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Enhancing video analytics

For those working with video analytics and video monitoring systems, chances are you’ve encountered a client who looks at footage of a security incident and says, “Let’s enhance that.” But, as Stephen Donohoe will tell you, it just doesn’t happen that quickly.


November 16, 2017
By Ellen Cools
Stephen Donohoe speaking at the CANASA Golden Horseshoe Regional Council meeting

On November 1, Donohoe, a forensic video analyst for the Halton Regional Police Service Technical Crime Unit, gave a talk called, “Forensic Video Analysis — Old Forensic Video Technology versus New Forensic Video Technology,” at the CANASA Golden Horseshoe Regional Council meeting.

Donohoe first explained that forensic video analysts need proprietary files, which can be difficult and time-consuming if a business, security company or police officer simply provides a USB recording.

In the past, even when forensic analysts obtained proprietary files, they didn’t always have the right platform to play them.

Now, Donohoe said, two new products are speeding up the process and improving quality: Omnivore from Ocean Systems and iNPUT-ACE.

Omnivore is a screen capture tool that captures images and video without compressing the images.

While this has improved the quality of video analytics, it is still time-consuming, Donohoe explained. First, he has to play the entire clip, save it, then open it in a viewer, save the desired aspects and then render it.

“When you come back to that ‘Let’s enhance,’” he says, “nothing happens like that at all. Until iNPUT-ACE came along, and that’s making a huge difference.”

iNPUT-ACE is a database from Forensic Video Solutions that can use players, codex and other files to process proprietary files.

Using footage from real cases, Donohoe demonstrated how iNPUT-ACE works and the difference in quality compared to a few years ago.

In one case, a dark recording of a parked car related to a homicide, Donohoe adjusted the exposure and selected I-frames to create a clearer image.

“In my office, this would probably have taken me no more than five minutes to do,” he says. “Before iNPUT-ACE, this would probably have taken me the best part of two or three hours, and it’s quite significant.”

But it’s not just the speed of analysis that has changed in the past few years.

Before digital, forensic video analysts could only provide a “faithful copy” of the original videotape.

Now, the process through which video is analysed can be reverse-engineered. Forensic analysts can provide a verification report explaining their process, and hash code allows them to do a comparison between the original and the copy.

After his presentation, Michael Polo, a board member of the CANASA Golden Horeshoe Regional Council and the event moderator, asked how the audience (largely vendors, integrators and end-users) could help forensic analysts.

When Donohoe arrives at a scene, he typically enters the default password for a system. But more and more often, systems don’t come with a default password.

“I’m now coming across systems that are password protected over and above the default password,” Donohoe responded.

“Passwords to me are really critical in the sense that somebody needs to ensure that system is password protected, but we can still get access to it,” he added. He asked that integrators and dealers explain the importance of this to their end-users.

Donohoe also asked that installers ensure systems are set up correctly. While this may seem obvious, he has come across a number of incorrectly installed systems — including one that was put in back-to-front and never set to record.

Security dealers and installers should remember that their video monitoring systems could be vital in an investigation, and forensic video analysis, while of a higher quality today, still relies upon simple components such as correct installation and password access.