Category Archives: Press / Media

Chicago Police Relies on Amped FIVE to Solve More Crimes

Police worldwide are increasingly relying on digital information from various sources to help solve crimes, including security videos. In order to improve the safety of their citizens, the Chicago Police Department has opened two new Tech Centers that include several tools, including Amped Software products, to help fight crime.

Surveillance video can be one of the more impactful forms of evidence and oftentimes the only source of evidence in a case. It’s the first port of call for any investigator building a case. Time is often crucial and the quicker a detective can obtain and view footage the better.

With Amped FIVE, Chicago Police officers were able to analyze and process surveillance video from around a crime scene to help speed up the process of capturing the suspects. With FIVE they are able to improve the exposure of a video to get a better view of a vehicle in that video and with the 100+ filters available in one complete software package, they are able to restore the image in order to identify the vehicle model and the license plate.

“They went out and they processed every video,” Bureau of Detectives Chief Melissa Staples said. “They were able to play it and download it and review it. If it were not for the video and the license plate readers that our department has, we would not have gotten to where we were as quickly as we did with an arrest in that case.”



Click here to learn more about the new Area Tech Centers.

Contact us to learn more about our full line of solutions that have been developed to assist an entire organization with all investigations, starting from the field, up to the forensic lab, and then to the courtroom.

Amped Partners with the University of Colorado Denver to Help Students Analyze Image and Video Evidence Scientifically

Education is important for raising the value of video and image forensics. The more practitioners understand the correct way to process and clarify the evidence they receive, the better the probative value that evidence becomes. One group who has been working for many years to raise the quality and skill set of analysts is the National Center for Media Forensics (NCMF) at the University of Colorado Denver. In addition to participating in research and assisting with best practices for the field, they have developed curriculum at the collegiate level to educate competent forensic scientists. Through their Media Forensics Master’s program, and training courses throughout the year, they are leaders in the education of current and future examiners.

We at Amped Software are happy to be part of the NCMF’s curriculum which focuses on teaching students to look at the evidence and learn the scientific ways to examine, clarify, and restore images and videos. Beginning this fall, in partnership with NCMF, Amped FIVE will be available in their classroom where students will learn how FIVE can be utilized to examine the metadata of files, understand clarification tools used throughout the world, use forensically sound stabilization and measurement tools, and create understandable presentation pieces backed by a scientific report. In doing so, students will be prepared with a wide breadth of tools to get the most detail and information from images and videos as they enter the workforce.

We are very excited that NCMF has chosen our products to help in their degree program. Together, Amped and NCMF will equip students to be well-prepared analysts using “methods and technology necessary to fight crime in the digital age”.

For more information on the NCMF Graduate Program, please click here.
To learn more about Amped Software’s Academic Program, contact us.

Forensic Focus Interviews Blake Sawyer, Technical Sales, Support and Training for North America

Forensic Focus recently interviewed Blake Sawyer, our latest addition to the Amped team to support the North American market. We are reposting the interview Forensic Focus published on its website. To see the original post on Forensic Focus, click here.

Congratulations on your new role! Tell us more about your law enforcement career. How did you get into digital forensics?

Thanks so much! I am excited about the opportunity to come and work for Amped Software. I got into digital forensics in a kind of roundabout way. I earned a Computer Science degree in college and went to work for Apple. After several years of support and QA, I got involved in Audio and Video Production. That led me, eventually into working for the Plano Police Department in Plano, TX, USA in 2014.

At the time, there was no dedicated unit for video forensics, but the department knew there was increasingly more need for someone who understood video. Almost 6 months later, there was a major case involving a homicide where the majority of the evidence relied heavily on the video. Using Amped FIVE, I was able to help investigators understand what information we had on video, play and process almost 500GB of proprietary videos, and create analytic comparison and demonstrative charts. Since that time, the department has grown to have 3 full-time video analysts retrieving and processing 200-300 videos a month. Without FIVE that would have been almost impossible. 

How did you come to work for Amped? What about the role and the company excited you most?

I have been a user of Amped FIVE since 2014. I was impressed with the ease of use and deep analytic potential of the product. Once I purchased Amped DVRConv, I was a big fan. Through the years I have been an advanced user and helped suggest features and improvements. When Martino Jerian, the CEO and Founder of Amped Software, called me about the job, I was very excited about the opportunity. I have always enjoyed solving problems and helping people. Working in a role that allows me to help and teach people in a field that I care a lot about is one of the things I am most excited about. 

Being able to move from helping one local police department to helping Law Enforcement and Video Examiners throughout North America is something that I couldn’t pass up. The more people learn how to look at video and actually be able to get scientifically correct information from it is critical to the field. I am glad to be able to do my part.

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Amped Replay: The Enhanced Video Player for Modern Policing

Today we have launched Amped Replay, our enhanced video player for modern policing.

You can find all the usual details in the press release and more info on the product webpages. What I want to add here, though, is some background information about the why and how of this new product.

I believe Amped Replay may be the most important product launch since the initial Amped FIVE release in 2008. Maybe even more than that, since it widens our scope as a company. Continue reading

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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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. 

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.

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.

Digital images – trust must be earned

The science behind forensic image analysis is growing fast and constantly evolving. Even within the last 5 years, the ability to take a photo, manipulate it to tell a different story, and circulate the misinformation online has become infinitely easier. The advent of smartphones, convenient digital image manipulation software and easy dissemination of information are throwing up new challenges that investigators and forensic technicians must adapt to.

Unfortunately, it is too risky to simply take digital images at face value. Instead, we must ask and have the tools to query, such as “Where did the image or video originate from?”; “Who provided it and is there any reason they might have modified it?”; “Is it a camera-original?”; and “Do I believe this is a true and accurate representation of events?”

To give a practical example, back in the summer of 2017, two images featured prominently in the initial reporting of Hurricane Harvey. The first was of a shark swimming along the Houston freeway. The second showed several aeroplanes virtually underwater at what was claimed to be Houston airport. These iconic images were circulated widely on Twitter and were featured on mainstream national media such as Fox News. There was just one small problem. Neither situation had actually occurred!

If this behaviour is widespread on social and traditional media, then why shouldn’t we believe it is also impacting police and legal investigations? After all, if members of the public are prepared to manipulate images for the sake of a few likes and retweets, what will they be prepared to resort to when the stakes are much higher?

Read the full article published in eForensics Magazine.

 

Fraud in Science: the Bigger Picture

Cases of fraud within published scientific research are on the rise, with several recent cases involving the falsification of images.

Scientists are subjected to exactly the same pressures and temptations that drive people to commit fraud in all manner of environments and for various reasons. Sometimes the motivation is commercial; perhaps to obtain a research grant or to enhance the profile of the institution and attract more applications. In others it might be professional; to get published in a prestigious Journal or simply to save face after an experiment has failed to deliver the desired
results.

Regardless of the justification, when these actions have legal consequences it is important to have the tools to detect when such fraud occurs. And more importantly to have the ability
to scientifically prove this in a court of law.

Multimedia forensics is invaluable within cases of research fraud, both for presenting a case or defending the accused. However, it’s not good enough to simply bring in an expert witness and have them confidently present their case. Tools exist to carry out the analysis in line with the scientific methodology, giving the judge and in some cases the jury, a basis upon which to evaluate the full weight of the evidence. Consider it ironic, but if the right software is adopted within the legal system then the scientific method may just prove to be the answer to the current crisis facing scientific integrity.

Read the full article published in The Barrister.