Friday, October 5, 2007

The Elephant in the Room

Final thoughts on work flow and mastery

As a way of wrapping up the introduction to the topic of Forensic Photoshop, I'd like to drop a name into the conversation ...

Grant Fredericks

Good question.

In the arena of image analysis, forensic video, and expert witnesses, who are you going to call when you want the biggest gun? Who has been on TV and testified in cases with high media exposure? Who's name is dropped in countless magazine articles? Grant Fredericks. Why does he hold the position as the big gun? Mastery.

Weather you agree with him on a certain issue or case, or not, Grant has achieved a certain mastery at his craft. While I am not one to cheer lead, I do appreciate that there is someone out there who has achieved Mastery over the subject. That tells me that it can be done. If it can be done by someone, then I can do it too. Right? Of course.

That is the essence of Forensic Photoshop. Mastery over the subject matter, mastery over the tools, mastery over the steps and the process. Knowing what you want to do, knowing the many ways in which it can be done, and knowing why the way you chose was the most appropriate. From knowing, you are then able to articulate the process clearly and effectively. Knowing the what, the how, and the why of any process - then being able to explain it is the key to mastery.

I have had many conversations about Grant with others in the field. Most analysts don't believe that their skills or equipment are so below par that they can't perform the same types of processes as Grant and achieve the same results. I think that their fear rests in their mastery of the process, and their ability to confidently relate to others the what, how and why of their process. Forensics is not just the process, its the explanation of the process. This is where Grant excels. Consequently, this is where the fear of him comes from.

A perfect example of this can be found here. In a Seattle case, the defense contacts Grant and asks for his assistance in examining the digital CCTV evidence. There is nothing in his testimony that suggests any process or technique that I could not perform. His testimony is very direct and to the point. He simply and clearly outlines his findings. He does not attempt any verbal trickery. He just explains.

Can each of us get to this level? Certainly. There is nothing necessarily unique about his equipment. My lab has 2 Avid editors from Ocean Systems. Grant uses Avid. Grant uses Photoshop and I use Photoshop. So what did he do with his Avid and Photoshop that I couldn't do? Nothing. From his testimony, he simply gets the video in his bin, exports the frames, and checks them off vs. the officer's report. No trick to it.

Images are powerful. As evidence, juries are more apt to believe the images they see than witness testimony; if the two are conflicting. A process can be used to clarify those images and bring out details that may be hidden in shadows or behind noise. Those clarified images, combined with the confident testimony of the examiner, leads to powerful forensics.

Now that the fear has been named, we have the power to conquer it. Each of us has the power within us to build that level of mastery. Let's work together to get that power in the hands of as many folks as possible.


Anonymous said...

Fabulous article, you are absolutley right! Your solution is critical to ensuring ticks and checks are in place to keep the integrity of all testimonies and reports.

Anonymous said...