1014: Car Problems
Title text: Or if you replace your car, we'll be happy to set it on fire again so you can take another crack at getting that shot.
Megan's car appears to have combusted at some point while she left it unattended. Suspecting her friends and acquaintances Cueball, Black Hat and Danish of perhaps having something to do with it, she gathers them in front of a couch and draws attention to the fact that something is just a little bit wrong with the two juxtaposed images she shows them. When she asks What is wrong with this picture, they all three take this question literally and start critiquing the picture quality, and not the subject, feigning complete ignorance about the car being on fire. When Megan exasperatedly tells them what is wrong with the picture —that her car is on fire!— they continue to act evasive by telling her that she should buy a better camera.
To some, the title text and the dialogue suggest that they were the ones who collectively set her car on fire, probably in the middle of some nightly exploit. But if you're an engineer or a scientist, you realize that Megan's friends aren't being intentionally evasive, they are just doing exactly what they were told. They patiently and correctly describe what is wrong with the picture. If Megan had wanted to know what was wrong with her car, than she would have asked that. Her friends are just being friendly when they offer to help her recreate the scene so that she can shoot the picture correctly.
As for the particular details of the digital photography terms mentioned:
- White balance: Artificial indoor light is more yellow, outdoor light is more blue. The light colour can also depend on weather or time of day. The human eye is a very good judge of whiteness under a variety of lighting conditions, digital cameras often have difficulty automatically correcting for this which can cause images to look too blue or orange. Professional cameras and image editing software allow you to adjust the white balance manually, which Megan probably has not done.
- Focus is a bit too close: As light passes through a camera lens, it is bent until the rays converge on the film or sensor. If the focus is too close, it implies that point of convergence from the light of the subject is slightly in front of the sensor (i.e. that Megan has accidentally focused on something closer than the car). This will result in near objects being (too) sharp, and the car being slightly blurry.
- Chromatic aberration: This causes coloured artifacts in an image, typically caused by cheap lenses, which do not focus light of different wavelengths (and thus different colours) in the same way. It is usually visible as a blueish or reddish outline around objects.
- Megapixels: This is the number of image sensor elements of digital cameras or the pixels on digital displays. More pixels improve the resolution but can also result in less overall quality for the pictures, due in part to the reduced size of each pixel sensor (because the total sensor size is typically the same for a given class of camera), and because for consumer-targeted products the total engineering budget is limited, so that extra money spent on a high megapixel sensor ends up reducing the money spent on other elements such as the lenses.
While this comic focuses on misunderstandings by people viewing pictures this could be also a reference to the battery fire in a stored, damaged Chevrolet Volt automobile. During a side-impact safety test, which the car passed with a five star rating at Popular Mechanics, its high voltage battery pack was damaged. Part of the test procedure includes rolling the vehicle over after the impact to check for leaking fluids; during the rollover check, the vehicle electronics were flooded with coolant. The damaged vehicle was then put into storage where its high voltage battery remained energized; three weeks later the battery spontaneously caught fire, potentially due to corrosion, and destroyed the car. GM subsequently made design changes to address the causes of the fire.
- [Megan stands in front of a projection of a car, with an audience of 3 people. One of the people is Black Hat, the others are Danish and Cueball.]
- Megan: Attention Please. This is a photo of my car as of two weeks ago.
- [Megan in front of a new projection of the same car engulfed in flames.]
- Megan: And this is my car as I found it this morning. Can anyone tell me what's wrong with this picture?
- [The audience ponders.]
- Cueball: The white balance, for one.
- Danish: Focus is a bit too close.
- Black Hat: The chromatic aberration suggests you bought your camera because it had "The most megapixels".
- Megan: THE CAR IS ON FIRE!
- Comment from audience: Maybe you should use the insurance money to get a better camera.
- Comment from different person: yeah.
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