Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Marketing vs. news you can use

This month, I received a renewal notice for Evidence Technology Magazine. It went straight into the trash. Why? It's not really about cutting edge technology from the standpoint of learning a technique that can add value to your workday - at least from a DME Forensics standpoint. It's a marketing device for manufacturers to get their tools shown in a positive light. I should know, I've written one of those articles (about Ocean Systems' ClearID).

This month's edition features an article titled "Advanced Video Forensics." I'm not sure what's so "advanced" about a tools that are fairly old. Consider the last update to the Omnivore was in May of last year, dTective's last update was more than 2 years ago, and the recent update to ClearID offers "No new features" (it just updates the installer to work with the new Creative Cloud versions of Photoshop. Sure, the Field Kit is "new." But, the tech driving the field kit is old - it's a laptop, an Omnivore, and a scan converter.

An interesting quote from the article, "It is estimated that video evidence is involved in approximately 80 percent of crimes. That staggering abundance of video brings some other complications—namely, the wide variety of video formats, each with its own proprietary characteristics and requirements. To be used, the files must be converted into a standard format that can be read and cataloged, then exported in a compressed format that will fit on a DVD for a courtroom. In the “bad old days,” that could translate into hours of work to parse formats, including some that required technical wizardry just to split different methods of encoding by different manufacturers ...", features a solution that is the absolute slowest solution to this problem - the Avid based dTective plugins.

Another is equally frustrating, "Union County’s four field kits can export instant video copies in file formats that can be played by anyone without needing proprietary equipment. These represent huge advantages for real-world use. The agency still retains the downloadable, native video files so they retain the original evidence, should it be needed." Is it faster to do a "real time" screen capture of the proprietary file with the Omnivore, or to simply work with the file's contents in FIVE or other ffmpeg solution? The real expense of the Field Kit is in the Bridge - the scan converter. It plugs nicely into the Omnivore, but it's still just a scan converter. If all you're doing is taking and working with proprietary digital files, FIVE works on low cost laptops. That means that your license of FIVE and a $1,000 laptop is still less expensive than the Field Kit - and FIVE gives you a ton more functionality than the Omnivore.

Which is a nice transition into this statement, "Union County’s new equipment also features an advanced video-editing platform and software plug-ins that allow technicians to visually focus and clarify an image. For example, they can filter and highlight a specific suspect or victim, magnify or enlarge objects such as an individual or a vehicle, and examine image areas down to individual pixels. There is even a module to remove “noise” such as darkness, rain, and snow. And, with the original video separated, the investigative tools leave the primary evidence untouched.

Union County chose its new system because of those advantages, as well as a highly comprehensive format. “It’s a real turnkey solution,” McCabe said. “It’s really comprehensive.”

Remember, clarification is not analysis. They spent a ton of money on an Avid NLE with some plug-ins that haven't been updated in years. FIVE gives them everything listed, plus gives them the option to do actual analysis - photogrammetry, content analysis, etc., with the report being an automatic function. FIVE is updated several times per year to address the rapid changes in technology and the law.

If this was a piece of journalism, you might expect a bit of counterpoint. There's none here. It's a marketing piece, pure and simple - and well done at that.

Given that many of the vendors in the FVA space have their own PR departments and send out e-mail spam on new products, updates, and etc., I'm going to save a small tree and skip the renewal. I'll get my marketing first-hand.

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