Saturday, June 19, 2010

Say goodbye to film

From's Aric Dutelle: "When the State of Wisconsin finally made the move to convert its state crime laboratories from conventional film to digital photography, it signaled an end to the use of a form of crime scene documentation and evidence photography that had been used in criminal investigations for over 136 years across the United States.

The first recorded criminal case introducing photographs as identification evidence was Udderzook v. Commonwealth in 1874. Criminal cases have shown the importance of color since the 1960s (State v. Conte, 1968), when in a case depicting graphic wounds to the victim, photos were admitted as evidence. Criminal cases have continued to make use of photography to document evidence and create a visual story of what occurred, or was found at, the scene of a crime; however, the technology associated with the process has changed significantly over time.

The criminal justice community began utilizing digital photography approximately 15 years ago, although at that time the only affordable option was low-resolution digital equipment. Many agencies saw the benefit of digital photography's universal format, however realized that the resolution available was not appropriate for identification, examination and courtroom purposes. Therefore, the majority of agencies chose to keep film cameras until digital systems' resolution began to approach the level found in film resolutions. During this transitory era, many agencies required that both film and digital images be taken of pertinent evidence.

The past several years have seen a rapid increase in digital technology with regard to image resolution, which has resulted in the ability of agencies to phase out their film-based photography systems. Processing film is now a thing of the past, as is submitting film as photographic evidence.

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