A Forensic Video Analysts job used to be purely consigned to grainy VHS CCTV. Today though, with video recording devices everywhere, it’s a little more varied. Digital CCTV and Surveillance Cams are just a small part.
Helmet cams / Sport cams / Cycle cams / Bike cams….. whatever you call them; these little cameras, mounted on the heads of bikers and cyclists, are getting to be a very common sight and a very common source of the video evidence that I am asked to analyse.
The catalyst to this post was a recent article on the BBC news.
This mentions the altercation that a BBC Presenter had whilst riding his bike through London.
Towards the end of the BBC article, a link is given to another site, offering advice on the use of footage in courts.
“To admit video recording from your helmet camera as evidence, it has to be downloaded onto a CD and must be accompanied by a certificate stating that it has not been altered in any way from its original digital format. This certificate must be countersigned by a solicitor.”
That information is quite confusing so, based upon my experience, I have put together some ideas.
These 11 tips should help you, if you capture an incident and wish for it to be used as evidence.
- Keep a record of the camera make, model and any camera settings that you have configured such as recording mode, format, frame rate etc. After an incident, it will save you hunting the manual or using the camera to identify the configuration.
- Most cameras will record to a removable flash memory storage device, such as an SD Card. Ensure that your card(s) are recommended for the camera. Some cameras have a very high quality and frame rate. As such, they require a card that is capable of writing this information extremely quickly. Slower cards may work, but you may lose information, (frames of video), that could affect the integrity of your evidence.
- Record at the highest quality and size. If there are lower settings – ignore them! You want the highest quality footage. If you can’t store that on the card you have – buy a bigger card!!
- There is no point in recording the sky or the floor – check the placement and mounting of the camera and ensure its stays there!
- Date and Time Information should be overlaid onto the footage. If other data is recorded, such as location and speed, then this should also be supplied. Ensure that these details (date and time) are correct…. Remember to correct them for any summer time change!
- For most incidents, especially serious ones, it is best to present the original recording card as evidence. This takes away many questions regarding authenticity and avoids any issues in the copying process. You can ask for this back, after a full forensic copy has been taken of it.
- Any copy process should be documented and no change of the digital structure should take place. Changing the format from the original recording, to another video type, is probably the biggest challenge in recorded video.
- Avoid public presentation of the footage. If it’s a police matter – leave it to them.
- Authentication of the recorded media will be conducted on the forensic copy. The police may need the camera at a later time if irregularities are found within the footage, or if the original video shows signs of manipulation. Authentication is a lot more than a signed solicitors certificate.
- After Authentication, the footage will be analysed. Synching errors in the video/audio, dropped or missing frames, corrupted imagery; these will all affect the overall result and promote unnecessary questions. Ensure your equipment is working properly.
- Most helmet cams have considerable lens distortion and the recordings often suffer with high compression artefacts. The result is that objects look distorted and blocky. Issues such as these can be dealt with by professional Forensic Video Analysts using software such as Amped FIVE. DO NOT try to correct or change anything yourself prior to submission.
Most of these tips are also transferable to Dashcams.
There is some good advice here but it’s missing one last, very important, piece of advice..
If the device is powered from the vehicle, then ensure that it has its own internal source to continue writing the video data after a sudden loss in power. Many systems capture the footage and store this in a temporary memory for a few seconds before writing the file to the storage media. If the power is lost – so are the last few seconds of footage. It is usually the last few seconds of footage that are the most important!
…and the final tip…if you cycling past certain trucks – BE VERY CAREFUL!