Creating Video Work Products as an Audio/Video Forensic Expert

Video Forensic LabVideo work products are a way to document forensic investigations, such as evidence recovery, for reference at a later date. A video camera documents processes and procedures during a forensic investigation for future use. I have referred back to my video work product many times when I have questions later during the evolution of the case.

As an audio & video forensic expert, I have examined hundreds of audio and video recordings to determine authenticity, as well as enhance characteristics of the digital evidence. This video work product helps clarify the events as they occurred.

Types of Video Work Products

There are a few different digital video recording platforms that I use when creating video work product. I often use VIEVU body worn cameras and HDSLR photography based cameras. Each of these of systems serves a purpose in assisting with a forensic investigation.

Over the last few years, I have seen firsthand the significance and efficiency that body worn cameras and their recorded video can bring to the public, law enforcement, and legal proceedings. I personally use the VIEVU LE2 and LE3 body worn cameras. The LE3 records in 720p HD resolution and utilizes a 68 degree field of view. Other competitor cameras normally use a 130 degree field of view, which captures a wider field of view but less detail. And when it comes to video evidence, details are usually more important.

LE3 Body Worn Cameras

These body worn cameras also contain digital audio recorders, which record MP3 format audio at a 44.1kHz sampling rate and a 64kbps bit rate. This high sampling rate captures the full range of human hearing, making recorded audio more audible. In some cases, a client lawyer or law enforcement agencies require that videos record zero audio.

The LE3 audio recorder switches off separately from the video, providing flexibility in such a situation. The LE3 records to either MP4 or AVI video format for easy playability across various platforms utilizing the H.264 codec. These formats also allow easy integration into forensic programs, such as the Adobe Production Premium Suite. The 16 GB flash style storage system allows for either 12 hours of SD video or 6 hours of HD video and quick data transfer rates. The battery will last 5 hours during SD recording and 3 hours during HD recordings. The unit is also compatible with an external battery pack for extended battery life.

My main use for the LE3 body camera is recording my forensic process in the field. This includes retrieving evidence from different systems so I can review later and include it in my report. This supports the authenticity of my work product and any evidence used in the case. Often times, a forensic expert will be challenged by a client or opposing lawyer to verify the investigative materials’ chain of custody. Even minor details on how the investigation was conducted can have a large bearing on the authenticity of the evidence. A digital video recorde allows me to capture a video of the investigative process and dialogue explaining it. Including this work product to my forensic reports verifies the chain of custody and protects me as a forensic expert.

HDSLR Photography Camera

Another type of digital video camera that I use to produce video work product is an HDSLR photography camera. This type of equipment has become popular among the scientific community, as well as production companies, for its portability, versatility, quality, and functionality.

An HDSLR photography camera uses different size lenses to capture images and video depending on investigation requirements. HDSLR cameras record in 720p, 1080p, anamorphic and even 4k resolution. These cameras typically record at 30 minute intervals and have a battery life of approximately 2 hours, depending on the preferred quality and the available storage space. When connected to an external power source, these cameras record for longer intervals of time. HDSLR cameras are great for recording an alternative perspective to body cameras of an investigation or retrieval process. The flexibility of being able to produce individual still images as well as video throughout an investigation is also helpful with my forensic process.

In some investigations, a single perspective may not be sufficient to display the forensic process or document events. Another high-quality camera with perspective flexibility and interchangeable lenses can capture investigative aspects that body cameras cannot. Additionally, this lockdown feature of a point-and-shoot camera allows an investigator or client attorney to view the process as if they are watching in real time.

Another use for HDSLR cameras is recording accident reconstruction videos. An accident reconstruction video is a recreation of an event in the same environment they occurred. This allows them to be shown to a client investigator, client attorney, or law enforcement. It is most effective to show the real life series of events as opposed to 3D animation or a written statement.

CCTV Surveillance Systems

Closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance systems have been the dominant source of video evidence during my 30 years as a forensic expert.

Video evidence produced by CCTV systems can help reproduce accidents and disasters as they occurred for playback in different settings. One significant use a forensic expert has when recording video from a CCTV system is to create an exemplar. An exemplar recording is a recording made in the most similar way possible to the original piece of evidence. It uses the same equipment, settings, environment and conditions of the original evidence. Used as a comparison file to the original evidence, this recording helps determine authenticity. A forensic investigation compares both the quality of the video and the metadata included in the files.

It is a best practice at Primeau Forensics to video record forensic investigations. For example, we record our exemplar creation processes and evidence recovery. As a result, we can reference this video work product if our client has any questions during the life of their case.

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