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Advertorial: Why do you need a video player designed for policing?

David Spreadborough, Forensic Video Analyst at Amped Software provides the answer.

Advertorial: Why do you need a video player designed for policing?

Date - 4th May 2022
By - David Spreadborough
1 Comment 1 Comment}

Investigating CCTV is a worldwide challenge. I felt it was worth highlighting this right at the start as many people are not aware of the scale of the problem or what has caused it. To put it simply, the uncontrolled security industry fails to consider your requirements within an investigation. This is quite laughable when you consider that the purpose of recording video footage is to enable it to be reviewed after an event and, where necessary, for that event to be played back and presented as an accurate representation of the reality. So, when you are struggling to view or complete a simple task involving video and CCTV, you are not on your own, and it was this scenario that started my career in Forensic Video Analysis over 20 years ago. 

As a Tutor Constable, I questioned why my probationers struggled with seemingly simple CCTV inquiries and this led me to start one of the UK’s first Divisional CCTV Units. The staff had a saying to describe the small, but necessary, tasks that are the bread and butter of any Forensic Video Unit - The ‘Quick and Easy’. 

Although I left policing in 2015, I referred to these tasks recently during a conversation at the National CCTV Conference as it is often the ‘quick and easy’ jobs that still cause so much unnecessary frustration to PCSO’s, Police Officers, the Digital Media Investigators, and Detectives. So why do I, and many others still working within video units, refer to certain tasks as quick and easy if they cause other colleagues so many unnecessary problems? 

It is because people working with video on a daily basis have access to the correct software applications, enabling them to quickly complete the task without too much bother. But why should they be the only ones to have access to certain tools? 

It actually comes down to protection. They are protecting you and your evidence. You don't want to end up in a situation where your competency or evidence handling is being questioned. This has to be a vital consideration as the consumer video players do not take this into account. 

So, what sort of jobs are the ‘quick and easy’? By identifying these jobs, we can also see what is needed in a video player designed specifically for you.  

Playback

Firstly, CCTV needs to be played. With an estimated 7-10 thousand different, and sometimes conflicting, video formats, it is a bit complicated. Most manufacturers throw some sort of playback software together but these then bring their own problems as they are difficult to install safely, cannot be validated and you have no idea what they are doing to the footage. Are these players really presenting you with an authentic image, or just what they want to show you? I am not talking about ‘fakes’ here! I am referring to the changes players make in color, shape and size.   

Most CCTV Units can now play approximately 90% of CCTV and Video formats, but for the first responders amongst you, this number is often a lot lower. How can you check the footage if you can’t even play it correctly? 

Obtaining an Image

There are many reasons why you may need to grab an image from a video after overcoming any playback challenges. The most common reason is for press releases to assist in the recognition of persons within the footage. 

However, it is clear that this is still causing huge problems. For example, take a look at this recent press release.

Image: Daniel Wood/Swindon Advertiser 

It has obviously been difficult for the investigators to obtain the actual images from the CCTV so they have resorted to very poor quality ‘screen snaps’. 

A crime reporting manager recently said to me, whilst discussing some of her challenges with CCTV, “the jobs I manage never get that far as we work with appalling quality footage in the vague hope of securing a conviction”. 

She was shocked when I told her that for most of the cases, it wasn't the footage that was poor, but how it was being acquired and processed. 

CCTV units can obtain the best images quickly as they not only have the correct tools, but they understand what kind of processing is required to ensure the image is correctly scaled in order to avoid any representation errors.  

But this takes time and creates backlogs, especially for volume crime. 

Converting

The presentation of video material is the final part of any CCTV investigation as the court must trust that what they are seeing is a true and accurate representation of the event. As a consequence, the conversion stage can often be tricky to get right. 

Automated conversions often reduce the quality, and therefore value, of the final video as it is not possible to deal with the multitude of formats and the individual needs of every single case. 

Prior to footage conversion, it may be required to label it by using some text annotation and perhaps highlight a witness or defendant. More often though, there is a requirement to redact a witness's face. 

The dedicated video units can do all of this fairly simply; they can identify any issues and then conduct any validation after the conversion to ensure that the courts' requirements are met. 

Now that we know what the basic jobs are, wouldn’t it be great if everyone in policing had access to an application that enabled them to playback, review, restore, extract frames, annotate, redact and then convert CCTV to a format suitable for DEMS, the CPS and courts? 

Imagine how much time could be saved in getting the best images out to the media. I mean, the example I mentioned earlier was published 2 months after the incident! 

Lastly, what if everything was completed in a way that could be later assessed, reproduced and validated. This is that protection stage that is so often missing.  

This is exactly why Amped Software developed Amped Replay. No more playback problems, full control of the footage, and easy-to-use features to restore image representation. You will be able to bookmark key incidents, create clips and access every annotation tool you require. Amped Replay is specifically designed to be used within the legal system. We designed it for you.    

No need for a lengthy training course. Watch one short video and you will get the basics. The tabs across the top of the interface will lead you through from playback to export. Do what you need to do, export the report and viewing log, attach it to your crime report and done!  

The ‘quick and easy’ jobs no longer need to be time-consuming and problematic for the majority of officers and staff. Next time you have a CCTV job, and it falls into the quick and easy category, just think how good it would be to get that job done there and then with no delays.  

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Comments

Ordered by:
NW-Bobby - Thu, 12 May 2022

'Attach to your crime report'.

Sadly the authors estimations of the technical abilities of some forces systems is; optimistic.