Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coming soon - the Ikena Review


I'm making my lists and checking them twice ... The Ikena tests and review are almost finished.

Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bento 3 just released

Bento users rejoice. Bento 3 is out. It promises some really cool improvements.

Unlike Lightroom, Bento 3 leverages Apple’s Bonjour technology so you can now share your Bento libraries with up to five users over a wired or wireless local network. You can also encrypt any field and assign passwords to secure your information in Bento 3.

The new Grid view in Bento 3 delivers an innovative method of displaying thumbnails of photos, text and numeric-based information, while improved File Lists show image thumbnails, instead of just text.

Best yet, if you own Bento 1 or 2, upgrade pricing is only $29. It's hard to beat that price.

Monday, September 28, 2009

AVCHD codec?

"AVCHD codec? No - not really. AVCHD is a data format, but many people think it's a codec. AVCHD is an acronym for the Advanced Video Codec High Definition format." - Mark Montgomery quoted on Videomaker.com

"One challenge of the AVCHD format is that it can be stored on a variety of media. Unlike Mini DV and HDV which are stored on Mini DV tape, AVCHD can be stored on DVDs, memory cards and internal memory (i.e., hard drives and Flash memory). With all these storage possibilities, it can be frustrating as an editor to find a way to import all of it into your machine. If you're editing a video for a friend or client, you may need them to bring in their camcorder and not just their media. Further complicating the matter is that many shooters end up transferring the footage to their PC to clear their memory card or internal memory. With the footage stored on a hard drive, it may not be compatible with your editing system or software. It all depends on how the shooter got the footage off the camcorder and onto the PC.

Many AVCHD camcorders ship with software that allows shooters to import the footage in its native format. This is useful for doing simple playback of your footage. Other applications will also allow you to convert the footage to a different format. For example, Panasonic's Professional Video division has a software tool that will convert AVCHD to their ProHD video format, which is much more compatible in professional editing environments."

Read the rest of the article by clicking here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Making forensic science scientific

LA Times Editorial - Making forensic science scientific
Establishing national forensic science standards is crucial when evidence determines life or death.

"... In 2006, Congress charged the National Academy of Sciences with studying the application of forensic science in the U.S. judicial system. Its findings, released last year, are grim. Almost every branch of forensics but DNA testing -- hair and fiber analysis, arson investigations, comparisons of bite marks -- lacks the extensive scientific research and established standards to be used in court conclusively.

Consider: Last year, the Innocence Project, a New York-based public policy and litigation organization, helped exonerate Kennedy Brewer, a Mississippi man who had been convicted in 1992 of raping and killing a 3-year-old girl. DNA testing was not available at the time, and the primary evidence against him was that bite marks on the child's body matched his teeth. Examination of the marks by national forensics experts determined that they were not even made by a human mouth: Her body had been dumped in a pond and insects had attacked it. Subsequent DNA testing also excluded Brewer as the rapist.

In February, the science academy issued a report calling for Congress to create a national institute of forensic science, and there is more than enough evidence that one is desperately needed. As an independent agency, not part of the Justice Department, it would be charged with conducting research, setting national standards for forensic disciplines and enforcing those standards. Right now, standards vary wildly. An expert in San Diego, for example, might testify that a fiber is similar to one found at a crime scene, while an expert in San Bernardino might testify that a match is impossible to determine.

Advances in forensics have revolutionized the judicial system, aiding both prosecutors and defense attorneys, exonerating the innocent and confirming the guilty in ways that were impossible just a generation ago. The patchwork state of forensic science should not become an excuse to shy away from its use; rather, the nation should invest in the rigorous research required to standardize techniques and application. ..."

Read the rest of the editorial by
clicking here.

Enjoy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Review - Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court

The publisher of Ordinary Injustice: How America Hold Court sent me an e-mail with the following teaser for the new book:

"The stories of grave injustice are all too familiar: the lawyer who sleeps through a trial, the false confessions, the convictions of the innocent. However, the less visible failures of justice meted out by America’s defective system receive scant attention unless you’ve personally experienced it. Attorney and journalist Amy Bach has spent the last eight years investigating the chronic lapses in courts across America, and through gripping stories and trenchant analyses, she offers a wholly original understanding of why justice fails on a daily basis for so many people across the country."


Natural curiosity lead me to request a copy for review. I'm glad that I did.

Rather than carpet bombing the reader with story after story of how the justice system fails Americans everyday, the author, Amy Bach, takes you on a well researched journey through a few examples of the system at its worst.

We are a nation of laws, but we have a legal culture based upon expediency - this proves to be quite a bad combination.

Studying leadership and working in within the court system, it was easy to picture the book's examples. I found myself examining the work that I've done, making sure that I wasn't guilty of some of the same failings described in the book. Though I'm sure that many will be uncomfortable with her penetrating, mater-of-fact style - I can't see the book being written any other way.

I'm recommending this book to all who work in my profession. Why? Read it. Sit down with the stories. Digest them. Absorb them. Look at your workplace. Look at your court district. I think you'll see why I'm recommending the book - then you'll recommend it too.

Caution Recommended With Bitemark Evidence

From Medical News Today: Caution Recommended With Bitemark Evidence In Forensics

"Against the backdrop of last week's Congressional hearing into the future of forensic science, researchers from the University at Buffalo's Laboratory for Forensic Odontology Research in the School of Dental Medicine, have published a landmark paper on the controversial topic of bitemark analysis.

The Congressional hearing focused on the findings of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on the scientific basis of forensic disciplines. Among the pattern evidence fields (fingerprints, tool marks, etc.) that were reviewed in the NAS report, bitemark analysis received critical commentary. During the hearing, Innocence Project co-founder Peter Neufeld introduced Roy Brown, wrongfully convicted on bitemark evidence and later exonerated through DNA analysis.

In anticipation of the NAS report, the new UB study published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences challenges the commonly held belief that every bitemark can be perpetrator identified.

"Bitemark identification is not as reliable as DNA identification," explains the study's lead author Raymond G. Miller, D.D.S., UB clinical associate professor of oral diagnostic sciences.

"With DNA, the probability of an individual not matching another can be calculated," he says. "In bitemark analysis, there have been few studies that looked at how many people's teeth could have made the bite."

Read the rest of the story by
clicking here.

Enjoy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Noise Reduction in Premiere Pro CS4

One of the more frequent tasks an editor will have, in LE service, is removing street noise from "body worn" recordings. Body wires can be some of the most noisy recordings you'll ever see.


With the clip on the timeline, simply drag the effect from the tool panel to the clip. If you have wind noise, drag the Highpass filter to the clip. If you have hiss, drag the Lowpass filter. That's the wonderful thing about Premiere Pro - it has all of the filters built right into the program so there's rarely a need to step out of the program to fix your audio.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Types of Evidence

A reader writes in to ask, "what's inculpatory evidence?"

As opposed to exculpatory evidence, inculpatory evidence supports a given theory of the crime. Exculpatory evidence contradicts the given theory of the crime.

Digital multimedia evidence can be either inculpatory or exculpatory.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Premiere Pro CS4 Exports

A few folks have been confused by the look of Adobe's Media Encoder CS4 and the way that you now export files from Premiere Pro CS4. So, here's the short course.


File>Export>Media brings up a familiar dialog box. After choosing your settings and file destination, click OK. The dialog box will go away quickly and then it seems like nothing is happening. ... Relax and count to 10. Adobe Media Encoder CS4 is launching. Give it a few seconds to a few minutes depending on your machine.


Once Media Encoder is up and running, you'll see that your file's status is Waiting. What's it waiting for. Media Encoder is being polite, allowing you time to add more files to the queue. If you're ready to go, click on Start Queue.


After a few more seconds, the queue starts up and your file(s) begin to encode. Sit back and enjoy the show.


Once the encoding is finished, your status will change to a green check mark if all went well (why shouldn't it). Your files are now ready for distribution.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's this? CCTV helps solve just ONE crime per 1,000

From the Mail on-line and Doktor Jon:

"Only one crime is solved a year for every 1,000 CCTV cameras, police admitted yesterday.

The startling figure comes in a Scotland Yard report which warns that a network that can capture individuals as many as 300 times a day is failing to improve public safety.


Officers found that the million cameras covering London have helped clear up barely 1,000 crimes.


Critics say the revelation should lead to a wholesale shake-up of the hugely costly CCTV system.

The senior Metropolitan Police officer behind the report warned of a crisis in public confidence over the use of surveillance cameras.


Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville said: '£500million has been spent by the Government on cameras. Despite this, in 2008 less than 1,000 crimes were solved using CCTV despite there being in excess of one million cameras in London.'


He said that of the 269 robberies reported in one month only eight were solved with the help of CCTV footage.


The study, part of a drive to make better use of the network, follows warnings from senior Scotland Yard officers that criminals are not deterred by cameras because they assume them not to be working.


Detectives are thought to be reluctant to scour hours of recorded footage 'because it's hard work'.

Although the UK has an estimated 4.2million cameras - giving it the world's biggest surveillance network - a Home Office report conceded earlier this year that camera schemes have had only a modest impact on crime. ..."


Read more the rest of the story by
clicking here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Technician or analyst?

From Government Video:

"... For years, video “experts” have been able to “certify” that the video contains certain information and courts usually accept such “evidence” as factual and indisputable. The opposition can challenge the conclusions but rarely gets to challenge how they were reached. Video evidence can make it to court with accompanying conclusion that cannot be supported by objective scientific processing methods. It isn’t that video techs lie; they just do not have the technical training or experience, in many instances, to see past what the ordering agency wants them to see. ..."

" ... Without being told the facts of the case, I (Wayne Cole) was asked to see if I could identify a vehicle or driver from a number of clips taken from typical commercial video security systems. There was no accompanying data, like site measurements, camera distances or lens data. The quality of the video was so bad that all the vehicles appeared as moving, amorphous blobs even after enhancement using various forensic video tools. There was insufficient information to ID a vehicle make or model either by clear visual markings or by photogrammetry and comparison of measurements to vehicles in a database like Expert AutoStats. Yet, according to the television program, police made an identification based on their interpretation of window shapes. Fortunately for California’s homeless population, there was other more compelling evidence (including the defendants’ own taped conversations) that made the security video largely irrelevant. ..."

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cloud computing

As the economy worsens, cities are looking to save money by switching to software as a service (SAAS) or cloud computing and ditching the old installation discs. But at what cost?

Surely there's an initial cost savings. But what about the long term costs?

CNET reports: "In Office Web, you don't share files, you share folders. So to share a spreadsheet, you first save it to a particular folder, and then share that folder with the people who you want to let into the file. That's no big deal if you're just sharing one file, but if you want to share different files with different groups of people, it's confusing and tedious, since you have to create a different folder for each set of people you want to share with. If you want to change the sharing specifics on one document in a folder but not others, you'll have to move the document to a different folder. This is a catastrophic design flaw. Worse, there's not even a clear "share" link. You have to find the "Shared with" entry in each folder, click on the "People I selected" link, then "Edit permissions," then enter the name of the person or people you want to share with, and then, once that person shows up in your sharing list, you have to change the default permission from "view" to "edit."

Some agencies have dedicated IT departments. Others hire IT out. I can't imagine the administrative nightmare of managing permissions as officers and detectives move in and out of assignments. Where's the security when your files are up in the aether? My guess is that folks will switch to stand-alone systems purchased outside the normal channels - saving their work product locally.

Like Photoshop.com, the devil will be in the details.With all of the new e-discovery rules and laws, I can't imagine that this will be a step in the right direction. Only time will tell.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Learning video production

If you are stuck trying to learn all that there is to know about video (on your own), check out this page from Adobe - the Video Production Resource Center.

You'll find tons of tips, trick, projects, downloads ... all designed to get you going fast.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Snow Leopard update - more issues

Many folks are having issues with Snow Leopard. Check out the comments on John Nack's blog. If you are looking for resolution to a specific issue, the comments may help to narrow down the problem.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

HP does it again.

Snow Leopard is working fine with everything ... except ... my scanner. I found this page on HP's web site noting the expected date of the release of updated drivers for my scanner. Rather than get behind, waiting until November for an upgraded driver for an older scanner, it's off to the store for a replacement. Epson's already out with their Snow Leopard drivers.

Guess where I'm going today ...

Friday, September 11, 2009

PDF Optimisation

A reader was working on optimising PDF files and came across a term that she hadn't seen before, JBIG2. Acrobat's built-in PDF Optimizer utilises this smart codec to reduce file sizes dramatically.

There is so much going on behind the scenes of these massively powerful programs that knowing which option does what, and which to avoid is getting more complex. JBIG2 (lossless) is an excellent codec for use when the image quality of black/white scans and reducing file size are both important.

The default quality is Lossy - make sure that you choose lossless.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Snow Leopard update - printer issues resolved?

HP inkjet printer users who upgraded to Snow Leopard have reported problems with their HP gear. Even though Apple claims support, the support was just not there.

Now there's a Snow Leopard update that deals with this issue. For the updates, just use Apple's Software Update.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

AdobeTV - new and improved

Check out the new and improved AdobeTV.

Adobe's John Nack reports:

It's the first website in the world to deploy a video player built with the Adobe Open Source Media Framework (aka Strobe), and one of the first sites built using Adobe ColdFusion 9.

The site has a new look & feel, new features include:
  • User-customizable homepage
  • Vastly improved navigation & search
  • Support for saving your favorite episodes to "My Library"
  • Support for sharing videos on social networking sites such as Facebook, Digg, and StumbleUpon
  • RSS feeds of your favorite shows
  • Pop-out video player for viewing videos at any size
  • Commenting & Rating
  • Tags
Who knows ... you may even see a few pieces geared toward forensics in the future.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Camera Raw tips and tricks

I get a lot of questions about using Adobe Camera Raw, working ACR into various workflows, setting up Bridge, and so on. Not that I mind answering readers' questions. However, many of the answers to the questions have been featured by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals in their Photoshop User web site and magazine.

Not only does NAPP offer tips and tricks on all things Photoshop and Lightroom (Bridge and ACR as well), but you get reviews of the latest gear, discounts on training and equipment, and freebies galore.

Check them out. I know that times are tough and another membership might not be what you are looking for, but this one will pay for it self.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hack your camera?

From Maximum PC Magazine:

We love point-and-shoot pocket cameras for their small size and ease of use, but we lament their relatively paltry feature sets when compared to more expensive DSLR models. The good news, for owners of the popular Canon PowerShot cameras, is that your consumer-grade gadget can be upgraded with custom software to endow it with professional features like RAW image recording and live histogram feedback. CHDK (
Canon Hack Development Kit) is an easy-to-install software package created by a savvy group of programmers to supercharge the Canon PowerShot. We show you how to safely install and configure this free firmware add-on with no risk to your camera.

Click here to read the rest of the article and hack your Canon PowerShot camera.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Foolproof Forensics?

From NPR.org, commenting on the NAS report:

The world of forensic science has been in turmoil for the last six months since a prestigious panel released a study raising serious questions about many forensic techniques from hair analysis to fingerprints.

Those techniques have collectively resulted in thousands of people landing in prison — and now groups within the forensic science community are fighting over what the next steps should be.

Physicist Thomas Bohan says scientists knew for years that many forensic techniques "lacked scientific evaluation," but there was no political will to do anything about it. Now the report by the National Academy of Sciences offers "an opening, an opportunity," Bohan says.

"It will be a terrible shame if change doesn't take place," says Bohan, who is president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

An Argument Over Next Steps

But every time there is a push for change, there are political battles about what kind of change is best. The debate over forensic science is no different.

Crime lab directors want bigger budgets and more staff. Scientists want to start with research into which forensic techniques are valid.

Some key recommendations from the people who wrote the report don't have much support from anyone. For example, the report recommends creating an independent organization to oversee forensic techniques.

"There is no entity like this right now," says Constantine Gatsonis, who co-chaired the committee that wrote the forensic sciences report. "And hence what you've seen is every entity pulling in [its] own way. My personal opinion is that real progress is going to be very difficult without such an entity."

But that proposal now looks all but dead.

Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, says his members "don't agree with setting up a national institute of forensic science, another bureaucracy."

Congress will make these decisions. And a Senate Judiciary Committee staffer — speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter is still under discussion — said that in this economic climate it seems unlikely the government will create a new body to oversee forensic science.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Forensic Magazine

Some really cool articles are available in this month's edition of Forensic Magazine.

Check out articles on Forensic Audio, Crime Scene Photography, Examining Cellular Phones and Handheld Devices, as well as an interesting editorial on the burden of proof in light of the recent Melendez-Diaz Supreme Court ruling.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ikena in the real world

Back in July, I promised a review of Ikena from MotionDSP. Getting the software, dongle, updates, and support staff coordinated for a proper review has proven difficult - though it's been no one's fault in particular, just a confluence of events conspiring against proper progress.

Nevertheless, the gear is in and the report is forthcoming.

One little bit of commentary about my reviews vs. the canned footage that companies tend to put up in marketing pieces. When I review products, I use real-world footage. The stuff that you and I see every day: hand-held surveillance camera footage, vehicle mounted surveillance footage, CCTV footage, and still images. The footage comes from a variety of sources, utilising a variety of codecs.

Considering that MotionDSP has already walked into the room and smacked the industry leader in the face, it's important to make sure that not only what I do is fair to them, but also that I look at what they've done in their marketing to make sure that it's fair to their customer base. After all, you do have the right to know if they are telling you the truth about their products. Trust, but verify. If you can't trust a company's marketing, can you trust them with your hard earned money?

So ... some first impression food for thought while you wait ... Ikena doesn't compare at all to the Avid plug-in dTective from Ocean Systems. It's an apples and oranges comparison. Strike one. It's better compared to ClearID from Ocean Systems (see my ClearID review in Evidence Magazine). ClearID is 8 times cheaper than Ikena. In today's economy, stike two. Ocean Systems has published a suggested workflow for their products - a reliable and repeatable pattern of activity that can be documented / learned. I think that you can see where this is going.

Ikena's down in the count, but anything can happen. So stay tuned for the results in a future post.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

9th Circuit - Plain View Opinion

An interesting post has lead to much discussion on the 9th Circuit's Plain View decision.

The discussion has bounced around - attempting to define "neutral 3rd party" and wonders if a non-sworn forensic examiner who happens to work for the law enforcement agency in question could qualify as a "neutral 3rd party" - or - does "neutral" mean not working for the agency at all, as in a privateer lab.

All of this was wrapped around the NAS report discussion and the Melendez-Diaz decision.

Life is certainly getting interesting. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting your CV together

In this tough economy - layoffs, furloughs, career shifts and the like - getting your CV in order should be job one.

Your CV will likely be the first thing a potential employer sees, so it needs to convey the right message - competent, capable, experienced ... and ready to go to work on day one.

But how should your CV look? Here's a good article on getting your CV together.