Category Archives: User Interviews

Amped has a chat with Detective Michael Chiocca from Chicago Police Department

Mike is always on the spot in the forensic industry: he’s often present at conferences and round-tables and his enthusiastic attitude during presentations cannot go unnoticed! In this interview, he talks about how Amped FIVE and Amped Replay helped in the development of the Area Technology Center of Chicago PD and provided benefits to investigations at all levels. Between the time of this interview and its publication, Mike retired from his position at Chicago PD and has started a new job still within the video community. I wish him great success for his next project and hope to continue to stay in touch!

Martino Jerian, Amped Software CEO and Founder

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Amped Has a Chat With Jeffrey D., a Video Expert From a Canadian Private Company

Jeff is a forensic video analyst working for a private company in Canada. He’s a totally enthusiastic user and when I invited him for an interview, he was very excited to be featured. Due to the company policy on testimonials, we had to remove a few details from the public version of the interview. But here we go anyways!

Martino Jerian, Amped Software CEO and Founder

Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and your current role at your company?

My name is Jeffrey D., and I just want to mention I am honored to be chosen for an Amped User Interview, thank you to Martino and the team! I began my career six years ago as a media technician. I am primarily responsible for preparing and wrapping over 100 private investigations with video footage (obtained in the field) for potential legal disputes within the Ontario insurance industry (Canada). This amazing experience has led me down the rabbit hole, which I am still currently going down, and threw me into the Wild West of digital forensics.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I think the most rewarding part of my job is ultimately what I have always wanted to do which is help people. Forensic video analysis needs advocates within numerous fields to help validate and ensure the integrity of the digital evidence that is being used daily by judicial systems worldwide to aid them in discovering the factual truth in criminal and civil court proceedings. 

What was it that first sparked your interest in the field of image and video forensics?

The very first software suite I discovered that geared toward this specialty field was Amped FIVE, and I was blown away by the cutting-edge techniques and processes it offered. Its ability to allow you to quickly triage files and access multiple programs within its interface would and has been essential to my daily workflow. I also just want to mention that I loved the GUI. It resembles a more traditional non-linear editing program interface which is more appealing to the traditionalist in me.  Our company began offering some services based on techniques and processes as set out by the SWGDE. It has allowed me to meet some amazing friends, mentors, and clients. I have learned to adopt techniques such as Optical Distortion correction, Frame Averaging, and macroblocks analysis. The list of the services that can help our client’s combat fraud within the insurance industry goes on. It’s all about educating and discovering applications.

Why did you choose Amped software products rather than other solutions?

I chose Amped FIVE rather than other solutions because of its reputation within the digital forensic field and the ability to use Single View Metrology for photogrammetry files. I also really liked some of the restoration filters that other solutions just don’t offer (Temporal Smoothing, Motion Smoothing, etc). The one-time payment option is fantastic if budgets permits and the world-class updates and support also contributed to the overall decision to go with Amped FIVE.

What would you say are the most valuable features in Amped FIVE for your investigations? 

I love the fact that my entire workflow can take place within Amped FIVE’s interface. If I receive a propriety CCTV format during the commission of my duties I can copy and verify, complete an advanced file analysis, triage for suitability, restore, colour correct, and configure multiple presentation options to provide amazing digital demonstratives to clients.

How do you think the world of image and video forensics will change over the next few years?

I think we are on the cusp of the transition from the AVCHD compression algorithm to the less compatible HEVC. Once more compatibility is obtained, I believe HEVC will be the preferred method of compression and hopefully, it directly correlates with the results obtained in the field by forensic video analysts everywhere!

We are often told that case backlog is an issue for many video labs, what do you think could be done to assist with this problem?

I feel that locating talent, education, and access to training are imperative going forward as digital evidence is only going to become more prevalent in the future.

What are the most important aspects of training and education for forensic image and video analysts?

I think continuous learning is an essential part of growing and becoming a more resilient examiner. Preparing yourself for the files that may come across your desk and knowing when and where to use a specific process will only increase your confidence in your position.

Finally, what do you do to relax in your free time?

I love spending time with my family (Heather, Sienna, and Aubrey), reading, watching sports, playing video games, playing guitar, camping, etc.

An Interview with Andrew McDonnell from the HM Revenue & Customs of the UK Government

Andy is one of the most respected forensic video analysts in the UK. In this interview, he shares his point of view on forensic video analysis and the industry at large. I want to highlight his very insightful observation about the situation we have been fighting since our beginning: “A widespread fundamental misunderstanding about the complexity of audio-visual forensics work.”
Enjoy the read!

Martino Jerian, Amped Software CEO and Founder

Andrew, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and your current role at HM Revenue & Customs?

I’ve been around a long time. My career started in 1983 with military communications engineering in the Royal Air Force where I did seven years, four of which were spent in Germany which I loved.

I then moved into broadcast television where I spent twelve years managing technical teams such as TV camera crews, sound and vision engineers, directors, production assistants, technicians and video editors for a number of companies including ITV, Sky TV and a number of outside broadcast companies. I used to design and build TV studios, galleries, transmission facilities and OB trucks.

Following redundancy from one job I saw a role advertised in the police, managing teams of audio-visual forensic specialists, so that opened up my current career where I’ve spent 16 years in West Yorkshire Police – and I’ve been working with HM Revenue & Customs for two years now.

What made you decide to enter the field of multimedia forensics?

In all honesty, it never occurred to me that such a career existed. Having spent time in the TV world I had no idea that the police used video (and audio, photography and CCTV) in a forensic way.

It was only when I switched career that I realized there was a whole new world of opportunities beyond TV, and I have genuinely never looked back. The big difference is the feeling that you’re doing something worthwhile, using technical skills in a way that makes a difference in society. That sense of civic duty is something I share with many colleagues, and this is why we love what we do.

What would you say are the biggest challenges with video evidence during investigations and when presenting it in court?

In the UK policing world, there are two major challenges. The first, sadly, is financial. Not having budgets to properly train and develop staff, invest in the latest technology, or provide sufficient resources to meet the demands are all very real and difficult problems for police managers.

The second is volumes of data. Video evidence is everywhere these days. From CCTV in public and private spaces, to doorbell cameras, dash-cams and helmet cameras on cyclists, to body-worn video on police and other officials, mobile phone videos from members of the public and social media content. And with image quality continuing to improve, HD and UHD video is resulting in huge demands on data storage and processing.

Since changing jobs, I have found that within HMRC, unlike many in the wider law-enforcement community, there is a genuine desire to invest in staff, provide training and development and provide the tools we need to do our job to a world-class standard.

What would you say are the main forensic challenges surrounding image validation? How can they be addressed?

Keeping up with technology is always a challenge. It always amazes me how every new technology can be very quickly picked up and utilized in criminal ways, often before it becomes mainstream technology. 

In the current climate, social media imagery, for example, is so difficult to validate. With the growth in augmented reality and AI/machine learning capability this is becoming an ever more difficult challenge.

I think the real problems for law enforcement are yet to come and will only be addressed when new tools are developed, which leverage emerging technologies in a different and innovative way.

To achieve this, two things are required:  real and significant investment in audio-visual forensics, and genuine recognition of the problems with a desire to solve them.

In your opinion, how important is it that digital forensic techniques and tools are based on the scientific method?

I think it’s essential. The scientific method not only provides rigor and quality assurance, but it also provides gravitas.

Future investment in crime fighting will come from the need to tackle digital crime: cyber, cyber-enabled, digital forensics, audio-visual forensics, mobile phone work, etc. It’s a growth area. This investment will only happen if the forensic community is seen to be operating in a professional environment and taken seriously.

What are the most important aspects of training and education for forensic image and video analysts?

Any manager of a forensic department must look at what the job involves. What are the tasks that need to be performed, and to what standard? This is the starting point. It enables managers to identify what skills their staff need and to recognize where the training should be delivered to fill any skill gaps.

Training should be based on business needs and on competency requirements. It is critical that the outcome of training is that staff become competent at what they do and this needs to be demonstrated by having training that is independently accredited.

We cannot produce a set of validation tests and documents that cover every single possible scenario of how a piece of media might be handled in a forensic workflow.

But we can give the practitioners the tools and knowledge they need to make informed and professional decisions. That way we can trust they will make good judgment decisions based on sound rationale and be confident they have approached each task correctly.

How do you think the world of image and video forensics will change over the next few years?

There will be more video of higher quality which will need to be managed, stored, processed, and presented without adding delays to the workflows. Processing and analyzing big data will continue to be a growing challenge. CCTV image quality will improve bringing great opportunities to make the best use of forensic tools.

I can see facial recognition being a big new area for us. I am optimistic that audio-visual forensics will be taken more seriously as forensic science and will become mainstream.

Recently there have been a few changes in the UK landscape. Digital Evidence Management Systems (DEMS) are being implemented in several forces and the new version of Digital Imaging and Multimedia Procedure (v.3.0) has been published. What challenges does this pose to the use of video evidence, especially in relation to CCTV? How does this affect our daily work with video evidence?

It has always been the case that video/CCTV evidence arrives in many formats. Once under the control of law enforcement, the chain of evidence must begin, and the integrity of the evidence must be maintained. This is true for all evidence, be that a knife, fingerprint lift, or CCTV file.

National guidance for video evidence states an evidential Master must be created using W.O.R.M. (Write Once, Read Many) media such as CD/DVD data disk or a secure server. If another copy of that video is required, a Working Copy can be produced. It is important that the Working Copy remains forensically the same as the Master, bit for bit.

If I alter the nature or content of that file (such as creating a shortened clip of the video, creating a still image from one of the video frames, enhancing the video, or converting it to a different file format) I now have a product which is different. This is not a Working Copy, it is a new derivative, which must be defined as a new Master. That’s the fundamental basic rule.

Now, with that in mind, let’s look at – a scenario. If I take a proprietary CCTV file (.dat as an example) and upload that to a police Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS), I would expect the DEMS to hold a Master copy of the .dat file (and perhaps a Working Copy of it).

A smart DEMS would also recognise the .dat format and transcode it to a playable .mp4 file which can then be viewed in a common video playback app such as Windows Media Player. In doing so it would have created a new Master (the MP4 file is significantly different from the .dat file, so is a new Master). This is also true of practitioners who transcode the video – they should understand that they have changed the content of the file and have now created a new Master.

The problem is that many DEMS systems and many practitioners will transcode the file to create a playable format but store it as a Working Copy of the original, rather than a new Master.

This happens because there is a widespread fundamental misunderstanding about the complexity of audio-visual forensics work. If we are to avoid legal challenges in court the integrity and authenticity of our evidence must be secure. System manufacturers and senior decision makers in this field need to understand the technical challenges, or at least take advice from the technical experts.

How did you learn about Amped Software?

While contributing to a UK national CCTV steering group we recognized that there was no “standard” for AV training.

With the emergence of ISO 17025, we recognized that we needed to set the framework for training and competency. This led me and others to develop the national CCTV competency framework and, as a result, identifying training providers who could deliver high quality training to UK practitioners.

This in turn led me to Amped FIVE as a tool that could provide what we needed in terms of forensic processing and analysis of video files.

Why did you choose Amped Software products?

We use a wide range of tools, depending on the nature of the task at hand.  What we do like about Amped FIVE and Amped DVRConv is the close-knit community that exists around them.  

There is a strong professional community that shares ideas, suggestions, methods and generally helps each other out. The company is also keen to evolve and develop and in doing so really does listen to its users and takes on board their requirements and ideas for development.

Do you have any interesting stories or success cases related to Amped Software products?

We often find that we can pose a question about a particular CCTV file format (as we know there are over 3,500 CCTV systems in the UK marketplace and that number increases weekly).

Usually, in a very short timeframe, we receive a response back which is either “we’ve had that before, try this solution…” or “send us some details and a sanitized image and we’ll reverse-engineer”.

When you are not busy looking at digital evidence, what do you like doing in your spare time? 

I love walking in the hills around Yorkshire (we have five national parks close by) with friends. I also enjoy taking my wife and children on cycling trips. Other than that, depending on the amount of time available I enjoy reading biographies, cinema, restaurants, international travel, photography, and single malt whisky.

 

Amped Has a Chat With Victor Bystrom from the Swedish National Police

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.

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An Interview With Detective Steve Paxton From the Everett Police Department

This week we interviewed Steve Paxton, a long time and very enthusiastic user who is also quite active in the forensics community. After only having the opportunity to speak with him numerous times online, we finally met in person last year at the LEVA conference. His perspective is quite interesting since he is not only a sworn officer who performs daily investigations, but also a digital forensic examiner.

Martino Jerian, Amped Software CEO and Founder

Steve, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and your current role at the Everett Police Department?

I have been a police officer for 24 years. During that time, I have worked as a patrol officer, crime prevention officer, property crimes detective, and more recently, a digital forensics detective. I have also been a crime scene photographer off and on for the past 20 years.

I work within a four-person digital forensics lab. We recover and process surveillance video, examine mobile devices and handle a wide variety of digital evidence. I regularly work with other investigators, prosecutors, and administrators to review search warrants as well as examine and prepare digital multimedia evidence for court presentation. Although my work is usually very technical, presenting it in an easy-to-understand, non-geeky way is critical and extremely rewarding.

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Amped Catches up with Long-Time User Blaine Davison from the Norman, Oklahoma Police Department

We really enjoy hearing from our users. We want to learn about your challenges so that we can try to help you find solutions for those challenges, and we really like getting to know you on a more personal level, learning about your interests and hobbies. If you want to share your story with us, get in touch!


Blaine Davison, from the Norman PD, has been an enthusiastic user for many years. As a former President and board member of LEVA, he strove to advance the science and practice of video forensics for all of North America. Colleagues in the forensics community have often mentioned his name, referring to him as someone who is able to get really amazing results on hard cases with Amped FIVE. He’s one of those users who is able to take advantage of the full workflow of Amped FIVE: from conversion of video formats, to enhancement, analysis, and presentation.

Martino Jerian, Amped Software CEO and Founder

Blaine, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and your current role at the Norman, Oklahoma Police Department?

I’m currently a Detective, Forensic Video Analyst and Digital Evidence Administrator for the Norman, Oklahoma Police Department. I originally studied Communications and Technical Journalism while at University and worked for a year as a reporter for the ABC affiliate station in Rapid City, South Dakota after graduating. I then relocated to Oklahoma and started working “temporarily” as a 911 Operator for the local Sheriff’s Department thinking at some point, I would resume working in television news. I’m proud to say that “temporary” position turned into a twenty-five-year law enforcement career.

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Amped has a chat with Mario Ruiz Mateos from the Criminalistic Service in the Spanish Guardia Civil

We love learning about our users. We like to hear your views about the world of image and video forensics, what your challenges are, and also discovering your personal interests and hobbies. If you want to share your story, contact us for a chat!

Mario Ruiz Mateos, from the Spanish Guardia Civil, has been our user for many years and is probably our very first user in Spain. He’s a very skilled and enthusiastic user of Amped FIVE and a good friend who over the years has contributed with his ideas and feedback to the continuous improvement of the software. I’ve enjoyed his company in several training sessions and conferences in Madrid and other places… and also some nice evenings after the training sessions.


Martino Jerian, Amped Software CEO and Founder

Mario, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and your current role at the Criminalistic Service in the Spanish Guardia Civil?

I am the Manager of the Forensic Image Area, one of the four areas of the Engineering Department of the Criminalistic Service of the Guardia Civil. I have been performing this duty since 2013 although I have been working in the Forensic Image Area since 2003, first as an Expert and then as Technical Director. During this time, I have been drafting expert reports and technical documents related to image and video enhancement and authentication cases, answering requests made by our investigation units and testifying in courts, here in Spain and, from time to time, in some international cases.

I joined the Guardia Civil when I was seventeen, willing to help and serve, but I soon realized that if I wanted to make a real contribution I would need to study and get some training. So I graduated with a Degree in Computing Sciences and then I continued my studies to earn a Master Degree in Forensic Sciences.

What made you decide to enter the field of multimedia forensics?

When I was in my first year of University, my unit got a call from the Engineering Dept and, since the requirements were mostly knowledge on computing, I thought that it was a good opportunity to develop my career in something really interesting. At that time, I was mostly doing static surveillance, where I could not perform any technical skill.

In my first year in the Dept. I mostly trained and worked in the forensic audio field, but since the image forensic group needed reinforcement, the Manager of the Dept. finally decided that my knowledge could be valuable to boost the development in that territory.

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Amped has a Chat with Forensic Video Expert, George Reis

We love learning about our users. We are always interested to hear your views about the world of image and video forensics, what your challenges are, and especially finding out about your interest in books, gardening and maybe even dancing!  If you are interested in sharing your story, contact us for a chat!

George Reis, an expert photographer turned forensic image and video expert, and now the owner of Imaging Forensics, tells us how many fruit trees and vegetables he has in his garden and his love for reading and dancing! But he also shares his thoughts about the challenges of DVR systems and what he thinks the future of image and video forensics will look like.

I have known George for many years. He helped us a lot during the development and testing of our tools. Not only did he request a lot of useful features that have been added to Amped FIVE and Amped Authenticate, but he also tested the software thoroughly, reporting bugs and various little details that we had missed during development. To tell you the truth, to implement all the features he asked for means we would need to double or triple our team… but it’s good to be pushed to the limit. Thanks to George and people like him, we have a very rich roadmap for the next few years.


George, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and can you tell us about your company?

I am the owner of Imaging Forensics, a company that provides forensic video analysis, photography analysis, and photography. Imaging Forensics also provides training in these disciplines.

Prior to entering forensics, my background was in photography, primarily in the field of photojournalism. I was then hired by the Newport Beach (CA) Police Department as a forensic photographer. My duties expanded into the areas of photographic enhancement and video analysis in the early to mid-1990s, when all security video was analog on VHS tape.

I retired from the police department in 2004 to make Imaging Forensics a full-time venture.

What made you decide to enter the field of multimedia forensics?

I got into forensics in general, and forensic video analysis specifically, by accident. In the late 1980s, I was a freelance photographer and business was slow. I answered a newspaper classified ad for a “police photographer” with the intention of using it to stabilize my income, then returning to the freelance field. But, I found forensics much more interesting and rewarding than I expected.

In 1992 I began experimenting with digital photography and enhancement of fingerprints. And, around 1995, our video producer asked me if I’d like to work on some security camera video and I then took over those duties.

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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