the science is secondary.

Reminds me how MacGyver started out, and by the second or third season they were making up their own laws of physics.

#3 of 60 Morgan Jolley

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Posted September 13 2003 - 04:36 PM

I find the cheesy endings of some shows (I've only caught a few, and the one I remember was about a girl who died by going crazy and ripping herself apart; the main guy says something like "the real killer was the one inside"). Horribly cheesy dialogue makes the show unrealistic, beyond the science.

Besides, it's pop-sci. It's scientific enough to be cool, but not so detailed as to make people befuddled.

#4 of 60 Derek Miner

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Posted September 13 2003 - 04:48 PM

The producers claim that they may take liberties with timeframes, but the technology on the show is legit. They have a former CSI as a writer and technical advisor who has to approve every script.

I've been suspicious of the audio analysis methods portrayed on the show, but I have also been surprised in the what real audio engineers are able to accomplish with digital technology. Incidentally, I have seen episodes where they show that the individual sound elements are derived from the original single track of audio.

That being said, I would really like to hear some technical commentary on the process from someone in the know.
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#5 of 60 JasonMC

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Posted September 13 2003 - 05:40 PM

I have problems with the fact they act like they are the lead detectives in the case and interrogate all the suspects while the detective is in the background.

#6 of 60 andrew markworthy

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Posted September 13 2003 - 07:47 PM

The audio analysis is realistic. It's made to look a lot easier to do than it is in reality, though.

Likewise, no CSI lab gets DNA analysis done that quickly.

As has already been said, the principal difference between real life and CSI is the speed with which analyses get done.

And give me CSI or Dragnet anyday over cop shows that are more about cops' private lives or police corruption and pay lip service to a plot.

#7 of 60 Adam_ME

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Posted September 13 2003 - 07:50 PM

I sat on a jury recently and heard forensics experts mention in their testimony that CSI was unrealistic. They said the show has single characters doing jobs that in reality require about a dozen people to perform collectively. Of course the alternative would be a cast of about 100 actors, so maybe the producers made the right move.
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#8 of 60 Jeff D Han

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Posted September 13 2003 - 11:45 PM

I know this is a very nit-picky thing, but I once watched
about 15 minutes of a show early in the series and Marg
Helgenberger's character was in beautiful make-up to
investigate corpses. Any believability of the show went
out the window for me. Television shows should at least
TRY to be accurate in dramas. Posted Image
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#9 of 60 David Susilo

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Posted September 13 2003 - 11:54 PM

Andrew, the general process of sound analysis portrayed is correct (take an audio file, process it so you can analyse the sound elements).

However, they made it so simplified (a digital multitrack recorder with built-in spectrum analyzer and a mixer) it irks me to no end.

Yes you'll need to transfer it to the PC, but that's only if the master is not too complex sounding. As much as possible, we'd like to work from the original source.

RTA can be helpful to find frequency spikes.

Mixer? Mixing what? Posted Image If the source is already in multi-track, forget about all of those technology. All you need is a switcher to move from one track to another. My life would be much easier (but I'll have no job too).

#10 of 60 Chris

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Posted September 14 2003 - 02:12 AM

Some of the items are laughable, though.. like how they punch in fingerprints into computers which identify them (in fact, fingerprints are still analyzed only by human eye... there is no such thing as 'auto-computer done')

Other moments that get me is "I'll pull one hair and drop it into a machine" also, doesn't work that way.. the fact that the evidence could be tainted almost never comes up.. they had one episode where someone threw down bleach to clean up the area.. and using a chemical analysis they retraced it.. also, doesn't work that way.. the cost effectiveness and chance for success are so low no CSI in the US would try such a thing.. they have too many other cases.
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#11 of 60 Chris Lockwood

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Posted September 14 2003 - 04:08 AM

A TV show is unrealistic? I'll alert the media.

#12 of 60 andrew markworthy

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Posted September 14 2003 - 07:36 AM

Quote:
like how they punch in fingerprints into computers which identify them (in fact, fingerprints are still analyzed only by human eye... there is no such thing as 'auto-computer done')


Chris, with respect, I don't think that's quite what they're implying. I think the idea is that a human analyses the relative positions of characteristic curves, lines, etc, and it's *these* figures that are fed into the computer for analysis.

Whilst I can't speak with particular expertise re: the 'hard science' I can speak with some authority on the occasional use of psychology on the programme - and they nearly always over-simplify that. The one thing they get right, however, is not being over-trusting of eye witness testimony

However, does this all really matter? I love CSI for all its technical faults.

#13 of 60 David Susilo

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Posted September 14 2003 - 08:22 AM

some of you don't get it. There is "unrealistic" and there is "UNREALISTIC".

"Unrealistic" as some of the supposed corpses breathe I can accept. DNA test result in a couple of hours I can accept.

Checking fingerprints with computer, or trying to extract audio data using mixer, those are just too "UNREALISTIC"

#14 of 60 Chris

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Posted September 14 2003 - 08:25 AM

Quote:
Chris, with respect, I don't think that's quite what they're implying. I think the idea is that a human analyses the relative positions of characteristic curves, lines, etc, and it's *these* figures that are fed into the computer for analysis.

Nope. I've watched episodes.. just today, where they scanned in a fingerprint and BAMMO! It showed them who matched it Posted Image It just doesn't work this way.. Posted Image
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#15 of 60 David Susilo

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Posted September 14 2003 - 08:29 AM

oh, forgot to add:

The main reason I want to know about other "UNREALISTIC" tidbits of the show is to learn more about what's right and what's wrong. Not to mock the show or anything. Like I wrote earlier, I love the show.

#16 of 60 Herb Kane

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Posted September 14 2003 - 10:06 AM

For those doubting the computer technology regarding fingerprints...

http://www.printraki....com/about.html

being used by (among many other agencies)

http://www.torontopo...ensics/afis.php

BTW... I'm not a huge fan of the show.

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#17 of 60 David Susilo

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Posted September 14 2003 - 12:15 PM

Herb, correct me if I'm wrong.

AFAIK, as far as partial print goes, the computers used can only give the approximation of suspects and human eyes will still be required for interpretation. Of course, the computer can do matching for a clear, clean, full print.

#18 of 60 Derek Miner

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Posted September 14 2003 - 12:25 PM

Quote:
the fact that the evidence could be tainted almost never comes up
They make a fair amount of references to this. It doesn't come up constantly, but they will talk about the proper procedures (wearing gloves, etc.). They have also done a few episodes with plots about contaminated evidence, which I think is enough to keep the issue in the minds of the regular viewer.

By the way, I can fully understand how these types of inaccuracies can drive people mad. I have very little knowledge of crime solving technology, so little on the show takes me out of it. But give me a show set in the venue of television, and look out! Posted Image
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#19 of 60 Scott Kimball

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Posted September 14 2003 - 12:46 PM

I think some people here are a bit to harsh.

This is a one hour drama. Take out the commercials, and you have 43 minutes (give or take 90 seconds) to get the story told.

If the show were 100% realistic, the drama would suffer - or they'd have to have a 2 hour show every week.

Having been involved in the production of training videos on the subject of criminalistics and the gathering and processing of evidence for law enforcement agencies - much of the procedure used in CSI is correct, if not embellished for dramatic license. The technology is similarly embellished for ease of telling the story. Yes, they simplify things - in some cases to the extreme. But there are ways to process an audio file digitally and remove unwanted sounds. There are computer comparisons of fingerprints made (though the final analysis is done by human eye). No, you can't get DNA evidence back in two hours, but DNA evidence is obviously crucial in crime scene investigations nowadays.

Overanalysis of this sort of thing doesn't do the show justice. It excels at telling stories, based around forensic science. The science is real - but there has been dramatic license taken to ensure good storytelling.

I'd sooner accept the liberties taken in this show than many of the hollywood movies of the last 10 years or more (Enemy of the State, for instance).

-Scott

#20 of 60 Morgan Jolley

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Posted September 14 2003 - 01:01 PM

Regardless of factual errors in the show (like how long a test takes or how something actually works) the dialogue is what I find to be the most unrealistic part of the show. Seriously, it's downright cheesy and I could NEVER see someone actually saying half the stuff they say while trying to solve a homicide.

Watch The New Detectives or something like that on Discovery Channel or TLC to see what the show should try to emulate.





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