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 the 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 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, computers weren’t utilized. 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 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.