ARCHIVE

Posts Tagged ‘Forensic Video Enhancement’

Forensic Video Enhancement

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

forensic Video enhancementOne of the activities we perform daily at Primeau Forensics is Forensic Video Enhancement. Video enhancement is one of our most requested forensic services.

Forensic video enhancement can help litigators understand events that have been recorded on video but are difficult to see because of movement or shaky cameras, the subjects distance from the camera or video is too dark. During the Boston bombings for example, CCTV cameras outside retail stores helped the FBI capture the terrorists who were responsible.

Some of the reasons video needs forensic enhancement is because too often cameras are not properly maintained. This is a huge problem that is not noticed until after the crime has been committed. Or, worse yet, the cameras are not installed or positioned properly.

In the following blog post I will provide you with a few particular tips when performing forensic video enhancement.

• Original Video- Always begin with the original video recording. If you have to export an AVI file to provide to police, keep a backup on thumb drive for insurance. If you have is a copy on DVD and not the original, then load the DVD copy of the video directly into your computer for forensic video enhancement.

• Computer Software- Use professional forensic software program to enhance like Adobe Premiere Pro and Clear ID. Primeau Forensics uses these as well as Adobe Photo Shop to enhance images exported from the video for forensic video enhancement. Remember, you can also export frames as still images to identify activity and other video components.

• Color Correction- Perform a color correction process first before performing any other forensic enhancement process. This is especially important if your video recording is dark and or was recorded at night. Be careful not to add too much brightness.

• Enlargement- If you need to enlarge a portion of the recorded video viewing area, apply after you review the footage on a large video monitor. At Primeau Forensics we use minimum 27” professional video monitors. Remember, the larger the playback monitor, the better you can see events in the video and the less you need to enlarge your video as an enhancement step. This is even more important in the courtroom.

• Equipment- If the recording system that made the recording you wish to enhance, before contacting a video forensic expert, learn the type of equipment that made the video you are enhancing. Often times a poor CCTV video export may be to blame for the poor video quality.

Forensic video enhancement is an art as well as a science. It is important to understand that you should use different filtering to get different results. Always begin with the largest file size and structure as close to original digital video recording as possible.

Before buying forensic video enhancement software, download a trial version and determine if you are comfortable using the software or would rather contact a video forensic expert to perform your forensic video enhancement.

Mobile Surveillance Video Evidence Recovery – Hard Drive Cloning

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

hard drive cloningMobile Video Evidence Recovery: Simple as Cloning the DVR’s Hard Drive?

With the rapid proliferation of surveillance cameras in public and private spaces, law enforcement agencies are increasingly making use of these recordings as evidentiary video at trial. Moreover, mobile digital video recorders and other portable video recording technologies are making it much more practical to capture surveillance/crime scene video that may latter be used as evidence in court. Playback of these video recordings is straightforward, providing the video is played back using the original equipment on which it was recorded.

This caveat, unbeknownst to many attorneys and police officers,stems from a simple fact.Most fixed and mobile DVR-based surveillance systems employ proprietary computer operating systems and record digital video to proprietary formats. Under these circumstances, causing minimal degradation of picture quality during the process of recovering and trans coding video files is a complex challenge for both law enforcement agencies and video forensic experts. There are a wide variety of surveillance system manufacturers and a larger number of different models of DVRs, which makes on-site retrieval of video recordings a difficult process, often necessitating access to the technical manual of the DVR on which the recording is stored.

The investigators at Primeau Forensics have worked on countless evidence recovery assignments where simple cloning of the DVR’s hard drive would have been the worst retrieval strategy of all. First, the cloned drive may not mount on our computers, which run Windows and Apple operating systems. Second, proprietary files are often invisible files outside their native OS. They cannot be detected or read by any operating system but the embedded OS running on the dedicated device. Third, video files may be encoded using a non-standard codec and/or formatted within a non-standard wrapper.

For example, NVR format video files, frequently used in surveillance systems, come in a multitude of types, each with its own structural and descriptive metadata. Associated files present, such as the control files and system files that enable playback on the original DVR, will often impede playback on general-purpose computers. File Investigator Engine and File Expander Engine from Dark Data Discovery allow forensic investigators to identify and open over 4,300 different types of files, yet simply cloning the DVR’s hard drive remains a strategy fraught with complications.

Successful retrieval of DVR recordings always requires preparation and research beforehand. We always browse the Internet, contact the manufacturer, and read the manuals over and over to determine the best way to preserve this fragile digital evidence in its most pristine quality. As trial verdicts may turn on the outcome of our analysis of evidentiary video, we want to personally recover the video to establish a clear chain of custody, prevent accidental loss of files, and preserve the video quality through recovery and trans coding to an open format.

We recommend the following 4-step process for retrieval of video from DVRs:

1)      As previously mentioned, research the design, inputs/outputs and operation of the DVR you are examining. Obtain the special software, codecs, and technical manuals necessary to examine the unit properly.

2)      Photograph the digital video recorder before you begin the inspection. Take note of any markings or signs of tampering.

3)      Connect the DVR or mobile digital video recorder to the power source that will power the unit best. Sometimes, mobile digital video recorders require an AC/DC cable system to power the unit in an office environment. The vehicle or locale in which it was originally installed may have had custom power connections, not available if the unit is pulled for examination.

4)      Connect the data transfer cable supplied with the unit to your Windows laptop for examination. In some cases, this will be a standard USB or FireWire cable. Mobile video recorders, in particular, frequently require a proprietary cable. Having installed the DVR emulation software provided by the manufacturer and the proprietary encoder/decoder, you are ready to follow the instructions in the manual to retrieve the highest quality video possible.

If you need professional assistance recovering video evidence from a digital video recorder, please call us today! Call 800-647-4281 for a free consultation.

 

Police Car Video Surveillance ICV (In Car Video) Systems

Friday, January 10th, 2014

police car ICVWritten by Marc Linden

Over the past twenty years, the technology behind police car video surveillance systems has evolved significantly. Simultaneously, acceptance of these systems among citizens and police has continued to grow. Police car video surveillance systems are commonly referred to as in-car video (ICV), and I am often called to appear as an expert witness when such video recordings are introduced as evidence in a trial or hearing. My job is to clarify the contents of the video and check that the recording has not been tampered with in any way.

Modern ICV systems are completely digital and store compressed video with sound on hard-disk or solid-state drives. The police officer or state trooper wears a wireless mic, and a dash mounted camera captures video. During a traffic stop, the ICV makes a permanent record of everything that transpires between the police and motorist. The watermarked video is stored in a tamper-proof enclosure, and a careful chain of custody is maintained as the video is removed from the car, downloaded, and archived.

Here are the numbers: there are about 18,000 independent municipalities in the U.S., and they own roughly 450,000 patrol cars. Approximately 50% of those cars are currently equipped with ICV. With systems priced between $3,000 and $5,000 per vehicle, this represents a substantial investment. Despite tight local budgets, sales of ICV systems to state and local law enforcement continue to grow at a healthy rate.

Given the growth of the industry, I was quite surprised by a story related to me recently by a colleague. He said that the Massachusetts State Police had recently removed all ICV systems from their patrol cars in an effort to boost conviction rates in cases where traffic stops resulted in arrests. Could it be true that a completely objective record of arrests was of greater use to defense attorneys than prosecutors?

My colleague was right. Currently, not a single Massachusetts State Police patrol car is equipped with in-car video. But there’s more to the story. Their patrol cars have NEVER had ICV!

Digging deeper, I found that even though 72% of all Highway Patrol and State Police patrol cars are ICV equipped, there are 4 or 5 states where none of these vehicles have video, and Massachusetts is one of those states. It seems there are a variety of factors that play a part when state or local police make the choice to opt-out of ICV technology. There may be budgetary constraints, or officers and their unions may object on the grounds that ICV hampers police, who are constantly on guard against being caught making a mistake or an error in judgment. Then, there are different interpretations of overlapping federal, state, and local laws regarding privacy; there are states where audio and/or video recording requires dual party consent (e.g., Massachusetts), and there are states where single part consent is sufficient (e.g., Maine).

My guess, however, is that the most important factor in determining whether state or local police have ICV is public opinion. For some, the threat of “Big Brother” watching them 24/7 makes ICV an indefensible intrusion on their civil rights and their privacy. Massachusetts State Police have no in-car video and neither do local police in Boston. But anecdotal evidence suggests that the farther one travels east, away from Boston, the more local police patrol cars are ICV equipped.

Personally, I think ICV helps protect everyone involved, both officers and motorists. And according to The International Association of Chiefs of Police, in situations where an officer’s conduct has been called into question, police car video surveillance systems have helped exonerate those officers in 96.2% of all cases.

The Palace Brawl: The Significance of Video Evidence

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

palace brawlNovember 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 litigations.

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

video enhancementAs 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.

How to Enhance CCTV Video

Monday, September 30th, 2013

CCTV enhancementAs a video forensic expert, I have enhanced CCTV video from both digital and analogue CCTV systems. In the following blog post, I would like to provide you with some steps you can take in order to assure the best results for CCTV video enhancement.

First, take the necessary steps to preserve your original CCTV recording. You may have various export options for removing the CCTV video from your system that you are not aware of. By preserving the original footage you have proof that the CCTV video has not been altered or edited after it was removed from the CCTV system. You can also consult a video forensic expert about the best methods and file format of exporting that your CCTV system is capable of.

Second, if a crime has been caught on a CCTV video system, you will want to export a copy for the local police. Most consumer CCTV video systems have easy to follow instructions for exporting AVI files from your CCTV system. Most consumer CCTV systems require a 4 GB thumb or flash drive to export to. These drives are easily available at any office supply store like Office Max or Staples. This export video is also a good way to have a video forensic expert provide a pro bono review of your CCTV recording and determine how well the information can be enhanced.

CCTV video enhancement is done using various software programs by a trained video forensic expert. Pixels are enlarged, or otherwise adjusted, in order to bring out the necessary details or information about the crime that was committed. Most CCTV systems and their cameras have night vision that will record clear images of events as they occurred for forensic enhancement.

If you would like to know more about how to enhance CCTV video recordings, give us a call at 800.647.4281, or if calling from outside the US, +1.248.853.4091. You can also email us at PrimeauForensics@Gmail.com

Video as Evidence – CCTV Video and Video Forensics

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

CCTV Evidence

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 EvidenceYou 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

video enhancement As we have all witnessed from the recent Boston Bombings, having the technology and talent to accurately and clearly enhance video images can be a lifesaver.  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 enhancementEvery 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.

download-cv