Archive for the ‘Smartphone Forensics’ Category

How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Here at Primeau Forensics, we come across many videos that were recorded using a smart phone. Statistics show that 77% of Americans use a smartphone. Couple that with the vast amount of apps on the market that make recording and sharing videos one of the easiest parts of a person’s day, it’s no surprise that an average of 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

“What does that have to do with video forensics?” you may ask. Because the ease of recording videos has become so prevalent in our society, more and more citizens are capturing both criminal activity and law enforcement interactions with their smartphones.

These videos become an integral part of the investigation. If they are poor quality, only so much can be done to forensically enhance them. Our goal is to give you the necessary solutions to common problems that we encounter to assist you in acquiring the best recording possible.


Problem #1: Unstable footage
Solution: Try to stay calm and focus on keeping the camera steady. Don’t zoom in too much on the subject to where your camera is unable to properly auto focus. Be sure to keep a safe distance. Should the video need additional zooming, it can be forensically enhanced.

Problem #2: Landscape vs Portrait
Solution: Always film in landscape mode. Filming in landscape offers a wider view of the situation. This provides investigators with valuable information, like point of entry, outside factors, and other surroundings. Filming in landscape mode also provides a clearer image for forensic experts.


Problem #3: The citizen who is filming does not “blend in” and in turn escalates the situation.

Solution: If you feel like you are too close to the situation, you probably are. Safety of you and everyone else is most important. So, when in doubt, back up. Also, don’t feel the need to use any equipment more than your smartphone. As technology advances, smartphone cameras are advancing with it. Most smartphones use a 1080p resolution, which is sufficient for forensic enhancement.


Problem #4: The video is edited or uploaded to social media before it is handed off to the proper authorities.
Solution: Don’t alter the video in anyway. Whether it is: shortening the video, using apps or software to enhance the video or the audio, or adding effects. All of these adjustments effect the Chain of Custody (he order in which a piece of criminal evidence should be handled by persons investigating a case, specif. the unbroken trail of accountability that ensures the physical security of samples, data, and records in a criminal investigation.) as well as the forensic experts ability to identify and/or authenticate the video. We have all seen viral videos on social media or news outlets of criminal activity or law enforcement interactions. While these are important to start what could be difficult conversations in our society, it is imperative that the investigation be complete before a video is made public. Posting the video online could give suspects important details that could hinder the investigation and put lives at risk. It is important to remember that what you film could affect people’s lives. Think how you would want someone to handle the footage if it was you or a loved one in the video.


Problem #5: The video is not unbiased and only focuses on one subject and not the entire situation.
Solution: While you may be emotionally invested in the situation, it is crucial that the video evidence be unbiased. In order for the investigation to be as accurate as possible, investigators need to see the event in its entirety. It is a good idea to begin filming as soon as you see a problem arising and continue filming until the interaction is finalized. Another good idea is to use multiple cameras when available. This provides multiple viewpoints as well as the ability to have multiple versions of the recording to have the best possible outcome.


If you are filming an interaction with law enforcement, be mindful and respectful of the officer’s tactical operating area. If you have concerns regarding an officer’s actions, take the appropriate measures to speak directly with their supervisor. If the officer asks you to back up, he/she is doing so for your safety. It is always best to work with the officer and not against them, and to keep in mind that the officer may be in a heightened state of emotion from a previous incident. As Barrack Obama, once said, “Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.”





The guidelines provided in this video are based primarily on Michigan case law. For more information, visit the Michigan legislature website.

To learn more about our expert security consultant, Theo Chalogianis, please feel free to contact Chalogianis Consulting LLC at

Boston Bombing and the Forensic Video Investigation

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

boston bombingIt is very obvious that we are vulnerable to attacks with little or no advance warning as exhibited in the recent bombing in Boston during the marathon. There are so far reported 176 casualties; 17 critical; 3 fatalities. Now the daunting task of forensic investigation must take place.

Part of the forensic investigation requires video forensic experts to review all city surveillance CCTV recordings to look for persons who may have contributed to this attack. Another forensic strategy is to gather smart phone video recordings and photographs from civilian spectators that were at the event.

The task of reviewing the surveillance digital video recordings is extremely labor intensive. I suspect there are dozens of municipal cameras that recorded events before, during, and after the bombs exploded in the surrounding areas. This activity is extremely important because if a suspect is discovered in the video, video forensic experts have tools available to help scientifically identify the suspect. We can measure height once we establish a scale of measurement for the video as well as clothing logos which also help in identification.

One central location should store all digital video recordings from the municipal CCTV system as well as individual civilian smart phones. The videos should be categorized by either geographic location or some other method of organization that allows easy reference and quick accessibility.

A few years back, the city of New York’s CCTV cameras caught images of a person who planted a bomb in a car in Time Square. That suspect was eventually apprehended and convicted because of the aid of the municipal CCTV video recordings that caught a glimpse of him walking away from the car.

As days progress with the Boston forensic investigation, expect video forensic experts to discover clues that will aid authorities with other forensic information and evidence to eventually apprehend those persons involved in this tragedy.

Smartphone Forensics and the Future of Forensic Analysis

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

smartphone forensicsTwenty nine years ago when I entered the forensic field of study as an audio and video engineer. All recordings were created on analog tape. There were many different types of formats, such as ¾ inch video, ½ inch video, Beta and VHS. Then along came digital tape – that started to complicate things a bit.

Then came tapeless video recording on digital video recorders. This is when the field of video forensics got even more complicated. By complicated I mean that continuing education for the video forensic expert became more important so the expert could keep up with the various formats and technologies that were starting to enter the marketplace. One of the classes that I took to better understand closed circuit television systems (CCTV) was at a leader in global closed circuit television systems called Pelco. Pelco, based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, facilitated learning processes to help installers, end users and law enforcement better understand how to operate their software and digital storage hardware.

I remember learning, back then, that many cities were installing digital closed circuit television systems into their downtown areas to help law enforcement personnel better supervise and keep their streets safe. I was thinking at the time how this was going to cause more demand for video forensic experts because more video footage was going to surface that would need to be examined, clarified, subjects in the videos would need to be identified, and processes were going to have to be established.

By ‘processes’ I mean chain of custody, exporting for admittance into court and preservation and storage, which, at the time, was a costly endeavor. Hard drive space was very  expensive. Today, hard drive space costs very little in comparison to the value of preserving all of your digital footage for an extended period of time.

Now there is another form of digital video that has surface and that is smartphone video. The need has developed for smartphone video experts to be able to authenticate, clarify, identify portions of the video and be able to testify on the authenticity of cell phone video that is used in litigation.

Within the last several months, previous to the writing of this post, more than half of the video that I have received as a video forensic expert to authenticate, identify and clarify has been recorded in a smartphone. One of the reasons is that a smartphone is very convenient, and when a person feels threatened or an altercation occurs it has become human nature for one – if not both – of the people involved to turn on their video recorder on their smartphone and capture the events as they occur. That video can later be used to help support testimony in the courtroom.

Just like any other digital video recorder a smartphone creates a video recording and saves the video on the hard drive of the phone. The video forensic expert retrieves that video recording from the phone that created it in order to create a solid chain of custody and authenticity of that video recording. One of the biggest problems that I am encountering today is that before I am retained in a case the person’s involved in the criminal or civil proceedings have already removed the video recording from their smartphone, loaded it into a laptop, imported it into a video editing program and burned the file to a disk. Sometimes that file name has been preserved, meaning the same name the phone gave it is transferred onto the disk – sometimes it’s been renamed. I’ve even seen times when the file formats have changed. iPhones record .mov files, droids record 3gp files, as a rule of thumb. There are exceptions and some of the different software updates may modify these file formats.

It’s important that any video evidence that has been created on a smartphone and is going to be used in litigation have the same chain of custody as any other video recording created on a digital video recorder. And that is to preserve the original on the original device that created the recording until the video expert has had the opportunity to remove the video from that device giving it integrity to use as evidence in the litigation.

If the video file is copied from the phone so that it can be viewed on a larger screen, that’s fine. It’s extremely important not to delete the original file on the phone until a forensic expert has the opportunity to examine it.

The easiest way for a forensic expert to authenticate that file is on the device that created it. Many times I encounter digital video files that were created on a smartphone and the phone is either no longer available or the file has been deleted. To me, as a video forensic expert, that is a red flag because there is no need for anyone to delete a file from an original recorder, especially today when storage space has become inexpensive as well as readily available. Most of the integrity that can be established for that digital video recording comes in the process of the forensic investigation that starts with the digital file on that smartphone.

The same is true for tablet video recording. The tablet has a hard drive just like the smartphone, just like any digital video recorder. It creates a video file and automatically assigns it a name and that file name is part of the integrity of that video recording on that device.

So today the amount of video evidence that is appearing in court has grown dramatically as the result of the different devices that are readily available to create video and capture altercations, crime and other activity people want to document in order to use in the courtroom. It is very important to preserve the original recording, rather than delete it, to maintain the integrity and authenticity of that video file for the legal proceeding.

Video Forensic Expert Edward J Primeau Curriculum Vitae