In order to fool a particularly inept Mook
, our heroes must covertly make themselves invisible to a security camera. They replace the camera's view with an image of the same scene, so the ever-watchful officer will never notice.
There are two basic variants:
The Polaroid Punk
— The heroes take an instant photograph from the camera's perspective and then place it in front of the camera. This may or may not require blocking or removing the camera in the process, but even if it does, the security officer on duty will dismiss it as just a temporary glitch
, because the image is back, showing no activity, before they can investigate. Whether or not (or exactly how long) this works depends on a number of factors, such as whether the security camera is capable of focusing that close to its own lens (otherwise the photo will be horribly blurred out) how well-illuminated the picture is (especially compared to the scene it's imitating), and whether or not there's any ambient movement (such as outside traffic or a flowing fountain) that normally should
be in the scene — because the guard might catch on that the image is too
still to be a live feed. There's also the matter of lighting: The photograph may or may not be correctly illuminated to mimic the brightness of its surroundings, or the camera could wind up casting its own shadow on the photograph.
The Splice and Dice
— The tech man on the team manages (by means of infiltrating and/or hacking
) to capture some amount of live camera footage, then feeds the recorded footage to the security monitors in an endless loop. This avoids some of the problems posed by taking a still photograph, but if the footage contains any activity (as in the case of Speed
) the guard may eventually notice that the same activity is looping over and over and catch on.
Note that it doesn't matter if the camera is a rotating one: It just makes it harder, but eventually the tech guy will sync the loop with the camera's movement, or the photo guy will put a curved panoramic shot in front of it.
In either case, the deception will inevitably break down, alerting the guards to the prank at some dramatic moment.
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Anime and Manga
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex takes this a step further. The cleverer members of the Section 9 team can hack into the cyberbrains of people, and edit their sight (this is in addition to the active camouflage that renders them invisible). The powerful cyber-hacker known as "The Laughing Man" can do this to whole crowds, including all cameras and other such devices in the area, replacing his face with a cartoonish logo.
- The only people who saw his actual face were those without cyberbrains. However, when they tried to describe him to a sketch artist, the cyberbrain'd artists just found themselves drawing said logo.
- Not quite. The people without cyberbrain did see him as he really was, but since he had a hoodie and scarf and the said witnesses were drug-addled bums, it wasn't much help. It was the cyberbrained people who drew the logo, all the while believing they were drawing an actual face - even Togusa does this trying to draw an apparently catatonic teenager before even realizing his true identity.
- Inverted in one of the episode, when the tachikomas send the camera a feed of motoko breaking through a vault, tricking the owner to open it to catch the thief.
- In one episode of the second series of Lupin III, Lupin and his allies had themselves arrested for drunken driving as part of the set-up for a heist. They smuggled in a projector with reels and used bedsheets to make a screen, showing a loop of themselves in bed to the security camera. Interestingly, the guards didn't spot anything — the plan worked until a suspicious Zenigata checked on the cell itself.
- Planetes: When Hakim attempts to sabotage the Von Braun, he attaches magnets to the security cameras in the engine room. These cause the screens to jitter for a second and then display a static image.
- To Aru Kagaku no Railgun: Misaka Mikoto uses her electricity powers to get the "Splice and Dice" effect. It also worked against security robots.
- In Canaan, Maria's father is believed to have been killed by a car bomb because a security camera showed him getting into a car moments before it explodes. A bit later, a technician rewinding the tape notices a bird that flies in front of the camera and disappears mid-air just before the explosion: it turns out, the villains have overridden the original feed at that moment with a staged video of a car explosion so they could kidnap the occupant without his security starting an immediate pursuit.
- In an issue of The Simpsons comic, Homer, Lenny and Carl snuck out to go to a baseball game. Homer chose the Polaroid option, but accidentally attached the picture upside down. Burns, after having his TV viewer checked to make sure IT wasn't upside down, sent guards to investigate, but the picture fell off JUST as Homer got back to his seat. Burns never even noticed. Oh, and Lenny picked a third option, sticking a robot double in his seat.
- There's a subversion of this in Barry Levinson's film Toys, where the distraction created by the characters in the hallway is disguised as a music video, and the illusion is compounded by having another character replace that particular monitor's label with one reading "MTV."
- The splicing approach is used in the movie National Treasure to make Nicolas Cage's character invisible.
- The character doing the splicing (Riley) comments; "Ben Gates, you are now The Invisible Man."
- Ocean's Eleven revolves around use of both Splice and Dice and Polaroid Punk to an almost excessive degree. In fact, the vast majority of the movie consists of the heroes making Splice and Dice preparations and sneaking around.
- Something similar was done by Lex Luthor in the movie Superman II, though he was apparently able to project a hologram of himself and his henchman playing chess.
- Done in the film Hollow Man with a thermal camera so no-one notices his escape.
- In The Fifth Element an apparently drugged up dancing attempted thief spoofs a security video of the door by wearing a hat with a picture of the background. He puts the hat up to the camera, it shows the background, and the door opens, at which point he points a gun at Bruce Willis. Willis disarms him with a "The Safety is Off" trick, and compliments the thief on his hat.
- The movie Mission Impossible 3 had a spoof, where the scene being spoofed was projected onto what appeared to be a large projection screen. Said screen was the size of the hall, and had to be synchronized to its location. The spoof was only revealed when the screen started to droop.
- In Unaccompanied Minors, the characters escape from a holding cell by making a video of themselves with video-enabled cell phones and taping the cell phones in front of the security cameras. (Of course, in real life, this would have the same problem with being out of focus that the Polaroid Punk would have.)
- Weren't they walkie talkies, and not cell phones?
- Hudson Hawk contains a textbook example of the Splice-and-Dice method, right down to the unusual occurrence captured on film which later tips off the security guys that something's amiss; to their credit, they immediately realize that someone's replaying earlier camera footage. (It helps that the unusual occurrence was both unique and highly distinctive; if it were just somebody walking by a camera, things might've been different.)
- In the Italian film Danger: Diabolik the main character uses a large camera and a standing candle to pull the Polaroid Punk. It works up until the point where the sound doesn't match up with the image, but by then he's long gone.
- Entrapment used the splice-and-dice method to show the thieves (dressed as swanky party-goers) riding an elevator (played via a loop) while in reality they slipped into the main bank's database. The guards did notice they weren't moving at all.
- It wasn't the guards who noticed the time code looping, though, but an insurance investigator. They noticed something strange when the elevator began to move but the camera showed no one inside (because elevators never move with no one inside).
- A deleted scene from Napoleon Dynamite showed Napoleon and Pedro using a variation of the Polaroid ploy to remove the suit from the thrift-store mannequin. Except instead of a picture of the store, it's some shirtless beefcake from the cover of a romance novel.
- In the movie Speed, Keanu Reeves and his friends hacks into the camera that the villain installed onto the bus to loop on one clip of everyone sitting on the bus. They use this time to get everyone off the bus. In a slight subversion, the villain doesn't realize it until it's too late and everyone is off the bus.
- Played completely straight in Bloodfist VI by the terrorists.
- Somewhat averted in an Olsen Banden movie, where the gang manages to calm an elderly guard not with a picture of the room the camera is pointing at, but a picture of the royal family.
- Artemis Fowl was on the receiving end of this once: Foaly put his security cameras on a loop, which wasn't caught until Artemis realized that Butler was still in the same room he'd been in a few minutes ago, when he was supposed to be making the rounds of the house. At least it worked long enough for one of the fairies to infiltrate the house.
- Later in the series, Foaly can make all moving objects disappear from footage, and on one occasion adds a CGI duplicate of a character.
- In Wraith Squadron, code-slicer Grinder does a splice-and-dice on a camera he'd hacked into earlier (actually a server handling the footage). To keep the loop from being too obvious, he has everyone in-frame hold still (his compatriots are the only ones there at the time). He also mentions "blending the seam", likely a term for making sure the looped video didn't do an obvious Jump Cut as it repeated. It seems to work, at least until the maintenance crew they're pretending to be shows up.
- Grinder uses it again in the same novel to cover up one of his pranks involving a fellow pilot's X-Wing. In this case, the hangar was empty, so there was no background movement to worry about.
- A more advanced version shows up in Solo Command. When Lara Notsil sets up residence on Iron Fist, she creates a splice in the cameras monitoring her room. However, since an AI-level droid is handling the splice, it can modify and blend the footage as much as it wants so no one catches on to the repetition.
- Averted, however, in Iron Fist. When breaking into a hangar to steal some enemy fighters, Castin merely forges a work order and has the cameras shut down for routine maintenance.
- In one of the Jack Reacher books, a variation of the Splice and Dice is done by a security guard. The security system of the building records the survey lance footage on 6-hour tapes so he simply replaces the midnight-to-6 am tape with that from a previous night. He reset the date for the system each night for a week so all the tapes had the same date. His main problem was that the night cleaning crew usually cleaned the area around midnight and might show up on the footage. To counter this he made sure that he had tapes from multiple nights and substituted the one that best matched the night of the crime. He is caught because the cleaning crew started work in the area a few minutes before midnight and the only tape he had that would match was from the night where the crew started work almost at midnight. The investigator realizes that the cleaners took way longer then they usually do to clean the office of a neat freak and unravels the scheme.
Live Action TV
- The A-Team used the Polaroid version.
- And of course, the glue they used to hold up the thing holding the photo started to fail.
- In an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a security guard time-shifted the camera from one elevator to another in order to cover for the casino owner's daughter.
- Subverted in Smallville. A depowered Clark was forced to steal an item from a high-security complex. Knowing that he couldn't just "superspeed past the cameras", he brought Chloe along for the technicals. When approaching the camera problem, Clark suggested, in great detail, the use of the second example, only to be informed how complicated the execution really is. In the end, Chloe just hacked into the system and turned the power off.
- In the Doctor Who story The Sunmakers, the Doctor uses the Splice-and-Dice method, with the help of his Robot Buddy.
- Used too many times to count in Mission: Impossible.
- The Equalizer uses the Polaroid method in one episode, though you do see him manually adjusting the focus of the camera so the image won't be blurred.
- The Speed method was used in NCIS to cover up the theft of a prototype RADAR.
- It was also used (and specifically referenced) by Tony in a third season episode. Although he tried to take all the credit, the team quickly pointed out he stole it from said movie.
- A Columbo villain played by Oskar Werner used the Speed method.
- Ghost Watch : After they open the 'Glory Hole', the soundman gets koshed over the head with the hall mirror and the live feed, from inside the house, cuts out. The gallery say they've re-established the feed via the University Research Team's CCTV installed in the house, so communication via The BBC link between studio and the outside broadcast is still down. So the gallery just put the picture on the big screen as Michael Parkinson and Dr Pascoe discuss the paranormal. Pascoe suddenly exclaims "It's in the machines!" Noting the the images from the house aren't live, as a picture previously knocked of the wall suddenly appeared back wall.
- A security guard actually did something similar in The Good Wife. He cut in the same several minutes of him going out and checking the parking lot on nights when it was cold and he didn't want to.
- The Leverage team has been known to use version 2 on occasion.
- On Angel, a character subverts both of these by simply getting magical tattoos that make him invisible to the cameras.
- The show Alias uses this technique for fooling both the protagonists and antagonists of the series many times. Used as a main plot device in at least one episode.
- In the pilot episode of It Takes a Thief (the 1968 series) the titular thief makes a drawing of the Indain Head Test Card and sticks it up so that the camera monitoring him looks like it's on the fritz.
- Its a standard part of Shadowrun. Runners are expected to do this to deal with cameras often. Helps that everything in the 2070 is wireless. Theres even softwares specifically meant to spoof sensor footage.
- Rifts allows technically inclined characters to attempt the splice-and-dice, but it's usually impossible to get at the feed without showing yourself to the camera in anything officially published. Some psychics with a technical bent can beat the rules...and some others without it can subvert the trope by cutting out the electronic middleman and making the guard watching the camera screens see nothing, effectively doing the splice and dice on the human element of the system.
- Los Angeles 2035 has an high-tech version of the Polaroid Punk: The anti-camera laser. It is an high tech device that detects cameras and use lasers to project an image of the room that doesn't includes the infiltrators on the camera.
- No One Lives Forever combines both variants: one of your gadgets is a (rather bulky) device that is fixed in front of the camera (like the Polaroid) that contains a recording device that records looped footage then plays it back on a screen fixed in front of the camera lens.
- Part of your spy gear in No One Lives Forever 2 is airgun ammo that sticks to the lenses of offending cameras, disabling them without drawing alarm like shooting it would.
- The old game Hacker 2: The Doomsday Papers makes the player do the Splice and Dice to hide the activities of a robot trying to infiltrate a building. The fact that the building's cameras are the only way for the player to see what's around said robot complicates matters.
- Polaroid Punk is used in The Lost Crown, to deceive Professor Oogle's security system when Nigel swipes something from the museum. Visually Lampshaded in that the wire prop and edge of the photo are clearly seen on the closed-circuit TV screen, implying he only got away with it because Oogle never actually looks at the security footage.
- A somewhat strange scene in Kasumi's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2 has security camera footage of her waving her omni-tool at the camera, then fading out of view in a burst of static, implying that she's spoofing the camera and probably deleting camera records. It helps that in order to get this far, she and Shepard killed the guys watching the cameras in the security booth.
- It also helps that Hock wanted her to reach the vault, so he could verify it was her and then catch her.
- In the Homestar Runner short "Career Day", Marzipan's students watch an informational slideshow/cartoon about SBASAF (Strong Bad's made-up space program), in which Space Captainface (Strong Bad with some tin foil pants) and Harold "Strap" Coopmore (The Cheat with sunglasses and a blue work hat) foil an Italian spy satellite that's trained on Strong Badia by sticking a photo of it on the satellite's camera.
- The Speed approach is parodied in The Simpsons, when Homer ditches work and feeds a loop of himself working into the security camera. The tape is absurdly out of date, showing Lenny and Carl in 1970s fashions and disco-dancing (with several jumps in the middle). Mr. Burns notices immediately, but simply remarks "It must be Friday" and starts talking to Smithers about his plans for the weekend.
Homer: I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty, and if its speed dropped, the bus would explode! I think it was called The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down.
- Wade uses these to hide Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable from various cameras and security devices.
- In The Powerpuff Girls, the opening scenes of "Monkey See, Doggy Do" - and, as a result, the first scenes of the series - have Mojo Jojo doing this as one of his precautions while stealing the Anubis Head.
- Spoofed by The Penguins of Madagascar, "Tangled in the Web": instead of a Polaroid, they use a crudely drawn sketch on lined paper.
- Used in Transformers Prime in the episode "Deus ex Machina," where Miko uses a picture on her cellphone's camera to fool one of the security cameras. It works, until Bumblebee gets into a fight outside, and the tremors cause the phone to shift off the camera.
- Regular Show manages to do both in one episode, sorta. When Benson installs a security camera in front of Mordecai and Rigby, they stick a bad drawing (with a talking jet) in front of it. Benson's response is to physically attach cameras to both of them. The workaround this time? Put the cameras in front of a TV showing the World Dishwashing Championships.
- In Odd Job Jack, Bobby and Leo break into a vault and replace a security camera's footage with a loop of a break in from a movie. The guards notice immediately, but don't care because the actress has such a nice butt.
- In Static Shock, when Virgil gets kidnapped by Ebon's gang, Richie has to put his new-found powers to use to break him out without letting him find out Static's secret identity. He uses the Backpack to hack into the security camera in Virgil's cell and cause the video feed to loop over and over, while Richie heads over and gives him his suit. When they come out to face Ebon, the camera footage is still rolling and he concludes that they "got the wrong guy".