27 January 2009

Forensic AUDIO

Shows of the CSI: variety often feature forensic audio as one item in their bag of crime-solving tricks. More often than not (and not surprisingly), Creative License is invoked and "better-than-reality" results are often achieved. Audio recordings completely inundated with noise are made into crystal-clear confessions of a perp's guilt at the click of the "Remove the Noise" button. Impressive. (And I've blogged about it before, albeit indirectly.)
The most recent portrayal was a modicum better than some (and was on a show I enjoy quite a bit). In case you missed it, the "Trouble in Chinatown" episode of CBS' Numb3rs that aired on Friday (1/23/09) found the FBI's resident math whizzes creating their own audio filters to remove noise from a garbled recording of an abduction. At least this gave the viewer some idea of the method behind the magic of the ubiquitous "Remove the Noise" button. A little disappointingly, the final result was (again) a crystal-clear recording of the victim describing the abductor's vehicle, complete with license plate number. Nice.
While this portrayal was, as I mentioned, better than some, it was referred to in the dialog (several times) as "forensic audiology." Ack! Where in the consultant-producer-writer chain is the communication breaking down? Audiology is the science of hearing. The only image that is conjured up with the phrase "forensic audiology" is perhaps the verification of an ear-witness' hearing acuity. The practice in question is forensic audio. (I realize this probably seems petty. But still.)
I cannot knock the show in general; as I mentioned, I do enjoy it quite a bit. It's a small, rookie mistake in an otherwise consistently entertaining show. 8^D


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