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Smart Phone Video Enhancement

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Smart phone video enhancement is the process of applying scientific applications to a video recording in order to better see the events as they occurred. Smart phones and used to record video events like an accident or a crime.

We forensically clarify or enhance these events so they can be seen better. In the following paragraphs, we hope to communicate some information that will guide you on forensic video enhancement.

We have included some before and after forensic enhancement examples for your review. We also include advise on what to do to best capture an event in for forensic enhancement.

Since most smart phone video evidence is recorded freehand or without a tripod, you can’t guarantee the video usability. When people are nervous they shake while recording. In this case do not zoom in too much. A wide shot is less shaky than a zoomed in shot. Shaky video can result in less than quality video evidence.

Record on your smart phone video horizontally or landscape

When recording video on your smart phone, hold the phone horizontally and try not to zoom in. One of the most prevalent problems we have seen with video recordings are they shake and are not stable. The chaotic motion of a cell phone video can make it hard to see what’s happening.

Forensic video enhancement

The two clips below will help you understand how video forensic video enhancement works. The first clip is of an forensically enhanced iPhone video. The original video was a distant view from down the block as it was recorded. In the sample below, please note no stabilization or other forensic enhancement has been applied to this video.

In the enhanced sample below, we applied warp stabilization. Notice how the frame follows the motion of the video, creating a more stable picture for analysis.

As you can see, the subject in the video was not close enough to the smart phone camera. This makes it difficult to see the desired events as they occurred. Clip One is not very helpful in this condition for use in court. The subjects are very far away, making it difficult to see the events as they occurred and were recorded.

The science of forensic video enhancement

The forensic video enhancement process is not as simple as zooming in on the video recording. This will lower your overall video quality. Fixing it or enhancing your video isn’t nearly as simple as pushing the “enhance” button on your computer.

The reason that the quality of video is reduced when you zoom in has to do with something referred to as “pixels.”

Simply put, pixels are the small boxes of color code that combine to make up a given image. Each image is composed of a series of pixels that display the image you see in front of you.

Expanding an image means also expanding the size of each pixel. Because each pixel is representative of one “frame” of a bigger picture, such as photos making up a collage, each individual square pixel will expand along with the image. The increase of pixel size can cause distortion to the image, therefore making it even harder to decipher the contents of an image.

This is where a video forensic expert is necessary. We have training in video enhancement and experience using the hardware and software tools capable of clarifying and enhancing the events that occurred when you recorded your video.

As you saw in the second video sample above, the image has been expanded so that we can see the events that occurred up close. The quality of the video hasn’t been compromised. This is because of training and experience.

At the risk of being redundant, the biggest problem we see with smart phone video evidence is the orientation of the cell phone while recording. When we receive smart phone video evidence, many of the video recordings are vertically oriented. If your footage becomes evidence; not having a horizontal (or landscape) recorded video to work with really constricts your range of sight of a given event.

Utilizing the footage above as another example, notice that around the :25 second mark, the camera focuses on the Jeep pulling up, as another officer runs towards the scene. This takes our focus away from the scene, and we miss a substantial amount of the incident.

Had this evidence been shot horizontally, we may have been able to see what happened when that officer arrived to the scene, along with seeing the white Jeep parking in the background.

With the expansion of smart phone video technology, your smart phone can be of assistance recording crime and criminal activity. It is important to understand smart phone video enhancement from the forensic expert’s perspective. The highest quality video recording will reveal more in court. However, despite the quality, it is crucial to employ a video forensic expert to make the most out of your smart phone video.

Video Forensic Expert Edward J Primeau Curriculum Vitae

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