Author Archives: Martino Jerian

Why Sotiris Pavlides from Cyprus Police Criminalistic Services believes proper training is important

We love chatting with our users. We are always interested to hear about your views on image and video forensics, what your challenges are, and just simply getting to know you! If you are interested in sharing your story with us, let us know. 

Sotiris Pavlides has been an Amped user for many years. His toolbox of digital forensic software includes all Amped Software products. We’ve met many times at industry events and at the numerous Amped software training courses he’s attended. He is an expert user who believes in continuous training in order to be able to keep up with the pace of advancements in digital forensics and technology.


Sotiris, tell us what you are doing at the Cyprus Police.

I am the Head of Photographic and Graphic Lab, of the Cyprus Police Criminalistic Services. I have a Master’s Degree in Communication. Our lab activities include Crime Scene Photography, Forensic Photography, Image and Video Analysis and Enhancement, CCTV Retrieval and Analysis, Facial or Items Comparison, Image Authentication, and etc.

Why did you choose to work in the field of multimedia forensics?

I have always been interested in image and video processing, especially creating funny TV productions where everything can be done. When I joined the police force and started to work in the Photographic and Graphic Lab (it was around the year 2000) I had received the first case about video authentication. This is what made me start thinking about the field of multimedia from another perspective. The new challenge for me was not to know how to create or manipulate a video but to know how to look for traces to identify if a video was authentic or not. Even though it was for analog video, I found the entire procedure, analysis and investigation very interesting.

You’ve been in this role for quite a long time. What do you think are the biggest challenges with multimedia digital evidence and investigating crimes?

I think the biggest challenge is when you have to deal with massive video data coming from different DVRs. We are also faced with problems when we collect or retrieve the footage from these systems. For sure, this is not an easy procedure. Moreover, the video compression (artifacts, loss of details), low frame rates, and in general, the low quality of footage we get from these systems is a challenge.
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Interview with Tomislav Prijanovič, Forensic Expert, National Forensics Laboratory, Slovenia

This is the second in a series of interviews with a number of our users that will share their story. If you are interested in being profiled, let us know. We would love to hear from you!

In this post, we feature Tomislav Prijanovič, from the Slovenian National Forensics Lab. We have known each other since 2006 where we happened to be in the same hotel for the ENFSI Digital Imaging Working Group meeting in Rome. He’s actually one of our first customers and, given the proximity between Trieste and Ljubljana – little more than one hour by car – we meet at least once per year to exchange ideas and share interesting cases. I must say that quite often he amazes me with his skills. Many times, he is able to get incredible results on license plates that at a first glance I deemed impossible. 


Tomislav, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and your current role at the National Forensics Laboratory?

I am a forensic expert and court witness, working in the Physics Examination Department at the National Forensics Laboratory in Ljubljana, since 1990.

What made you decide to enter the forensics field?

After finishing technical school for electronics, I started working as a video technician. I basically worked on video documentation (video recording and editing) for police purposes,  capturing and analyzing images from CCTV.  At that time I also had the opportunity to do some work related to photography, like darkroom photography and working as a minilab operator. Due to the rapid development of digital technology (cameras, computer hardware, and software), we started to look for new technical solutions to make our work more effective (less time consuming and higher quality results).  After digital cameras and digital video editing systems, getting forensic software was just a matter of time… and money. Continue reading

Amped FIVE and Griffeye Analyze: Introducing the Integration

You may remember the announcement of our partnership with Griffeye, some months ago.  This partnership is especially interesting since we both work on images and videos, but in a different, yet complementary way. Griffeye focuses on finding the needle in a haystack, while Amped focuses on sharpening the needle and verifying it is actually a needle and not a stick.

In the latest release of  Griffeye Analyze, the Amped FIVE plugin has been added to the Analyze Forensic Market, but in the near future we plan to also add apps for Amped Authenticate and Amped DVRConv. In this post, we will show you how to start with the integration and how the two software work together.

First of all, we assume that you have installed Amped FIVE (build 9010 or later) and Griffeye Analyze (17.1.0 or later) on the same machine.

In order to enable the integration, you need to click on the button “Analyze Forensic Market”.

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Amped Authenticate Update 9446: CameraForensics Integration, New Quantization Tables Database and Much More

We’ve just launched some pretty important additions to Amped Authenticate. Not only have we integrated it with CameraForensics, but we have also made some major improvements to the quantization tables in addition to many other internal improvements. Read below for the details.

CameraForensics Integration

The main purpose of Amped Authenticate is to verify if a picture is an original coming from a specific device or if it’s the result of manipulation using image editing software. One of the main tests to verify the file integrity is to acquire the camera that is assumed to be the one that has generated the photo (or at least the same model) and verify if the format is compatible with the file under analysis.

While this sounds easy in practice, many devices have so many different settings and because of this it can be challenging to recreate the same conditions. Furthermore, the camera is often not available.

What if we look on the web for pictures coming from a specific device? While we cannot, in general, guarantee the integrity of files downloaded from the web, we can triage them pretty easily and do a comparison with the image under analysis.

But how do you search for images on the web in an efficient manner? We have had “Search for Images from Same Camera Model…” in Authenticate for quite some time. It allows you to search on Google Images and Flickr, but the search is not always optimal, as it has to apply different workarounds to work efficiently in a forensic setting.

So, what if someone built a database of pictures on the web, optimized for investigative use, enabling you to instantly search for images coming from a specific device and with specific features such as resolution and JPEG quantization tables? Turns out the guys at CameraForensics did exactly this (and much more) and we partnered with them to provide a streamlined experience.

Let’s see how it works. Continue reading

Are Amped Software products validated or certified officially for forensic use?

We work in the field of forensic video analysis, which is generally intended as the analysis of the images themselves and their context in a legal setting. For this reason, our customers often ask us if our products are valid for court use and if they have been validated and certified. We have written this post as an answer to the most common questions related to this topic.

You can also download this as a PDF document here


What are the scientific foundations of Amped Software products?

All the processes implemented in our software follow the principles of scientific methodology. Any process follows these basic principles:

  1. Accuracy (Reliability): our tools and training program help users avoid processing errors caused by the implementation of an inappropriate tool or workflow and help mitigate the impact of human factors / bias.
  2. Repeatability: the same process, executed by the same user at a different time, must lead to the same result. The project format in Amped FIVE, for example, does not save any image data. Every time a project is reopened, all the processing happens again starting from the original data. In the event that a project file is lost or as a part of a validation or other test scenario, the same user can repeat the steps and settings, guided by the tool’s report, and achieve the same results.
  3. Reproducibility: another user with the proper competency, should be able to reproduce the same results. Amped FIVE generates a complete report detailing all the steps of the processing, the settings / parameters applied, a description of the algorithms employed in the processing and the scientific references for those algorithms (when applicable). In this way, another user, with a different tool set or by implementing the same algorithms, should be able to reproduce the same results. Given the huge number of implementation details and possible differences, it is not expected to produce a bit by bit copy of the results, but only to produce an image of similar informative content.

Additionally, we apply strict due diligence on the applicability of the algorithms for the forensic environment. Not every algorithm is, in fact, properly applicable in a forensic science setting. We cannot use algorithms which have a random component because they would not be reproducible and repeatable (when we do, we set a fixed seed for the random number generation) and we cannot use algorithms which “add” external data to the original, for example improving the quality of a face with information added from an average face. All information is derived from the actual evidence file.

We employ algorithms which have been validated by the scientific community through peer review, such as university textbooks, scientific publications, or conference papers. If for some specific task, there are not good enough algorithms available or we need to adapt existing algorithms, we describe the algorithm and attempt to publish them in scientific journals. Continue reading

CCTV is More Useful Than We May Perceive

One of the things that fascinate me the most in forensic video analysis is the relation between the subjective digital data and the objective human interpretation involved in any investigation. Psychological biases and the fallacies of human perceptions easily verifiable with any of the popular optical illusions are just some of the factors which must be taken into account while doing investigations.

But this time I want to look at things from a higher level and talk about the usefulness of video as evidence and our perception of it. Chances are you have already seen the very interesting article: “The Value of CCTV Surveillance Cameras as an Investigative Tool: An Empirical Analysis” (link).

The abstract provides some impressive numbers: “This study sought to establish how often CCTV provides useful evidence and how this is affected by circumstances, analysing 251,195 crimes recorded by British Transport Police that occurred on the British railway network between 2011 and 2015. CCTV was available to investigators in 45% of cases and judged to be useful in 29% (65% of cases in which it was available).”

For reference, this is the decision workflow used in the classification (image from the above paper).

This really made me feel good. It looks like what we are doing here at Amped Software is having an impact on society, and more than we expected. I think most people in our community would be surprised by the numbers. At Amped, we see hundreds of cases every year, and for more than half of the images and videos that we receive, we just say that they are useless. Continue reading

Amped Support Portal Available Now!

Normally, we release new stuff for your desktop, but this time we released a little new section on our website to help you with the management of your Amped Software licenses and training: the Amped Support Portal.

In the portal, you can find all the essential information about your software licenses and the training classes that you have attended.

Just head to https://support.ampedsoftware.com and you will see a typical Email / Password login page.

login

If you are an Amped Software user and we have received your details when you purchased a license, you should already be able to log into the system. Just insert your email address and hit the button “Reset password”. Then check your email and follow the instructions to change the password and then log in. If you don’t receive an email, this means that we don’t have you in our records. But no worries, just send an email to support@ampedsoftware.com and we’ll create an account for you once we have identified your available licenses.

You can see all your licenses and their expiration dates, you can download the latest versions of the software, and you can generate license certificates that your administration or management may require.

Additionally, you will also see all the training classes that you have attended and download the related training certificate.

We plan to add additional features soon, for example, adding the possibility to receive email notifications before the expiration of your SMS (software updates). So, stay tuned!

As usual, feel free to contact us if you have any comments or suggestions about the new portal.

Google’s CSI-Like Algorithm Is Not Enhancing Images, It’s Creating Them!

In the last few days, there’s been a lot of noise about the latest impressive research by Google. This is a selection of articles with bombastic titles:

The actual research article by Google is available here.

First of all, let me say that technically, the results are amazing. But this system is not simply an image enhancement or restoration tool. It is creating new images based on a best guess, which may look similar but also completely different than the actual data originally captured. Continue reading

Computational Photography is the Biggest Upcoming Authentication Challenge

mobile-photography

I assume most of the readers of this blog are video / photo / gadget / phone / camera geeks. I am sure you didn’t miss the reviews of the latest Apple iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel phones. They have a lot in common, but there is one major aspect that is interesting for our applications: things are slowly moving from photography to computational photography. We are no longer just capturing light coming from optics and applying some minor processing to the pixel values to make the picture more pleasant to the viewer.

Phones must be slim and light and yet we still expect to have near DLSR quality. So, now computational photography comes into play. The iPhone 7 Plus, for example, uses two different cameras to calculate a depth of field and then tries to simulate the “bokeh” effect via software you would normally get in bulky professional cameras, by using fast optics at a wide aperture.

On the other side, when you hit the button on the Pixel phone, it is capturing a bunch of pictures and then decides what to keep from every picture in order to give the user the final result.

This challenges the concepts of originality and authenticity. The light captured by the camera is no longer the output of the photography process, but just the first step of a more complex process based on a multitude of factors. There is little doubt that this is just the beginning of a trend which will explode in the next few years. Continue reading