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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Amped Five for Latent Print Analysts

So ... one of the things that jumped out at me when I opened Amped Five was the FFT filter. I've been agitating for years to have FFT included in Photoshop to no avail.

FFT filters are great for dealing with periodic noise. Where do we see this? Latent Print Analysts see this a lot when dealing with lifting prints off of bank checks.

To get us caught up, I'll let the Amped Folks explain periodic noise and Fourier transforms. "To clearly understand what a periodic noise is and how it can be eliminated, we need some background. Them "Fourier transform" is used to decompose an image in its frequency components, while the "Inverse Fourier transform" synthesizes an image from its spectrum of frequency components. An useful analogy is the relationship between a series of pure notes (the frequency components) and a musical chord (the image itself). In an image, the high frequency components are represented by sharp details like, for example, going from black to white suddenly (two neighboring pixels). Low frequency components are instead represented by areas with no details at all."

Ok ... let's move on.

Here's a typical image - an image with periodic noise that's getting in the way of a latent print. What to do? Here's the quick and easy process in Amped Five.

Double clicking on the Fourier filter in the Filters box brings up the Fourier dialog. While ImageJ's FFT functionality is free form, Amped Five's is very precise. "Since the spectrum is symmetrical with respect to the center of the image, the filter will black out the rectangle you selected and its companion. These black rectangles correspond to the frequencies of the spectrum that have been eliminated." You select the area to mask, click Add to add it to the list, and the software does the rest - including documenting the location and size of the mask. Documenting? Yes. But we'll get to that later. Here, we just draw our boxes on one side, and Five fills in the opposite side's boxes as well as the coordinate info and height/width calculations.

Clicking on the Image button lets you check your work. Notice how well we can see the print. Good, but not great. Let's test the image clarification tools.

We can adjust contrast with the easy to use sliders, or input the actual values to test someone else's work.

We can even choose to make a negative of the image.

As we work, Five is building a chain of effects that are completely editable. Just click on any one of them to edit their values - or hit the delete key to remove it.

When you want to save the final file, just use the image writer.

Choose your file type, name, and save location. Then, click on the Play button to save the image.

When you're done, you'll want a report of your activities. Simply select Generate Report from the File menu. Here's a sample portion of the report:

Notice that it lists the filter and what the filter is supposed to do. It also lists the parameters, including the location of the selections. Finally, it gives a text reference for the technique - should you need to cite a published source for your technique. How cool is that? Cooler still, the report is put together by the software automatically.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Amped Five - first thoughts

Having taken Amped Five for a test spin, here are my initial thoughts in no specific order.

I think that Latent Print Examiners will love the program.
I think that novice image / video analysts will love the program.
I think supervisors will love the program.

I like the fact that certain things are easily done in Amped Five:
Deinterlacing Video
Image Corrections

I absolutely love the reporting feature.

In all, I like it for a number of reasons. I'll go over those reasons in future posts.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Introducing Amped Five

I was contacted to review a new piece of software called Amped Five. I get a lot of requests to review software and books - most of which I turn down. This one, however, got my attention.

Their web site features the following claim: "Amped Five is the most complete software for enhancing and analyzing images and videos during investigations. A single tool to analyze crime scene photos, enhance surveillance and intelligence video with a workflow compatible with forensic needs."

In the next few posts, I'll test drive the software to see if the software works as good as claimed.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Speed ratings of storage cards

A reader sent in a question about the speed ratings on the different storage cards, like CF and etc. Here's the breakdown:

Manufacturers use 150KBs as the baseline (1x = 150KBs).
133X = 20 MBs
200X = 30 MBs
266X = 40 MBs
300X = 45 MBs
400X = 60 MBs
600X = 90 MBs


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

White balance in Adobe Premiere Pro?

A student from one of my Forensic Photoshop classes sent me a note asking about white balancing in Premiere Pro (in this case, CS4). He was looking for the appropriate effect - but didn't know what it was called or where to find it.

The Fast Color Corrector is found in the Color Correction folder (Video Effects>Color Correction>Fast Color Corrector).

With the Fast Color Corrector, you can white balance or set your black/white points with ease.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An interesting article

This article was posted recently by some scholars at Dartmouth College. Here's some of the highlights:

"We discuss the growing trend of electronic evidence, created automatically by autonomously running software, being used in both civil and criminal court cases. We discuss trustworthiness requirements that we believe should be applied to such software and platforms it runs on. We show that courts tend to regard computer-generated materials as inherently trustworthy evidence, ignoring many software and platform trustworthiness problems well known to computer security researchers. We outline the technical challenges in making evidence-generating software trustworthy and the role Trusted Computing can play in addressing them."

"It may be inferred that the court assumed that the software and algorithm were infallible and therefore fairly and accurately represented what was on [Lindor’s] computer. ... This attitude ignores the crucial fact that computer software and systems can be and have been programmed and configured to incorporate biases and malfeasant logic that skewed their functionality and reporting output to suit the interests of their programmer or vendor. In other words, putting a bias or an expression of an ulterior motive into the form of a computer program is not unthinkable; it is not even very hard (but, as we will show, much harder to detect than to commit)." "Thus, a natural question to ask is, “How trustworthy are computer-generated timestamps?” The answer is common wisdom among computer scientists: not very trustworthy, unless either a rigorous clock synchronization mechanism is in place or the system has the benefit of a high-precision external clock (which may synchronize with the true wall clock time by its own means such as GPS or the atomic clock time signal)."

"A constitutional, country-wide, specific rule has yet to be clearly established in the United States on the issue of the admissibility of, reliability of, and cross- examination of the validity of the underlying theory or algorithm contained in software used as evidence, the machine used to create a report, the source code used on the machine, or the humans operating, maintaining, and otherwise in contact with the machine and source code. However, it can be concluded that, by and large, defendants in the United States will have to demonstrate their need to obtain pre-trial records and testimony on these people, things, and topics and may bear the initial burden in challenging their admission into evidence at trial. A review of cases admitting evidence and expert testimony based on evidence reveals that distrust of the machines used to create evidence and the software running on these machines is a fairly rare commodity, despite technical challenges to accuracy of such machines and their source code."


Sunday, April 17, 2011

What’s the difference between Acrobat 8, 9 and X?

This just in from Adobe's Rick Borstein: "One frequent question I receive is: what’s the difference between Acrobat 8, 9 and X?

When considering an upgrade, that likely is the first question you’ll ask.

Unfortunately, it isn’t very easy to find this information on the Adobe website. To save you some time, I’ve put together an Acrobat Feature History document (PDF of course!) that you may find helpful."

Click here to continue reading and access Rick's history document.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Optimize Cache Level and Cache Tile settings in Photoshop CS5

"Am I buying clothes or setting up Photoshop? What's this Big and Tall stuff doing in Photoshop?"

According to Adobe, "To help with accurately setting values, the History & Cache section of the Performance panel in the Preferences dialog box now contains three buttons to help match settings with your work environment. The values set by these buttons will vary depending on the amount of RAM and number of processors in your computer. Click the option that best fits your workflow to set both Level and Tile settings."

Tall and Thin—Best for users working with images with smaller document dimensions and many editing and enhancement layers.
Default—Designed for general use when a user will be working with a variety of document types. This is the default setting.
Big and Flat—Works well with large images and few editing or enhancement layers.


Timing of Adobe Creative Suite releases

Many are asking about the timing of Adobe Creative Suite releases. This is from Adobe's Jerry Silverman: "Historically we’ve released new versions of Creative Suite every 18-24 months, but we are moving to a schedule of milestone releases every two years, but with releases in between that are focused on keeping customers ahead in the areas where technology is shifting. In keeping with this, we are improving CS5 with the release of CS 5.5 this spring. Please feel free to click here to find out more about this new software release that will help our customers create rich internet applications for multiple devices, and efficiently target their content across browsers, operating systems, and screens."


Friday, April 15, 2011

Improved trial version for Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

This just in from Adobe: "The free, 30-day trial version of Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 will be available in May, at the same time that the full version is available. You can sign up to be notified when the software is available. (The trial version of Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is still available until that time. See this page for a link.)

The trial version of Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 and earlier had a major shortcoming: It lacked many of the most useful and popular codecs, including codecs for MPEG-2, AVCHD, and RED media. This meant that people had a hard time evaluating the software for real-world use.

Not any longer.

The trial version of Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 includes all of the codecs that are included with the full version of Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5. This means that you can import and export to all of the supported file formats using the trial version.

See this page for more details about the trial version ..."


Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's in CS5.5?

A reader pointed out, quite correctly, that not all CS5 applications are updated in the CS5.5 release. Most importantly - Photoshop CS5 was not updated to 5.5. Check out the picture from Adobe's site to see just what's new.

The biggest updates for us are the inclusion of Audition in the Master Collection and the "under the hood" updates for Premiere Pro.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Creative Suite 5.5 has no impact on the Camera Raw plug-in

This from Adobe's John Nack: "I’ve seen a bit of misinformed concern that the arrival of Creative Suite 5.5 applications means that in order to keep getting Camera Raw updates, one must upgrade Photoshop (of which there’s no 5.5 version) and/or obtain a subscription. That’s not the case: Camera Raw 6 will support Photoshop CS5 for the entire cycle. Now you have more options, not fewer."


Attaching closed caption files in Premiere Pro CS5.5

One of the new features in Premiere Pro CS5.5 is the ability to attach a closed captioning data file to a sequence and preview the closed captions in the Program panel.

You can attach a closed caption data file to a sequence and display the closed captions in the Program Monitor and through Firewire DV output. The attachable file types are .mcc and .scc for DTV (CEA-708) and SD (CEA-608) respectively.

Select the sequence, and then select Sequence > Closed Captioning > Attach File. To display attached closed captions, go to the Program Monitor's wing menu and select "Enable" under the "Closed Captioning Display" option.

While closed captions provide assistance for the hearing impaired, they're also a great tool for titling videos for court purposes. Through captioning, the audio portion of a program appears as text superimposed over the image. Closed captions include dialogue, as well as descriptions of sounds in the program. Reminder: only the NTSC television standard accepts closed captions; PAL does not.

You create closed captions using a third-party captioning application, exporting them as source safe format (SCC) files. You then reference the SCC files by assigning them to clips in a timeline, using the Video Clip Properties panel. Closed captions will synchronize with the source timecode of the video clips you assign them to.

(Source: adobe.com)


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5: What’s new and changed

This just in from Adobe: "Here’s a link to the main Adobe Premiere Pro page and its whiz-bang summary of what’s new.

This post is just an early summary for now. In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting details about specific new features, including links to tutorials, articles, and examples, so be sure to subscribe to get all of the news and information. I’ll also be updating the links in this post in the coming weeks as I find better or more detailed resources about each new and changed feature.

If you want to ask questions about these new and changed features, come on over to the Adobe Premiere Pro user-to-user forum. That’s the best place for questions. Questions left in comments on a blog post are much harder to work with; the blog comment system just isn’t set up for conversations. It’s also never too early to leave comments on the pages of the Help documents to ask for more information, point out areas that aren’t clear, and so on; Kevin, the guy who writes the Help documents, wants your input. You can also leave comments on the pages of the Help document to tell everyone about tutorials and other resources that you’ve found (or created) about these new features ..."

Click here to continue reading about the top new features in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, with links to more information.


Monday, April 11, 2011

CS 5.5 for rent?

This just in from Adobe: "Creative Suite 5.5 software is available as a one-year or month-to-month subscription plan. Convenient and cost-effective, the subscription edition includes everything in the latest version of Creative Suite with the flexibility to stop and restart your subscription as needed."

If you were having trouble paying for Master Collection's steep price, the one year monthly subscription runs $129/month and the month-to-month subscription runs $195/month. Production Premium's subscription runs $85/month and $129/month respectively. If you just want Photoshop CS 5.5 Extended, it'll cost you $49/month with the year's commitment and $75/month without.

Check out the details by clicking here. There are, of course, important terms and conditions. If you commit to the one-year plan, then cancel, you'll be billed for the balance as though you signed up for the regular month-to-month. The yearly plan is set to auto-renew, so you'll have to turn that off if you don't want to re-commit for another year. The month-to-month plan is also set to auto-renew. And ... no ... this is not a rent-to-own plan. Once you go down this path, you're a renter. If you want to own the software at any point, you'll have to buy it as such. You don't get credit towards a future purchase. Adobe polices this by requiring that you activate the software each month.


CS 5.5 Announced

Adobe has made Creative Suite 5.5 available for pre-order. One interesting addition/deletion is that Master Collection now ships with Audition, and not SoundBooth.

Pre-orders are being accepted from your favourite retailers. The product is set to ship on May 27, 2011.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Improvements to Adobe Media Encoder

Click here to see how Adobe Media Encoder is becoming easier to use, with numerous user interface improvements for encoding and exporting assets. New output presets for iPad devices and other tablets and improved workflow for outputting to multiple devices make working with AME faster and easier.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Facebook Q&A with Creative Suite Evangelists 9-10am PDT

This just in from Adobe: "Join us on Facebook for a live Q&A with Creative Suite Evangelists Terry White (Design), Greg Rewis (Web), Paul Trani (Flash Platform) and Jason Levine (Digital Video & Audio) from 9am - 10am PDT on Monday, April 11. They will be answering all your Creative Suite questions, so start thinking about what you’ve been dying to ask.

How it works:
Post a question on the Creative Suite Wall and Terry, Greg or Jason will answer. We’ll get to as many questions as we can in the hour. If we’re unable to answer your question right away, we’ll be sure to follow up afterwards.

Please RSVP and we’ll see you then!"


Get a sneak peek at the future of audio in Adobe Creative Suite

Click here to watch Colin Smith, Adobe's Senior Solutions Engineer for video products, share the future of Audio in Adobe's Creative Suite software.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reporting Examination Results

Another helpful article from Forensic Magazine: "One of the more important facets of digital forensics concerns how to document the findings in a formal report. At first glance, this would seem to be rather straightforward: report what you found. Appearances, however, can be deceiving.

Since the “look and feel” of every report needs to be the same for every case, a standardized format is essential. Although not a legal document per se, reports do end up in court. Therefore, they need to be consistent in their format and grammatically correct. A poorly written report can have adverse effects regarding the testimony of the examiner and shed doubt upon the subsequent results of the examinations. After all, the report does reflect back upon the agency, the examiner, the methods of examination, and the results themselves.

To ensure that every examiner within an agency uses the same reporting format, a word processing template needs to be prepared and maintained (usually on a server or on local computers). Conversely, there are a number of in-house developed and commercially available evidence management applications that are programmed to generate reporting templates. If the agency has one of these applications, then that is probably the best method to use to generate templates and subsequent reports. Virtually all of these applications have the ability to insert standard text phrases (automatically and/or manually) into the body of the report, which can then be easily modified by the examiner or support staff ..."

Click here to continue reading this article.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ethical Practices in Digital Forensics: Part 2

This continues the article from Forensic Magazine's John J. Barbara: "One common misconception of an examiner’s analytical responsibilities is that he or she is to only analyze submitted evidence to the extent of the investigative request. This is far from the truth. Indeed, if this is all that an examiner does, then most probably, technical support personnel can be trained to do the task. The role of an examiner is aptly defined and described in the preamble to the Code of Ethics of the California Association of Criminalists:

“It is the duty of any person practicing the profession of criminalistics to serve the interests of justice to the best of his ability at all times. In fulfilling this duty, he will use all of the scientific means at his command to ascertain all of the significant physical facts relative to the matters under investigation. Having made factual determinations, the criminalist must then interpret and evaluate his findings. In this he will be guided by experience and knowledge which, coupled with a serious consideration of his analytical findings and the application of sound judgment, may enable him to arrive at opinions and conclusions pertaining to the matters under study. These findings of fact and his conclusions and opinions should then be reported, with all the accuracy and skill of which the criminalist is capable, to the end that all may fully understand and be able to place the findings in their proper relationship to the problem at issue. In carrying out these functions, the criminalist will be guided by those practices and procedures which are generally recognized within the profession to be consistent with a high level of professional ethics. The motives, methods, and actions of the criminalist shall at all times be above reproach, in good taste and consistent with proper moral conduct ...”

Continue reading this article by clicking here.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Ethical Practices in Digital Forensics: Part 1

This in from Forensic Magazine's John J. Barbara: "There are many examiners in the Digital Forensic community who are not aware that professional codes of conduct and codes of ethical practices need to be an inherent part of every examination. This is especially important since it is a common practice to only examine the digital media for specific information requested by the investigator. For instance, an investigator may direct the examiner to search for child pornography on a subject’s computer. The resulting report might state that ten pictures were found. However, there needs to be a further explanation given by the examiner as to how the pictures got onto the subject’s computer. A thorough forensic examination may conclude that no conclusive determination can be made. This would be analogous to a “neither/nor” result ..."

Continue reading this article by clicking here.


Friday, April 1, 2011

The future of Photoshop

This just in from Adobe: "Yesterday at the Photoshop World Orlando keynote, John Loiacono – senior vice president for Digital Media Solutions – provided a sneak peek of some technology concepts for tablet devices. While this likely won’t make it into a product for a while it served to give Photoshop fans a glimpse of what we’re exploring.

We know many Photoshop users are embracing tablet devices because touch screens are fun, interactive and immersive. It’s equally exciting for us, as we’ve enjoyed playing with these devices and dreaming up new possibilities. What we showed at Photoshop World was an experiment with a visual representation of compositing that allows any user to understand Layers. What if layers could be broken apart into a 3D animation, exposing all the steps it took to get to the final result? We’re examining ways to use the fluidity of touch to manipulate images and literally paint on edits, layer by layer.

By integrating tablets into creative workflows, Adobe believes we can radically impact the creative process. We realize creativity isn’t just limited to the desktop. World travels, meeting with friends at a cafĂ© or just relaxing in the park are all opportunities for inspiration.

We’re taking a closer look at where the fun and interactivity of tablets meet the power and precision of Photoshop. Imagine being at the beach and spotting just the right shade of blue in the ocean that you want to incorporate into your design (Design Buffs: remember, the first iMac color was “Bondi Blue” after the color of the water off of Bondi Beach in Australia that inspired one of Apple’s industrial designers). What if you could use your finger to mix paints on the iPad to match that color, then turn it into a swatch, which can then be sent directly to Photoshop – without ever leaving the beach? While mixing paints with a finger tip is definitely a great experience on a tablet device, the greater potential we see is the ability to interact with Photoshop and for the tablet itself to speak to our software.

Stay tuned…the ideas are brewing…

Maria Yap
Product Management Director, Digital Imaging"

Check out the videos on Photoshop.com