Category Archives: CCTV/DVR formats

Video Evidence: Handle with Care

Some of the new simplicities afforded to us can, unfortunately, cloud ones’ judgement when dealing with images and video for legal use.

Technology has, in most parts, made things incredibly easy. Take the example of photographs and video. We all now love to quickly snap a memory or record some footage of an event. We can adjust the colour or light, crop out unwanted parts, or trim the end of a video. It’s then a simple click on the share button to immediately have that sent to friends or family via a messaging app or social media. 

Some of the new simplicities afforded to us can, unfortunately, cloud ones’ judgement when dealing with images and video for legal use.  Why do it one way, when it’s so much easier to do it another, perhaps quicker way?

In late 2016, at the conclusion of a trial in Nottingham Crown Court, for four men involved in the murder of Aqib Mazhar, Judge Rafferty stated, “there must never be another case in this country where those analysing CCTV don’t have the best equipment.” The quote stems from the fact that it wasn’t until the trial had started that video material was properly reviewed and that significantly changed the weight of the evidence.

Whether it is CCTV evidence, mobile phone video or a sequence of images, the software used to review that evidence can alter the viewer’s interpretation. It could be that the player drops or misses frames. The player could present the video too dark, or too light. The player could change the shape and size of the image or video, resulting in objects appearing smaller or larger. Many surveillance system players alter the image to make it look better, even though that is not what was originally recorded – scary, but true.

In 2015, a conviction of Indecent Assault was overturned at the Court of Appeal. Mr Mohammed Islam was earlier convicted at Flintshire Magistrates Court, where a CCTV image of a vehicle, alleged to be his, was used as evidence. After analysis and enhancement, it was proved not to be his vehicle and his conviction quashed. Mr Islam’s lawyer, Adam Antoszkiw, later stated the crucial evidence was not properly examined because of financial constraints.

Multimedia evidence, especially CCTV or low-quality mobile phone footage must be handled with care. 

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DVRConv Update 11571: Multiplexed streams, timestamp extraction and more formats now supported

We’ve released another update for Amped DVRConv, one of the fastest ways to cleanly convert video. It is also the simplest; a clean installation tool that allows anyone who works with digital video to drag and drop proprietary video evidence in order to achieve a standard playable file – cutting out the hours, or even days, it takes to locate a proprietary player. Drag and drop – it’s that easy! With DVRConv, alongside Amped FIVE and Amped Authenticate, your workflow from scene to laboratory is completely covered and together they provide great weapons in your forensic video and image analysis arsenal!

Let’s say you regularly process video evidence and, like a lot of technicians and analysts, you are tasked with retrieving video from a scene at a location other than your lab or office. Retrieving CCTV from DVRs at scene can often be laborious, fraught with difficulty and a lot of the time the scenes are a fair distance away from your usual office. One of the most important steps during the recovery of CCTV evidence is checking to see if the download has been successful, which means playback of what is more likely to be proprietary video at scene using only a laptop and your recovery tools.

Saving time at a video recovery scene is crucial and it’s a nightmare having to trawl through hundreds of proprietary players, some of which won’t work on your current operating system or might have different versions of the same type of player. The conversion engine in Amped FIVE would be ideal, but you want something more portable to add to the tools on your retrieval laptop. This is where DVRConv steps in to quickly convert and playback your downloaded files in an easily customisable and cleanly installed package!

Utilising exactly the same conversion engine as FIVE but with twice the portability, you can not only playback and confirm your video files at scene, but have them ready for clarification and enhancement in FIVE for when you return to the office or lab.  Logs are provided for disclosure and the original files are left untouched, maintaining the continuity of your video evidence from the beginning.

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CCTV appeals: Don’t underestimate the importance of image quality

‘Caught on CCTV’ — how many times do we read or hear those words?

With cities worldwide sitting under the gaze of millions of public and private cameras, it is no wonder that in many cases, the best chances of identifying an offender starts with the image caught on CCTV.

But, the simple task of getting an image can sometimes be a challenge so it is no wonder that people look at the shortcut and simply take a picture of the CCTV monitor with their phone. It’s quick, simple and you immediately have an image.

This is great when recognition is time critical. The image of the ‘man in the hat’, the 2016 Belgium terror suspect, was first released after a snap of a CCTV screen. Then, a few days later, the forensically acquired evidential images were released.

When something is not time critical, then the correct acquisition of the original video will help immensely in any integrity or authentication issue. Not only that, but if any restoration or enhancement is required, then you will have a much better chance of image recovery.

Faces and vehicle licence plates are often requested for recovery. They have two matching characteristics – high detail. It is these high details that are lost when a piece of CCTV is captured incorrectly, snapped from a PC screen, re-recorded with the analogue video output, or obtained any other way that changes the original digital structure.

An added problem with some of these processes is that small details can change shape and become blended together. Letters and numbers on licence plates start to look like other digits.

It can be frustrating to use multiple pieces of software with a need to ensure no loss of quality during every stage. This obviously adds extra and unnecessary time to the workflow. Time that is extremely valuable in today’s policing environment.

A by-product of using Amped FIVE, the ‘all-in-one’ solution, is that investigative decisions can be actioned much faster. “Am I going to get something from that?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to move on. Spend the time on what is achievable and negate the impossible.

If there was not a correct acquisition of this original video, it may not have been possible to enhance the dark image to recover the details of the vehicle and license plate.

Licence plates usually stay within the policing world but faces, clothing configurations, and tattoos regularly end up in the press, social media, and within online galleries for recognition.

Therefore, it’s worth taking a bit of time with these to ensure the highest possible chance of some good intelligence. It can also avoid some embarrassment – reading through public comments on a few sites makes for painful reading due to the image posted being so bad!

Read the full article originally posted on Police Oracle.

Why investigating digital video is such a ‘huge pain in the proverbial’

With CCTV probably being the number one piece of digital evidence used in cases, many officers will have asked questions like, how do I get the footage; why is it not playing; or how can I get an image? It’s important therefore to understand why we have ended up here. Why digital video, specifically from the surveillance industry, is such a huge pain in the proverbial!

As computers and digital video started to creep into normality, the surveillance companies started to think of ways to say, and prove, that they were better than the other. One of the easiest ways to do this was to use a bespoke recording method and format, to suggest that it was better than the other. This is where it starts to go pear-shaped.

Very quickly we ended up with non-standard video files, requiring a player that could not install on a Force computer, with no method to interrogate, analyze, validate or process the evidence as required by the investigation.

It has been nearly 20 years since the start of Digital Video Recorders, and you will be glad to hear that things are improving. But, it is going to take a long time for many of these poor systems to get replaced by ones that are fit for purpose.

Read the full article published on Police Oracle.

Retrieving Evidence from CCTV

Acquiring evidence from a digital camera or a smartphone is more or less relatively easy to do. Images are usually in standard JPEG format and videos in MP4 or some other format that most players can read. But what is the best way to retrieve and handle CCTV footage to ensure it stands up to the scrutiny in the courtroom? There are numerous possibilities and it depends on where the video is actually recorded.

To learn more, read the article by Martino Jerian, Amped CEO and Founder, published in Lawyer Monthly.

Amped DVRConv Update 10098: more formats, more speed, more options

Today we released an update to Amped DVRConv, the easiest way to convert videos from proprietary DVR formats.

We have been working on this update for some time and a few users have received beta updates in order to support formats that were urgently required. During this period we have re-engineered a good part of the architecture to improve stability, speed and format compatibility.

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The problems of the GAVC codec solved

In my years of working crime scenes in Los Angeles, I would often come across Geovision DVRs. They were usually met with a groan. Geovision’s codecs are problematic to deal with and don’t play nicely within analysts’ PCs.

With Amped FIVE, processing files from Geovision’s systems is easy. Plus, Amped FIVE has the tools needed to correct the problems presented by Geovision’s shortcuts.

Here’s an example of a workflow for handling an AVI file from Geovision, one that utilizes the GAVC codec.

If you have the GAVC codec installed, Amped FIVE will use it to attempt to display the video. You may notice immediately that the playback of the video isn’t working right. Not to worry, we’ll fix it. Within FIVE, select File>Convert DVR and set the controls to Raw (Uncompressed). When you click Apply, the file will be quickly converted.

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From cameras to the court: How to make full video integration a reality

David Spreadborough, international trainer at Amped Software, and a regular expert witness in criminal investigations, charts the technical history of bringing CCTV images to court and provides an insight into the challenges associated with preparing surveillance images as evidence.

Read the article published on IFSEC Global

 

To seize or to retrieve: that is the question

A crime occurs and is “witnessed” by a digital CCTV system. The files that your investigation wants/needs are in the system’s recording device (DVR). What do you do to get them? Do you seize the entire DVR as evidence (“bag and tag”)? Do you try to access the recorder through its user interface and download/export/save the files to USB stick/drive or other removable media?

Answer: it depends.

There are times when you’d want to seize the DVR. Perhaps 5% of cases will present a situation where having the DVR in the lab is necessary:

  • Arsons/fires can turn a DVR into a bunch of melted down parts. You’re obviously not going to power up a melted DVR.
  • An analysis that tests how the DVR performs and creates files. For example, does the frame timing represent the actual elapsed time or how the DVR fit that time into its container? Such tests of reliability will require access to the DVR throughout the legal process.
  • Content analysis questions where there’s a difference of opinion between object/artifact. For example, is it a white sticker on the back of a car or an artifact of compression (random bit of noise)?

If you’re taking a DVR from a location, you can follow the guidance of the computer forensics world on handling the DVR (which is a computer) and properly removing it from the scene.

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What’s wrong with this video?

What’s wrong with this video? Hint: look at the Inspector’s results for width / height.

Unfortunately, the answer in many people’s minds is …. nothing. I can’t begin to count the number of videos and images in BOLOs that attempt to depict a scene that looks quite like the one above. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, it’s hard to say what’s actually wrong with this video.

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