Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Interesting development in the body-worn video discussion

This just in from Ars Technica, "Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senator from Missouri, says police departments nationwide should require their officers wear body cameras in order to qualify for the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding they receive each year."

You read that right, the Senator wants to tie federal money that police agencies currently receive to compliance with this proposed nationwide body-worn video mandate.

"The lawmaker did not offer legislation to support her words. McCaskill, however, is not alone in her thinking. Last week, an online petition asking the White House to require all police departments to wear lapel cameras hit 100,000 signatures. The President Barack Obama administration has promised to publicly address petitions reaching 100,000 signatures."

The movement to get agencies to adopt body-worn video recorders is not new. Many agencies have declined to purchase recorders due to the high purchase price and the cost of maintenance, as well as the cost of storing / distributing the recorded footage.

But, linking the issue to existing federal funding puts a new twist on the story. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

If a CCTV camera records an incident, it has failed to prevent that incident from occurring.

@spreadys pointed out an interesting article about the role CCTV has in fighting crime. The best part of the article are the comments at the bottom.

The best one, "I'm sorry, but bragging about 500 arrests from 41,000 incidents is truly pathetic. It just shows how useless CCTV is. If the incidents took place in front of a copper, the arrest rate would have been worth crowing about. People aren't bothered about being spotted on camera."

There's another comment that links to this article. “For every 1,000 cameras in London, less than one crime is solved per year.”

"Each case helped by the use of CCTV effectively costs £20,000 to detect, Met figures showed."

"The report, written by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, who runs the Metropolitan Police’s Visual Images Identifications and Detections Office, found that the public “have a high expectation of CCTV and are frequently told they are captured on camera 300 times per day”.

Public confidence was dented when the police often stated there was no CCTV working when a crime has been committed, it said.

It also said that increasingly members of the public were complaining that officers had not bothered to view available CCTV images when trying to track down criminals.

It disclosed a “significant rise in the level of complaints from the public, where it is perceived that police have not viewed CCTV. This is now approaching 100 per year.”

The report found that untrained officers were often downloading and viewing CCTV images in their hunt for evidence. The cameras were effective in crime-fighting if the images and information from them was used properly.

Detective Superintendent Michael McNally, who commissioned the report, admitted there were “some concerns” about how CCTV was being used."

Monday, August 25, 2014

World Science Festival - the Science of Justice

If you're in the NYC area, the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law will play host on Sept. 10th to the WSF's Science of Justice discussion/presentation.

They use the events in Ferguson to put the spotlight on "forensics," but miss an important point: none of the presenters are experts in digital video or small device forensics.

It's a given, these days, that there will be two elements to every crime scene - CCTV and mobile phones. People use their phones to record video of traffic stops and other police activity. Traffic stops take place in front of stores and other places with CCTV. Thus, these images become a vital "silent witness" for the investigation. Yet, this presentation does not feature this valuable piece of evidence, nor any practitioners of this type of analysis. That's unfortunate.

Still again, if you're in the area, it should be an interesting discussion.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Crowdsourcing content analysis

The online site, bellingcat, recently announced results from their crowdsourced investigation into the location of the Islamic State's training site in Iraq.

It's an interesting study in the use of publicly available sources to identify the location depicted in photos through visual content analysis, as opposed to relying on metadata.

Check it out here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How do you determine the dpi on a photo in a PDF document?

Many folks use Adobe's Acrobat to share reports, images, and video. Often times, we're asked to extract the images from a PDF file for use elsewhere. Depending on the downsampling settings, the images in a PDF might not work well outside of the document.

Here's how to check the resolution of the image within the PDF file.

If you have Acrobat Pro, you can use the Object Inspector in Output Preview to see the resolution of an image. Select View>Tools>Print Production>Output Preview, then change the Preview Type to Object Inspector and click on the image in question. Here's what you'll see.


223x452 @ 150 is like one of those old wallet photos we used to get with our school picture packages. It's not big. Some serious up-sizing will be needed if you want to use this image in a courtroom display.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A new source of evidence for BFMV investigations

I hope you're ready to retrieve DME from another type of recorder. GM recently announced that the new Corvette will feature on-board video/data recording as part of a performance data recorder and navigation system package that is a $1,795 add-on to the $53,995 base price of the Corvette.

In the future, when investigation a burglary/theft from a motor vehicle, or a vehicle theft, you may be asked to download this data / video from the car.

"The system was developed with Cosworth, the British motorsports-engineering company that supplies the Corvette Racing team’s data and telemetry systems. It has a SD-card slot in the glove box – which locks on Valet Mode -- for recording and transferring video and vehicle data. An 8-gigabyte card can record approximately 200 minutes of driving time."

It looks like the owner will have to have the data card in the slot to record. So our job is easy, just swap out the cards.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fourandsix says goodbye to FourMatch


Bad news. "FourMatch has been discontinued and is no longer available for purchase. Existing customers will be provided with free updates to the signature database through the end of 2014."

Fourandsix directs you to their Izitru web site. But LE folks aren't going to upload their evidence to the cloud. So that's it.

Good news. Amped Software's Authenticate is still going strong.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Why are my PDFs so big

If your PDF files are huge, and you can't figure out why, there's an easy way to check.

Using Acrobat Pro, the easiest way to determine why your files are so big (and possibly reduce the file size) is to open the PDF Optimizer by clicking on File>Save As Other>Optimized PDF.


At the top right of the PDF Optimizer dialog click on the Audit space usage button.


Which brings up this dialog box.


With the PDF Optimizer, you can alter the compression and downsampling settings to achieve your goal of reducing file size. With the Auditor, you can see your results.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Photoshop CC to 2014: Where’s my stuff? (Settings, workspaces, presets, panels, plug-ins)

Adobe's Jeffrey Tranberry answers the following questions in this blog post:

  • Where are my settings & workspaces?
  • Where are my presets?
  • Where are my custom panels? Where are my 3rd party plug-ins?
  • Why do I now have two versions of Photoshop installed?
Check out the answers here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#‎RecordThePolice‬

In case you weren't paying attention to the news over the last few days ...


The news media is pushing this meme - #RecordThePolice.

If your agency hasn't seen it yet, it will. Citizen submitted video and images of police activity can help investigations ... and they can harm investigations if they've been edited to change the context of the scene. Recently, many videos surfaced showing an officer fully mounted on a male suspect trying to establish control. What was redacted by much of what the media was showing was the suspect initially attacking the officer. Context is everything. While citizens have the right to witness events from a safe distance and record the events on their mobile devices, they don't have the right to misrepresent events through contextual editing. In many jurisdictions, making a false statement to authorities is not prosecuted. Submitting altered DME is the same as making a false statement, and should be handled accordingly.

As I always say, when you're on the job, assume at least 10 cameras are recording you at all times. These days, that number is probably low.

Make sure you have a contextually accurate image or video. Authenticity is key in using DME in investigations. Remember, the average American does not know the correct answer to this question - how many people were in Rodney King's car when he was stopped?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

LAB Color Readouts in the new Camera Raw

New in Adobe Camera Raw is the ability to activate LAB Color readouts in the Histogram.


Simply Control-click (Mac) | Right-click (Win) within the Histogram to enable LAB Color readouts, even when the Workflow Options are set to another color space (such as Adobe RGB).

I know it's a bit nerdy, but more options are always cool.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

FIVE update offers significant improvements

The latest version of Amped Software's FIVE has just been released. The additions to the program will be quite helpful.
  • New tool: Export Video renders the current video using FFmpeg, Video For Windows, DirectShow, QuickTime
  • New tool: Export PDF saves all the current video frames on a PDF file
  • User interface: improved behavior of modifiers when setting parameters values; now the step is 10 times bigger pressing shift, 1/10 pressing ctrl and 1/100 pressing shift and ctrl
  • Motion Deblurring: possibility to set a size length of PSF with a decimal number (previously only whole numbers were allowed), added border option to reduce ringing artifacts, improved performances and memory consumption
  • Optical Deblurring: possibility to set a size length of PSF with a decimal number (previously only whole numbers were allowed), added border option to reduce ringing artifacts, improved performances and memory consumption
  • Curves: added option to choose between Cubic Spline (more similar to Photoshop behavior) and Hermite Cubic (more similar to GIMP behavior), improved performances
Just select Help>Check for updates online to get the latest version.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How time flies

If you started your LE career in 1994, the tech world has changed dramatically.



All of your tech was in separate devices. Video cameras were just video cameras. Tablets were just tablets. Etc. Now, it's all in your phone - or your suspect's phone.


Just 10 years ago, you found storage devices containing around 128mb. Now, you're finding them to be 128gb - and bigger.

How are you and your agency dealing with the blistering pace of this change. Does your agency's SOP's reflect the changes to technology and society? Do your evidence storage / sharing protocols reflect these massive increases in size? Does your current vendor have the products you'll need to take you into the next few years?

But, for now, how do you share the 64gb bin file from your latest iPhone dump? If you're not asking these questions, you're already far behind.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

First Responder debuts at NaTIA

One of the many vendors making a big splash at this year's NaTIA conference is MediaSolv. MediaSolv has teamed up with Amped Software to introduce it's First Responder product.


Here's how it works:

1. Retrieve the original video from the DVR (Flash/thumb drive, DVD, CD, etc.)
2. Because the format is proprietary, it cannot be played with Windows Media Player and Windows does not recognize the file.
3. Open First Responder.
4. When you import the video (drag & drop, or Video Loader filter), if First Responder does not recognize the format, you then have the option to convert the video to a standard format.
5. Convert the video, then you can play it in the First Responder Player.
6. If you aren't a MediaSolv Commander user, you can then export the video using the Video Writer Filter to a format standardized by your agency for play in Window Media Player or any other standard player.
7. If you are a Commander user, export to MediaSolv Commander along with other evidence items.

(Time start to finish ~10 minutes.)

First Responder is designed around Amped FIVE's innovative fast workflow and real-time filter concept to dramatically reduce the time required to process data and improves the success rate of various cases. First Responder will run on standard desktop or notebook computers and does not rely on third party commercial photo or video editing software, plug-ins, scripts, or special hardware. This makes the total cost of ownership much more manageable and is just one platform to learn, maintain, and deploy on hardware you already own.

  • Designed from top to bottom as a purpose built self-contained tool for video evidence ingest, viewing, fast editing, and conversion
  • Automatic generation of technical report
  • Support for images, videos and live streams
  • Integrated lossless DVR capture tool
  • Tools for converting proprietary files (transcode to proxy) for viewing on standard media players
  • Native support for Milestone XProtect® surveillance live feeds and archived files
  • Easy to use tools for fast/simple editing and evidence processing
  • Unique concept of filters: Drop, add, delete, modify, move, copy, paste, any filter in any position. Modify any parameter of any operation in any order; the results can be applied and seen immediately, even while playing a video
So, if you're in San Diego for the NaTIA conference, stop by the MediaSolv booth and check out First Responder. If you can't make it, send them a note requesting more information.