Why You Need An Analyst

Why you need a Certified/Trained Analyst

Television Hype

There are a multitude of television shows that depict a person analyzing surveillance video using just a few quick keystrokes. Usually, it’s done under the direction of the lead investigator as they look over the analyst’s shoulder. Most likely the lead investigator is instructing the analyst to perform certain functions which gets them clear results from the high quality surveillance video yet; they themselves have no formal training with regards to forensic video analysis.  Ask yourself this; “If the video they already have in their possession is of high quality, why do they need to analyze it in the first place?” If it were only that easy, there would be no need for video analysts. 


As a Certified Forensic Video Analyst I use many techniques, workflows, and software applications in order to visually see what is “correctly” occurring within the video.  The reality of it is; every video is different in its format, playback speed, recorded frame rate, resolution, aspect ratio, color tonality, and inherent artifacts. To be able to apply clarification techniques not only requires a plethora of software tools but also hours upon hours of proper training and knowledge of each of the programs used. Care should be given not to introduce artifacts that become counterproductive or produce results which are incorrect. Additionally, proper interpretation of the events based on the video playback is key to any successful analysis.

With that said, it’s easy for an untrained layperson to play a video using many of the readily available programs and editing software on the market.  What one must ask themselves and be prepared to answer are challenges posed by counsel. Below are just a few of many questions that should be asked by the Trier of Fact in order to properly have any video or images entered as exhibits in a court of law.

Sample Questions

  • What is Forensic Video Analysis?
  • Is the video used for viewing/interpretation playing from the proprietary format?
  • Was the video trans-coded into another format in order for it to play on your device?
  • Are you seeing every frame of video in the newly formatted video?
  • Are there frames of video missing as a result of the trans-coding from one format to another?
  • Are you looking at a short GOP or long GOP and are the images you’re relying upon a true and accurate image?
  • Is the video file provided progressive or interlaced?
  • Is each frame of video (or image taken from the video) made up of visual information from other frames/images before or after the event/action in question?
  • Has the video (you are using in court after your analysis) been copied to a CD or DVD thus introducing artifacts and which were  not there before you copied it?
  • Is the analysis or conclusion you arrived at going to affect the civil liberties of the accused?
  • Were the techniques you used destructive and can they be repeated?
  • Can you articulate the processes to a judge or jury member in a way they can understand?
  • Did you print the exhibits using the correct aspect ratio?
  • Are you certified?
  • Was your work “Peer-Reviewed”?

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