Category Archives: Tutorials

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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The Amped FIVE Assistant Video Tutorial

We recently announced the release of the latest version of Amped FIVE (10039) where we introduced a new operational mode through a panel called the “Assistant”.

The Assistant provides a set of predefined workflows which can be used to automate common operations or guide new users, but it’s not obtrusive. You can use it or not, and you can always add filters or do anything, as usual, it’s just an additional option.

We’ve created a video tutorial so you can see it in action. See below or watch on YouTube now!

We’ll be adding more videos to our YouTube channel soon, so follow us to get more videos like this.

The Authenticate Countdown to Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Christmas is coming! To celebrate that Christmas is almost here we will share a daily tip and trick on how to authenticate your digital photo evidence with Amped Authenticate.

Follow us daily on our social networks in the month of December as we open the 24 doors of our Authenticate Advent Calendar. The countdown starts now!

#AuthenticateChristmas

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google PlusYouTube

You can also visit our website daily as we open the doors of our Advent Calendar here.

The Sparse Selector

With over 100 filters and tools in Amped FIVE, it’s easy to lose track of which filter does what. A lot of folks pass right by the Sparse Selector, not knowing what it does or how to use it. The simple explanation of the Sparse Selector’s function is that it is a list of frames that are defined by the user. Another way of explaining its use: the Sparse Selector tool outputs multiple frames taken from random user selected positions of an input video.

How would that be helpful, you ask? Oh, it’s plenty helpful. Let me just say, it’s one of my favorite tools in FIVE. Here’s why.

#1. – Setting up a Frame Average

You want to resolve a license plate. You’ve identified 6 frames of interest where the location within the frame has original information that you’re going to frame average to attempt to accomplish your goal. Unfortunately, the frames are not sequentially located within the file. How do you select (easily / fast) only frames 125, 176, 222, 278 314, and 355? The Sparse Selector, that’s how.

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Proving a negative

I have a dear old friend who is a brilliant photographer and artist. Years ago, when he was teaching at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, he would occasionally ask me to substitute for him in class as he travelled the world to take photos. He would introduce me to the class as the person at the LAPD who authenticates digital media – the guy who inspects images for evidence of Photoshopping. Then, he’d say something to the effect that I would be judging their composites, so they’d better be good enough to fool me.

Last year, I wrote a bit about my experiences authenticating files for the City / County of Los Angeles. Today, I want to address a common misconception about authentication – proving a negative.

So many requests for authentication begin with the statement, “tell me if it’s been Photoshopped.” This request for a “blind authentication” asks the analyst to prove a negative. It’s a very tough request to fulfill.

In general, this could be obtained with a certain degree of certainty if the image is verified to be an original from a certain device, with no signs of recapture and, possibly verifying the consistency on the sensor noise pattern (PRNU).

However, it is very common nowadays to work on images that are not originals but have been shared on the web or through social media, usually multiple consecutive times. This implies that metadata and other information about the format are gone, and usually the traces of tampering – if any – have been covered by multiple steps of compression and resizing. So you know easily that the picture is not an original, but it’s very difficult to rely on pixel statistics to evaluate possible tampering at the visual level.

Here’s what the US evidence codes say about authentication (there are variations in other countries, but the basic concept holds):

  • It starts with the person submitting the item. They (attorney, witness, etc.) swear / affirm that the image accurately depicts what it’s supposed to depict – that it’s a contextually accurate representation of what’s at issue.
  • This process of swearing / affirming comes with a bit of jeopardy. One swears “under penalty of perjury.” Thus, the burden is on the person submitting the item to be absolutely sure the item is contextually accurate and not “Photoshopped” to change the context. If they’re proven to have committed perjury, there’s fines / fees and potentially jail time involved.
  • The person submits the file to support a claim. They swear / affirm, under penalty of perjury, that the file is authentic and accurately depicts the context of the claim.

Then, someone else cries foul. Someone else claims that the file has been altered in a specific way – item(s) deleted / added – scene cropped – etc.

It’s this specific allegation of forgery that is needed to test the claims. If there is no specific claim, then one is engaged in a “blind” authentication (attempting to prove a negative). Continue reading