Despite being a fairly small country, Sweden has an active and skilled forensic community, which highly values the importance of proper processes, tools and training. I’ve met Victor a few times and have always enjoyed our interesting conversations, not only during his several visits to our headquarters in Trieste, Italy, but also at the LEVA conference in the US. He has a long experience in video investigations and is an Amped FIVE and Amped Authenticate expert user.
Martino Jerian, Amped Software CEO and Founder
Victor, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and your current role at the Swedish National Police?
I started working for the police almost 14 years ago. Back then as an analyst in the intelligence service. And already at that time, I started working with the retrieval of surveillance videos. In the last 5 years, however, I have dug deeper into what is the forensic part of video analysis within the Swedish National Police.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The best thing about what I do now is that I can pretty quickly see results in what you do and hopefully lead an investigation forward.
Welcome to this week’s Video Evidence Pitfalls post, dear friends! Today we’re dealing with the reliability of colors in CCTV footage (and with any kind of digital images in general). Colors are an essential part of human perception, but can often be misleading in surveillance footage. Keep reading to find out why!
Issue: Colors Are Often Unreliable in CCTV Footage
As part of an ATM fraud robbery investigation, you are reviewing footage from two cameras in the same area. This is the image of the suspect as he walks away from the ATM.
He’s suspected of having visited another ATM of a bank nearby. So you review the footage of that camera as well, but… you don’t find anyone with a blue jacket and beanie hat. After syncing the clocks and checking frame by frame, you realize that it could be him:
But you also realize you will have a hard time convincing anyone about it. Why are the colors completely different?
Dear friends, welcome to our weekly Video Pitfalls post! Last week, we talked about the importance of a video’s time resolution (recording frame rate). Today, we’re dealing with playback speed, which is tightly related and also very important. Keep reading to find out why!
Issue: the same thing looks different at a different playback speed
As part of a burglary investigation, you are reviewing some CCTV footage of a parking lot. At some point, there’s an orange car that seems to act a bit suspiciously — it runs in one direction, then possibly realizes there’s no exit, and rapidly turns back. You even manage to see that the driver at the wheel acts quickly like he/she’s in a rush. Could that car be worth focusing on?
Notice that we are essentially basing the decision on how much of a rush the driver seems to be in. But what if the video played like this?
Everything is the same except for the speed: now the driver seems to be someone who just took a wrong turn and quietly turns back. And so the question now is: which of the videos (if any!) is an accurate representation of the actual event?
“SEEING IS BELIEVING.” Or, rather, that’s what we used to say. Since the beginning of time, seeing a fact or a piece of news depicted in an image was far more compelling than reading it, let alone hearing about it from someone else. This power of visual content probably stemmed from its immediacy: looking at a picture takes less effort and training than reading text, or even listening to words. Then, the advent of photography brought an additional flavor of undisputable objectivity. Thanks to photography, pictures could be used as a reliable recording of events. Looking closer, however, it turns out that photographs have been faked since shortly after their invention. One of the most famous examples of historical hoaxes, dating back to the late 1860s, is Abraham Lincoln’s head spliced over John Calhoun’s body, and cleverly so. (Note: Click here to read the full hoax description on hoaxes.org.)
Politics was indeed an important driver for image manipulation throughout the years, as witnessed by many fake pictures created to serve leaders of democracies and tyrannies. We have photos of the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, proudly sitting on a horse that was held by an ostler (the latter promptly erased), photos of Joseph Stalin where some subjects were removed after they fell in disgrace, and so on. All these pictures were “fake”, in the sense that they were not an accurate representation of what they purported to show.
Of course, creating hoaxes with good, old-fashioned analog pictures was not something everyone could do. It took proper tools, training, and lots of time. Then, digital photography arrived, which was soon followed by digital image manipulation software and, a few years later, digital image sharing platforms. With advanced image editing solutions available at affordable prices—or even for free—there was a boom in the possibilities of creating fake pictures. Of course, you still needed suitable training and time to obtain professional results, but this was nothing compared to working with film.
In the last couple of years, we have witnessed a revolution in the manipulation of images: “deepfakes”. A deepfake is a fake image or video generated with the aid of a deep artificial neural network. It may involve changing a person’s face with someone else’s face (so-called “face-swaps”), changing what a subject is saying (“lip-sync” fakes), or even changing the words and movements of someone’s head so that they are like a puppet, or guided actor (“re-enactment”). But how is this achieved? What are these “deep artificial neural Networks”? How can we fight deepfakes?
Dear friends, welcome to this week’s video pitfalls post! When thinking of “video resolution”, we normally recall possible pixel matrix sizes (640×480, 1920×1080, and so on). This is the spatial resolution. A video however has a temporal dimension as well, with the ‘tempo’ relating to the speed at which the frames are captured and then presented. In many cases, this can be more important than spatial resolution. For this reason, we will dedicate this and the next post to this subject. Today, we deal with the recording frame rate, while next week we’ll talk about the playback speed.
Issue: If the recording frame rate is low, you are missing information
You are called to a bar where a scuffle just took place. Upon arrival, you listen to all the various witness and victim accounts and then the bar owner shows you the CCTV. This is what you view (we’re using a video from the “UnarmedcombatOnline” YouTube channel).
No matter how many times you play the video, you hardly understand how the guy with a black sweatshirt turns from standing to laying on the ground, and it does not match some eye-witness accounts. You decide to acquire the evidence (in a forensic manner) utilizing the device’s USB Export function. Back at the station, or on your laptop, you view the evidence in Amped Replay. Carefully navigating the frames allows you to check thoroughly all the available information in the recording. By scrolling the gallery below, you’ll notice that in frame 2 the guy is standing, and in frame 3 he’s grounded. What happened in between? We don’t know.
We have exciting news regarding product licensing.
As of today, all our software products are available with an annual subscription license, as an alternative to the perpetual licensing we’ve always had.
Different organizations have different needs, budget availability, and purchasing processes, so we thought that adding another option would be the best way to ease and speed up the acquisition process.
So, how do you choose which model is best for your case? We have prepared a simple comparison chart.
The software continues to work but access to updates and support is lost
The software stops working
What happens when renewing after the expiration
Missing time must be compensated
Restarts from the purchase date
But this is just the beginning. We know that purchasing within government or large organizations is not always as easy as it should be. What are the main issues?
Very often, the end user is not the decision-maker nor actually part of the purchasing process. It’s not always clear what number of licenses are needed months before the purchase would hopefully be finalized, and sometimes not even the products that are needed. And let’s not forget about the difficulties of getting training (especially in some countries), which is an essential part of what we do.
So we created three bundles, which cover typical use cases for our customers in order to help them easily overcome some of these issues.
With the Amped Ultimate Team Subscription, you get all our products (Amped Replay, Amped DVRConv, Amped FIVE, Amped Authenticate) and OnlineTraining classes at a fixed and convenient annual price.
With the Amped FIVE Team Subscription, you get 4 seats of Amped FIVE and 2 Online Training seats per year.
With the Amped Replay Team Subscription, you get 20 seats of Amped Replay and a private Online Training session for up to 10 investigators, every year.
These bundles do not only simplify your choices but offer huge savings over single licenses and training classes.
Interested? Check out our bundles page or contact us for more information or to receive a quote.
Welcome, dear friends, ready for this week’s video evidence pitfall? Today we’re dealing with one video issue that often gets overlooked: perspective. It’s something we’re all familiar with, but in video analysis, it can play nasty tricks on you.
Issue: you shouldn’t compare the size of things at different depths
A robbery takes place and you get called. When you reach the shop, the owner runs at you yelling a classic statement: “I got him! I have a video!”. Indeed, there’s a video on the CCTV system and the suspect is there, as he walks into the shop (we’ve simulated a balaclava in the picture below). The face is disguised, but there’s good information about clothes. Then you think: well, I’m here in the shop, the suspect is close to the door, so why don’t I measure the height of the door to find out the height of the suspect?
Well, certainly measuring the door is an excellent step towards height analysis, but don’t take it too easy: that would just be the first step of a longer process. Indeed, you can’t directly compare the size of things at different depths because perspective makes farther things look smaller!
And it’s not just a matter of measurements: perspective affects the human view of an event. What you think you see may be affected by perspective: two planes in the sky may appear to be about to crash into each other when they are actually hundreds of feet apart. For CCTV, it may look as if an action or movement is one thing, but it is not in reality. Moreover, the perspective of the camera must be considered, and this is often very different from a witness perspective. Many cameras are high up and angled down, whereas witnesses will be at ground level and looking perhaps from a different angle. What one person sees may be very different from the camera’s view.
Dear loyal readers welcome to this week’s video pitfall post! Today we continue our mission of shedding doubts on whether the aspect of things in your video is actually trustworthy. Last week, we showed the “stretching effect” that is often introduced by various aspect ratio issues. Today, we’re dealing with optical distortion.
Issue: Can you trust the shape of objects in a video?
Imagine you’re looking for a missing person. You ask the family for a recent picture, and they tell you, “Look, we have a video from our home camera. It shows her just before she gets out for the last time”. Hey, that could be useful, perhaps she still wears the same clothes and that would help the search. “Okay, we’ll take that video!”, you say. And here it is:
Here we are again with another update to Amped Replay, the CCTV converter and video player designed for today’s investigators. Image and video annotation is one of Replay’s key features so we have concentrated our efforts here to increase the tools’ simplicity and speed.
Let’s take a closer look!
Giving users various tracking methods, from manual to assisted, allows full flexibility when moving objects around the video area to hide, spotlight, or mark a vehicle or person.
With this update, we have introduced full keyframing, with size and location interpolation. Those people who have used video editors before may be aware of keyframing, but for those who have not, I’ll explain.
Adding a keyframe to an annotation, like a circle or an arrow, stores the parameters for that object at that frame. The parameters stored are the size and the location. A user can then add another keyframe at another frame and the object will automatically interpolate between this and the previous keyframe.
The benefit of this is that a user may only have to add 3-4 keyframes to track an object instead of frame by frame.
Keyframes can be added by the right-click options on the annotation or by utilizing the shortcut key ‘U’.
When this is activated you will also visualize a keyframe marker in the top left of the annotation.
Dear friends, welcome to a new video pitfall post! Among the many visual clues, the shape and size of objects are quite important ones. However, we’ll see that in surveillance videos, they can quite often be misleading. Hold tight and keep reading!
Issue: Can you trust the proportions of objects in a video?
You get an urgent call. “They’ve just kidnapped a girl and fled in a car. We have a video from the pub next door!”. While you rush to the place, you’re already drafting the plan: you’ll look at the video and immediately start a search for the car based on the license plate… or at least the model!
Once you reach the place, they pass you a USB drive with a video file in it. You plug it in your laptop and play the video. Here’s the car.