Category Archives: FIVE

Using Enhanced Images in Court

I recently testified in court as a forensic image and video expert and, as is sometimes the case, the use of some filters to enhance images was questioned. As I have written before, there is some processing that should be entirely avoided, since it lacks accuracy and repeatability. For example, we should avoid techniques which add new information relying on data obtained by a training set, or techniques which have a random component.

Some years ago, there was a school of thought that said, only classical image processing techniques available for the analog photography can be applied to digital photography in the forensic context. What are the risks of applying the wrong processing? We are not interested in having a “pleasant” image, we are concerned about extracting information from it. The risks of wrong processing are:

  • Removing existing information: for example, removing the grain in a dark image can remove also important details.
  • Adding new information: for example, creating or amplifying image artifacts which may be misinterpreted as a real detail.

In this reasoning, we are not referring to details at the pixel level, but at the image semantic content. In general, if I resize an image, I add a lot of new pixels but if the processing is correct I am not adding any new relevant information.

It’s important to understand that most of the image processing techniques present a compromise: I enhance something at the expense of damaging something else. For example, if I lighten an image to show better a dark part, it’s very likely to lose details in the parts of the image that are already bright enough.

For this reason, it’s very difficult, in general, to say which techniques are good and which techniques are bad. Their applicability must be related to the specific case and the parameters used. Filters are just tools, and as such, they can be used in the right way, obtaining better images, or in the wrong way, damaging the image quality or presenting wrong information.

Because of this, it’s important not to blindly apply different enhancement and restoration filters, but to apply them in order to correct a specific defect. Similarly, the tuning of their parameters must be consistent with the amount of defect I want to correct. Abusing the filters can create images which are much worse than the original.

It is therefore important, as I’ve said many times, to work with experts who have specific experience in the forensic image and video analysis field. Who know what to do, and how to identify what has been done incorrectly.

A lot of pressure may be put on the processing done by the experts, but most people ignore that there are many other processing and possible issues happening during the image acquisition and visualization phases.

A lot of processing happens in the camera itself, from CCTV to smartphones. Unless raw image pictures are used, and this is very rare, the value of the pixels in an image are hugely dependent on the processing and encoding which automatically happens inside the device to obtain the ratio between image quality and technical limitations that the producer wished to obtain.

And then, even to simply visualize the image, there’s a lot going on under the hood. Different software can decode the image in a slightly different way which can enormously impact the final result, and a lot of image processing happens on the graphics card of the PC, on the screen, or on a projector. Just play with the brightness of the projector to realize how much the visible information in an image can be impacted by such simple tuning.

There is then the most critical part of the processing: our eyes and our brain. Different people see and want to see different things in the same image. Analyzing things in an objective and unbiased way is often very difficult unless you can measure things numerically. And in fact, avoiding and limiting the various types of biases are one of the most important aspects of forensic science currently studied.

This article, written by Martino Jerian, was originally published in Lawyer Monthly magazine. Click here for the published article. 

Extracting Channels

If you’ve attended one of my classes or lectures, you’ve likely heard me say the following phrase many times, “There’s what you know, and there’s what you can prove.” The essence of this statement forms the basis of the Criminal Justice system as well as science.

What I “know” is subject to bias. What I “know” is found in the realm of truth. As a Kansas City Chiefs supporter, I “know” that the Oakland Raiders are a horrible team. I “know” that their fans are the worst in the world. After all, the Chiefs are the best and their fans are as pure as the wind-driven snow. This is “true” to me. Whilst funny and used to illustrate a point (I’m sure there are some really great people among the Raiders fan base), truths are things we “know.” Truths are rooted deep in feelings/emotions and unlikely to be changed by facts. There is a segment of the US population that believes it true that Elvis is still alive and that he’s likely hanging out on some Caribbean island with Tupac and Biggy Smalls.

Facts are measurable; they form the basis of tests of reliability. I can measure the temperature in a specific location and you, standing in the same location, can perform the same test and come to the same measurement. Supported by facts, our tests in this discipline become reliable, repeatable, and reproducible. Our conclusions can thus be trusted.

What on earth does this all have to do with Amped FIVE and Forensic Multimedia Analysis? I’m glad you asked.

By now, you’re well familiar with the fact that Amped Software operationalizes tools out of image science, math, statistics, etc. We also operationalize tools and training out of the world of psychology. By this I mean if we’re going to work in the visual world, we must know how that visual world operates not only from a mechanical standpoint but also from how the brain processes the inputs from its collection devices.

Continue reading

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.

Amped FIVE Update 11284: Multiplexed Stream Support, Proprietary Timestamp, Remove Frames Filter, and a Whole Lot More

Whilst it’s been a busy time for us here at Amped with the demand for training higher than ever, we have made sure our development is continuous and we’re here again with another huge update for Amped FIVE.

A Completely Revamped Conversion Engine

As you will know, one of the biggest struggles within the world of CCTV and video analysis is the ever-increasing number of proprietary formats. Our support and development team are constantly receiving requests for new format support and in our latest update, we have enabled conversion support for BVR, DVS, H64, PSF and SHV formats, along with some variations of other formats already supported in previous versions.

All these formats are multiplexed streams. This is when a manufacturer has placed all camera footage into a single time-based video stream.

The latest FIVE not only converts the files straight away, but demultiplexes each video stream, splitting them into their own individual chains within the software. Under the Convert DVR Advanced tab you will find the options to enable this time-saving function.

Files to Convert > All, one chain per file.

No more mixed streams, no more time wasted writing carving scripts. A few clicks will now save you hours!

Multiplexed single stream decoding is huge, so expect a dedicated blog post in the next few weeks looking more deeply into decoding files of this type.

But the new conversion engine does not stop there! There are a lot of benefits even on single stream video files. Standard conversion done with vanilla FFmpeg is often not enough – there may be the risk of losing video frames because of wrongly interpreted proprietary metadata. Our new engine not only cleans almost every proprietary video format, being in MPEG4, H263, H264 and H265, but for many of them also recovers the proprietary timestamp. We found more than 50 different variations of timestamp formats!

Continue reading

Video Redaction with Amped FIVE

First of all, let me introduce myself. I’m Lucy Carey-Shields, the newest member of the Amped team! Originally from the UK I studied Computer Forensics at degree level and was a volunteer police officer with a UK police force for six years. I later went on to work for another UK police force for almost four years as a digital forensics technician, mostly working with CCTV and video whilst also providing forensic acquisition of mobile devices. Whilst working at Amped I’ll be providing support as well as putting the software through its paces, so I look forward to hearing from you all! Now let’s dive into my first Amped blog post! 


When dealing with video, we often have to hide sensitive information or protect a person’s identity, particularly if the video is to be shared with a wider audience and we need to control the display of certain information. Amped FIVE has a filter for that!

Having used two or more different tools to load, process and then redact sensitive footage in the past, I know how time-saving having all these features in one piece of software can be (and how critical time can be in a law enforcement environment).

The Hide Selection filter allows you to pixelate, blur or blacken anything you want masked in a video quickly. In this instance, we’ll explore both dynamic tracking and manual tracking during the use of Hide Selection. Hide Selection can be found under the Presentation group of filters, typically used at the end of a workflow.

Redaction, whilst usually done towards the end of processing a video, is arguably one of the more critical steps in a workflow as revealing sensitive data or someone’s identity could have serious and potentially dangerous consequences. With this in mind, it’s important we ensure frame by frame accuracy so that the subjects we want to censor are completely disguised. FIVE allows you to apply the filter by selecting the necessary points – maintaining that important frame by frame accuracy. Continue reading

Using Snapshots in your Project

The ability to save a frame as a “Snapshot” has been a feature in Amped FIVE for quite some time. A simplified explanation of the use of Snapshots in interacting with third-party programs can be found here.

Today, I want to expand a bit on the use of Snapshots in your processing of video files.

There are often times that users have been asked to produce a BOLO flyer of multiple subjects and problems with the video file complicate the fulfillment of the request.

  • The subjects aren’t looking towards the camera at the same time / within the same frame.
  • There’s only one good frame of video to work with and you need to crop out multiple subjects.

Enter the Snapshot tool.

The Snapshot tool, on the Player Panel, saves the snapshot of the currently displayed image (frame) and its relative project.

When you Right Click on the button, a menu pops up.

The post linked above talks about working with the listed third-party tools. In this case, we’ll save the frame out, selecting a file type and manually enter an appropriate file name.

We can choose from a variety of file types. In most cases, analysts will choose a lossless format like TIFF.

The results, saved to the working folder, are the frame of video as a TIFF and its relative project file (.afp).

Working in this way, analysts can quickly and easily work with frames of interest separate from the video file. The same frame can be added to the project several times, repeated as necessary (in the case of cropping multiple subjects and objects from the same frame).

Amped FIVE is an amazingly flexible tool. The Snapshot tool, found in the Player Panel, provides yet another way to move frames of interest out of your project as files, or out to a third-party tool.

If you’d like more information about our tools and training options, contact us today.

Working Scientifically?

On Tuesday, May 22, I will be in Providence (RI, USA) at the Annual IACP Technology Conference to present a lecture. The topic, “Proprietary Video Files— The Science of Processing the Digital Crime Scene” is rather timely. Many years ago,  the US Federal Government responded to the NAS Report with the creation of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC). I happen to be a founding member of that group and currently serve as the Video Task Group chairperson within the Video / Imaging Technology and Analysis Subcommittee (VITAL). If one was to attempt to distill the reason for the creation of the OSAC and its on-going mission, it would be this: we were horrible at science, let’s fix that.

Since the founding of the OSAC, each Subcommittee has been busy collecting guidelines and best practices documents, refining them, and moving them to a “standards publishing body.” For Forensic Multimedia Analysis, that standards publishing body is the ASTM. The difference between a guideline / best practice and a standard is that the former tend towards generic helpful hints whilst the latter are specific and enforceable must do’s. In an accredited laboratory, if there is a standard practice for your discipline you must follow it. In your testimonial experience, you may be asked about the existence of standards and if your work conforms to them. As an example, in section 4 of ASTM 2825-12, it notes the requirement that your reporting of your work should act as a sort of recipe such that another analyst can reproduce your work. Whether used as bench notes, or included within your formal report, the reporting in Amped FIVE fully complies with this guidance. There is a standard out there, and we follow it.

Continue reading

Learn to accurately determine measurements from CCTV at the OFVAA Annual Training Event

The Ontario Forensic Video Analysts’ Association (OFVAA) is holding its 6th Annual Training Event from April 30 – May 4, 2018, at the DoubleTree Fallsview Resort & Spa by Hilton in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

The full week of training will focus on “Forensic Still Image Photogrammetry” and will cover a range of topics around height analysis from surveillance video and still images with practical hands-on training by field experts including Amped Software’s David Spreadborough. Students will perform and validate scientific height analysis using multiple methods including Reverse Projection, Laser Scanning, Computer Image Creation, and also Measure 3d in Amped FIVE.

This event provides a unique opportunity to use all these techniques to identify each one’s ideal use scenario, in order for officers and analysts to use the right technique in the right scenario, cutting costs and time.

For more information visit: http://www.ofvaa.com/training

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.

Continue reading

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.