Video Systems Help Capture More Than Just Suspect Faces

Less than 48 hours after the Boston Marathon bombings in April police were looking at images of the suspects in the bombing that was captured on video footage taken from a department store near the site of the attack.
Publish date:
Social count:
Less than 48 hours after the Boston Marathon bombings in April police were looking at images of the suspects in the bombing that was captured on video footage taken from a department store near the site of the attack.

Capture and analysis of ‘digital multimedia evidence’ are evolving

Less than 48 hours after the Boston Marathon bombings in April police were looking at images of the suspects in the bombing that was captured on video footage taken from a department store near the site of the attack.

Video evidence marked a massive turning point in that case, which led to the identification of two suspects—brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—and the death of Tamerlan during a shootout with police and the capture of Dzhokhar. The case exemplifies how quickly video evidence, also called “digital multimedia evidence,” can be sifted and analyzed.

Evidence-gathering video equipment and enhancement software continues to transfigure how bad guys are caught, said Michael Fergus, the program manager for the International Association of Chiefs of Police Technology Center. For example, DME facial software assigns mathematical algorithms to the shape and positioning of a person’s eyes, nose, eyebrows, lips and hairline. Every person captured on a segment of surveillance video can be isolated, and the image used to search other videos.

The department-store video is also an example of the complicated relationship between police and the owners of private security cameras. Most companies would not hesitate to provide evidence in a big case, but there might be liability concerns that could cause business owners to balk at sharing such video.

Nonetheless, investigators are trained to locate video from a range of sources beyond the scene of a crime—perhaps along roads a suspect may have used to arrive at, or leave, such a location, Fergus said.

“It’s been a huge year for video in public safety and government in general. And the coming year should be no different, as the benefits and fears of video technologies will continue to be debated.”


Image placeholder title

3VR’s CrimeDex San Francisco’s 3VR, a supplier of video-security systems, produces solutions with built-in video analytics, such as facial surveillance and advanced object tracking, which enables objects such as license-plate numbers to be captured, indexed and rapidly searched, said Joe Boissy, the company’s chief marketing officer.

In addition, if police have a video or photo image of a suspect, it is possible to search through surveillance tapes from cameras that already contain a ready-made catalogue of indexed-facial characteristics. However, while search requests will turn up a list of matches, a human investigator makes the decision whether to use those images, Boissy said. “You have to have a human eye involved,” he said. “You can’t take that out of the equation.”

Another important element of 3VR’s “Video Intelligence Platform” is the “CrimeDex” online network. It is a collaboration of more than 2,500 fraud-loss prevention and law-enforcement professionals who exchange information to stop shoplifting, organized retail crime and other white-collar offenses. Integrated with the VIP, CrimeDex allows professionals to share, search and leverage information on wrongdoers, Boissy said.


Image placeholder title

FBI processed photo (left); Cognitech processed photo (right)
Cognitech, based in Pasadena, Calif., and a DME pioneer, is best known for its “Forensic Video Tri- Suite” software that contains advanced video analysis and allows the viewing of multiple-video streams from different platforms within one application. The platform’s video demultiplexing function allows the software to better sort video according to content, the company said.

Cognitech is on the verge of releasing an upgrade to its software platform called “Video Investigator 13,” which will include “Face Fusion 3D,” a first-of- a-kind application to enhance and super-resolve images of human faces from low-resolution surveillance videos. The software will clean up video of subjects walking and moving around, while their faces and heads are seen from very different angles, said Lenny Rudin, the company’s co-founder.

It is unique in the forensic-video field because it utilizes the 3D shape of human faces in order to reconstruct better facial shots, which are then used for identification and comparison, Rudin said. Previous pixel-based forensic-image enhancement software does not use 3D-shape geometry, Rudin said.

“This new capability is the game changer when it comes to enhancing, rotating and generally moving images of complicated 3D shapes like human faces.”

Future software updates will allow for the enhancement of images of other body parts such as an arm or leg with tattoos rapped around them, Rudin said.


Image placeholder title

Panoscan’s Ferret

Image placeholder title

Panoscan’s MK-3
panoramic camera
Panoscan, a Los Angeles based company that manufactures specialty digital cameras and lenses, has updated its MK-3 panoramic camera. The camera captures a 360-degree view of an entire scene with “extremely high resolution,” said Casey Coss, Panoscan’s chief financial officer.

The high-resolution digital pictures create a landscape of exacting detail, according to Coss. The company has updated the MK-3 camera with 22.5mm and 46mm fisheye lenses and the new lenses capture sharp images from center to edge with virtually no visible chromatic aberration. The fisheye lenses offer superior optical performance to a rectilinear design. Both lenses feature ultra-low dispersion glass and custom multi coatings for contrast and sharpness. Both have a unique magnetic slit cap that further improves the image by blocking lens flare and reducing glare, he said.

Panoscan has also developed a robotic camera— “the Ferret”—that can work as a security device to check under vehicles at a traffic stop or check point, Coss said. The Ferret is remotely controlled and will glide under even the lowest vehicles and it is equipped with a video camera that can transmit images up to 300 meters away, he added.


Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

Left: Canon USA Inc.’s XA25; Right: Canon USA Inc.’s XA20 HD Advanced new HD video cameras that are used for evidence gathering have been developed by Canon U.S.A. Inc. Those cameras are designed to capture high-resolution detail and color that can be vital for obtaining crucial visual information for law enforcement agencies and security organizations.

Those cameras include the XA25 and XA20 HD camcorders, which weigh only 2.6 pounds and the Canon 20x HD zoom lens with “SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization” that provides extreme low-light shooting capabilities. The XA25 and XA20 HD also feature an infrared shooting mode to capture HD video in conditions with little ambient light, the company said.

Also new from Canon are four full HD Internet protocol security cameras: the VB-H41 pan/tilt/ zoom IP camera with a 20x wide-angle zoom lens; the VB-H610VE fixed vandal-resistant IP 66-rated IP dome camera; the VB-H610D fixed indoor IP dome camera and the VB-H710F “box” style fixed IP camera.

All feature low-light performance, a Canon wide-angle zoom lens, a 2.1 Megapixel 16:9 aspect ratio widescreen complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor image sensor and a pair of proprietary Canon digital imaging core processors. They also have the Canon DIGIC DV III image processor for exceptional picture quality and the second-generation Canon DIGIC NET II network video processor. Each camera also has a Web viewer function for remote video monitoring by users of smart-phones and tablets via the Internet.

The new Canon IP security cameras also feature built-in video analytics, including moving, removed and abandoned-object detection as well as passing (or “tripwire”) detection. They have a “privacy mask” function to block sensitive locations (such as ATM keypads or computer monitors) from the cameras’ view while still allowing for a full range of motion, the company said.


Image placeholder title

Panasonic’s Toughbook Arbitrator 360

Image placeholder title

Panasonic’s WV-TW310 Panasonic continues to update its Toughbook Arbitrator 360°, an in-car digital video system that can support up to six cameras in one law-enforcement vehicle for comprehensive evidence capture, said Stacy Austin, a Panasonic video solutions specialist.

For an officer on patrol, the camera’s 360-degree view surrounds a police cruiser and can be linked to the Panasonic Toughbook mobile computer to provide an integrated video-management solution, he said.

The Panasonic WV-TW310 wearable video-camera system is designed to provide an accurate and unbiased record of officer engagements, he said. The reliable wearable system features a wide-angle lens, day/night recording and image stabilization; it can record up to 32 hours using H.264 compression. The system also uses the “SafeServe” software for tamper-proof file management and storage, he said.


Image placeholder title

MediaSolv’s Commander Digital Evidence Management System. The explosion of DME can overwhelm even the largest of departments with the sheer volume of video data that must be checked, tracked and logged, according to MediaSolv, of Herndon, Va.

To help law-enforcement agencies manage video, MediaSolv offers its “Commander Digital Evidence Management System.” The Commander’s Web-browser based software automatically tracks all DME while eliminating questions about chain-of-custody, said Tom Hessen, MediaSolv’s vice president of sales and marketing. “The Commander is the heart of our system,” he said.

The latest update for the Commander system includes a wireless uplink for images captured by a video camera worn by a law-enforcement officer, Hessen said. Such body-worn devices are the hottest trend in DME as police departments seek to protect their officers, who are also being taped while they are on the streets doing their jobs.

“Everybody has a smart phone and the police are being recorded,” Hessen said. “The body-worn video protects law enforcement and helps to tell the entire story of a scene.”

The company is also working on upgrading the “Commander” system to provide quicker access to crime videos shot by cameras under police jurisdiction. The upgrade can be a boon to law enforcement agencies that are legally restricted on the amount of time—such as 10 days—that video can be maintained. The modification to Commander enables investigators to have almost instant access to crime video, Hessen said.


Image placeholder title

Susteen Inc.’s Secure View 3 Extracting evidence from cell phones—including video evidence— is a procedure that is growing as an investigation tool, according to Susteen Inc., which specializes in data communications and mobile computing and which offers its cell phone-investigation tool “Secure View 3.”

The Secure View 3 can extract digital evidence from over 4,000 models of cells phones, said James Cooksey sales manager for Susteen. Most cell phones today are outfitted with GPS technology, and pictures and video have GPS coordinates as part of their metadata, he said. Secure View 3 can use the GPS metadata to track and find out exactly where those pictures and videos were taken, he said.

Secure View 3 is “a super simple tool to use,” Cooksey said. “All it takes is some clicks of a mouse to get things rolling,” he added. The system helps the user determine what to extract, and once done, the user gets a report that lists the call histories, the calendars, the videos and photos, he said.

Once the report is made available, the data from the phone can be managed and analyzed under a case management, analytical toolset, Cooksey said. The data can then be analyzed using keyword searches and timeline analysis, as well as link analysis, graphic-image analysis, or by website history, he said. “The user can pull all this together into a condensed evidence report,” he said.

Errata: The article as published in the printed August 2013 issue had an incorrect photo associated with Cognitech. The correct photo is associated with Cognitech in this online version. Government Video magazine apologizes for the error.


3VR Inc.:

Canon USA Inc.:

Cognitech Inc.:




Susteen Inc.: