Thursday, April 25, 2013

Forensic Image and Video Analysis can aid in insurance fraud investigations

As the economy continues to muddle along, some folks are finding new and interesting ways to try scam the insurance system. Investigators and agents need innovative ways to detect image and video forgeries as well as some training in interpreting images in terms of measurements and the relationships of objects in the scene.

When selecting a contractor, or training provider, be sure that the person or company has the training and expertise in "analysis" and not just production or some other related industry. Just as you might not trust your General Practitioner with your heart bypass, this type of work requires a specialist. As always, we're here to help with services, referrals, and/or training. Just let us know what you need. We're here to help.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Amped FIVE now available in 64bit

This great news just came from Amped Software: "Today [Amped Software] just released a new major update to Five. As always all of our customers who have an active update/support plan, or who purchased Five within the past 12 months, can freely download the update. (If you haven’t tried it, go to Help>Check for Updates Online)

There are several new improvement that will be highlighted in the coming days, but the major one is that Five is now available in both 32 and 64 bit flavors.

The good thing is that when you install Five you will get both the version at the same time if you have a 64 bit operating system. By default the installer will create a link to the 32 bit version, but you can easily modify the link or create a new one changing the path from bin32 to bin64.

[Amped Software] preferred to leave the 32 bit version as default because of codec compatibility. Most of the codec packages that users install by default on systems are in 32 bit version and if you don’t install the codecs specifically for 64 bit you won’t be able to decode some file formats. This is just an issue inherent with all the proprietary formats, so we designed things this way so no loss of compatibility is risked with this new version.

So, what are the benefits of a 64-bit version? Mainly an improvement in performance and the possibility to use more than 3 GB of RAM (limitation in Windows for 32-bit OS). You may have noticed with previous version of Five that when you were working at big images (like the ones coming from modern digital cameras) after adding a few filters the memory could get full, thus limiting new processing steps and filters. This was especially true with memory intensive filters like the ones for image deblurring.

Now, with the 64 bit version, Five is able to use as much memory as is available on your system. So huge files aren’t a problem.

Both the 32 and 64 versions should work fine in most of the cases but the general advice could be the following:

  • Use 32 bit version to work on CCTV videos, where support for same exotic codec available only for 32 bit operating systems may be required and where memory is not usually an issue. The quality is generally poor to begin with, so that is why we’re trying to clarify it, right?
  • Use 64 bit version to work on digital camera and high definition images, where there is the risk of needing more than 3 GB of RAM. This is very useful for latent prints, crime scene photos, high quality images, etc. Now there is no limitation of memory size, so go as big as you need to go.

That’s NOT all folks… there are also some other improvements under the hood and in ease of use. Update Five and see for yourself."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blurring faces in Amped Five

Here's some good news from Amped Software about blurring faces in video: "Usually the main task put in front of the forensic video analyst is to process a video or image in order to make the details like a car, face, or other fine details more visible. Since cross-disciplined tasks are becoming much more common, we see that the request can also go in the opposite direction, and the expert is asked to hide sensitive details from the video. In order to preserve the privacy of people not involved in the case, it is often needed to mask faces or license plates from videos which will be shown in courts or given to the media.

Since having this type of capability can lend some additional utility to our customers, we included tools in Amped Five to achieve this result with the filter “Hide Selection”. Since just pixilation does not work for all applications, we have given the user the flexibility to selectively darken, blur or pixelate an area of the image. The area can be static, or can follow a subject of interest along the whole video or just parts of it; as this tool works with our other tools to provide the results needed.

The tracking of the area, person, or object can be done both automatically and manually. While the automatic approach is very effective on simple object such as license plate, often for people and faces it is necessary to use the manual approach which allows a better customization of tracking and ensures accurate results that won’t compromise the privacy or sensitivity of the obscured area.

Even in our manual mode, the process is very quick and effective, as the user just needs to set the area of interest only on some frames where the motion or the subjects has a higher rate of change. The software will automatically calculate intermediate positions on the other frames.

Click here for a quick video that show how easy is to accomplish the desired task of hiding the face of a suspicious subject from a surveillance video."

This is yet another reason to love Amped FIVE. How many more do you need?! :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Forensic Video Response Team

I've received a number of calls, texts, and e-mails related to the Boston bombings. An interesting trend in the questions surfaced almost immediately - that the lack of LE FVA experts on the news shows indicates a lack of cooperation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here's the statement from LEVA: The Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association, (LEVA) maintains a network of trained forensic video analysts and facility at their digital multimedia evidence processing lab at the University of Indianapolis. This facility was designed for large scale forensic video processing and analysis efforts to be able to respond to acts of terrorism in the United States post September 11, 2001.

The Vancouver, British Columbia Police Department established a model in proper collection and analysis of digital video, image and multimedia evidence during their investigation of the Stanley Cup Riots in June, 2011. As a member agency of LEVA, Vancouver Police requested activation of the LEVA lab and the forensic video response team to assist with processing and examining the video and image evidence they had collected. This model set the standard for how large scale video and image evidence analysis efforts should be conducted and received national acclaim from the International Association of Chiefs of Police as the Vancouver Police Department and LEVA were both awarded commendations for excellence in forensic science. LEVA intends to follow the Vancouver Police model if called upon to assist in the examination and processing of digital video or multimedia evidence stemming from any major incident, including a terrorist act.

LEVA, and the more specifically the LEVA lab is the only place in the world where large scale video and digital image processing and analysis efforts can be undertaken quickly and efficiently. The LEVA lab and forensic video response team can be activated upon the request of any law enforcement agency to assist with the investigation of any large scale critical incident.

Blaine Davison
President


One thing that I know still holds true, we don't comment about our involvement in active cases. We don't get to talk about our work on a case until it's part of the public record ... usually at the end of the case. If we're lucky enough to assist on big cases like the London or Madrid bombings, or the Vancouver Riots ... we're largely working in the background. No one joins the civil service for fame or glory. Most are just happy to help where they can. So, if you're looking for a scoop, or a roster of who helped where - you'll likely not find it. Rest assured, however, that it's all getting handled ... and handled well.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Image Analysis Domains

With every US news outlet scrambling for a unique angle on the bombing in Boston, and with the 24 hour cycle, news producers have been trolling the internet for "experts" to keep the story alive. I've seen a few of the reports, and I'm quite frankly embarrassed at some of the reporters' questions.

The main point of confusion, on the part of the media, is the word "analysis." In the context of this discussion, the definition of forensic video/image analysis can be found in LEVA's glossary:

Forensic Video Analysis
(FV) - (definition developed and accepted by practicing forensic scientists/examiners) Forensic Video Analysis is the scientific examination, comparison, and/or evaluation of video in legal matters. This is also called Forensic Video Analysis. (ASCLD-LAB - category definition for accreditation purposes only) A subdiscipline of Digital Multimedia Evidence which involves the examination, analysis, and/or evaluation of video.

The key word in the entire block is "scientific." In order for the analysis to be "scientific," it must follow the scientific method. The large themes of the scientific method involve testing your hypothesis against logical alternatives, asking for and receiving peer review, and the academic underpinnings of your theory. Is your hypothesis testable? Does existing literature support your test? Can your peers reproduce your results in an independent setting?

In terms of the domains of analysis, there are four agreed upon domains for forensic video/image analysis:

  1. Photogrammetry
  2. Comparison
  3. Content analysis
  4. Authentication
One common mistake made across the news reports I watched is that clarification/enhancement is analysis. To be sure, clarification/enhancement help observation and make it easier to form initial conclusions. To be part of a scientific method, they need to be reliable and repeatable. But they are not, of themselves, analysis. 

Of the many "experts" who accepted the opportunity to speak to a national audience, understand that the opposition research team for every case you will be involved with in the future will find your statements on the news sites and on YouTube. You will be asked about them. That you were taken out of context or selectively edited won't matter much. I know this well as I've written on the subject for years, presented at countless conferences, have had a few appearances on TV, and have a couple of books out there. 

I know that the media doesn't care about me or my reputation - they care about ratings and keeping an audience. By the next day, they're on to the next big story. But, your comments now live forever on the internet.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Photoshop Sneak Peek: See What's to Come

Adobe's John Nack shared this video about what's coming in a future version of Photoshop.

Based on the short video, it looks like they're attempting to do an automatic PSF correction to motion blurred images - also called deconvolution.

You know me by now, I'm not a huge fan of automatic corrections. From a repeatability standpoint, they're problematic. They're also problematic from a documentation standpoint. Thankfully, I've had the ability to do this for a while now - in AmpedFIVE. Here's a comparable video example - from 4 years ago - demonstrating the same functionality in FIVE. The nice thing about FIVE, is that you can do this on images or video - make precise, reliable, and repeatable adjustments - right now ... you don't need to wait on CS7.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lightroom 5 public beta available for download

To test Lightroom 5 Public Beta, you are not required to own a previous version of Lightroom. Just download it and try it out until it expires on June 30, 2013.

Download Lightroom 5 Beta

New Features in Lightroom 5 Beta:

  • Advanced Healing Brush – Easily remove objects and fix defects—even those with irregular shapes such as threads or lint—with a single brush stroke. Take precise control over what's being removed as you make unwanted objects just disappear.
  • Upright – Straighten tilted images with a single click. Upright analyzes images and detects skewed horizontal or vertical lines. You choose one of four correction methods, and Upright can even straighten images where the horizon is hidden.
  • Radial Gradient – Lead your viewer's eye through your images with more flexibility and control. The radial gradient tool lets you create off-center vignette effects, or multiple vignette areas within a single image.
  • Offline editing with Smart Previews – Easily work with images without bringing your entire library with you. Just generate smaller stand-in files called Smart Previews. Make adjustments or metadata additions to Smart Previews and your changes will be automatically applied to the full-size originals later.
  • Video slideshow sharing – Easily share your work in elegant video slideshows. Combine still images, video clips, and music in creative HD videos that can be viewed on almost any computer or device.
  • Improved photo book creation – Create beautiful photo books from your images. Lightroom includes a variety of easy-to-use book templates, and now you can edit them to create a customized look. Upload your book for printing with just a few clicks.
Whilst you know how I feel about Lightroom for forensics, I still love it for my photography work. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

NaTIA Pacific Chapter wrap-up

It was nice to get to a NaTIA chapter event again. It's been quite a while.

The FVA of native (recorded) and live Milestone feeds was an intense class. I don't think that I've seen a room packed full like that in a long time. It's actually quite refreshing to see this level of interest in forensic video analysis. Milestone is the new big dog on the block and we've figured out their file structure as well as their server side for the live work.

Image authentication was also intense. There's nothing like mathematics to get the blood flowing early in the morning. Folks realized that there's so much more than the visual domains of authentication. If you're not into the math - into the algorithms of the image - you're missing so much.

Hopefully everyone walked away with a nice set of tools that will help solve some of their most troubling problems.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Training, training, and more training

You might have noticed a significant lack of posts on the blog recently. Well ... I've been tuning up an entirely new set of training offerings - Image Authentication with Amped's Authenticate and Live FVA of your Milestone enabled pole cam feeds. Both of which kick off this week in Pasadena at the NaTIA Pacific Chapter's Spring Meeting.

I've been working more on solving specific problems related to where images and video originate. The focus on Milestone enabled CCTV systems begins that specific track and covers a wide gamut of product offerings, from pole cams to large facility CCTV. The wonderful thing about Amped FIVE is that you can either dial into the camera itself and do FVA live, or you can work with Milestone's native files.

The other focus has to do with mobile phones and other small scale digital devices. More folks are carrying around some form of mobile device, from iPhones to iPads ... and capturing scenes relevant to crime scene investigations. The workflow involves a step-by-step from getting it off the device to working with it to clarify the footage - even if it's been deleted. (I remember the original LEVA FVA and the Law - it only focussed on tapes as source material)

So look for these topics to be dealt with more in the future. If you're interested in attending a future training session, I'm confirmed for this week in Pasadena, for June's Mobile Forensics World in Myrtle Beach, SC, and LEVA's annual conference in September. More dates are on the way.

Friday, April 12, 2013

New Thesis from UC Denver's Brian Pendergast

Here's a link to Brian Pendergast's Masters Thesis (UC Denver). He's proposing a solution to the issue of playback of proprietary DCCTV files.

They're doing some great work out there.