Thursday, May 30, 2013

Analysis or demonstratives?

In response to many of my recent posts, I was asked "Amped FIVE or Avid MC or Photoshop or Premiere Pro or ImageJ or MATLAB or ... which is your favourite tool?" My answer, it depends. It depends on what's requested and how the investigator or customer wants the final product delivered.

Photoshop's analysis tools are very limited, so I was thrilled to find FIVE on the market. FIVE isn't a tool for creating demonstratives, so I'm a happy Creative Cloud subscriber. I may be asked to repeat another expert's work, so I try to have all the latest tools out there (I know, I'm a bit spoiled). For images: Photoshop, FIVE, ImageJ, MATLAB, Gimp, and etc. For video: Photoshop, FIVE, Premiere Pro, Avid MC, Vegas, iMovie, Final Cut, and etc. For audio: Audition, DC Live, Audacity, Sound Forge, and etc. For mobile devices, FINALMobile, Cellebrite, XRY, and so on.

What I've found is that results often vary by the tool. Can I reproduce the results of an Avid MC project in Sony's Vegas? Can I follow a Photoshop project's notes exactly in FIVE? Sort of. But, will sort of work for your case and your court? Maybe.

These are some of the issues that I'll bring up when I present Forensic Image & Video Analysis at this year's LEVA Conference in September.

Our juries are becoming more sophisticated. They’re demanding deeper responses and better explanations to questions about your clarification / enhancement / analysis techniques. What did your program do? What’s the scientific basis for your work? Can you cite published references for the tools that you employ in your workflow? Remember, part of your testimony (telling your story) now involves framing the science of your analysis in a way that your jury can understand.

In this session, we'll move beyond workflows and checklists and enlist the help of some of the legends of mathematics to focus on the science that lies beneath the surface of the filters that we use every day. Unlike your use of other tools (which are largely used for creating demonstrative exhibits), in this 16-hour class, we’ll approach forensic image & video analysis from a scientific perspective, relying on the scientific method to guide our path to discovery. Along the way, will discover whom Joseph Fourier and Carl Friedrich Gauss were and what do they have to do with our work as analysts.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Playing well with others

Here's an interesting scenario that I came across today.

One of the leading manufacturers of body worn audio/video recorders for law enforcement outputs AVI files from it's software using an MJPEG codec. Their proprietary video's frame rate varies - so the frame rate in the resulting file tends to vary too.

In general, our edit bay technology was designed for the broadcast industry (Avid, Adobe, Sony, etc). They don't like variable frame rate media. Thus, dropping these videos on a timeline, making corrections and other edits, then outputting to some MPEG file for inclusion in a detective's PowerPoint becomes problematic. Frame counts don't match. Frames get dropped/added according to the output codec. Ghosting can happen.

A discussion ensued. Edits were being done to the AVI transcoded copy that was being used for demonstrative purposes. The original files were unchanged and remain in their proprietary format - available for the court if necessary. So ... the question - does it make a difference if the frame counts don't quite match (demonstratives vs. originals) as long as the essential details of the case are preserved?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Creative Cloud: an Update

I'm not sure if folks are not understanding all the issues with Adobe's Creative Cloud scheme, or they do understand it and don't necessarily like what they see. Here's the latest answers to questions, from the Creative Cloud blog.

Enjoy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pantone celebrates it's 50th anniversary

Anyone working in the design business knows the Pantone name. It's hard to think of any customer service aspect of the design business where Pantone hasn't made life a bit easier. This year, Pantone celebrates it's 50th anniversary. To help celebrate, they've created this cool infographic examining color by decade. It's worth a look.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spirit of Blue helps Revere PD

This just in from Spirit of Blue: "Events in the Boston area in April underscore the importance and critical role that this type of software can play. Just days after the bombing, law enforcement had tens of thousands of hours of cell phone and CCTV footage to comb through. Without a tool like Amped FIVE Professional, that footage could have been rendered unusable. As we know now, law enforcement’s ability to enhance and analyze that footage brought about the crucial break in identifying the suspects in the case,” commented Todd Parola, who serves the Spirit of Blue as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. “The Revere community in particular has made significant investments in their surveillance capability and Amped FIVE Professional will allow them to unlock the full value of the data they are now able to collect."

The Spirit of Blue Foundation helps LE agencies through grants of product. Check out their site to see if there's a grant that will help your agency.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Creative Cloud for Government

I asked a few questions of my friends at Adobe about how the Creative Cloud scheme will be implemented for government accounts. As most folks know, governments don't usually do month-to-month recurring payments, they usually pay in blocks with a purchase order - to an authorized reseller.

With that in mind, here's the response that I received:

  • We will be updating our Government Price List in July and you will be able to purchase through authorized resellers, at that time. If [your agency] chooses to enter into an ETLA (Enterprise Term License Agreement), then yes, one, annual payment would be allowed, along with annual “true ups”.
  • Log in’s and further details, specific to Government End Users will be addressed at 2 separate webinars.
So, there you have it. Jump in an register for the webinars and ask your questions there.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Moving files backwards from Photoshop CC

This just in from David Cross, "Here’s one of the concerns many people have with Adobe Creative Cloud: if down the road I stop my cloud membership, can I open my files in older versions of the software. Of course there is no way to absolutely guarantee that it will work, although historically – in Photoshop at least – you can open psd files in an older version. If your psd file contains features that are not supported by the older version, the file still opens but those features cannot be edited."

So, if you decide to go down the subscription path, but later can't afford the payments, you can still work with the old versions of Photoshop that you "own."

Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reaction to CC is mixed

As you can see from this video, not everyone is reacting kindly to the news about CC.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Say goodbye to Photoshop Extended

With the birth of Photoshop CC comes the death of the Photoshop Extended product. All Photoshop CC customers will get all the cool features and product updates. Can I get an amen? Finally, no more trying to explain to folks who can't get the measurement tool to work ... you bought the wrong version. This makes perfect sense to me, and I am glad they finally pulled the plug on the 2 Photoshops concept.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Camera Raw 8 as a filter?!

If you love Camera Raw, you'll love this announcement about a feature in the soon to be released Photoshop CC - Camera Raw as a filter. You can now use Camera Raw at any time, on any layer ... even video. How cool is that?!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What are Adobe's customers saying about the CC announcement

For a peek at what customers are saying about Adobe's announcement about the end of the Creative Suite and a move to the cloud, check out this forum over at Fred Miranda's site. There's lots of talk about switching to Capture One and Photo Ninja. Others hope that Sony steps up their game.

In all, you can sense that Adobe's messaging caused more confusion than cheers. The biggest confusion, the subscription prices announced at MAX 2013 are for the first year only. What will be the price going forward? Will government purchasers be able to lock in prices for 3-5 years? Who knows. More news to follow.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Creative Cloud for Government?

This week, Adobe made some announcements at the MAX 2013 Conference in Los Angeles. Here is Adobe’s letter addressed to its Creative users across all markets and disciplines about these changes, and below is a quick recap of the key announcements:

1) Major Updates to the Creative Cloud: Adobe announced a significant update to Adobe Creative Cloud, its flagship offering for creatives. Available in June and packed with new features, Creative Cloud reimagines the creative process through a set of “CC” desktop applications and cross-device collaboration and publishing capabilities. See the full press release here.

2) Accelerating their Shift to the Cloud: Adobe has seen the adoption of its Creative Cloud solution, and they have decided to focus their creative software development efforts on that platform moving forward. While Adobe Creative Suite® 6 products will continue to be supported and available for purchase, the company has no plans for future releases of Creative Suite or other CS products. See the full press release here.

Also released was a comprehensive description of Adobe’s Creative Cloud for Enterprise offering, as well as an Enterprise FAQ and a short, succinct Government FAQ section.


"Available in July, government customers will be able to purchase the Creative Cloud Desktop Applications subscription via Adobe’s CLP-G licensing program. The Creative Cloud Desktop Applications subscription includes all of the available CC apps, plus Acrobat and Photoshop Lightroom. These applications can be deployed locally and do not require server-based license validation during the term.

What is the CLP-G program?

CLP-G is a contractual procurement program specifically setup to transact business with government agencies."

It remains to be seen if government purchasing agents will go for a subscription based software purchase - and one that expires at the end of the term.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Multiple GPUs supported in Premiere Pro CC, sort of

For editors using computer configurations containing multiple GPUs, Premiere Pro CC can use all of them during export (but not during playback). So folks who require the fastest possible encode times will be able to leverage all the GPUs they own.

For the current list of officially certified GPUs for Premiere Pro CC, click here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Photoshop CC for Creative Cloud Members Coming Soon!

Here's the news coming out of Adobe on Photoshop CC: "We’re thrilled to announce that the next version of Photoshop, the world’s most popular digital imaging software, will be available to Creative Cloud members this June! This release, called Photoshop CC, will deliver dozens of new features, including capabilities in sharpening, upsampling and reducing blur, improvements to designer tools, added capabilities in Adobe Camera Raw, and much more."

As a Creative Cloud customer, I'm looking forward to seeing the new version. That I'll get to see it sooner than folks who bought the boxed version makes me feel a little special.

John Nack weighs in on the pricing scheme: "Shouldn’t loyal Adobe customers get a discount moving to Creative Cloud? Short answer: Absolutely.

Longtime Adobe customers have been very clear in their comments here throughout the last year: they’ve invested serious money with the company over the years, and they want that to be honored as we move forward.

Adobe agrees, so check this out. If you own CS3 or later:
  • You can get Creative Cloud Complete (the whole $2,600 Master Collection & more) for $29.99/month. 
  • Even better, if you own CS6, you can get Complete for $19.99/month (60% off the new-user price of $49.99).
  • If you don’t need or want everything in Complete, you can get Photoshop CC and other new CC apps for $9.99/month. That’s about 35 cents per day."
I still love Photoshop and use it daily. I can't wait to see what they've done with it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Are tool mark analysis and firearms exams part of gun buy back programs

I've trained a number of firearms analysts and folks involved with examining tool marks at crime scenes in the use of Photoshop. With this in mind, I've received a few e-mails from media outlets about the general policies involved with gun buy back programs. Specifically, folks want to know if the weapons that are turned in are checked against unsolved crimes.

The short answer is, I don't know. The long answer is that some do and some don't. Many agencies have the capabilities - but choose not to for public relations purposes. Others simply don't have the staff, or enough staff to handle the work of processing the hundreds of weapons turned in during these programs - in addition to those recovered during regular investigations.

I've often wondered how long it will be until a retired analyst, or other such expert, hangs a shingle and contracts with their local agency to perform the service - or takes on regional business. Something to think about given the amount of unsolved firearms related crimes on the books nationwide.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

GoldWave turns 20

The venerable audio editor, GoldWave, turns 20 this year. To celebrate, it's authors have generously submitted this offer:

Enjoy a 4 month free trial! User ID: NFEMBJP8C, License: PH6N2AL5E, Expires: 2013/08/28.

Pass it on!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Adobe's SpeedGrade CS6 for LE Production work

For those involved in the production of training videos, or other media related exercises, Adobe's John Nack has some news for you: "Color-correcting a single image can be a challenge. Correcting a video clip, even more so. Correcting a whole series of shots & making them look good together—well, that takes some skill, plus some tech like the forthcoming release of Adobe SpeedGrade."

If you're in the production business, you need to look closely at SpeedGrade. I think that this will do for video folks what Match Color did for us Photoshop folks years ago.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The call for more CCTV in the US

If CCTV cameras prevented crime, places like NY and London would be the safest places in the world. But, they're not. As we've previously noted, ""Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe."

Now, folks are remarking at the private video footage that aided in the identification of the Boston bombing suspect in their call for more cooperation between private CCTV system owners and law enforcement.

When government does anything, it tends to be very expensive and more for political optics than for actual problem solving. Most of the private systems bought from big-box stores at around $600 (for 8 cameras and a DVR) can be put on the owner's DSL line and accessed by law enforcement when necessary. This seems the more intelligent option, if the owners choose to participate.

But again, whilst properly configured CCTV systems help in the investigation of crimes, as the UK has shown, they tend to have little preventative effect.