Why is video authentication important? As a video forensic expert, I often find that videos submitted into litigation are not original as the person admitting has stated. Instead, they are copies that have been altered to only contain the events they want the trier of fact to see. From a forensic perspective, this is not fair because the original video will contain all the events as they actually occurred. Some of the events that were omitted have relevance to criminal or civil litigation.
Last week, I testified in court in a video authentication case. The report that I wrote for the case was admitted into evidence. My report revealed that a video had been altered and was not an original.
I testified that my report revealed the scientific findings and my conclusion that the video recording was altered and not an original. Both conclusions were scientific and if I conducted the same test 1000 times over, I would arrive with the same conclusions. If any other forensic expert were to conduct the testing that I had documented in my work product and report, they would arrive at the same conclusion as well.
Lately, I authenticate all forms of video. Store CCTV, cell phone video, and tablet video. We live in a video world! Anywhere you go out in public you are more than likely being video recorded. If you are riding a city bus, you are more than likely being video recorded. Some civilians have installed mobile CCTV systems in their cars just in case they need to defend themselves or catch a crime in progress.
The police originally installed cruiser video recording systems to first protect themselves and to also protect the citizens from prejudice. Cruiser video holds the police accountable by recording probable cause for traffic stops.
Forensic experts have many tools to determine scientifically if a video is first, original and second if a video has been altered. It is especially difficult with digital video to determine how a video was edited if it does not purport to contain the information or events either litigator states that it should contain. This is where forensic investigation becomes the only way to determine the video evidence authenticity.
If you believe a video has been edited, here are a couple of things you can do personally to determine if your video may have been edited.
- First, determine the file format on your DVD or CD Disc. Insert the disc into your computer, left-click on the drive, and select open. Is the file format VOB or MP4, AVI, MOV? This format is actually the video container.
- Next, go back to the file folder, left-click to open, find the video, and right-click on the file. All the way at the drop-down menu is the word properties. Left-click to open and review the MAC information. Modified, accessed and created information will reveal dates. Does the disc/CD created day to read a date that the litigator who submitted the video stated the date created to be?
- The length of the video can also be a clue for your preliminary video authentication. Are there any phone records to compare to the length of the video? Does your memory of the series of events match the length of the video and video events?
Of course, there are many more steps a video forensic expert will take in order to determine if your video is genuine and authentic. Even if there is no audio on your video recording, the audio track can also reveal information about the authenticity of your video recording.