We have hit the tipping point for smart phone video. Many people today own smart phones and use them for various day to day activities. Included with these tasks is the recording of video, which can come in handy in the event that an accident has taken place or a crime is being committed.
Many of our recent video forensic cases include video recordings that were created on a smart phone. Many of you reading this post may have an interest in learning more about smart phone video enhancement. In the following paragraphs, we hope to communicate some information that will guide you on how to handle recording an accident or illegal event taking place and what to do should you need enhancement of a smart phone video.
Since most smart phone video evidence is recorded freehand on a basic smart-phone camera, you can’t guarantee that the video evidence will be of legitimate quality. The video quality isn’t always the best, people may shake while recording or the placement of your subject can lead to lackluster video evidence.
When recording video on your smart phone, hold the phone horizontally when recording and do not zoom in. One of the most prevalent problems with the footage is that the shots are not stable. The chaotic motion of a cell phone video can make it hard to make out exactly what’s happening.
The two clips below will help you understand what can and cannot be done with video enhancement, including stabilization of shaky video. The first clip is of an iPhone video as it was recorded. No stabilization has been applied to this video.
In the next enhanced sample we apply 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 that was recording the video, making it difficult to make out the 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 make out what is happening.
Any digital video editing software will allow you to zoom in on a given shot. This will lower your overall video quality, and as CSI may lead you to believe, fixing it 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 comes in. We have training in video enhancement and experience using the hardware and software tools capable of clarifying and enhancing the events that occurred when recording 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 due to 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.