AV Police Squad

Never Trust Crows

(Author’s note: This is meant to be read in Lt. Frank Drebin’s voiceover voice, as played by the late, great Leslie Nielsen.)

“It’s 30m, as the crow flies. Surely the cable is less than 100m, right?”

“Wrong. And, don’t call me Shirley.”

It was the nightmare camera. Everyone knew about it. They just never understood it. It had been swapped for a new one. The power supply had been replaced. The cable had been re-terminated…twice…at both ends. Still, the image continued to come and go even more than Karma Chameleon. What could the problem be?

The most troubling thing was we had control. We could make that camera move like a ballerina, but a ballerina that was tethered to a robotic base and had one really big eye. Sure she would look funny, but boy could she move.

The problem was with the video. The video was not solid. We all knew that HD-SDI was good only to 100m, as a general rule of thumb. Sure, it depends on the cable, but this was from a reputable manufacturer. The spec said we had 106m with a 3G signal. But that’s the problem with rules of thumb, isn’t it? Someone always breaks those rules with a “sneak attack”1 or “tag team”2.

The camera was only 30m away from the equipment closet “as the crow flies,” but they would not let crows in this place…and who says a crow would even know how to fly from the camera position to the equipment closet? I supposedly had 106m before something funny started happening. The cable distance was the last thing I had left to test in this nightmare camera case before just burning the whole building down to the ground.

My colleague, Nordberg, a friendly guy who may or may not have killed his girlfriend back in the day…drove a white Bronco, told me to look at the numbers on the cable. I told him I didn’t have time for number games. Then I realized…everything in this world is a number game.

As I looked closer at the cable, I saw…letters…numbers—gibberish! Like when my friend calls me at 3am to tell me “something important” and then precedes to slobber something into the phone. And then I saw it: 9998699 FEET written on the cable next to the gibberish. I knew this cable wasn’t ten million feet long, so I looked a bit further down. 9998698 FEET was written 12″ down. Intriguing. It was like someone wrote down a number every 12″ or so on the cable. I wrote down the number listed closest to the camera and the number listed closest to the equipment rack. The difference between them should be the length of that particular cable. Sure, the numbers are in feet, but I know this dame, Siri, who lives in my pocket and happens to be a wiz at these conversions. Siri told me that the cable was 123m long.

I had exceeded my limit. I had 106m to get the video where it had to go, but greedily took 123m. Apparently, “30m as the crow flies” doesn’t mean much when you have a creative EC pulling cables for you. After tracing as much as we could of the cable, the EC took a path that would have left the cinematographer/editor that created the opening credits to “The Naked Gun” series dizzy. But, the case of the nightmare camera was closed. I was promoted to captain. Unfortunately, Nordberg moved to a “gated community” in Nevada. I never had a chance to thank him.


  • Sneak Attack: When a pointer finger is used to pin a thumb during a Thumb War, typically accompanied by the attacker yelling “Sneak Attack!” as they vanquish their opponent.
  • Tag Team: A little known Thumb War cheat when a competitor uses the entire opposite hand to pin a thumb during a Thumb War, akin to “flipping the table,” essentially.
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