Archive for the ‘Legal Proceedings’ Category

5 Tips for Preparing Digital Video Evidence for Court

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

1409594_29311718-300x199 5 Tips for Preparing Digital Video Evidence for Court

Video evidence is considered the most accurate representation of the events as they naturally occurred. In fact, surveillance videos today are considered more accurate than eye witness testimony alone. Once surveillance video has been properly authenticated and the source of the chain of custody is presented, surveillance videos CAN be used in a court of law. In the following blog post “5 Tips for Preparing Digital Video Evidence for Court” Video Forensic expert will teach its readers about the 5 major lessons our experts have learned and want to share with you about preparing your surveillance videos for use in court regardless of where you are located.



Tip One: Chain of Custody

Chain of custody is perhaps the most important tip from this post. Document and maintain a chain of custody on your video evidence.  A lack of an authentic chain of custody can cause the court to question the integrity of the surveillance videos and its admissibility. Lack of a proper chain of custody reduces the credibility of your video evidence.

For example, I currently have a case in house that includes a smart phone recording being used as video evidence. We preserved the video recordings on the smart phone. Why you might ask?  It is crucial to our investigation. There is plenty of storage space available on the phone. Of course, I established and documented the chain of custody when I downloaded the phone in my lab. I sometimes wonder as a scientist, how anyone can determine how a recording was created without an established chain of custody?

If it’s important, why were the video recordings not protected when it was created? If the video events depict a crime being committed and will be admissible in court, it is also important to maintain the chain of custody for authentication purposes. Verification and establishment of the chain of custody visually and digitally is necessary for forensic authentication analysis investigations down the line.


Tip Two: When possible, use the original video recording not a copy.

As a rule of thumb, always present the original digital video recording, not a copy. Copies of digital video recordings can be misrepresented if an authentic chain of custody isn’t maintained. Digital compression from copying and converting recordings can often times affect the authenticity of the events as they occurred. In addition, the digital information that is used to determine the circumstances in which the recording or recordings were created are effected if the recordings aren’t copied accurately. 

Sometimes, the surveillance videos may need to be clarified or enhanced. In this case, the original video recording cannot be presented, because the original recording has undergone changes. Once the video enhancement process has been completed accurately, the derivative video work product can be properly authenticated as an original representation of the events. This is done by presentation of the documentation that describes the enhancement process completed by a trained professional, like a video forensic expert.

If you are not sure you have the original or if you believe the copy you have has been altered, seek the help and guidance of a qualified and trained professional like a video forensic expert. An expert can authenticate the digital video recording scientifically and present a report of the digital integrity of the digital video file or files.  Our experts provide pro-bono consultation to all clients who are seeking the truth in regards to their video evidence. 


Tip Number Three: Prepare your playback software for courtroom use.

As a rule of thumb, always prepare playing your video recordings before you enter the court room. Make sure your video evidence is compatible for easy playback in court. Many of our clients at Primeau Forensics will give us a digital video recording to authenticate that was created on a closed circuit television surveillance system. Attorneys will often times enter a court room with a video requiring a proprietary player that will not open quickly. This keeps the trier of fact (judge and jury)  waiting for long periods of time, which can cause confusion and frustration. 

When I enhance a video recording for courtroom use, I always export the video recording from my forensic software using a file extension that is easier to open than some of the clunky proprietary players that CCTV systems rely on for recording playback.

Before expert witness testimony, i always prep with my clients on the phone and in person. Part of this prep time is used to double and triple check our exhibits, some of which are demonstrative.

Number four: Prepare your playback equipment for sight as well as sound.

Will the jury be able to hear the audio clearly?  Do you need a PA speaker or amplifier system to make the audio louder for everyone in court to hear? It is common when I testify that I bring in a suitcase of 1 to 2 options of playback equipment to ensure all video is presented properly and easily heard by all persons in the court room. 

Many courts that I have testified in have video playback equipment. Some of the video equipment that the court provides may not be a high enough quality higher resolution playback. Also, older systems may not be bright enough for the trier of fact (judge and jury) to preview from. Double check with the court before hand to determine what playback technology they have available. Bring in any equipment necessary or outsource a company to do so, so the Trier of Fact can easily see and hear your video recording. If you have to rent equipment, make sure it arrives well in advance of the trial.

Before litigation, i am often required to install proprietary courtroom viewing applications on my computer.  The app completely messed up my computer. Because this was during prep time, I was able to undo the app and make other arrangements to play the video recordings. These kinds of errors are CATASTROPHIC for testimony as well as your integrity and professionalism as an expert. Playback errors are better  handled outside of the courtroom.

Number five: Bring enough copies for everyone.

Do you have copies of your video evidence for everyone involved in the litigation? Remember, you have to put an evidence/exhibit sticker on your digital video evidence. DVD exhibits have space to apply stickers on the label side of the DVD (do not put a sticker on the laser or playing side of the DVD disc). Thumb drives are harder if not impossible to put evidence stickers on. Thumb drives are being used more and more in court as the digital file size is increasing with video evidence. Especially with high definition video recordings. When I present a thumb drive (jump drive, USB storage devise) I place the thumb drive in a small plastic evidence bag that looks like this:

digital-media-evidence-bag 5 Tips for Preparing Digital Video Evidence for Court










Evidence and exhibit stickers and information can be placed on the bag itself.

These are the top five tips when presenting digital evidence for court. If you have any questions about video recordings that will be used in your litigation as evidence, feel free to Contact Us!

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.

The Importance of Communication during the Forensic Investigation

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

communication-investigation-1024x768 The Importance of Communication during the Forensic InvestigationThere are a lot of details to be discussed during a forensic investigation. Details like test results, trial strategy, discovery deadlines, opposing expert reports and deposition details to name a few. A forensic expert must communicate well with everyone on the litigation team during a forensic investigation so they understand the scientific results and how those results impact the case.

It is convenient and efficient for forensic experts to communicate forensic investigation processes, procedures and results on the phone. However, to save time and accommodate busy schedules, we also communicate with text and email. The important thing to remember about text and email is that unlike telephone conversations, text and email has permanency. Email and text messages can be shared with other people and are discoverable.

Before beginning any forensic investigation, we always ask our client attorney for their preferred method of communication. This is a best practice for us for many reasons. First, many of our client attorneys spend a lot of time in court. We do our best to communicate effectively and accommodate their schedule. Many times we provide a cell number to them so they can communicate with us at their convenience. Depending on the state or country, attorneys advise us how to or not to communicate, especially when it comes to text and email messages. Some client attorneys do not want any written communication. Rather they want all forensic investigation communication delivered verbally.

Written communication like text and email messages are good because when communication is in writing, it documents the events and has permanency. You can call this an intentional paper trail that is available for reference throughout the investigation process.  What is important and our goal in writing this article is to help you understand that written communication is not as private as verbal communication. Opposing attorneys can ask for all written communication to be available for review during the deposition process or at trial. Our client attorneys decide what form of communication is best and we respect that decision.

There is no such thing as too much communication during a forensic investigation

We have found that most of our client attorneys want to hear from forensic experts as often as necessary during a forensic investigation because scientific test results have an impact on trial strategy. However, over communicating has the opposite effect. Too many interruptions and delivery of incomplete information can be confusing and should be avoided.  As a general rule, it’s best to keep the forensic investigation as clean and free from superfluous communication as possible.

Bottom line, from a forensic experts perspective, understand your client attorneys expectations about communication and be aware that anything in written form can become part of the litigation process. For the most part, keep your forensic investigation communication to verbal.

Video Forensics and Post-Litigation Responsibility

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Post-Litigation-1024x681 Video Forensics and Post-Litigation ResponsibilityAs a video forensic expert I’m seeing more and more video evidence in criminal and civil litigation today. I examine the evidence, often having to identify elements in video recordings, creating images that are exported from the video recording, which are identified frames from the video that reveal details that are important to the litigation, and then enlarging the resolution and dots per inch in that video frame export to help identify logos on clothing, or license plate numbers, or make and model of cars or the year of a car to help identify who the subject in the video might be.

The work product that I build while conducting an investigation as a video forensic expert increases in size the longer the litigation continues. Upon completion of a criminal case or a settlement agreement by the parties involved in a civil litigation, the forensic expert must contact their client – whether it be the court, law enforcement or a lawyer, and ask them what should be done with the original evidence that was investigated as well as the work product that was created during the investigation. It is best, if possible, to get their instructions in writing (particularly if the instructions are to destroy the evidence and work product), just to protect yourself and make sure all your bases are covered.

The reason this is so crucial is because often one of the terms of a settlement is the destruction of all of the evidence that was used during the litigation. Should this evidence become compromised, accidentally, by anyone involved in the case, that would ruin the terms of the settlement for the parties in the litigation.

It is my responsibility, as a video forensic expert, to contact my client and ask what they want me to do with the evidence with which I was provided, as well as the work product, once the litigation is settled. In my opinion, there are two ways for the forensic examiner to release the work product and the original evidence that was worked on during the investigation.

Number one, return all of the evidence and your work product to the attorney, using delivery confirmation, with signature required.

The second way is destroying all of the evidence if that is what your client wants you to do. And by destroying the evidence I mean deleting all of the files that are on any internal and external hard drives on the computer that was used during the investigation, or destroying any compact discs or DVDs by breaking them in half or scratching the playing surfaces.

It’s very important for the forensic examiner to keep good notes during the investigation process so there is a paper trail of where all the media files the investigator worked on during the forensic investigation are stored so the expert knows where to go back to delete all of the work product and original evidence if there was no external evidence used.

The main purpose for external evidence – such as a DVD or CD-ROM – is because during a trial exhibit stickers must be placed on everything that is going to be entered as evidence. Otherwise, files can remain electronic through the investigative process except when meta data is crucial as part of the investigation.

Forensic experts know that sending audio or video digital files electronically over the Internet can often strip meta data off of original recordings inhibiting the forensic expert’s identification.

Either way, the purpose of the message I am trying to convey in this blog post is the importance of returning or destroying all evidence and work product after a case is determined or a settlement is reached. This is a practice that is not talked about enough in the forensic community and is extremely important for all forensic experts – audio, video or otherwise – to keep in mind.

Video Evidence in an Advanced Technology World

Friday, November 16th, 2012

technology-1024x593 Video Evidence in an Advanced Technology WorldWhen I receive a video recording that is evidence to be used in litigation there are several activities, as a video forensic expert, that I employ during the video investigation. First, watching the file in its entirety, viewing the contents of that video, is important for the forensic expert examination and investigation process to completely understand what has been recorded and is being presented to the court. Secondly, whether I’m working for the defense or the prosecution I must understand the charges and how this video evidence relates to the charges being brought, whether it’s a civil or criminal litigation.

Oftentimes, I discover sections of the video evidence that the prosecutor or attorney has not considered with regard to the relevance to the litigation. Not only do I follow orders and respect what I have been asked to do, such as brighten the video so that we can see better if it was shot at night, or zoom in to see if we can determine what type of vehicle that was that drove by, or determine if we can sharpen and enlarge that portion of the video so that we can identify who that person is that committed that crime. All of these processes need to be documented in my work product as a video forensic expert in order to present my final enhanced or clarified video evidence in court. Oftentimes I’m asked to authenticate a video file. As part of the defense’s due process their client will tell them they believe the police have altered a video file. In my nearly 30 years of practicing as a video forensic expert I’ve only seen a couple different applications of videos being altered. Sure, it’s possible – but it’s also very unlikely because, when you think about it, why would an officer of the law risk their career, reputation and retirement and alter a piece of evidence intentionally in order to convict. It’s not logical, and it doesn’t make sense … but I have seen it happen and it is possible. So the authentication process is probably one of the primary activities that I perform as a video forensic expert. And as I’m authenticating the evidence and I understand what the case is about I discover other components to the video that can help in the litigation process. That is part of what I do as a video forensic expert.

The tools that are available to the forensic community today are much more advanced and can perform faster and more accurately than the tools that were used even a couple of years ago. So cases that have been tried and are on appeal can use new evidence as part of the appeal process, because, in my opinion, being able to increase the brightness on a section of video more accurately, or enlarge it with less pixilation and more clear imaging we have created a piece of evidence that was not available during the original trial. So in that particular case a video forensic expert can help with the appeal process. And I have worked for several appellate attorneys over the years. There is an ever-increasing amount of video evidence that is appearing in litigation today and the demand for a video forensic expert to be able to authenticate, validate, clarify and present, as well as prepare demonstrative sections of that evidence is extremely important. By demonstrative, I mean to slow down and enlarge a section of video evidence in order to be able to more clearly and accurately see the events as they occurred. Plus, by adding this demonstrative element to the video evidence it allows the judge and jury to more accurately see what previously wasn’t seen on the video recording.

Forensic Tools: Keep It Basic While Keeping Up-To-Date

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

223338_2419-1024x768 Forensic Tools: Keep It Basic While Keeping Up-To-DateAs a video forensic expert, I am very aware of the many software tools that are available for examining and authenticating video evidence which will be used in litigation. Some of the software is extremely advanced and requires a thorough understanding of technology in order to be able to use these tools. They’re great, and many of them perform tasks that were never possible before in the video forensic community. However, I keep my eye on the simplicity of my results and conclusions when testifying in court. There’s one thing judges and juries don’t need, and that is a complicated conclusion from a forensic expert. Based on my 28+ years working as an audio and video forensic expert, I understand how important it is to keep my findings simple and to the point when testifying in court. I think it’s a big mistake for forensic experts to use complicated reports and test results in court that judges and juries don’t understand. They need to know, based on your experience, what your opinion is in regard to the evidence in question, and that’s it —they do not need to know how detailed the investigation was that you conducted. Instead, briefly discuss in your report the processes and procedures that you used to arrive at your conclusions. Judges and juries just want to know, “Was the video edited?” “Is the video authentic?” “Can you identify the people and the characters in the video?” “Are you working for the defense or are you working for the prosecution?” Either way, your report will exemplify your experience, credibility and ability to arrive at a conclusion and be able to support that conclusion during cross examination.

So going forward, I will continue to learn about all of the software tools that are available to me as a video forensic expert, but will also take into account the necessity of keeping my findings simple. I believe these forensic tools will help me do a better job going forward as I determine which ones to bring into our lab and which ones to avoid. Knowing the basics, the basic tools and the way they operate is critical as closed-circuit television footage and body camera recordings become more prominent in litigation. Keeping up with technology is one of the most important tasks of the video forensic expert and it’s gaining an increasing focus from the forensic field.

Description: Video forensic experts need to keep up with technology while keeping the descriptions of their findings simple.

Best Practices for Digital Video Evidence

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

digital-video-1024x768 Best Practices for Digital Video EvidenceOne of the day to day activities of a video forensic expert is to determine if a digital video recording is an exact representation of the facts as they occurred at the time of the recording. In order to do this, the video expert must know how the digital video recording was created. There is a series of best practices for digital video evidence that is followed in the forensic lab.

For example, was the video recorded on a closed circuit television system? Who was responsible for exporting the copy that has been provided for examination? This is a particularly important question because the integrity of that copy is proportionate to the experience of the person who removed it from that closed circuit television system.

If the video evidence is on a portable media device, such as a CD-ROM disc, a DVD-ROM disc or an external hard drive or thumb drive, then we know beyond a reasonable degree of certainty that that digital video was removed from the original security surveillance system or digital video recorder (DVR). It’s not a problem working from a copy as long as both sides in the litigation understand and agree to the authenticity of that copy. However, whenever there is a doubt as to the authenticity of that digital video on that external media, then the original digital video recording must be examined in its native environment, which is the original digital video recorder that is part of the closed circuit television system.

When an export copy video from a closed circuit television system is used in courts without debate, both sides in the litigation agreed that this export copy  is an actual representation of the facts as they occurred. Because of this, there was no dispute as to whether or not it was an original because it didn’t matter. The digital format, when cloning, is technically all considered “originals” because of the digital formatting. In other words, it’s all “Xs and Os” and meta data that has been transferred from a digital video recorder or computer hard drive. Just like when making copies of a compact disc for a friend, the copy, if done properly, sounds just as good as the original. But I digress. When there’s a dispute over the contents of an exported digital video recording and the original has to be sought to approve and display the facts as they occurred, the video forensic expert’s job is now to go back to the source that created the digital video recording and obtain a copy of it through supervised procedures of exporting. That way the forensic expert and both parties in the litigation have no dispute as to whether or not that digital video recording is authentic and true.

Oftentimes the original video recording is no longer available because of the time that it takes for cases to rotate in court. As a forensic video expert I often receive evidence copies for authentication, examination, clarification and restoration up to a year—and even two years—after they were recorded. When there’s doubt to the integrity of this video evidence and the original is no longer available because of the “first in, first out” operation of closed circuit television systems, then it’s the forensic video expert’s job to find clues within that digital video recording to help process the litigation.

When working in a Windows-based PC forensic laboratory, I have discovered that some of the closed circuit television exports do not play properly, if at all, on the Windows 7 operating system. This is why we have older versions of Windows operating systems in our laboratory. It’s a best practice of a forensic expert to be prepared for any situation in order to conduct a proper video forensic investigation.

Occasionally the forensic video expert must use screen capture technology in order to retain a portion of the closed circuit television recording for clarification purposes. Recording a portion of the closed circuit television video using screen capture technology allows me to create a file format that is suitable for forensic investigation. Closed circuit television systems record video using a proprietary format that is native to the original operating system of the digital video recorder. This is why the footage is considered secure, and authentic—because it was recorded in an “armored car” environment. This security often interferes with a video forensic investigation because, depending on the source of the copy that has been given to the forensic examiner, the proper CODECS may not be available to the forensic expert in order to view that surveillance footage. Therefore, one of the first activities that a forensic expert does in that situation is to try to find the CODECS proprietary to that surveillance system in order to get one of the Windows operating systems to play that video footage for examination. Once the video forensic expert plays and views the original footage using the proper CODEC, a screen capture software program is used to create a new file of that surveillance video. Once that new video footage has been created, the digital video is then imported into a forensic video software program for investigation, authentication, clarification, restoration or any other activity necessary to help process the litigation. Of course, the forensic video expert records their process, which is accepted in the scientific community and aids the forensic video expert in compiling a report at the conclusion of their investigation.

All of these activities are best practices of a forensic video expert. With technology changing faster than ever, it is the forensic video expert’s job to be able to know where to go to find answers to difficult situations caused by lack of understanding of the originator of the video evidence. Sometimes security personnel who export the original video evidence from the closed circuit television system are not aware of the fact that in order to view that digital footage, the player or the software must be embedded on the media where the file is being transferred to. Instead, security personnel sometimes just export one of the digital video files from the closed circuit television system without realizing a specific CODEC is necessary for future viewing of that footage.

As a scientific community we are always learning additional best practices for examining digital media evidence. I welcome any feedback or communication from anyone who reads this post and has a comment about any of their best practices experiences or anything that has been written in this blog post.

What Makes a Great Expert Witness?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

expert-witness-1024x685 What Makes a Great Expert Witness?For many years I have been working on, investigating and testifying in video forensic cases around the world. As a result, I’ve come up with a list of qualities that I believe all great expert witnesses must possess.

Obviously, a great expert must be an expert or have a lot of experience in their area of expertise. My career in video started back in high school when I was selected by the TV department to be the custodian, if you will, of all of the television systems within our high school. And back then half-inch recording tape was on an open reel – they hadn’t even invented VHS cassette tapes yet. That tells you how long ago that was!

The second quality that a great expert witness must possess is character. If you have the right character and the right personality, then you will always be respected and trusted by litigators, judges and juries. I believe integrity is one of the most important qualities that any successful expert witness should possess because it’s that character that earns you respect as an expert witness.

The next quality that I believe an expert witness should have is confidence. When you get on the stand to testify, the first litigator that starts to ask questions is usually the person that you’re working for, so you go right down the line of your expertise to be entered as an expert witness into that litigation, in that court and qualified as an expert witness. Then you answer the questions of what you were asked to do, what you did, how you did it and the types of things that are accepted in the scientific community to help qualify your opinion. Then, of course, you end with your opinion. Then the opposing counsel gets up and starts to cross-examine. That’s when your confidence really needs to shine because that opposing counsel will do the best that they can to create doubt about your qualifications as an expert and to make you look less confident. Sometimes that nervous energy that you can feel during that cross examination can help break down your confidence, and that will diminish your character and cause the jury and the judge to start to doubt your ability. It’s very import to concentrate on your confidence and stay in that “confident zone” especially when you are on the stand, as well as during every conversation with all litigators prior to testifying.

Another quality I believe an expert witness must possess is the mastery of dialogue: the ability to speak with a good vocabulary and to know the words you should use when you’re delivering on the stand under oath. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years—after testifying dozens of times all over the country—is to take pauses as you’re gathering your next thought. When you’re nervous it’s human nature to stutter or say “um” between words. However, you will come across as much more of a professional if you pause instead of saying superfluous words like “um” or “uh,” and take your time when answering the question. And if you don’t understand the question, don’t try to talk just to talk. Ask the litigator to repeat the question to you so that you can completely understand what they’re asking and know how to answer it using the best dialogue possible.

The last quality I believe a great expert witness should possess is the ability to know when to talk and when to listen. Oftentimes during heated discussions – which often happens on the stand – the expert witness could get their adrenalin accelerated because of the cross examination. During that rapid-fire dialogue it’s best to just relax and let the litigator vent or finish their accelerated questioning. I often will wait and count to five after the litigator is done talking before I say anything, because that allows the energy in the courtroom to dissipate a little bit before you calmly answer the question, or say the next thing that you’re about to say. If you start to step on words you continue to increase the anxiety and the aggravation within the litigator and that dialogue exchange does not come across as professional. As an expert witness, you should always come across as professional, especially when you’re on the stand testifying.

I’d like any expert witnesses who read this blog post to share some other qualities and character traits that they feel expert witnesses should possess. You can tweet me at Ed_Primeau, or you can comment at the end of this blog post. I’d love to hear from you.

Cloud Storage for Evidence Sharing

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Cloud-Storage-1024x768 Cloud Storage for Evidence SharingAbout a week ago I was called by Wired Magazine and interviewed about cloud storage for evidence sharing. My first thought was that cloud storage is a great technological advance and is very convenient for the courts, police and lawyers who all need copies of audio and video forensic evidence.  Then I thought about the chain of custody problem.

I have found that courts and litigators still take audio and video evidence lightly depending on who is presenting the evidence. When authenticated by a forensic expert, audio and video evidence can be a very important tool in the court room.

I have experienced incredible turn around decisions when video evidence is shown in court to a jury.  Video is like bringing the scene of the crime into the court room.  Of course this works for both defense and prosecution in criminal cases as well as civil cases.

It is a hassle for some courts and police departments to authenticate audio and video forensic evidence as well as to maintain a chain of custody.  There is one big problem with cloud storage and audio and video evidence: maintaining a chain of custody of any evidence uploaded and downloaded to and from any type of cloud storage.

On the other hand, I can see benefits to having the evidence available 24|7 for all persons involved in the litigation. A formal procedure will have to be established in order to make cloud sharing of audio and video evidence available.

For example, if the prosecution and defense were each issued a user name and password, the cloud storage service could monitor access as well as maintain the integrity of the original audio or video evidence.  This would be fairly simple since most audio and video evidence is in digital form.

It all boils down to both sides agreeing on the identity of the original.  If the original is not disputed and can be shared and tracked in a cloud storage environment, then cloud sharing of audio and video evidence can work.  Once a dispute arises then the cloud storage environment will face forensic investigation to determine proper chain of custody.




photo credit: Dropbox via photopin (license)

What is an Audio Video Expert Witness?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

audio-video-forensic-expert-1024x680 What is an Audio Video Expert Witness?Because there is more audio video evidence being presented in the court system today than ever before, there is a need for professionals to specialize in audio video forensics.  A professional who has been practicing audio and video engineering for ten or more years has the experience and expertise to understand the technical aspects of any audio and video recordings.  I have been a practicing audio engineer since 1978 and video engineer since high school video class which began in 1975.  Back in those days everything that was recorded was analog.  Even video was recorded on reel to reel spools of metal particle nylon video recording tape.

A person is not considered an expert witness because of technical experience alone. An audio video expert witness must have litigation experience.  I began my litigation experience in 1973 working as a probation officer for the 52-2 district court in Troy Michigan.  I minored in criminal justice while attending the University of Detroit.  The legal system always intrigued me.

While employed as an audio engineer at Ambience Recordings which used to be located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, I was working with a client–the FBI–on a criminal case in Detroit. They needed background noise removed from a confidential informant wired recording so the court could hear the conversation as it was recorded. The device that was used to make the recording was a miniature reel to reel recorder with 3” tape hubs.  The informant wore the microphone near his mouth and the recorder was hidden on his body.

I played the recordings from the Nagra reel to reel recorder into our studio’s mixing board.  I then patched in an external equalizer and reduced the background noise by lowering the frequency in the spectrum where noise was and raising the frequency where the voices were.  Once I had the external equipment calibrated, I transferred that recording to another Skully reel to reel recorder and made a restored master.

This activity is technical experience.  Young people who approach me about becoming a forensic expert always want to know what it takes to be an expert witness.  I tell them technical and litigation experience. The easy part is the technical training; the harder part is the litigation experience.

I was quickly becoming a real audio forensic expert. There was not much in the way of video evidence in litigation. However, my first video forensic case came in the form of a hidden camera video recording an employee stealing from the employer.   That is when I had the pleasure of meeting Steve Cain.  I went to Williams Bay Wisconsin and spent a week with Mr. Cain while he examined the video recording.  He was retained by the defendant and I was retained by the plaintiff.

I realized that week that I knew more about video than I gave myself credit for.  After all I had video production in high school and then in college.  This experience with Mr. Cain made me realize that a video forensic expert was responsible for authenticating video evidence, restoring poor quality video footage, looking for anomalies or edits in the recording and using external electronic devices as tools for the forensic examination process.

Back then, everything was non-computer.  Since then, I have had continuing education with the American College of Forensic Examiners International and I have become a registered investigator.  I have also taken CCTV, digital video certification and other expert witness training which is also a very important characteristic for expert witnesses. Technology changes and the expert witness must keep up with the current trends and new technology of all aspects of audio and video in order to maintain their expert status.

Soon after those early forensic experiences I was actively referred by other experts in the industry including Steve Cain because of my expertise and qualifications.

I became quite experienced testifying and when I took the stand and said what needed to be said about an audio or video recording, I was considered confident. I have been successful for almost 28 years now.

When you are looking for an audio video forensic expert, remember that having an expert who has testified as an audio expert as well as video expert will add credibility to your case and help the court as well as all parties in the litigation better understand the evidence and how it pertains to the facts as they actually occurred.

Video Forensic Expert Edward J Primeau Curriculum Vitae


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