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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Forensic Photoshop on MonsterQuest

Here's some In studio shots for the show, MonsterQuest: Terror from the sky on the History Channel, that were shot a few months ago. The show aired last night and is on the schedule to re-air all this week and the next. 

Here, you can see Premiere Pro CS4 on the screen.

Hard to see, but I was working with the video in Photoshop CS4 Extended.

Buying Photoshop at a discount

Adobe has many discount programs. Government agencies can buy Photoshop CS4 Extended at a reduced price. So can students, NAPP, and PPA members. Yes, it still a bit pricy ... but its well worth the expense.

Chances are, however, if you buy "New - Unopened Photoshop" on eBay for $49.95 plus shipping, it's going to be a bogus copy, as one reader found out.

(image courtesy of nw3c.org)

The reader asked my advice on what to do. Do you think that the pictured disc is legit? Would you put this tool into your forensic workflow? Needless to say, I referred him to the folks at Adobe that handle piracy.

A legit version of Photoshop for $50? If it's too good to be true ...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

more eSeminars from Adobe

More Adobe eSeminars for professional photographers have been announced - including:
  • Accelerate your Workflow with the Combined Power of Adobe®Photoshop® Lightroom® 2 and Adobe®Photoshop® CS4
  • Expand Your Creative Possibilities with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2
  • Spend More Time Shooting and Less Time Computing with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2
Click here to register.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Automated tools commentary

Larry Daniel's post on automated tools sparked some discussion off line. Here's some of the interesting highlights:

"... The other danger in tools becoming more automated is that in the hands of an untrained examiner, they simply may not know where to go next with the tool or the examination to make sure that a thorough examination has been done.

While automated tools and routines may be able to replace an examiner's need to know how to look for some piece of data or evidence, they cannot replace the need for an examiner to know where to look and what to look for ..."

"... (Automated tools can only look at where something is supposed to be.) ..."

"... Can I create some sort of user attribution for the evidence? ..."

the whole article and weigh in yourself.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

They talking about Melendez-Diaz

Folks are talking about Melendez-Diaz, and the talk is not good (depending on your point of view, of course).

Check out this article about how the ruling may effect Computer Crimes examiners and analysts around the country. If they consider Computer Forensics to be included, why not video and image analysts?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Adobe eSeminar Announcement

Join Adobe on Thursday, July 30th, to explore how Forensic and Law Enforcement professionals can enhance their criminal investigative ability with Adobe® Photoshop Extended and other Adobe Creative Suite® 4 technologies.

At this ninety minute online seminar you will learn:

• Importing & archiving images with Adobe Bridge®
• Keywords and metadata
• Using History Log to keep a careful track of what’s been done to a file in Photoshop
• Clarifying detail of raw, tiff, and jpeg files using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop
• Color correcting worst case scenario color through advanced channel manipulation
• Adjustment layers and non-destructive editing
• MoirĂ© pattern reduction
• Repeatable procedures
• Measurement tools
• Working with images from video
• Wrapping content up into an ePortfolio
• Protecting images with PDF security

Join us for this 90 minute online seminar
Thursday, July 30, 2009
2:00 PM EST – 11:00 AM PST

For more information:
Julianna Acos
Marketing Manager

Click here to register for this event.

Free Training Available

Online Forensic Training Courses Available

The National Institute of Justice is offering web based training courses in various subject areas related to the forensic sciences. Many of these online courses are free of charge. The courses can be scheduled and taken at anytime, eliminating the cost of travel for your agency. If you don't find what you're looking for, share the info with a friend or colleague within your agency. In these tough economic times, FREE is a powerful word.

I'm looking forward to taking the Spanish for Law Enforcement course.

To view available courses and related information,
click here.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Case Notes

How do you document your case? What software do you use? Do you use a LIMS (Lab Info Management System)? MS Word or other word processor? Forms in Acrobat?

Here's one for you, and it's free. CaseNotes from QCC Information Security. CaseNotes is easy to use, easy to customise, and very functional across the entire spectrum of cases that we work.

You can define the Metadata fields, or information that you wish to collect in the Preferences panel. Then, simply enter the details of the case and begin. CaseNotes builds the report as you enter new information.

You can even customise the tabs, keeping Reports separate from Notes and Audit Logs.

As the name implies, entries are handled with Notes. Just click on the Yellow Sticky icon to create a new note. Once you've entered the information and clicked save, the program not only stores the info but creates a hash value for the entry which becomes a part of the audit log.

The program is deceptively simple, yet incredibly functional and powerful. The only drawback is that it's a Windows only product. Still and all, with all of the functionality that you get in this free program, it's worth firing up the virtual machine to take notes. If you are looking for a note taking solution, this product should be your first stop.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To stipulate or not to stipulate

With the new emphasis on testimony and cross examination that comes as a result of the Melendez-Diaz v Massachusetts case, I thought I'd answer a few questions related to depositions, courtroom procedures, and terms.

Stipulate/Stipulation: agreements between parties that are placed on the record.

Do you need to stipulate, or agree when requested to do so? No.

You may be asked, "Will you stipulate that all copies of the digital multimedia evidence can be used as though they are originals?" Without giving actual legal advice here, I'd say that unless you've seen what's on the discs, it's best to say no in this case.

Sometimes, stipulations can speed up trial, in the case of exhibit numbering for example. Other times, a more experienced attorney may try to gain an unfair advantage over a less experienced opponent. Don't assume that either attorney has your best interests in mind. If you are not comfortable as to what you are being asked to agree to, speak up and ask questions.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Free at last ...

U.S. judge ends federal oversight of the LAPD
Saying that the department has reformed itself significantly, the judge ends the consent decree that had been imposed in the wake of the 2001 Rampart corruption scandal.
By Joel Rubin - LA Times

Declaring that the Los Angeles Police Department has reformed itself significantly after decades of corruption and brutality complaints, a U.S. judge on Friday ended a long-running period of federal oversight.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary A. Feess terminated the consent decree federal officials had imposed on the LAPD in 2001, after the Rampart corruption scandal. The decree required the department to undertake dozens of wide-ranging reforms meant to tighten internal checks on officers' conduct and subjected the department to rigorous audits by a monitor who reported to Feess.

Read the rest of the story by
clicking here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

How do you say Back-Up in Korean?

I don't speak, read, or write Korean. So its tough when facing a menu screen that's completely in Korean script. I was able to determine, with some help, that the icons below mean "Back-Up" and that by clicking the mouse on those icons, the back-up would begin.

The back-up screen contained many mysterious icons as well. From top to bottom, the HDD's (Hard Disk Drive) starting date, ending date, then the back-up specific menu begins, chosen back-up device with location, beginning back-up time, ending back-up time, and space available on the back-up device.

It's time to add Korean language skills to the training budget and calendar. In the mean time, if you need a Rosetta Stone for Korean DVRs, this should help a wee bit.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What is an image?

When testifying about our work, we are often faced with surprise questions during cross examination. We think we know the fundamentals, but may freeze when asked about things that we may have learned years ago. For example, answer this: "what is an image?"

How would you answer the question?

If we consider the way in which images are displayed and quantified, a definition emerges. "An image is a bi-dimensional function of light intensity perceived by the human eye." 

It's bi-dimensional - X /Y. For example, 2CIF can be described as 704x240 - two dimensions.

It's a function of light intensity. The three colour channels are simple representations of light intensity in a specific range of wavelengths (R,G,B). 

When these black and white channels that represent specific intensities or wavelengths are combined, we perceive with our vision / perception system them as full colour.

Thus, an image is a bi-dimensional function of light intensity perceived by the human eye.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Awesome photography resource

In light of Melendez-Diaz v Massachusetts, many folk are going to be spending a lot more time in court explaining themselves. For forensic photographers, it's going to be especially interesting. Many have never seen the inside of a courtroom, let alone testified. Questions may get specific to both technique and tools. It's the specifics where folks often get tripped up.

An awesome resource available to photographers is the Glossary of Digital Photography, a free resource from Rocky Nook. Check it out and you'll see just how helpful it is for prepping for court, writing reports, or just generally increasing your photography vocabulary. It's also available in book form.

Camera Questions

I get a lot of camera questions in my inbox each day. Many folks are upgrading or getting a new piece of gear and want honest opinions before they drop a huge chunk of change. Some folks are brand loyal, but see a feature set on another company's product and want to make the jump, but have no experience with the company. Regardless of the reason, folks just want honest and accurate information on which to base their decision.

I've received a few requests for info on the Nikon D700. I'm not a Nikon guy. I've got a bag full of Fuji and Canon products. That's just me. There's nothing wrong with Nikon, I've just been using Fuji and Canon for my own reasons. As an example, our tests show that Fuji is the best at accurately reproducing blues and greens (and some of my largest clients feature those colours prominently - so I want to get it right).

If you are looking for Nikon info, your best source is the Nikonians. If you like your info in book form, check out Mastering the Nikon D700 by Darrell Young (Planet Nikon's DigitalDarrell) and James Johnson. The book is a joint venture between the Nikonians and Rocky Nook. It's a great book that goes way beyond the user's guide - even branching out into discussions on accessories.

If you want rich insight into the camera - with some crazy tips that you won't find anywhere else, combined with clear illustrations and to the point directions - then Mastering the Nikon D700 is the book for you. For me, I like the fact that the authors focus not only on the what, but also the how and the why of the product's features (you know I like all things what-how-why). A must if you are planning on using this camera for crime scene or forensic photography.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cross-examination ruling's ripple effect

By Larry O'Dell - AP

Virginia courts are feeling the impact of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prosecutors must make forensic examiners available for defense cross-examination about lab reports on drugs, ballistics and other trial evidence.

Defense attorneys began citing the ruling soon after it was issued June 25, even though the attorney general's office contends that state courts are still bound by a somewhat different Virginia Supreme Court decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last month that lab reports are testimonial evidence and thus subject to the Constitution's confrontation clause. Virginia's highest court concluded last year that the state law satisfies that portion of the Sixth Amendment because it allows the defense to subpoena the lab scientists to testify.

In the case decided June 25, the U.S. justices ruled in favor of Luis Melendez-Diaz, who challenged a lab analysis that confirmed cocaine was in plastic bags found in the car in which he was riding. Massachusetts courts had rejected his claim that he should be allowed to question the lab scientist about testing methods and other issues.

Whether the Virginia law is constitutional after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts will be cleared up eventually. The nation's highest court agreed Monday to hear an appeal of the Virginia Supreme Court's decision. Until then, the situation in Virginia will remain unsettled.

Richmond defense attorney Elliott Bender said he used the Melendez argument for the first time in Hanover County General District Court. He argued that the Melendez ruling means Virginia improperly puts the onus on the defendant to make sure the examiner is available to testify. The judge has yet to rule.

"The defendant has no burden to put on any evidence," Bender said. "It's always been an obligation the government had to put on a case. It should always be their burden."

State Solicitor General Stephen McCullough said he doesn't dispute that the government has to make the case. However, he said it's permissible to require the defendant to take steps to preserve his confrontation clause rights. He said that's similar to other duties imposed on defendants, such as requiring them to notify prosecutors if they intend to present evidence of an alleged victim's sexual history in a sex-crime case.

Virginia's law requires the prosecution to submit any lab reports they plan to use as evidence a week before a hearing or trial. If the defendant doesn't demand that the examiner testify, he has waived his confrontation clause right.

McCullough said the Melendez ruling signaled that such "waiver-and-demand" statutes are permissible in concept, and "the next question for the Supreme Court is which types of these state laws are acceptable."

Read the rest of the article by
clicking here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Soundbooth CS4 for interview rooms

Suspects mumble and whisper. People sit too far from the hidden microphone. There are all sorts of reasons why interview room audio can need cleaning up. So ... here's a Sunday bonus ... a Soundbooth CS4 tip for quickly fixing interview room audio.

Equalize Volume Levels is a new feature in Soundbooth. With it, you fix these troublesome recordings automatically.

As you can see, you can access this feature from the Process menu or from the Volume Correction task panel.

And ... surprise ... it's automatic and it works fairly well. Try this function first, before you spend hours on manual adjustments in Audition.

According to Sven Duwenhorst from Adobe, "Equalize Volume Levels is different from normalizing an audio file. Normalizing will increase the amplification of the entire audio clip based on the highest peak value in the clip. In contrast, Equalize Volume calculates a reference volume level and amplifies or lowers the signal over the time to maintain this reference level throughout. This is similar to what happens when you use a compressor/limiter.

The Volume Correction task in Soundbooth CS4 also includes
Match Volume, which adjusts volume levels across multiples audio files."

If I didn't know better, I'd say that the folks at Adobe wrote Soundbooth for law enforcement. Lots of "easy buttons" and one button fixes ...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Datacolor SpyderCube reviewed at the PPA

Pro Review: Datacolor SpyderCube

By Stan Sholik

I’m sure most professional photographers have some device in their camera bag to white balance their digital captures by now. The majority of these devices, ranging from an ExpoDisc to a coffee filter, provide a white balance by correcting the color temperature of the light before you begin shooting, saving it as a preset for the session.

While this approach yields excellent results for white balance, these devices do nothing to assist us in adjusting midtone brightness, shadow density and contrast to ensure we are taking full advantage of the dynamic range of the capture.

Datacolor, with the introduction of the $59 SpyderCube, takes a different approach to white balance and in doing so provides a device that addresses all of the visual elements we need to extract the maximum tonality from our images. Standing only a little over three inches tall, the SpyderCube is the Mighty Mouse of color balance.

clicking here.

Sharing video files - please help

A reader sent off some video files (PSD) that he worked on (Photoshop CS4) to discovery. There was a big problem ... the video wasn't there when it arrived.

Photoshop CS4, like all applications that work with video, does not store a copy of the video in the working file (PSD) - it just stores the links to the video's location on the hard drive. So, in order to share your work, you'll want to render it out to a separate file (final) and send the PSD working copy and the originals.

If you've attended my classes, this should sound familiar. Send the 1:1 copies of the originals, the PSD working files, and the final copy of your work - along with your notes and CV for discovery. Package everything neatly, labeling the folders appropriately so that the attorneys and jurors don't have to guess at what you've done. Remember, the Supreme Court recently ruled (Melendez-Diaz v. Massachsetts) that forensic analysts must testify under the 6th Amendment's Confrontation Clause - granting defendants the right to confront witnesses against them.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Image Sequences won't open

A reader wants to open an image sequence and work with it as video, but the option is grayed out in the Open dialog box.

The clue to solving this puzzle is to see the Format choice that Photoshop CS4 has given, Photoshop Raw. In this case, the reader has exported a Tiff image sequence from Avid and wants to work with it in Photoshop. Fair enough ... no problem, right?

The problem has to do with the way the user configured Photoshop's Tiff image handling - he set it to prefer Adobe Camera Raw for Tiffs. With this, the Open dialog is looking to send the Tiffs to ACR, not directly into Photoshop. A simple change of settings in the Preferences fixes the problem.

Browsing again to the folder containing the image sequence and clicking on the first image in the sequence produced this result in the Open dialog.

The Format is now set to Tiff and the Image Sequence check box is available. All that's left to do is to check the box and click Open.

Then, set the Frame Rate and click OK.

And there you have it, you can now work with your image sequences as video in Photoshop CS4.

New for Video in Photoshop CS4

One of the cool new features (well, not exactly new ... but incredibly improved) in Photoshop CS4 is the use of shortcut keys when working with video. If you are like me, you've got the entire keyboard visualised in terms of the shortcut key combos ... thus speeding up your workflow. CS4 now extends that workflow enhancement to the video realm.

First off, you have to enable the functionality. From the Animation panel's fly-out menu, scroll to the bottom and select Enable Timeline Shortcut Keys.

Once enabled, you're in for a treat. The Space bar now starts playing the video (sound familiar). The Left Arrow takes you back one frame. The Right Arrow moves you forward one frame. Holding the Shift key down whilst clicking the Right Arrow moves you forward ten frames ... and so on.

For a complete list of the key combinations, click here.

Dedicated Micros CEO talks down IP CCTV

From SecureView.ie: Mike Newton, the chief executive officer of Dedicated Micros is rubbishing claims that IP network video recorders represent good value for money. He claims the ROI on these systems is far too low. What do you think? Watch the interview by clicking here.


Our good friend, Jeff Hunter of Salient Stills, will be hosting two training sessions at NATIA this year.

Digital Media: The Ins and Outs
Jeff Hunter, CTO Salient Stills
NATIA - Memphis, TN
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 5pm - 7pm
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 8am - 10am

Synopsis: More and more frequently forensic video specialists have to analyze video and audio that comes to them in the form of a digital video file. Sometimes these files can be easily imported into a forensic system; sometimes they refuse to import; sometimes they import on one machine and not another; and sometimes they import but look corrupted, slow the system down or cause the system to crash. Related issues arise for the specialist who wants to be able to export and share these or other video files. These files not only need to be of high quality but they also need to be compatible with the recipient's computer.

By considering how digital files look to and are dealt with by the computer, this session will offer the user insights that will help eliminate the guess work of deciding what to do in these situations. We will explore the digital representation of video and audio, video and audio codecs, media file formats and the facilities both within forensic applications and within the computer systems themselves that play a role in dealing with media data.

If you are going to NATIA's national conference this year, make sure that you stop in and see Jeff's presentation. Jeff's a good guy to know when it comes to questions about dodgy digital multimedia evidence.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Video "Perfection Tool"

This just in from the Hindu News Update Service:

Washington (IANS): You must have seen how cops in TV programmes zoom in on a security camera video to read a number plate or capture the face of a hold-up artist.

But in real life, enhancing this low-quality video to focus in on important clues hasn't been an easy task. Until now.

Leonid Yaroslavsky of Tel Aviv University (TAU) and colleagues have developed a new video "perfection tool" to help investigators enhance raw video images and identify suspects.

Commissioned by a defence-related company to improve what the naked eye cannot see, the tool can be used with live video or with recordings, in colour or black-and-white.

"This enhancement of resolution can be a critical factor in locating terrorists or identifying criminal suspects," said Yaroslavsky, a professor.

The new invention enhances the resolution of raw video images from security cameras, military binoculars, and standard personal-use video cameras, improving the quality in which the images were originally recorded or transmitted.

This can mean the difference between seeing trees blowing in the wind and finding a terrorist hiding in those trees.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

I wonder if they've used actual crime scene evidence, or the usual simulations. It gets a little tiring having people make sales calls and offer a product or service that simply doesn't work as advertised. It's also poisonous to the potential jury pool ... people read these press releases, and the news media picks them up and puts them on air ... and the juries expect that this stuff works - and every department has a copy. Just press the "P" button and your video becomes perfect. Hardly the case in real life. Maybe some day ...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What happened to my audio?

A reader writes in to ask about the audio functionality whilst playing back video in Photoshop CS4. He knows that there is audio present in the file, but Photoshop won't play it back.

It turns out, an errant click of the mouse was at fault. I asked him to look at the time line and describe the speaker icon. If it looks like this ...

then audio is muted. You want it to look like this ...

Once restored, the audio played back fine.

Monday, July 6, 2009


I got a note recently from the folks at Motion DSP about their Ikena product. Everyone always promises that their product is the best, the fastest, the cheapest, and so forth. These folks even put a little page together on their site that takes it a step farther ... and calls out Ocean Systems directly (as opposed to the usually generic "other guys").

I've got it on my list of things to do ... get my hands on the product and put it through some real tests. I'll let you know what happens ... as always.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

Today is Independence Day here in the good old USA!

If you are reading this, and you are feeling safe and secure in your home. Take a moment to thank a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman.

Remember, freedom is not free.

Thanks to all our vets.

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction in CS4

Folks are still upgrading to CS4. One of the common questions that I get is "what happened to the Pixel Aspect Ratio controls?"

In CS3, they were found in the Image menu. Additionally, you could turn off the scaled view from the View menu.

In CS4, part of the "cleaning up" included moving the Pixel Aspect Ratio controls from the Image menu to the View menu.

The functionality is the same. The only change is the location.


The HD-CCTV Alliance is now formally open for business

June 16th 2009 is the official launch date for the new HD-CCTV Alliance; a technology described as "The Next Generation of Surveillance" with "All the Benefits of Digital with the Simplicity of Analog", high definition video surveillance is now set to take off in a big way. Using broadcast-industry-compliant, high-definition video (HDTV) signals which are transmitted digitally over conventional CCTV media, there is no packetisation or perceivable compression latency using this advanced technique.

The HDcctv Alliance has been set up to establish technical standards for HDcctv, thereby minimising the risks for manufacturers and helping to promote a wider understanding of the systems, making it easier to adopt in place of conventional CCTV, using a range of traditional transmission links (including RG 59B/U cable, fibre optics etc.).

As part of the official launch, the Alliance has released v0.9 of the HDcctv Interoperability Spec. which is available on their website for Member review . Subject to further consultation, a v1.0 Specification is due to be published early in September 2009, along with members details of their full range of v1.0-compliant HDcctv products in development; including cameras, DVRs, matrices, monitors, distribution boxes, repeaters, fibre concentrators, etc.

Read on at Doktor Jon's site by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Get ready to spend less time in the lab

Supreme Court Ruling Requires Crime Lab Analysts to Testify

By Rebecca Waters @ Forensic Magazine

Get ready to trade your lab coat for a suit coat. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last Thursday will require crime lab analysts to appear in court and submit to cross-examination if their reports are entered into evidence. This ruling could have tremendous impacts on how crime labs operate and exacerbate the backlog problems that plague crime labs nationwide.

The contentious 5-4 ruling in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts asserts that forensic analysts must testify under the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause granting defendants the right to confront witnesses against them. Previously analysts could be subpoenaed to court to explain their reports or methodology, but it was a rare practice.

Read how this ruling may impact you by clicking here.

In other news, this post makes 600 on the Forensic Photoshop blog. Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for your continued support of my efforts.