ARCHIVE

Posts Tagged ‘CCTV Video’

Video Evidence Recovery for Video Enhancement

Monday, April 14th, 2014

1153871_61229211-1-1024x951 Video Evidence Recovery for Video EnhancementThe importance of proper video evidence recovery for video enhancement is very clear to those of us involved in forensic video enhancement. During the process of video evidence recovery, we will make sure the highest quality video recording will be properly saved for use in court. Video forensic experts are trained in video evidence recovery.

As an audio/video forensic expert I have worked on many cases involving digital video recordings. These recordings are admitted into evidence in court. Much of the work we do on these recordings is video enhancement which allows the Trier of Fact to better see the events as they occurred. Some of the time this digital video evidence is recorded on video surveillance systems. Other times it is recorded on smart-phones.  Video surveillance recordings that we forensically enhance are properly removed from both mobile surveillance systems and stationary surveillance systems.

Stationary surveillance systems record digital video at stationary locations like convenience stores, banks and other businesses or institutions. Mobile surveillance systems are being used more and more in buses, trains and other types of public transportation.

Evidence Recovery Importance

There are three main factors we would like to mention regarding the reason for proper evidence recovery. First, when we retrieve recorded video evidence, we create a video recording of our process. This establishes an indisputable chain of custody. It also demonstrates for those who were not present the process and procedure we used. We take special precautions during the retrieval process to make sure we leave with at least one version of the recording. We also leave with the recorded video evidence for future forensic enhancement and authentication as necessary.

We retrieve the recording so as to minimize any degradation of quality created by a less experienced person. When a multi-million dollar lawsuit may depend on the analysis of a surveillance video, it is important NOT to leave evidence retrieval to an untrained security guard.

We research the operator’s manual and connect with tech support from the surveillance company before we travel to the location of the surveillance equipment and perform the evidence recovery. While we are on site we can also examine the administrative log and determine additional forensic information for the chain of custody.

Best Practices

An excellent manual for retrieval of electronic evidence developed jointly by the federal government’s inter-agency Technical Support Working Group, the FBI Forensic Audio, Video, and Image Analysis Unit, and law enforcement agencies from around the world. Entitled Best Practices for the Retrieval of Video Evidence from Digital CCTV Systems, it contains an authoritative (if somewhat dated) overview of the topic, and covers many of the protocols we have adopted at Primeau Forensics.

Before digital audio and video recorders, retrieving a tape-based analogue recording was fairly straightforward. Recordings were made to tape cassettes, which were stored in climate-controlled conditions. Evidence retrieval was as simple as picking up the original cassette recording. Digital video recorders (DVRs), however, do not record to easily portable cassettes. Rather, they record to the kind of hard disk drives found in computers. These internal hard drives are not portable, making evidence retrieval more difficult. Whether we take the DVR or its internal drive with me or make a lossless copy of its contents, I always follow anti-static procedures and carry all media in specially shielded cases.

Proprietary V.S. Open Source Video

All surveillance and standard digital video is recorded using a specific compression/decompression scheme or codec. The compressed file is stored within a wrapper, a file structure, which determines its format. It is not uncommon for surveillance DVRs to use proprietary formats, allowing playback only through the original recording DVR. Some DVRs can re-compress the original proprietary format file, trans-coding it into a non-proprietary format for easy playback. However, these more accessible files often contain lower quality video and audio. When we retrieve these digital video files, we study the DVR’s operating manual to find the best way to make a high quality copy that retains all data and metadata. By minimizing or eliminating the degradation that can accompany translating the file from one format to another, we ensure that our lab analysis is based on the best video recording available.

The Palace Brawl: The Significance of Video Evidence

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

204943_9062-300x225 The Palace Brawl: The Significance of Video EvidenceNovember 19, 2004 was the day the worst sporting brawl in US history took place. It was the final few minutes of the basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons when a fight broke out between the players. While Ron Artest was in time out, a drunken fan tossed a partially full beer cup and hit Artest causing him to jump over seats and attack a fan in the stands. With tempers running hot, Artest went after the wrong person and triggered an ‘every man for himself’ situation with only four Auburn Hills police officers in the building.

After the criminal litigations were over, the attorney for the Pacers, Steve Potter retained my services as a video forensic expert on behalf of the Indiana Pacers basketball team. My first activity was to collect all of the available video footage from that moment when the brawl broke out. As you can imagine there were many video sources. With the help of http://www.potterlaw.com/ , I found cell phone videos, CCTV system video from the Palace of Auburn Hills and four major television network multi camera video sources.

The next task was to cull through all the footage including multi camera views of the brawl and isolate those vantage point views that helped bring the brawl into the courtroom for the civil litigation.

I was prepared with several video clips when the first civil case went to trial, Haddad V Indiana Pacers on August 10, 2006. (Read all about it here).

Here are the video forensic activities I used to help the Trier of Fact and jurors’ view the brawl including all isolated incidents in question. After I received all video footage, I loaded the various formats into my forensic computer using Adobe Premiere Pro software.  I created sequences for each incident and placed the useful camera vantage point clips back to back in each sequence. Some events went by very fast so I repeated the video clips and added slow motion. In some cases I reduced the speed by 25%, 50% and 75% so all persons could see the series of events as they occurred.  When necessary I also added a zoom to enlarge the area of interest in each video clip.

In my opinion it is very important to place this series of clips back to back with a 5 second pause in between clips so the viewer can become acclimated with the series of events as they occurred.  For each clip vantage point there was an average of two to five minutes of video all persons could watch to see exactly what went down during the brawl.

Read more about the brawl:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacers%E2%80%93Pistons_brawl 

Footage from the infamous brawl can be found below:

Video Enhancement: What is and is Not Possible

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

1196094_53229389-300x225 Video Enhancement: What is and is Not PossibleAs a video forensic expert I am asked, on a regular basis, to enhance images that have been recorded. One of the goals of video enhancement, in some cases, is to be able to see persons faces better than they are when viewing the video under normal circumstances. Other times I am asked to enlarge and clarify a video in order to identify, for instance, the license plate on a car that is driving by that is alleged to be involved in criminal activity.

With video enhancement, as a forensic expert, I can only do so much with what has been given me. In a lot of cases, the video that has been exported from the surveillance system is small and when I enlarge it, or zoom in on the objects of interest they become very blurry and distorted. Even with some of the best software programs available today a full enhancement isn’t always possible. So, when receiving calls from attorneys or government agencies, as well as private individuals who are involved in litigation that has video evidence, what I’ve learned to do is to ask to see the video first on a pro bono basis before being retained as an expert. Because that way I can determine what is and is not possible before taking money from a potential client.

I feel this is important not only from an ethical standpoint but also from a practical one. Meeting any client’s expectations in any business is extremely important. Taking money from someone that you can’t help is not good business practice. At Primeau Forensics, I am assisted by a team of investigators that can load the video and perform some processes that I’ve trained them to do to prepare the video for a pro bono viewing and at that time I can look, make some suggestions, and determine whether or not I feel I can help the person enquiring about the video enhancement.

One tip that I can present to you, reading this blog, is to make sure you always have the highest possible quality export from the surveillance system. Police departments often send me video from a surveillance system that was not exported through the system but rather recorded from the VGA ‘out’ or video monitor output to a portable digital video recorder. There are several companies that manufacture this type of turnkey evidence retrieval system. And, in some cases, that video is better than what the system is capable of exporting. And, when in doubt, send the video forensic expert both files: the screen capture VGA out or video out from the system, as well as an export from the system. And by ‘export’ I mean, the process used from a CCTV surveillance system to officially export video from the system to a thumb drive or DVD.  And if you have the option to choose a thumb drive or DVD, oftentimes the digital file onto the thumb drive is better than the DVD. And when in doubt, send all three: the screen capture, the thumb drive and the DVD, because then we know up front what is and is not possible for video enhancement.

Video as Evidence – CCTV Video and Video Forensics

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

CCTV-Evidence-1024x768 Video as Evidence - CCTV Video and Video Forensics

As a video forensic expert and expert witness, I have seen almost everything when it comes to Closed Circuit TV. Some of it is very disturbing, but much of it is benign – from the lady whose ex-husband is stalking her, to the bank that just captured a robbery on video. Understanding CCTV systems has become part of the video forensic examiner’s job because a majority of video evidence is made on CCTV systems. In the following article, I will give you my tips, from a forensic perspective, on CCTV.

Imagine this. You are the proprietor of a convenience store. Last night at 11:06, you rang up a customer’s Snickers bar and a Jumbo Slurpee. The customer reached in his pocket, pulled out a gun, and put it to your head, demanding all the cash in the register. Terrified for your life, you gave him the money. Luckily you had a CCTV system and turned the tape over to the police. The police sent it to a forensic expert because all you could see on the tape was a dark silhouette of the criminal. Unfortunately,the robber’s face and features were unidentifiable.

Although CCTV systems can prove to be beneficial for many reasons, they can be useless without some well thought out considerations. My hope is that the law enforcement and legal community will read this article and pass on the information to the businesses in their community.

CCTV is a network of cameras hooked to a monitoring system so that virious locations or angles can be viewed and/or recorded. It does differ from broadcast television in that CCTV cameras are not openly bradcast through the airwaves.  However, some CCTV systems have point-to-point transmissions (wireless cameras) that could be intercepted by someone with the equipment and knowledge to intercept that signals.

The benefits outweigh the drawbacks for implementing CCTV systems for several reasons.  Think of how CCTV systems have helped our traffic problems. Having cameras all over our roads and highways allows accidents and traffic jams to be discovered sooner so traffic can be rerouted. In banks, casinos, airports, shopping centers, business and military bases; CCTV systems can prove beneficial against crime.

There are some drawbacks that can really cause problems with CCTV systems.  These systems can be expensive.  They can be considered an invasion of privacy.  Also a system can fail because of a bad or over-recycled tape, and the crime will not be recorded.

For some strange reason, businesses who still use VHS tape to record their surveillance often insist in recycling their videos beyond a logical limit.  Then, when the expert needs to lift an image off for identification, fuzzy, blurry photos are produced.

In the convenience store example above, the camera was in the wrong position. A light was installed in a recently added display that was not in the store when the CCTV system was installed.  Nobody ever updated the CCTV system or performed maintenance to discover the problem.

The purpose of this article is to share some of my experiences with CCTV footage and provide some tips from a forensic experts point of view, sound advice to avoid costly mistakes and expensive forensic restoration.

Number one: Plan your CCTV system layout in advance.  Do not put in a CCTV system without planning for a potential crime circumstances.  What crimes could be executed under the watchful eyes of your CCTV system? You can call this crisis management.  Draw a diagram of this activity. Use it as your blueprint for locating your camera positions.  If you own a business that has a back lot to cover, don’t just mount the camera to the back of your building thinking it will do the job.  Consider what you have to protect, the value of these items, and the various ways a criminal could get at them. Then, place the camera(s) to cover all potential activity. Consider multiple cameras because, in the long run, it will save you money.

Because so many systems were not planned throughly in advance, the majority of my forensic cases involve video restoration and clarification. So much of this can be avoided.

Number two: Use a digital video recorder and record direct to hard drive. If at all possible, do not use VHS.  There are some great companies like Focus Micro and Crest electronics who specialize in DVR CCTV systems, maintenance of the system, and training your staff to use them properly.  They offer some excellent products and CCTV systems, and will even help you plan your system layout.

Here are some reasons DVR is superior to VHS:

  • Far Better Image Quality
  • The Ability to view cameras, live or recorded, from another location through the internet.
  • Ease in copying images from crime scenes.
  • No VHS tapes to change.

Number three: Make sure to account for lighting conditions, as well as sun positions.

About one out of ten of my cases require comparison of a frame of evidence from a darkly lit video with an exemplar frame or photo.  Make sure there is light where your camera is located.  If necessary, hire an electrician to put in a light or two near your camera, especially if the potential crimes that warrant the installation of your CCTV system can occur at night. Duh! I can hear the installed now: “Sure looked good in daylight!”

In addition, consider sun positions all year long. Remember sixth grade science class? The sun changes positions with the seasons. Bright sun facing the camera will cause the iris in the camera to close (in automatic position) causing the image of the perpetrator to darken.  Try this with your home camera.  Take a video of your friends with the un behind them instead of behind you.  The friends will appear dark because of the camera’s lenses adjusting for the high light level.

Number four: Plan camera positions for all possible situations.  I have heard it said that if you want to rob a bank, wear a baseball cap. Why is it that CCTV installers put the cameras in high positions that will never show the criminals face?

Number five: Keep your camera clean. Car dealerships wash their windows and cars weekly if not more often.  Why don’t they wash their cameras? Think about it. Many outdoor cameras are somewhat protected from the elements, but after a while, dirt will still gather on the surface of the camera lenses.

A solution of Shaklee basic H or white vinegar in hot water will clean them nicely without scratching or clouding the lenses or protective housing.  Harsh cleaning chemicals can scratch or cloud the glass, especially on plexiglas camera housings.

Number six: do not use wireless cameras.  If at all possible, run cable and go wired for your entire network.  Wireless cameras are unreliable, especially in storms.

Almost all maintenance can be performed by you or done very reasonably by a professional.  Avoid costly mistakes and tragedy by keeping your system maintained and updated. Use Google to seek a professional who can help with your circumstances.

Ed Primeau is an video forensic expert, author, professional speaker and business owner in Rochester Hills, MI. He is the author of two books, “The Art Of Production” and “The Video Revolution.” Visit primeauproductions.com for more info.

How To: CCTV Enhancement; Improve the Quality of My Video Evidence?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

CCTV_Evidence-1024x768 How To: CCTV Enhancement; Improve the Quality of My Video Evidence?You have a video and the quality is poor. You need to see the events recorded in the video more clearly than what is currently available. Chances are that your video is probably part of a court case and has a critical impact on the judge and jury better understanding the events as they originally occurred. Video is a very powerful tool and helps law enforcement display criminal activity in the courtroom. Video also helps keep businesses secure through the use of surveillance video. When a crime is committed and caught on CCTV video, video forensics experts can help clarify and enhance that video so the court and other litigators can see the events more clearly during the court proceeding. On the other hand, maybe you have an old video, like a wedding video that has aged and damaged from poor storage or became over heated on the dashboard of your car in the hot sun. Video forensic experts have the hardware and software tools available to restore that video to a playable condition in most situations. The success of the restoration, clarification and enhancement, depends on two things; how damaged the tape is and your expectations of what is possible. Many video recordings are too far gone for the forensic expert to properly restore. However, I have found over the years that experimenting with various restoration tools, hardware and software, in various combinations, yield results. You have to have a starting point to work from to achieve results. What may seem impossible can be very possible when using various tools in various combinations. If you have a video that needs the quality improved, call us for a pro bono consultation (800) 647-4281.

Expert Video Enhancement – A Matter of Life or Death

Friday, April 26th, 2013

1421018_91732563-1024x682 Expert Video Enhancement – A Matter of Life or DeathAs we have all witnessed from the recent Boston Bombings, having the technology and talent to accurately and clearly perform expert video enhancement. This is especially true when it comes to criminal forensic image clarification from surveillance security cameras.

A trained specialist using sophisticated software can make blurry or seemingly impossible-to-see images so clear that unique facial features are revealed, leading to positive identification of a suspect or criminal.

The FBI engaged a team of experts to enhance images of the two bombing suspects to the point of positive recognition.  As a result, several friends and family members of the suspects came forth, providing valuable information to the authorities.

Within 24 hours after the enhanced photos were released, suspect one was killed and suspect two was captured.   The power of video enhancement prevented an unknown amount of possible additional deaths by the two bombers. Watertown residents can feel safe in their homes once again.

At Primeau Forensics, we have a team of video forensic experts that employ the latest technology available to enhance surveillance video. We investigate video evidence that helps the court better see (and hear) the events as they occurred working closely and strategically with authorities like police or prosecutors as well as lawyers.

We have the technology and experience to acquire clear images, measure objects and suspects, and the ability to look for other clues in the surveillance video to aid in the litigation or criminal proceeding.

If you have any questions about video enhancement, give us a call for a pro bono consultation at (800) 647-4281

Video Enhancement Strategies of a Video Forensic Expert

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

video-enhancement-1024x681 Video Enhancement Strategies of a Video Forensic ExpertEvery case that requires video enhancement requires the video forensic expert to develop a strategy comprised of a series of steps and forensic software tools. Back when surveillance video was analog video tape, video enhancement was more difficult. The equipment forensic experts used to conduct video enhancement was entirely hardware based. Forensic experts did the best they could with what they had to work with.

Today, technology has progressed, making several scientific community approved software programs available. One of the things that causes difficulty during video enhancement is poor camera placement.

Installation of CCTV cameras must be well thought out in advance in order to aide in the forensic investigation, should a crime be committed. In addition, the sun constantly moves throughout the day and affects the surveillance video camera by over and under exposing the surveillance area.

Outdoor cameras become dirty after a period of time, making video enhancement difficult. Point Tilt Zoom (PTZ) cameras provide much better video surveillance footage because of their ability to move, follow and zoom in on perpetrators more effectively than surface mount cameras. ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Making sure the surveillance system is properly thought out and installed will make video enhancement more successful than trying to fix problems that could have been avoided.

I do not have to convince you of the value of surveillance video; the number of court cases that have video forensic evidence speak for themselves. Surveillance video recordings produce very useful high-quality digital video recordings that aide litigators in the court room see the events as they originally occurred.

Video enhancement is challenged by one thing: the fact that most security video recordings must be viewed on a proprietary player, a software program that has the ability to interpret the specific manufacturer’s secure codec, which maintains the integrity of the video recording, keeps the video secure and reduces the vulnerability of editing. This proprietary player makes it very difficult to alter or edit the surveillance video. Some manufacturers allow the ability to export video files from their surveillance propriety players and others do not. This poses a challenge for the video enhancement expert.

The best bet in any situation that requires video enhancement is to talk to an experienced video forensic expert to learn what is possible and what is not. Video enhancement is mislead by what Hollywood produces and often confuses the public as to what is possible and what is not.

Boston Marathon Bombing and the Video Forensic Process

Friday, April 19th, 2013

After the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, the FBI immediately went to work investigating all available video evidence to begin the video forensic process.

Several sources of video evidence were available for FBI forensic examiners, including:

The first camera that FBI investigators began working with to clarify images was from the Lord and Taylor retail store directly across the street from one of the explosion sites. FBI video forensic experts were able to locate digital video recordings of a suspect placing a backpack at that location.

Review of the additional municipal CCTV surveillance video revealed 2 suspects walking calmly down the street both carrying backpacks.

One of the questions I have been asked over the last several days during the media interviews is how will authorities set up a video forensic triage.

The term triage is used in this instance as a way to describe the almost incomprehensible task of reviewing surveillance video.

First, the authorities had to establish a chain of command.  This began by assigning a person in charge of leading the video forensic investigation.  It continued by identifying the FBI agents with the most experience and talent with video enhancement.

The result video and pictures were released to the media in about 6 hours. Boston police and FBI agents had several reports of the suspect’s sightings. As America woke this morning, one of the suspects was shot and killed while the other remains at large.

Any situation that receives video forensic investigation requires a strategy for implementing video forensic best practices.  It is very obvious that the American people can rest assured that our law enforcement community is well trained and experienced with crisis situations. Thanks to our FBI it appears the Boston bombing investigation is nearly complete.

Boston Bombing and the Forensic Video Investigation

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

boston-1024x682 Boston Bombing and the Forensic Video InvestigationIt 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 video 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.

CCTV Surveillance Camera Placement from a Forensic Perspective

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

CCTV_SYSTEM-1024x930 CCTV Surveillance Camera Placement from a Forensic PerspectiveIn many of the cases I investigate as a video forensic expert, there could have better outcomes. If more thought was put into CCTV surveillance camera placement locations, more CCTV video would be useful in litigation. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding where to place cameras in your business or home.

First, remember that it’s better to install too many cameras than too few. If you are not sure if you have an area adequately covered, then you probably do not. You will save money in the long run by installing plenty of cameras to cover an area rather than trying to salvage CCTV footage that is either poor quality or the crime is not close enough to cameras.

Point tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras are worth the extra investment. Surface mounted cameras work well for areas that are small and pedestrian traffic is close to the camera. However, for larger areas, PTZ cameras will provide much better coverage.

Do not mount CCTV cameras pointing toward light – mount cameras with the light source (daylight or interior lighting) behind the camera. Light in front of the camera will cause the subjects that you want to see to be dark.

Set your frame rate to at least 12 or 15 images per second (also known and frames per second). It is better to have higher quality surveillance footage with more frames per second that is useable when a crime is committed than low quality footage with less frames per second missing part of the crime committed.  The video below will help you better understand this point:

If a crime is ever committed and caught on your CCTV system, do not delete the original video recording from your DVR. Rather, export the portion of your recording that shows the crime in as high a digital video resolution as possible. 720 X 480 is very good. Anything lower will be hard to work with forensically.

If you follow these guidelines and a crime is committed at your business or residence, your forensic investigation and ability to identify perpetrators and criminals will be greater than if you simply install and operate with little or no knowledge. Take my advice and install your CCTV system right. Hopefully you will never need the recordings but if you do you will be glad you installed it right.

Video Forensic Expert Edward J Primeau Curriculum Vitae

download-cv


sidebar map
sidebar video
forensic associations