16

In Breaking Bad: S03, when Walter White suspects that Jesse may be stealing meth from the lab, he didn't say it in the lab itself, but outside the factory as he suspects there could be sound recorders in the lab. This may also be seen in further episodes when he hushes Jesse.

But he never suspected or mentioned that there could be video cameras as well. Why?

Video/surveillance cameras are far more common. Still, if someone will keep sound recorders to keep surveillance, isn't he going to put a video camera to keep an eye as well? In which case, they would have caught Jesse stealing anyways. And if there were no camera, I think there are remote chances that there will be sound recorders as well. Why didn't Walt think this way?

One thing I can think of is that his house had been bugged by Saul before, so he may have that incident in mind. But that is his house and that's why cameras can't be installed. Gus can install them very easily in his own lab.

What else could explain this?

  • 4
    It’s doubtful a drug lord would want video/photo evidence of a multi million dollar drug lab laying around...sound can be from anywhere between two people talk. – morbo Apr 30 at 11:53
  • 13
    Aren't sound recorders much easier to hide? Cameras require line of sight, and are more easily spotted, even if disguised. You can place a sound recorder anywhere, it's much more difficult to find. – vsz Apr 30 at 19:23
  • 1
    I think your own answer of "his house had been bugged by Saul before" is the correct one. Walt was never very smart about "street" stuff, and probably didn't consider video surveillance – Budd May 1 at 1:19
  • @morbo But he did have cameras later on. And not just as a deterrence, but he actually stored the videos on his computer (which then had to be destroyed when the police stored it in the evidence locker). – tim May 1 at 7:48
  • @vsz the best place to hide a camera is concealed behind a very ostentatious camera. Crook bashes obvious camera until light goes out, declares mission accomplished. Meanwhile you have crook on video bashing other camera. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 2 at 7:20
29

The inner thoughts of Gus are difficult to know, as such this can’t be definitive, but It’s doubtful a drug lord would want video/photo evidence of a multi million dollar drug lab laying around...regardless of how utterly remote it would be that anyone would find it.

Sound can be from anywhere between two people talk and it wouldn’t be as damning an evidence if it was found as a video footage would be.

Random audio recordings of two people talking about drugs would probably be difficult to use as evidence by itself, as such Walter surely assumed they must be listening in at the bare minimum.

| improve this answer | |
  • 8
    But... there WAS video surveillance of the drug lab. This was the entire plotline of season 5 episode 1, where they use a giant electromagnetic to erase the video data in police evidence. – Brady Gilg Apr 30 at 23:17
  • 4
    @BradyGilg The video camera was a later addition (and was easy to see, in order to make a point) – BradC May 1 at 18:00
  • 2
    @BradyGilg: The question isn't about the actual truth, it's about what Walt believes to be true. This answer provides a reasonably line of thinking to assume there is only audio recording. – Flater May 1 at 23:14
  • I think that point was added as to underline paranoid nature of Walter, rather than anything else. As we also see that later on he made Saul believe that he may also be getting bugged. – Pandey_Ji May 3 at 14:03
14

To be useful, a video recorder must have a clear line of sight to a significant portion of a room. This means that, in general, it must be clearly visible from a significant portion of the room. There are a limited number of ways to hide a camera lens from a casual observer and still have it be able to see the rest of the room, such as one-way mirrors or camera domes on the ceiling. Most such methods (so far as I'm aware) would still be visible in and of themselves to an observant and paranoid drug manufacturer such as Walter White; if there had been a mirror in the lab somewhere with no other apparent purpose, Walt would have assumed there was a camera behind it. So it seems plausible that Walt had carefully looked over the room and concluded that there was not any video surveillance.

Sound, on the other hand, easily bends around obstructions, and so an audio recorder can be easily hidden and still be useful. Hence, a sound recorder could be hidden within another object (the old spy tropes of a recorder hidden inside a lamp or a briefcase are on point here), and Walt wouldn't have been able to easily rule out audio surveillance the same way he could rule out video surveillance.

(And, of course, as a former science teacher, Walt would be familiar with the basic principles of sound and light propagation.)

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    "Sound ... easily bends around obstructions" - not to mention, goes through many of them as well. A sound recorder hidden in a sealed bag can still be used to make out conversation. – Nij Apr 30 at 22:30
  • I'm probably somewhat wrong, but iPhones are why we have awesome cameras now. The first iPhone was from 2007. Season 3 was 2010. In 2010, the likelihood of a camera like that existing (one that would go unnoticed) was beyond the ability to preserve most people's suspension of disbelief. – Mazura May 1 at 1:01
  • Also, still utterly permeating the culture at that time was The Matrix trilogy, having followed at least a decade's worth of surveillance dramas (most of which by now in 2020, have come to fruition but nobody seems to care about that anymore...). This comes from the mind of someone trying to portray the absolute reality of Earth 2010 (written prior to). TL;DR: cameras that would have been used for surveillance in 2010 did not fit in your pocket (book) yet – Mazura May 1 at 1:13
  • 2
    "iPhones are why we have awesome cameras now" Complete nonsense... #koolaid And hidden surveillance has been prevalent in film and TV for decades. Nobody would have had a hard time believing it. – Asteroids With Wings May 1 at 10:53
  • @Mazura oddee.com/item_97052.aspx is a clickbait article from 2010 showing a number of hidden camera products that could fit in a pocket, including a zippo-style lighter and a necktie; web.archive.org/web/20020601114858/http://www.spysonic.com shows a number of hidden camera products that were available in 2002, including smoke alarms, a (largish) writing pen, and uncamouflaged devices about as big as a quarter. – Timbo May 2 at 1:44
2

As noted in other answers, Walter may have believed there was not cameras. If he suspected there was, it's still plausible for theft to not be picked up by a camera, especially if the thief is skilled and the moment when the theft took place isn't carefully analysed.

It's much easier to review audio. If you have hours a day of constant movement, you'll have to look at every second of the video, frame-by-frame at times, to spot that a single sleight of hand in which theft took place. If you're looking for a conversation, you could start by just automatically filtering out moments of silence. This would leave you with a much shorter period to analyse. And the actual conversation is much longer than a single sleight of hand, so it's much harder to miss. There may be techniques to make audio recording fail or be less reliable, but such techniques may not work and would likely also raise suspicion even if they do work (which would still be bad).

But, whether audio or video, someone still needs to manually review it to catch something. So either the theft or the conversation may be caught while the other is missed.

Ultimately it just adds an unnecessary risk to discuss it in the lab.

It's not like Walter was encouraging Jesse to steal or do something else that Gus would've disapproved of and could've been caught by camera. If anything, he was trying to put a stop to it (based on your description / if I recall correctly). So Walter was trying to avoid both the conversation getting caught by audio and subsequent thefts getting caught by video (or in some other way). If there was no risk of getting caught, there wouldn't have been much reason to confront Jesse.

| improve this answer | |
0

I think that point was added as to underline paranoid nature of Walter, rather than anything else. As we also see that later on he made Saul believe that he may also be getting bugged.

| improve this answer | |

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .