Archive for October, 2010

The Value of an Expert Witness

Friday, October 8th, 2010

forensic expertAn expert witness is a person who by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience, is believed to have expertise and specialized knowledge in a particular subject. His or her expertise is beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially and legally rely upon the witness’s specialized (scientific, technical or other) opinion about their area of expertise. The expert witness will render an opinion, also known as the expert opinion, about the forensic evidence presented.

Expert witnessess help lawyers develop strategies on how the evidence in question should be argued or presented in court. Often  audio evidence may not be original or genuine and should be closely examined by the audio forensic expert to authenticate the evidence or strategize with the lawyer on how to write the motion to have the case dismissed or audio evidence removed from the case.

Expert witnesses have a complete understanding of legal proceedings and can be a huge aid to the plaintiff, defendant and courts when a piece of audio evidence is part of the legal case. Defendants who are facing serious charges especially need to seek the guidance and advice of an audio forensic expert. Plaintiffs who want to establish a solid case should seek the help of an video forensic expert to authenticate their video evidence prior to entering the court room. Expert witnesses are valuable resources to courts and other legal professionals.

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Noise Reduction for Video: Sound Clarification

Friday, October 8th, 2010

noise reductionThe first step when restoring audio on a video recording is to remove background noise. More often than not, a recording in need of sound clarification or restoration has background noise covering the sounds that are desired to be heard. Noise reduction is the process of reducing and often eliminating that unwanted background sound from a video recording. Sound like wind, motors, lawnmowers, electronic hums and buzzes and other sounds may be louder than the spoken word and cover that speech so it is not audible.

Once the background noise is removed, the desired spoken words can be heard, the video recording is improved and the video recording will provide more forensic support. There are many levels of clarification acceptance. Some of the time the recording needs to be clarified so a jury can hear it. Other times the recording may only need to be audible to a transcriptionist or court reporter. Then, once the transcription is created, the audio forensic expert can go back, listen to the clarified recording comparing to the transcript and correcting any discrepancies using the expert’s critical listening skills.

The recording can then be certified by the forensic expert and an affidavit created as to the genuineness of the transcript for the legal proceeding. That way, if the audio recorded evidence is difficult to hear in a court room, the audio expert not only certifies the audio recorded evidence but can also testify on its accuracy.

This is a good example of a strategy between lawyers and expert witnesses. It is the expert witness’s job to suggest strategies to lawyers, public defenders, police and other government agencies that retain the expert witness. The lawyer will have difficulty and not represent the client to the best of their ability if they do not understand the audio forensic process and retain an audio forensic expert. The audio forensic expert of course cannot develop a strategy without a lawyer who is licensed to present the law case in the court room.

Before beginning your case that includes audio evidence, consult with a qualified audio forensic expert.

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Voice Identification of Thomas Pynchon

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Thomas PynchonYep It’s Him, Thomas Pynchon
By Steven Kurutz
Last Tuesday, long-suffering fans of the reclusive writer Thomas Pynchon received a double gift. Pynchon’s latest book, “Inherent Vice,” a stoned-out detective story set in early-‘70s L.A., was released by Penguin Press (read the Journal’s review). And to promote it, the publisher put out a cool video trailer featuring a narrator whose slow, lazy cadence sounds suspiciously like that of Pynchon’s, as evidenced by a guest appearance on “The Simpsons” and this clip from what appears to be a German TV spot. Inquiries by GalleyCat and others as to whether Pynchon is the guy channeling the novel’s main character, beach bum private eye Doc Sportello, have been met with “no comment” from Penguin Press and the video’s producers, Meerkat Media. And, of course, the man himself’s mum (Would Pynchon fans expect anything else?).

In an effort to solve the mystery, Speakeasy did a little sleuthing and called Ed Primeau, a Michigan-based sound engineer and voice identification expert. Like handwriting analysis, voice identification is an inexact science, often used by law enforcement to rule out a suspect rather than to provide a 100% clear-cut ID. Still, people have unique vocal timbres and deliveries, especially Pynchon, who sounds like actor John Astin (i.e. Gomez Addams from the old TV show), mixed with a Midwest corn farmer, with a dollop of aging stoner.

So is it possible to rule out the man in the “Inherent Vice” trailer as being the same guy in the Simpsons episode and German TV clip? Not at all, according to Primeau. In fact, he says, based on a preliminary analysis the speech pattern and inflection is “virtually identical” in all three clips. “It’s a very unique style of delivery,” Primeau says. “It’s very up-and-down. He’ll hit these accented spots every few words. You know the TV show “Dragnet,” how Joe Friday talked? It’s the opposite of that.”

We should point out Primeau is an unbiased witness, having never read Pynchon (“I don’t know this guy but it looks like he has some history as an author,” he said). Nevertheless, if he hasn’t been taken by the man’s work, Primeau is intrigued by his voice, which he describes as “a tobacco-driven soft rasp.”

Primeau’s conclusion: “Beyond a reasonable degree of professional certainty, I believe these voices were delivered by the same person.” Confronted with Primeau’s findings, Tracy Locke, a publicist at Penguin, came clean and admitted, “It is, in fact, Thomas Pynchon doing the narration.”

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