Hidden gems

Video forensics tools reveal hidden evidence within video surveillance footage


     "The setup can be as simple as using the PC's print screen function to capture an image to the OS clipboard, or as complicated as having a complete setup that includes a video system with a capture card," he adds. "There are many products available that offer a complete video forensic solution, ranging in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars."

     Agencies must also budget money for training. For example, though most video forensic systems providers offer no-cost training, agencies still must budget to send personnel to a specific location to receive it. This is only part of the puzzle, Hartzell adds, noting those working in video forensics also need training in video evidence analysis as well as evidentiary concerns.

     There are additional training avenues. For example, the Law Enforcement & Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA), found at www.leva.org, can help departments learn to handle processing in-house and aid their understanding of admissibility issues, Hartzell says. Other resources he mentions include Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forensic_video) and online forums, Web sites, etc. that are dedicated to sharing this kind of knowledge.

     The important thing is to thoroughly research the systems and their capabilities, Hartzell says. But even here, training helps.

     "Many manufacturers of video forensic equipment will allow potential customers to test their products," he says. "The downside is that most require training before officials can fully appreciate what [these systems] can do."

     Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer based in Long Beach, California. She specializes in writing about public safety issues. She can be reached at tsenn3232@aol.com.

Video forensics systems

     There are a number of video solutions available. The following lists some of the more common systems in use by law enforcement today.

     Cognitech Inc. offers court-approved forensic video/image processing and forensic video measure software with its Tri-Suite "VIVA-AM," which consists of:

     Cognitech Video Investigator (hardware and software): The system offers hundreds of plug-ins from unique image restoration/super resolution tools that take users from a point where it is impossible to discern features or details due to blur, noise or low resolution, to where a face or license plate can be positively identified.

     Video Investigator (hardware and software): This system was first used to identify four assailants in the Reginald Denny riot case. The tool enabled investigators to identify a rose tattoo that was integral to the case.

     Video Active (software): This software allows users to simply pop a tape or DVR recording into a computer and have the footage show up demultiplexed, enhanced and enlarged, with the noise and blur removed. This is all done in real time; users see the demultiplexed and enhanced images at the same speed as the tape plays. Video is captured 100 percent uncompressed, but storage takes only 50 percent or less due to a proprietary "video-zip" process.

     Auto Measure (software): This forensic software allows identification of individuals and objects not only based on their image, but on the dimensions of that image, such as the width of a shoulder, someone's height, the length of a car, etc. It is fully automatic, including correction of fish-eye lens distortions. The user just clicks on the points he wants to measure, and the measurements are made automatically.

     Intergraph Corporation offers a set of video forensic software tools through its Video Analyst product. This software, which sits on top of Adobe Premier Pro, allows users to capture, enhance and analyze surveillance video, says Gene Grindstaff (currently, the company has exclusive access to NASA's VISAR technology, which came out of the Hubble telescope and other weather satellite enhancement technologies, and is used to enhance multiple frames). Key features of the system include the ability to:

  • Automatically register multiple frames and average them together, resulting in a super-resolution image that reveals details that would otherwise be missed.
  • Demultiplex video without dropping a frame, accomplished via patented technology unique to their system, says Grindstaff. It can handle up to 128 multiplex cameras. (A real-time version is also available to allow the viewing, demultiplexing and recording of a multiplex tape using a standard VCR.)
  • To remove blur, smear, noise and enhance either single or multiple frames.
  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to Officer.com. To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.