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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Forevid - a new tool for video review that's free

I received the following announcement: "I would like to introduce to you a new open-source software for the analysis of surveillance videos, called Forevid. Forevid was developed here at the forensic laboratory of the National Bureau of Investigation, Finland by me and a former intern of mine (Sami Hautamäki). Our goal was to develop a free and easy-to-use tool for the law enforcement and forensic community, containing similar features as the corresponding commercial software.

You can find more information about the software and the download link at http://www.forevid.org/. Please give it a try, and tell me your opinion!"

Needless to say, it grabbed my attention. So, like anyone who is engaged in the work, I went and downloaded the program and gave it a spin. Here's what I think ...

It's free
It's really simple and easy to use
It combines some of the more popular features of other programs in one program
Deinterlace features
It features case management functions

It's free
It's open source
It's feature set is limited
It's Windows only
It only handles "standard windows type videos"

Why would being free be listed in both areas? Freeware is great in a time of tight budgets. For agencies struggling with getting gear, freeware is both a blessing and a curse. My fear is always that the agency won't get the appropriate tool once the budget mess turns around ... since they have the free (albeit limited) tool.

Open source programs can be problematic. The same problem that I have with this tool, I also have with GIMP. Open source means that I can change the program to suit my needs. I don't necessarily have to share the new code with anyone, though I should. There are plenty of so-called experts out there marketing their FVA services with proprietary processes. Repeatability is sacrificed when I can't duplicate their work, leaving the trier of fact to make sense of this battle of the experts. Open source also means that there is a potential that no improvements will ever be made to the program. Agencies that adopt open source programs risk their future for the sake of saving a few dollars.

The limited feature set seems to be an attempt to say, "here's what most people use, and nothing else." Which is fine, until you need the other stuff.

It's windows only. At this point, I'm sure that you're thinking ... here he goes on his Mac rant again. Hold on a minute ... My point here, just like my take on Ocean Systems' dCoder-to-go product (code name Omnivore), is that it runs on/in Windows. More DVRs are being built around Linux today, and the percentage is growing. What we need is something that can decode proprietary Linux video. I'd like to see more time being spent on that particular elephant in our room - that's all I'm saying here. The company that solves that particular problem isn't going to have issues with profitability.

Like the issue above, if you don't have the codec issue sorted out on your system, this won't help you with the video. It has to be DirectShow, Video for Windows, FFmpeg, or AVIsynth script compatible content. You need to already have the codec installed in order to make the video work in Forevid. Sure it comes with some codecs - but most of us have the included codecs already, so there's no big bonus here. If you don't have it, chances are that you'll find it on Larry Compton's Media-Geek. Here's what they say about the issue, "if for some reason, Forevid is not able to import the given video, an error dialog is displayed. By selecting Media info from the dialog, detailed information of the video file can be explored, and e.g. the fourcc code of the required codec can be identified ..." just like GSpot.

All in all, it's a handy little program that some will find useful. Validate it for yourself and you'll see what I mean. As for me, I'll be sticking with what I already have for now.


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