Thursday, October 31, 2013

NMV file?

Kinesense recently posted a contest of sorts on their web site and advertised it on Twitter.



I've got a number of mystery files floating around my office, so my first thought was ... $25 per file?

I enquired about a .nmv file. I've never seen one before a recent case. No one seems to know what it is. If you do, and know where I can get a player, send me a note. Kinesense couldn't offer help on this one.


So, jump over to the Kinesense web site and try your hand at winning the gift card.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Adobe breach far worse than thought

This just in from Gigaom.com: "Adobe said in early October that it believed hackers accessed names, encrypted credit card and expiration dates and other data for about 2.9 million customers. But in addition, its investigation has now confirmed that attackers “obtained access to Adobe IDs and what were at the time valid, encrypted passwords for approximately 38 million active users,” according to an Adobe spokeswoman."

The issue with source code theft, Acrobat, Acrobat Reader, Cold Fusion, and Photoshop, is that the bad guys can go through the code, line by line, to find vulnerabilities and start exploiting them long before anyone knows what’s going on.

If you're a CC subscriber and ignored the letter that they sent requesting you change your password, you'd best log in an change it very soon.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Seven Deadly Sins of Forensic Crime Solving

Pete Gagliardi recently posted this excellent essay on the ethics of working cases. Here's a sample: "So what makes the difference between good folks in this business and bad ones? I submit to you that it’s this difference that determines success and failure.

Recently, I read an article discussing the Seven Deadly Sins and it got me thinking how they would apply in forensic crime solving operations.

Here goes: Agree? Disagree? Other?

The Seven Deadly Sins of Forensic Crime Solving Operations:

  • Lust - Empire building - focusing on status, power and authority instead of serving the public.
  • Gluttony - Pursuing and acquiring resources then not using them to their fullest crime solving potential.
  • Greed - Refusal to form partnerships and alliances to share data, technology and resources.
  • Sloth – A failure to make use of all the tools in the crime solving tool box – a failure to understand the meaning of “duty bound”.
  • Wrath – Actions taken or actions withheld because of anger toward a particular person or agency.
  • Envy - Rejecting proven best practices because you did not design them.
  • Pride – An expert “I know best” mentality preventing collaboration with stakeholders to find a better way.

The more serious the crime is, the more these seven deadly sins stand in the way of justice. Unlike the man at the liquor store who had been shot in the head yet lived to tell about it, murder victims can no longer speak for themselves, so society must speak for those who have lost their voices. It’s a responsibility as old as the bible which tells us to: Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute - Proverbs 31:8"

Monday, October 28, 2013

Amped Software Training

Would you rather train like this:


Or like this:


With training from Amped Software, you can have both. I'm working with Amped to schedule training sessions for FIVE, and Authenticate for 2014. Tentative locations include the Toronto metro area, the Kansas City metro area, the Atlanta metro area, the Los Angeles metro area, and the Pretoria, South Africa metro area. If you'd like to host a class, feel free to contact me or the folks at Amped Software.

We're also finalizing arrangements for an Advanced Concepts in Video and Image Analysis class to be delivered in 2014.

Stay tuned. The classes will be small - less than 20 - and will fill up fast.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

UK Surveillance camera conference details now available

The UK Surveillance Camera Commissioner held a free one-day conference on 23 October 2013. The conference documentation is now available by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Premiere Pro and Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks)

This just in from Adobe: "Apple today released the latest version of their operating system, Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks). We’re happy to say that both Premiere Pro CC and Premiere Pro CS6 are supported with this OS ..." Update: "We are aware that a small number of users are encountering stability issues after upgrading to Mac OS X 10.9. We are currently investigating these cases."

The end of Media-Geek?

This just in from Larry Compton: "Can you believe it's been nearly 6 years since Media-Geek's official launch? Over 1,500 verified members worldwide, and together we've helped to expedite thousands of investigations. A true testament to what can be accomplished through open information & resource sharing within our disciplines.

In With the New

Earlier this year I started my own DME & IT consulting business, and on November 1st I will be launching my new business portal DMEresources.com."

I'm looking forward to Larry's new site and wishing him all the best on his new venture.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Raw capture on a mobile phone

This just in: "Nokia is bringing raw capturing to two of their flagship phones, the Lumia 1520 and 1020. They'll use Adobe's openly documented, non-proprietary Digital Negative format (DNG).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Going to the IACP?

If you're going to the IACP Conference, here's a session related to video:
  • Digital Imaging and Video Recovery Team (DIVRT): An Innovative, Tactical Tool for Recovering DVR Video from Surveillance Systems and Utilizing Those Videos to Resolve Criminal Investigations. Saturday, 10/19/2013 11:15AM -12:15PM , Room 204A.
"Digital Imaging Video Response Team (DIVRT) training was developed in conjunction with the Philadelphia office of the FBI. It provides investigators with the necessary knowledge to extract video from crime scenes and quickly get them to the public and media. DIVRT has been such a success that the FBI is currently trying to pilot the program in other parts of the country."

"Training for the DIVRT (Digital Imaging Video Recovery Team) program began in Feb. 2011. Representatives from each division were given laptops and $5,000 in software. Using a video editing package called Camtasia, detectives could now construct and edit a two-to-four-minute vignette, complete with headlines, subtitles and face-blurring capabilities, share the video with the office of public affairs via DropBox and see it on the department's YouTube channel in minutes."

Comments withheld ... biting tongue .... argh! Camtasia or Omnivore, it's still a screen capture. You're still dealing with signal and not the data - the evidence. You're still engaged in a last case scenario with screen captures. Argh!



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Worldwide reach?


In case you'd like to find out more about me, you're welcome to view my LinkedIn profile and connect. Interestingly, LinkedIn gives stats as to who visits and from where.

Taken as a percentage of the population, it seems that I'm huge in Oman this week. Who knew?!

But seriously, I regularly participate in discussions in a few of the FVA groups over on LinkedIn. Feel free to come and look.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Countering Bad Science, can I get an amen

Kudos to George for his latest post on countering bad science. I've seen an uptick in these types of requests myself. George is spot on, "These cases involve three different aspects of my work – video analysis, forensic photography, and photographic comparison – but the common thread is that I was retained in each case because these attorneys needed someone to counter bad science presented by opposing counsel. In each case, the attorneys retaining me weren’t planning to use an expert until opposing counsel did so, and they needed someone to counter the bad science that was being presented."

Great post, George.

Monday, October 14, 2013

An Essential Employee

It goes without saying that many who read this blog are government employees. During the US government's quasi-shutdown, many readers are feeling the pain of the political posturing that is going on in the Federal City. Whilst many people think that government service jobs are safe and secure jobs, the current mess highlights the perils of working for the government.

The Washington Post notes this about the different types of employees that work for the federal government: "Does a shutdown mean everyone who works for the federal government has to go home?

Not exactly. The laws and regulations governing shutdowns separate federal workers into "essential" and "non-essential." (Actually, the preferred term nowadays is "excepted" and "non-excepted." This was tweaked in 1995 because "non-essential" seemed a bit hurtful. But we'll keep things simple.)

The Office of Management and Budget recently ordered managers at all federal agencies to conduct reviews to see which of their employees fall into each of these two categories. If a shutdown hits, the essential workers stick around, albeit without pay. The non-essential workers have to go home after a half-day of preparing to close shop."

You read that right, "essential employees" get to work for the government without getting paid during the shutdown. "The 1.3 million or so "essential" civilian employees who stay on could well see their next paychecks delayed if the shutdown extends beyond Oct. 15. They should, however, receive retroactive pay if and when Congress decides to fund the government again.

The 1.4 million active-service military members, meanwhile, will get paid no matter how long the shutdown lasts. That's because the House and Senate specifically passed a bill to guarantee active-duty military pay even when the government is closed."

Government workers, like most in the corporate world, are a few pay periods behind when it comes to getting paid. So, the pay checks they're getting now is for work done weeks ago. As noted in the article, that buffer extends until tomorrow.

As a community, we can help take the edge off the situation. We can hold pot-luck dinners, invite each other over for a meal, car pool, or any other way that lessens the burden that the current situation puts us all in.

So for all of you federal workers and contractors, my thoughts and prayers are with you. If you're ever in the area, the first pint's on me.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The new Photoshop CC Features panel

John Nack pointed out a recent addition to the Adobe Exchange, the Photoshop CC Features panel. You can now learn new features of the app right from within the app:

"How do you learn what the new features are and how to use them? The answer is the Photoshop CC Features panel where you can access new tools and features and watch videos all within Photoshop CC.

To get the panel, launch Photoshop CC and then open the Adobe Exchange Panel by going to Window >Extensions>Adobe Exchange. You may need to restart PS in order to apply updates."


Use the Search box to search for panel. Once installed, it's available from Window >Extensions>Photoshop CC Features.


Once loaded, take the tour of Photoshop's newest features.


Enjoy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Amped FIVE updates demultiplexer

We still do get the occasional multiplexed video. If you're lucky enough to have a hardware demultiplexer, then you can easily port channels into your capture device. But, if you don't ... or if you want to save time, you can demux in software. Software demultiplexing is one place where Amped FIVE rocks.


In my example, taken from a very old case, FIVE easily found the 16 camera views. My sample isn't very long, only about a minute and a half. The ability to find the cameras, and the time it takes to separate them all, aren't related. Processing time is related to the length of time contained in the file. 

The latest update automatically saves the different streams/views to individual files when demultiplexing. It's a huge time saver.



Just check the Write all sequences to file box in the Output window, and FIVE saves the streams to your project folder. The Scene settings drop down controls which camera view is displayed in the Viewer for processing.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Was Shakespeare better in the original Klingon?

In an interesting twist, I recently found myself in a situation with a DVR where the manual was less than helpful. The manual, fortunately, was written in multiple languages. The English version was horrible and offered little help. For some odd reason, the company didn't have a capable English translator and likely resorted to Google's translation services - it was that bad.

But, the interesting part, the German version was spot on. The nice thing about the German language is it's preciseness - with words meaning only one thing. Given this, translation into/from German is easy.

Thank goodness I payed attention in college level German. My German professor said that it would come in handy some day. Turns out ... he was right.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Honor Flight Network

In Honor of Our Veterans. The Honor Flight Network is an outstanding way of paying a small tribute to those who gave so much — a memorable, safe, and rewarding tour of honor.

“We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.” - Will Rogers


My family has a long tradition of military service. The support of veterans is one of my family's charitable missions. One of the groups that we support is the Honor Flight Network.

"Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America's veterans for all their sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.

Of all of the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation—and as a culturally diverse, free society. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. Our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out."

With the National Park Service's decision to barricade and guard the National WWII Memorial against visiting vets and their families, I want to take this time to encourage you to examine the issue of how our country's vets are treated.



If you feel called to do it, please consider supporting the Honor Flight Network.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Multi-cam in two minutes or less

Last month, I posted about a new piece of software that's taking the FVA market by storm. A few days ago, I received a personal tour of the software's many features from SIFT's Customer Support Manager. But, before you go thinking that such a tour is only available to powerful and influential members of the media, or before my head swells ... every new customer gets this hands on tour of the software. Pretty cool, eh?

Anyways, back to work.

One of the features that really stood out to me was their implementation Multi-Angle Video Display (multi-cam mode). Remember that FlexView Pro isn't an NLE, so there's no editing involved. Here, we're taking the videos as they are, in their native formats and running them in sync for display purposes. I've had to set these jobs up countless times after big incidents involving multiple cameras, or where suspects show up on multiple cameras / or multiple systems (in the case of pursuits).

SIFT's FlexView Pro allows users to view multiple video files at the same time for analysis/comparison/display. There are three methods with which users are able to create Multi-Element Assets:
1. Using the Multi-Angle Import , to import organized folders of video
2. Copying/Pasting Clipboard to Asset, from one asset to another asset
3. Add File to Asset, as an additional angle to an asset

The best part of this functionality is the Sync-Lock. If two Elements of an Asset are not recorded in sync together, the Sync-Lock tool can adjust their timelines so they will play back in sync.


With Sync-lock, the LOCK button allows for the Elements timelines to be Locked or Unlocked in relation to each other.


Simply scrub each video's time line to the point where they are in sync. Then click on the Lock. When playback begins, they will be in sync.

So for this example, the videos were loaded, sync'd and locked in less than two minutes. You can choose to play the videos back on your computer, or package the project up for distribution (includes a free player in the distribution package).

Import multiple camera views, sync them up, lock them down, and view them in just a few steps. No worries about converting the files to something your NLE will accept - FlexView handles anything that will display in Windows Media Player, and Milestone files as well. (If you need a container conversion, you know how to do that quickly as well.) No worries about expensive hardware. I ran the test on my famous $350 Lenovo laptop.

After the tour, the discussion about business models was quite illustrative of the mindset of the newcomers to the FVA market. Rather than extending the life of decades old tech to squeeze out every last dime of profit, these new players are giving us entirely new, purpose built software based on our needs as they are today, with flexibility to handle tomorrows issues. That's a plan that appeals to the geek in me. And, it's that kind of attentiveness to the emerging needs of law enforcement that will win them many customers in the days and months to come.

Enjoy.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Important Changes to Avid Software Availability

This just in from Avid:

"As your trusted partner, we strive to ensure you have timely and complete insight into what’s happening at Avid – to help you succeed both now and in the future. To that end, we are writing to make you aware of some very important changes that will affect access to your Avid® software. Due to a contractual change with our third-party Java software supplier, Avid is implementing support for an Open Source Java alternative in our products moving forward to ensure an optimal user experience at the lowest cost possible for our customers.

However, this means we will no longer offer software installers for many legacy versions of your Avid video and broadcast products after November 1, 2013. Because of this, we strongly encourage you to follow general IT best practices and back up all of your Avid software installers now to ensure that you have what you need in the future.

While we will continue to offer downloads of more recent Avid software releases through our Download Center, using an Open Source Java alternative, the following versions of software—and all prior releases to these—will be removed indefinitely:


Action required—Back up your software by November 1st

Because of these changes, please be sure that you download and create backup copies of the installers for any affected Avid software you own and save them in a secure location. You’ll find your available software by logging in to your My Avid account and looking under “My Products”, “Products Not Yet Downloaded” or the “Avid Video Download Center.” After November 1st, Avid Customer Success, Professional Services and Avid Resellers will not be able to assist with the affected software installations listed above; you will have to rely on your own backup copy to install your software. Following these recommended procedures now will ensure that you have the ability, if needed, to reinstall your software anytime after November 1st.

At Avid, we want to ensure we are fully preparing you for these upcoming changes so that you can make the most of your Avid software—both now and in the future. For more information, tips for downloading and backing up software, and answers to questions, please visit our Avid Software Availability forum. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you for your continued support."

Ed note: if you're an Ocean Systems customer, remember that they rarely ship Avid media (if at all) with your workstation order. It's important that you log into your Avid account today (it will need to be current) and download everything to which you are entitled. If you decided, like some agencies, to not renew your Avid software service contract ... well ... sorry. Hopefully, you downloaded everything before you quit the program.

An open letter to the marketing and management staff at Ocean Systems

Call me a troll, if you will. But, I had to say something. My previous post on the subject caused a little ripple in the community. Since that time, I've seen quite a few copies of the same advertisement for the Ocean Systems Field Kit. You know the one that I'm talking about. So here's the open letter:

Dear Ocean Systems,

As a long time loyal customer, a long time LEVA member and LEVA instructor, and a member of the public service video/image analysis community, I have a particular problem with the language in your recent marketing campaign. Your statement, "With the Omnivore Field Kit, first responders and forensic video analysts alike can go on scene and walk away with an uncompressed copy of the evidence they need to investigate the case," I believe is misleading and borders on a false claim. I believe that it does harm to your trusted name in the community and perhaps will do harm to those who do not take the time to investigate your claims and trust that in purchasing your Field Kit, using it at a crime scene as their first and only option, will in fact "walk away with an uncompressed copy of the evidence they need to investigate the case;" not knowing that they are leaving so much valuable data behind.

So much has changed since we first published Best Practices for the Retrieval of Video Evidence from Digital CCTV Systems (DCCTV Guide). One of the concerns that we had was that people know the difference between video forensics and computer forensics - at the time, we weren't trying to tell folks that they had to follow computer forensics protocols in order to obtain valid multimedia evidence. That is, if they could coax the machine to give them a copy of the data. We gave the community a flow chart of options, options for obtaining the data on various types of media. When all else fails, we noted, resort to signal capture technology. Again, signal capture was/is a last resort option. The Field Kit, relying on the Omnivore, is a signal capture device and is thus a last resort - not something for first responders, certainly.

The industry has changed and responded to the needs of forensic video analysts. There now exists a suite of tools from various manufacturers to image drives and process the data in a meaningful way. Do I mean to say that the Omnivore has no value? Certainly not. I own one and have had occasion to use it when all else failed. When all else failed, it saved my bacon. It offered the trier of fact the only look at the data that was possible. But again, it was the last option on my flow chart; and I'm a trained specialist who knows how to use it effectively, how to document it's use, and so forth.

Therefore, I'll ask a simple request. I do not ask for you to stop marketing the Field Kit or the Omnivore. You are certainly entitled to make a living, to profit, and to thrive. Please, don't be the braggart that leads the good and well meaning astray. I simply ask that you re-word your marketing such that your customers and potential customers are made aware of what they are buying; something akin to "When all else fails, we're here for you." Heck, I'll even pitch in with the example that I reference above and allow you to quote me.

So, please. Be the one that saves the day. Be the one that your customers can rely upon, when all else fails.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Premiere Pro output options for YouTube and Vimeo HD

Over on Klout.com, I was asked a question, "What is the best codec to export in premiere pro? I am running on Mac osx. 1080p footage, probably for YouTube and Vimeo HD?" Not knowing the version of Premiere Pro, I directed my response to the options available in the Creative Cloud version.


A simple way to export the same file to multiple locations is with the Adobe Media Encoder, included in the Creative Cloud subscription. As you can see from the graphic, there are a ton of options for exporting video for YouTube and Vimeo HD.

As for "the best," it depends on the source and the target. A little trial and error will be necessary.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Does Photoshop CC Shake Reduction pass the test?

One of the new features in Photoshop CC is Shake Reduction. Thankfully, I'm now only getting one e-mail per blast from Adobe (thank you Adobe Marketing for straightening that issue out) per news release.

According to Adobe, you can "quickly restore sharpness to images blurred by camera motion, whether the blur was caused by a slow shutter speed or long focal length. With Camera Shake Reduction, you can make your shots steady — even if your hands aren’t." As always, I like to test new features with older files that I know have specific issues. To me, when I hear "Shake Reduction," I think PSF. So, lets see how well it performs.

First, I open my file and convert the image to a Smart Object (Layer>Smart Object>Convert to Smart Object). I do this as I may want to go back later and edit the settings, and this is the only way to do that. Simply choosing Filter>Sharpen>Shake Reduction, without first converting the file to a Smart Object, won't allow me to edit the settings later. But we already know about, and love, Smart Objects.


The Shake Reduction dialog box opens, and for my file, automatic produces a modern art masterpiece. It does not automatically detect and correct the PSF issues in my test file. Thus, I must perform a manual correction.


In the top left corner of the dialog box, you'll see four icons. We'll want the Blur Direction Tool (the second from the top). We use this to trace the point that has become a line (PSF). Here, it's a bit off its mark initially. But there are further controls available.


With these controls, I can visually dial in the PSF and correct the problem. I don't want smoothing as details are important. Artifact Suppression dials down the ripple effect of this process.

Once I'm satisfied with the results, I simply click OK and continue to work my workflow. As the PSF process corrects focus, it's done at the Focus step of my workflow. After the focus issues are addressed, I move on to global color and light issues.

That's the good news. Here's the bad.

If you're relying on Photoshop to track your edits and record your settings, you'll be disappointed. It doesn't record the settings for this filter.


There it is, from opening to saving. I have the Preferences for my History Log set to Detailed. Just to make sure that I wasn't doing anything wrong, I quit Photoshop, relaunched, and performed the test again. Again, the same results in the History Log. So, one more check - do Shake Reduction without converting the image to a Smart Object. Same results (data ...)


In terms of reproducibility, you'll need to record the settings yourself; Photoshop seemingly won't. Screen shots of the settings area might help you here.

So in the end, as a Photographer, I think it's a cool addition to the venerable program that I've loved since discovering version 3. As a forensic scientist, it's one more little annoyance - why can't the data be included in the History Log? Plus, as it's an Adobe product, I'll have to guess at the algorithm they used. But, if all you can afford is a CC subscription, at least you'll know now how to correct some PSF issues in Photoshop. (It did not do well when the pixel bubbled out in a circle, only when it blurred into a line. That's more of a Smart Sharpen (blind deconvolution) issue in Photoshop. But with that test, Photoshop fails miserably due to lack of precise control and refresh issues.)

So, I'll stick with FIVE. FIVE gives me the control I need. It's quicker to the punch in performing PSF corrections. It can handle, precisely, all my PSF needs. It reports all of the settings, gives me the plain English explanation of what I've done, as well as the reference for the algorithm in the report. And, as Photoshop is still a verb in California, I don't get all the baggage that comes with trying to explain how the image was "Photoshopped" correctly.