Category Archives: FIVE

What’s the Difference?

It was a slow week on one of the most active mailing lists in our field. Then, Friday came along and a list member asked the following question:

If I exported two copies of the same frame from some digital video as stills. Then slightly changed one. Something as small as changing one pixel by a single RBG value….so it is technically different…

… Does anyone know any software that could look at both images and then produce a third image that is designed to highlight the differences? In this case it would be one pixel …

To which, my colleague in the UK (Spready) quickly replied – Amped FIVE’s Video Mixer set to Absolute Difference. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have the winning answer! Let’s take a look at how to set up the examination, as well as what the results look like.

I’ve loaded an image into Amped FIVE twice. In the second instance of the file within the project, I’ve made a small local adjustment with the Levels filter. You can see the results of the adjustment in the above image.

With the images loaded and one of them adjusted, the Video Mixer, found in the Link filter group, is used to facilitate the difference examination.

On the Inputs tab of the Video Mixer’s Filter Settings, the First Input is set to the original image. The Second Input is set to the modified image, pointing to the Levels adjustment.

On the Blend tab of the Video Mixer’s Filter Settings, set the Mode to Absolute Difference.

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There’s More to an Image than Meets the Eye

When using an image as evidence during a court case, the point of view it represents acquires a resonance much stronger than the testimony of a witness. With video, this is even more true, as we may understand the dynamics even from the frames and any additional information which may be gleaned from the audio track.

Nowadays, there are many free and easy tools which can be used to modify pictures with ease, and thus the authentication of images is of paramount importance. But even more importantly, we need to understand how much data there is in an image, in addition to what we can already see.

Read the full article published in Lawyer Monthly.

Image And Video Forensics In Court: Forensic Science Is Not Forensic Fiction

Images and videos are some of the most compelling forms of evidence that can be presented in a courtroom. Yet it is important that the steps we take when preparing them stand up to scrutiny.

Within the field of forensic image and video analysis one of the biggest issues we face is the CSI effect: the phenomenon whereby representations of forensic science on popular TV shows gives a distorted perception of what is possible; from endless zooming from satellite imagery to enhancing the reflection of a reflection of a reflection. We very often have to explain, even to “the experts”, what is science and what is fiction.

Enhancing images for forensic use is not just about trying a few sliders and combining filters until you see something better. Are you confident the images you present within a legal investigation would stand up to scrutiny? And do you have the procedures in place to challenge digital evidence introduced by other parties?

Read the full article published in Lawyer Monthly.

The Amped FIVE Assistant Video Tutorial

We recently announced the release of the latest version of Amped FIVE (10039) where we introduced a new operational mode through a panel called the “Assistant”.

The Assistant provides a set of predefined workflows which can be used to automate common operations or guide new users, but it’s not obtrusive. You can use it or not, and you can always add filters or do anything, as usual, it’s just an additional option.

We’ve created a video tutorial so you can see it in action. See below or watch on YouTube now!

We’ll be adding more videos to our YouTube channel soon, so follow us to get more videos like this.

The Sparse Selector

With over 100 filters and tools in Amped FIVE, it’s easy to lose track of which filter does what. A lot of folks pass right by the Sparse Selector, not knowing what it does or how to use it. The simple explanation of the Sparse Selector’s function is that it is a list of frames that are defined by the user. Another way of explaining its use: the Sparse Selector tool outputs multiple frames taken from random user selected positions of an input video.

How would that be helpful, you ask? Oh, it’s plenty helpful. Let me just say, it’s one of my favorite tools in FIVE. Here’s why.

#1. – Setting up a Frame Average

You want to resolve a license plate. You’ve identified 6 frames of interest where the location within the frame has original information that you’re going to frame average to attempt to accomplish your goal. Unfortunately, the frames are not sequentially located within the file. How do you select (easily / fast) only frames 125, 176, 222, 278 314, and 355? The Sparse Selector, that’s how.

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Amped FIVE Update 10039: Introducing the Assistant, and much more

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most important Amped FIVE updates in years!

In this version, we have released a new operational mode in Amped FIVE through a panel called the “Assistant”. The concept is extremely simple but opens a world of possibilities. I had this idea during a meeting in the US about one year ago. I hacked a quick and dirty prototype in a couple of hours and showed it to a few users at the LEVA conference to gather feedback. From then on, we worked to improve it and prepare some scripts.

In the last few years, Amped FIVE has grown like crazy, with more than 100 filters for every kind of issue. It has been adopted by experienced analysts and beginners, and used on cases of local, national and international level.

This raised a few interesting challenges:

  • With so many filters, how are you supposed to know the best tool to use in every case?
  • How do you enforce your agency SOPs for specific needs and workflows?
  • How do you easily help beginners and your new colleagues that are new to the job with the wealth of options available?
  • How do you automate repetitive and boring tasks?
  • How do you avoid human error with repeatable and documented practices?

We had a few ideas for a funny and helpful character.

Or maybe a more awesome classical wizard with its annoying modal interface.

Not really. The solution is much simpler.

Meet the Amped FIVE Assistant.

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Why PDF/A?

One of the more frustrating aspects of the forensic multimedia analyst’s world is dealing with legacy technology. You arrive at a crime scene to find a 15-year-old DVR that only accepts Iomega Zip disks, or CD+RW disks, or a certain size / speed of CF card. What do you do?

You curse and swear and scour your junk drawers. You call / email friends. You wonder why folks keep these systems knowing that there are newer / better / cheaper systems out there.

If you’ve ever worked a cold case, you know the problems interfacing with old technology. If you’re working at a large agency, chances are there are several old computer systems cobbled together with new middleware. Replacing systems is costly and time consuming.

For reports, agencies are faced with a similar problem. My old agency used a product from IBM that required a stand-alone program (PC only) to read / edit the reports when saved in the native format. That’s not at all helpful.

When generating a report in Amped FIVE, the user is given a choice in the production of the file between PDF, DOC, and HTML. Many states / jurisdictions require the user to output a PDF file for reports. But, PDF is a very robust standard with several variants. When generating PDF report files, it’s important to understand the variants and what they’re for.

According to the PDF Association, “PDF/A is an ISO-standardized version of the Portable Document Format (PDF) specialized for use in the archiving and long-term preservation of electronic documents. PDF/A differs from PDF by prohibiting features ill-suited to long-term archiving, such as font linking (as opposed to font embedding) and encryption.”

If you want to make sure that your report can be viewed now, and long into the future, by the largest group of people, choose PDF/A – the archival version of PDF. Understanding this, the report generated by FIVE is PDF/A compliant. We understand that many court systems and police agencies are standardized on this version of PDF because it’s not only built with the future in mind, it’s the cheapest to support.

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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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What’s in a name? How to rename in Amped FIVE

I’ve been on the road a lot lately. By the end of this month, I’ll have spent two weeks with District Attorney’s Offices in New Jersey (US) training users in the many uses of Amped’s flagship product, Amped FIVE. Every user has a slightly different use case and needs. Prosecutors’ Offices are no different.

Field personnel / crime scene technicians / analysts might not be very concerned with trail prep and the creation of demonstratives for court. But, DA’s offices are. That being said, there are a few things that every user of Amped FIVE can do – beginning with the end in mind – to make the trial prep job a bit easier.

Hopefully, by now you know that you can rename processing chains in Amped FIVE to aid in your organization.

Right click on the Chain and select Rename Chain. Then, name it something unique that describes what you’re working with or the question you’re trying to answer in the file. Examples include camera number, vehicle determination, license plate determination, etc.

This is quite helpful. But, did you know that you can also rename the Bookmarks? Additionally, you can add a description to the bookmark. Let’s see what this looks like.

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Cowboys versus Bureaucrats: Attitude and Tools

There were a couple of interesting discussions this week which prompted me to write this blog post. One is related to the scientific methods used during the analysis of images and videos, the other relates to the tools used.

There was a pretty interesting and detailed conversation that happened on an industry specific mailing list where a few experts debated about the scientific and forensic acceptability of different methodologies. This discussion began with the reliability of speed determination from CCTV video but then evolved into a more general discussion.

There are two extreme approaches to how forensic video analysts work: let’s call one group the cowboys and the other the bureaucrats. I’ve seen both kinds of “experts” in my career, and – luckily – many different variations across this broad spectrum.

What is a cowboy? A cowboy is an analyst driven only by the immediate result, with no concern at all for the proper forensic procedure, the reliability of his methods and proper error estimation. Typical things the cowboy does:

  • To convert a proprietary video, he just does a screen capture maximizing the player on the screen, without being concerned about missing or duplicated frames.
  • Instead of analyzing the video and identify the issues to correct, he just adds filters randomly and tweaks the parameters by eye without any scientific methodology behind it.
  • He uses whatever tool may be needed for the job, recompressing images and videos multiple times, using a mix of open source, free tools, commercial tools, plugins, more or less legitimate stuff, maybe some Matlab or Python script if he has the technical knowledge.
  • He will use whatever result “looks good” without questioning its validity or reliability.
  • If asked to document and repeat his work in detail he’ll be in deep trouble.
  • If asked the reason and validity of choosing a specific algorithm or procedure, he will say “I’ve always done it like this, and nobody ever complained”.
  • When asked to improve a license plate he will spell out the digits even if they are barely recognizable on a single P frame and probably are just the result of compression artifacts amplified by postprocessing.
  • When asked to identify a person, he will be able to do so with absolute certainty even when comparing a low-quality CCTV snapshot with a mugshot sent by fax.
  • When sending around results to colleagues he just pastes processed snapshots into Word documents.
  • When asked to authenticate an image, he just checks if the Camera Make and Model is present in the metadata.

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