Author Archives: Jim Hoerricks

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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Hands-off the keyboard!

I’ve had a few questions about our tool’s reporting feature, so I thought a blog post would help explain and illustrate the philosophy behind our report creation process. Here it goes.

To understand why we format our reports in the way that we do, you must first understand the legal and regulatory environment in which forensic analysis exists in much of the world. We don’t just create tools in a vacuum. We didn’t make a tool for another industry and repurpose it for forensic science. Amped FIVE is purpose built for the forensic analysis of video and images.

Thus, we’ll start our tour at the ASTM. ASTM’s E2825-12 is at the heart of why our reports are formatted as they are.

More specifically, in Section 4 of E2825-12 it notes the following:

4.2.1 – Processing steps are documented in a manner sufficient to permit a comparably trained person to understand the steps taken, the techniques used, and …

Amped FIVE’s reports are created to satisfy this guidance – every time, automatically.

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The Temperature Tint Filter

We’re back from the Axon Accelerate Conference. What an incredible experience to meet so many law enforcement professionals who are enthusiastic about going from Capture to the Courtroom with reliable tools based in science and fact, not tools repurposed from the art world.

I’d like to share today the answer to a question posed to us at the Conference. The question was, “how do you quickly get rid of that annoying orange color cast that you find in images / videos taken in underground locations or grow houses.”

The answer is the Temperature Tint filter (found in the Adjust filter group). But, before we look at the filter and how it works, let’s talk about about Colour Temperature.

The chart above is from my old book, Forensic Photoshop. It’s helpful to look at colour temperature from the standpoint of the Sun as it rises – the horizon going from warm to cool. Another way to look at colour temperature is with the chart below that places temperature (the Planckian locus in Kelvin) as it relates to the CIE XYZ Color Space.

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The Flexibility of the Add Text Filter

If you’ve wondered at the filters in the Extract Filter group and asked yourself, what are these for, you’re not alone. Depending on your specific use case with Amped FIVE, there are likely a few filters for which you have no use in your current context. Others, you may use in a very specific way each time – but others may use them differently.

Thus it is that I encountered a request for a feature that’s been in Amped FIVE for quite some time. I’ve responded to the request with details on how to accomplish the task. Now, I’ll expand on the question and share a more detailed look at an often overlooked filter – Add Text. (click on the images to see the full-res versions)

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Changing a Video’s Frame Rate

The pace of change here at Amped Software is brisk. Each big update to our software brings new filters and updates based on user feedback and requests. Thus, it can be hard to keep track of what’s new and improved as time moves on.

In a recent conversation with a brand new customer, they noted that one of their pain points in using their old tools was changing frame rates. They’d get a request to slow things down and their tool would make the video look like a scene from a ghost movie. The results just didn’t look realistic – nor was the work handled in a scientific way.

I mentioned that Amped FIVE has the ability to change the frame rate of videos. It does so in an intelligent/scientific way. This functionality was added over two and a half years ago. Here’s the announcement from 2014.

Change frame rate in a videoThere are a number of reasons why one would want to change the frame rate of a video, beyond the usual trial-prep functions of “slowing things down.” Most of the reasons center on the quality of the encoding and the file’s having correct frame rate information within the header.

What you don’t want to have happen is to add/subtract frames when you change the frame rate. With Presentation > Change Frame Rate, no frames are added or removed. The playback rate is changed. That’s all – but that’s huge. If you have a file with 1500 frames and the time/date stamp shows that from start to finish, 5 minutes elapse, then you need a playback rate that tracks with the number of frames/time. What you don’t want is added frames. Amped FIVE’s Change Frame Rate is the answer.

5 minutes = 300 seconds. 1500 frames/300 seconds = 5 frames per second. Just click on Presentation > Change Frame Rate and choose 5 (or choose the value based on your file’s properties). Your video is now set to play back at 5 frames per second. When you write out the video file, it will be written out to play at 5 frames per second.

Simple things should be easy, and fast. With Amped FIVE, they are.

If you’d like more information about our products or training options, contact us for more information.

Working with Subtitles in Amped FIVE

Law enforcement officials have been sending out recordings of interviews to transcription services (or in-house transcribers) for decades. A complete and accurate text file of statements made in suspect / witness interviews has been a valuable aid to Detectives and Attorneys alike. Now that agencies have implemented new recording technologies (Body Worn Cameras, In-Car Video, & Interview Room recorders as examples), LEOs are looking to have the recordings made by these devices transcribed as well.

There are many services out there offering transcription for law enforcement. When choosing a service (when sending sensitive information outside of the LE agency), important considerations come into play. Not the least of these considerations are information security (CJIS) and standards compliance. There are plenty of services out there offering security and speed – both of which come at a cost. The most important consideration, however, is the format of the deliverable file. If the text is going to be used as subtitles for a video, it has to be formatted in a specific way. To be used as a subtitle file, It has to be formatted as a subtitle file. Not all transcription services offer this service. So it’s vitally important to choose a vendor that supports transcription that includes timing information and can produce a subtitle file. Without the timing information, synchronization of the text to the video becomes a manual (time consuming) process. With the timing information (see below), it’s fast and easy.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 9.28.28 AM

The good news is, we’ve got you covered. In fact, we’ve been supporting the insertion of subtitles for years. Let’s take a look at how this is done.

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Can you see in the dark?

A crime has occurred. Your investigators comb the area looking for clues. Your media relations staff hit the airwaves asking for the public’s help. Your social media cyber team trolls the Internet for images taken about the time of the crime and in the general location.

Bingo!

An image shows up on social media that was taken a few minutes before the crime occurred, looking down the street at what is now your crime scene. But, what’s wrong with this picture?

Taken into the setting sun, the features of the scene are back-lit. Useful information is lost.

Or is it? Continue reading

Insurance companies look to forensics to cut fraud and abuse – and save time

When a driver wraps his car around a tree, the damage is likely rather obvious. Same again for a head-on collision at high speed. There’s not much car left to repair, so the insurance companies will likely pay out on the policy.

But in today’s app-driven world, minor dents and scratches are now being handled by the policy holder through the use of mobile device apps. Simply snap a picture or video of the damage and upload it to the insurance company. Claims are processed the same day and your money arrives quickly. Folks love this mobile claims processing functionality so much that insurance companies are featuring their time-saving apps in their advertising.

Whilst customers love this convenience, so do crooks. It turns out that fraudsters are using photo editing software to create fake photo evidence in support of bogus claims. This type of activity affects all policy holders as losses are spread out across all customers, keeping rates higher than they should be in a fraud-free world.

Enter Amped Software.

Without naming names (I don’t want to ruin the fraud-catchers’ fun), our software is being employed as both a risk management function (catching fraud), as well as to assist claims processors when folks turn in proprietary CCTV files in support of claims. Continue reading

What about video from drones?

Back in 2009, an article in the North Dakota Law Review noted the following about the use of drones by law enforcement, “The widespread use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) in domestic law enforcement is imminent. Every police department, chief, and beat officer in the United States dreams of the ability to have eyes everywhere—a constant panoramic view of every angle in every precinct with the ability to instantly zoom in on suspicious behavior. That ability is available now. And it is on sale, cheap.

That was 2009. We haven’t seen a surge in the use of drones by US law enforcement agencies.  As the author noted at the time, “[t]he problem is regulatory uncertainty surrounding operations of UAVs in American airspace, and no one wants to be the guinea pig. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), tasked with ensuring the safe and orderly operation of aircraft, is regulating UAV operations of the kind that domestic law enforcement wants. The FAA has effectively stopped domestic law enforcement agencies from operating small UAVs in their operations without running afoul of FAA regulations for now.

LEAs using dronesUS Law Enforcement Agencies Using Drones

The market for dedicated UAVs and UASs hasn’t really materialized in the way that other equipment markets, like body worn cameras, has. In the absence of such a manufacturing segment, the few police agencies that have decided to deploy drones, like the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, are generally choosing to buy consumer-oriented models.

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Changes to US FRE in 2017. We’ve got you covered already!

A key amendment to US Federal Rules of Evidence 902, in the form of new subsection (14), will go into effect on December 1, 2017. The committee note on the proposed rule lists the following as the justification for the addition of subsection 14:

“The amendment sets forth a procedure by which parties can authenticate data copied from an electronic device, storage medium, or an electronic file, other than through the testimony of a foundation witness. As with the provisions on business records in Rules 902(11) and (12), the Committee has found that the expense and inconvenience of producing an authenticating witness for this evidence is often unnecessary. It is often the case that a party goes to the expense of producing an authentication witness, and then the adversary either stipulates authenticity before the witness is called or fails to challenge the authentication testimony once it is presented. The amendment provides a procedure in which the parties can determine in advance of trial whether a real challenge to authenticity will be made, and can then plan accordingly.hashcode

Today, data copied from electronic devices, storage media, and electronic files are ordinarily authenticated by “hash value.” A hash value is a unique alpha-numeric sequence of approximately 30 characters that an algorithm determines based upon the digital contents of a drive, media, or file. Thus, identical hash values for the original and copy reliably attest to the fact that they are exact duplicates. This amendment allows self-authentication by a certification of a qualified person that she checked the hash value of the proffered item and that it was identical to the original. The rule is flexible enough to allow certifications through processes other than comparison of hash value, including by other reliable means of identification provided by future technology.Continue reading