Why is the field of forensic video analysis so important for the accurate interpretation of video evidence?

For those of you that are not familiar with the expertise that a certified Forensic Video Analyst brings to an investigation, you will appreciate this informative interview from the folks at Forensic Talks-ai2D as they explore the important role that video plays in the evaluation of video evidence for Use of Force investigations and more.

The host, Eugene Liscio, a 3D Forensic Analyst at ai2D & Instructor at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, speaks with Grant Fredericks, a Certified Forensic Video Analyst and Law Enforcement and Video Trainer: FBI National Academy, about the role of video analysis in modern investigations.

You can watch more of Eugene Liscio’s Forensic Talks series on youtube.

 

Video Transcript

Eugene:
“Hi Everybody. It’s Eugene Liscio. I’m a 3d forensic analyst at Ai2-3D. And today we are gonna do our episode six of forensics talks, before I do that, just one very quick announcement. And that is that there is the IABPA conference, the bloodstain pattern analysis, a Bloodstain Pattern Analysis Conference, which is going to be coming up on November 16th to 20th. It’s a virtual conference. So if you go to IABPA.org, you’ll be able to sign up for that. We’re going to get started right away here. And our guest today is Grant Fredericks. Grant is a certified forensic video analyst and an instructor at the FBI national Academy in Quantico, Virginia, as a contractor, Grant is a former police officer and coordinator of the Vancouver Police Forensic Video U nit in Canada. He’s testified over 300 times in courts throughout the US Canada, the UK, New Zealand and other parts of the world.

Grant’s primary focus is on, or in the evaluation of video evidence for use of force investigation. And he currently trains investigators on strategies and techniques for the accurate interpretation of video evidence, including tracking the movements of targets captured to proprietary digital video. He’s a frequent speaker at conferences and, he has a wealth of knowledge, and I’m very pleased to have him here today, Grant, welcome and thank you for being here today. Hi Eugene. Thanks very much for the invitation. All right. Hey, the first thing. So you were a police officer before, and you’ve obviously made a somewhat of a career change, but, I’m interested to ask you about how you got started and you know, what your interests were and how you sort of got into policing, often too for, video forensics.

Grant:
Well, my background is my undergraduate degree is in television. I worked in television for a few years before becoming a police officer and because I was the only person in the department that knew how to spell video, when we had video evidence recovered from crime scenes, I’d get pulled off the road and was asked, hey, what can we do with this? Prior to joining the police department, I was involved in a number of  forensic video projects, working on homicide cases, an independent expert, that’s sort of what got me involved and interested in policing. I started, working these cases for the department and I went through various positions from being a canine officer to working major crimes. I think, pulled into the major crime office to see, could we put together a full time forensic video unit to service the growing need to examine video evidence. Based on that we formed a forensic video unit, you know, moved forward, developing new techniques in Canada. Techniques that were adopted in many other parts of the United States. I mean, in fact, the rest of the world. So we kind of started walking, and went to a full run, you know, by the, mid 1980s to late nineties. The whole industry was changing dramatically in virtually every case, at that time, I was likely touched by video evidence.

Eugene:
So, you know, you’re talking about the nineties and that sort of time, how strong or how well known was forensic video analysis, back in the nineties? Like, was it something that was definitely, you know, everybody was on top of this thing, everybody was familiar with it, and of course, the technology has changed too since then. So, were you one of the early people jumping on this thing? Was there a lot of people asking a lot of questions?

Grant:
No, it’s fair. I think that I was likely one of the earlier adopters of the examination of video in a forensic way, to look at criminal cases, the law enforcement and emergency services, video association, which is kind of the preeminent organization for a certification for video analysts. Back in 1994, when I first became involved with that group, they were primarily a group of people who worked for police agencies, primarily civilians, who were producing training videos to train police officers. That was their mandate when I became involved with that group. I found some likeminded people who were interested in developing forensic standards, and working with video in a very different way, to assist courts, to assist investigators. The organization LEVA began to migrate from purely a training organization to a forensic video group. Now, a hundred percent of the people involved in that group are now doing, video examinations for forensic purposes. And, you know, there’s probably close to a thousand active people in that group who worked for police agencies. There are also some private, people, who, are part of the legal organization. So when I started, I think I was probably one of two or three or four individuals within the organization that were actually looking at video from a forensic perspective. and now of course that’s changed.

Eugene:
Right. And, at what point did you start actually start training? Cause you do a lot of training, a lot of speaking you’re out there all the time and sort of at the forefront of all this stuff. I mean, was it, once you sort of went on the private side or what prompted you to go on your own?

Grant:
Well, I started training in about 1994. I was a police officer in Canada. I was a member of the legal organization beginning to introduce them to the concept, working with video from a forensic perspective. I remember the first presentation that I did in 1994. Everybody had their eyes wide open. They had no idea that video could be used this effectively. So that was the first, time that I was involved in training for that group. In 1998, I, I took over as the lead instructor, and that at that time it was all forensics and I worked, as leading instructor for about 14 years, while I was also still a police officer. And then after I left policing and went into a kind of a private industry. So, that, that my training continues to this day. I take a lot of courses, but I’m also continuing to train. LEVA has a new cadre of very, good, excellent instructors. I’ll still be taking part in their annual conferences, but I pull back from the regular training with LEVA because I’m just so busy with my private practice.

Eugene:
Yeah, sure. let me ask you about the technology cause I’m interested in, the kinds of things that have changed, over the years now, of course, everyone knows video is just more prolific. Everybody’s got their cameras and everywhere else, but in terms of the changes that have happened over the years, has it helped? Has it complicated things more in your view? Is it helping or hurting?

Grant:
Well, it’s helping, but absolutely it’s far more complicated today than it ever was. So, you know, originally we were working in an analog world, we had VHS tape and SPHS tape, and that really was the sole source of, video evidence. there was a standard in the United States, that everybody used, there was really just one way to, process the video properly, that changed the migration from analog to digital and about the mid two thousands, was a complete sea of change in the industry, the introduction of codecs, proprietary players, each manufacturer had their own way of producing video images, the changes in MPEG technology. That’s kind of the primary, most common, video codec that we see in the format that we see within multiple co muzzle codecs within that format, it becomes very, very challenging. So the video analyst today needs to have hundreds of times more knowledge than we used to have in an analog world.

Eugene:
Yeah, that makes sense. And, I mean, on some of the cases that I’ve been working on, I’m seeing a lot more in car camera, we’re getting a lot more body camera type stuff. people with, of course, you know, there are cell phones and that sort of thing, which, in many ways, it’s really good quality compared to some of the things I’ve worked with before. But what about other sources of, video? So for example, are you starting to see like media, are you starting to see, other sources that you typically wouldn’t think of?

Grant:
Well, we see all sources and I think we need to expect that the proliferation of video in our society today means that everything, that every device that can collect an image is going to collect the image from cell phones, body worn cameras, in-car video, but also to your, you know, mom and pop grocery stores, you know, even up to satellite surveillance, and certainly, you know, to some degree the media, I think that the biggest challenge today for video analysts is to understand that proprietary video systems, CCTV systems that are in place in your mom and pop grocery stores, your ring doorbells, video cameras that are across the street at another business or a bank they’re all proprietary. they don’t talk to each other. there are right ways of collecting that evidence and examining it, and there are very wrong ways of collecting that evidence and it completely changes the meaning of that visual information if it’s not collected correctly. So it does create a myriad of challenges depending on the source of that video evidence.

Eugene:
Yeah. You know, I was, and I was thinking, you know, there are two sides to this, there is the hardware and the fact that we’re collecting it, and then there’s also software and the way that you analyze and sort of do the interpretation, and we’ve all heard the saying a picture, you know, is it tells you a thousand words, all that, that sort of thing, but in thinking about it, video can be very helpful, but it also can be very deceiving. And so I wonder if you can comment on that a little bit.

Grant:
Well, you know, it actually can be more deceiving than helpful. And I say that because if it’s used incorrectly, then not only is it not helpful to the trier of fact, the judge, the jury, but it’s deceptive and it will lead the case in a different direction. And so, if a case is, a, presented incorrectly based on the video evidence, because it’s been misinterpreted, then that’s obviously a, you know, a travesty and it could lead to wrongful convictions, which we see more often today than we used to see, the examination interpretation of the video evidence. you know, it was critical before an investigator gets the video, that investigator needs to be told by an expert what the video images mean. So you started talking about the old adage that an image is worth a thousand words.

We also hear that the video is the silent witness that speaks for itself, that interpretation, that statement actually came out of a Supreme court of Canada ruling, that has been adopted the United States in some cases, a number of years ago when video was analog. The concept that video speaks for itself is probably the most egregious introduction of an argument that I have heard, in court as a testified today. This is because video does not speak for itself. If the video, depending on how it’s been captured, colors are not presented correctly, shapes are not presented correctly. Oftentimes the video is not acquired accurately. Images will be dropped. When images are dropped, and when we look at force issues, as an image has dropped,  the images become squished together. Played back in a uniform time, it gives the illusion of increased speed, which is always interpreted as increased force. And I’ve been involved in a number of those cases where the video has been misinterpreted based, primarily on force, shape timing, and a number of other issues. So interpretation is critical. the inexperienced investigator needs assistance from a video analyst before they use the video for any real purpose.

Eugene:
Yeah. And actually, speaking of cases, there was, I mean, there’s, there’s hundreds of cases you’ve worked on, but the one that sticks out for me locally is the case in Ottawa where, you know, there was, there was, a person who, police were trying to apprehend and, you know, there was something that happened. And I can’t remember if he got really hurt, but I think he may even have, he died, he died as a result. Yeah. And there was a big issue surrounding the video and the way it was captured in that particular case. And I, was you involved in that? Is that something you can comment on?

Grant:
Yeah, I can comment on it. Cause my, my involvement is over and it’s all been, all covered by the media. I was hired by the attorney working for the police officer for his defense. And the first thing I was asked to do is to examine how the prosecutor is using that video. and as I examined, that process, I discovered how it was, recovered. The recovery methodology was the wrong methodology to use the investigators who did the recover. The video had never taken a video class, they did not know anything about video evidence. You know, they thought they were doing it correctly. What they did is they produced an exhibit that dropped multiple images throughout the event and in critical areas and in dropping those images and then playing that video back in are in a 30 frames per second mode, which was not real time.

It gave the illusion that there was excessive force because they missed the intermediate images that showed that there was no contact. And the issue was when the, when the man was taken to the ground, how hard did he hit his head and the video when you played it back incorrectly, it played that too fast. It looked like he smacked his head on the ground. When you actually recover all the real images, you can see that his had actually did not come in with the ground at all. The death was caused by something different than what they, they applied. When I was asked to look at the video, I asked for the original data, that data that was recorded and coded in the DVR, the digital video recording system, that wasn’t what the investigators relied on.

They did a screen capture, which is one of the worst things you could do. So I had the original data, you know, it has some flaws to it, but it was significantly more reliable. It had so many more images than what was initially, produced by the investigators that the prosecutor was relying on for the prosecution. So when I went to court, I was able to demonstrate side-by-side here is what the prosecutor was using here is the original, here’s how different it looked in, shape size, the prosecutor stretched too wide, and then here are all the images that were missing. And here is the timing between images that give a completely different perspective. It obviously changed, changed their case.

Eugene:
Yeah. And, frame rates, for speed and timing and all these things are really important when you’re making a quantitative analysis. Obviously. I want to talk about, iNPUT-ACE and that’s a software package that, you know, very well, actually Andrew, who is your son is, the driving force behind it. It’s interesting that you were doing services like you guys were, you know, doing the video analysis and everything, but, maybe this is a question for him too, but I’m curious what prompted him to say, you know, what, we need a tool here that does this kind of stuff. And, the only thing that I can think of is I know there’s a lot of when you talk to a forensic video analyst, it’s like they have a Bible of different software packages that they use and free software and all this sort of thing. So it was it about just bringing it all together in one package, or, are there any comments you can say on that?

Grant:
Well, initially that’s how it started. So, at, at the beginning of the development of that product, four or five years ago, you know, our office and Andrew was one of my certified forensic video analyst. I had certified analysts and technicians all certified by LEVA. We were very, very busy working on proprietary digital video evidence from cases throughout the world. And every single one of these cases started off as a research project. That was sort of the mantra. we had when we brought it in new case, we had the analyst and the technician work together on the video to, to determine number one, how best to play this video? What exactly is it? What’s the format, what’s the codec, what’s the proper, dimensions and all the metadata examinations that had to be done. We use multiple tools to do that. The tools we use multiple tools because we wanted to validate what we were doing.

A lot of the processes became manual. They were very, very detailed, very, time-consuming. Andrew began to develop through his research techniques to automate some of this and to begin to bring in sometimes freeware tools. Sometimes he would actually write code to develop an automated way to do some of these very, very complicated processes. Based on that, we had the foundation for iNPUT-ACE it wasn’t called iNPUT-ACE at the time, we were the only ones using it. We began to show this to our peers. They became very excited. They tested it against other tools and it was working perfectly for what it was needed to do at that time. We began training about how to do very advanced forensic video analysis, with this tool, and with others, based on the interest from this product, we began to develop it so that we could then provide it to other analysts.

We had so many requests for upgrades and, additional capabilities that we began to then put it into a real package. So about four years ago, it went to, went to market. It was peer-reviewed by about 60 certified forensic video analysts who put it through thousands of cases before we released it. So right now I believe there’s a thousand or two, police agencies that are using the tool. It is, you know, my go-to, for every case I do, I still have validation tools that I use in the background. You know, it’s the primary tool that I use for all of my training and my casework today.

Eugene:
Yeah. I mean, I’m not a certified forensic video analyst, but I use iNPUT-ACE so that I know when I need a forensic video analyst if that makes any sense. So I can look at a deep enough to say, I’ve got a problem here. I need to call somebody. I think for that, it’s just a really reliable and useful tool, which is great.

Grant:
The basic thing that it does for people who are not video analysts primarily is it just plays everything. So all these proprietary players out there, they obfuscate their evidence, say they want you to use their proprietary player with their particular codex. All they’re doing is they’re hiding the actual data. So iNPUT-ACE is able to get past all of that obfuscation and then show the raw video, a lot of players. If they’re not designed correctly, they have committed to a little window that they crushed their video into. And even though they obfuscate how to play it, they also don’t play it with the correct shape. And they often drop the images. So even when we have the proprietary player from a lot of these digital systems, they’re not displaying the video, and they’re dropping images and their timing is off because there aren’t, the station has errors.

So we get rid of, we go kind of bypass the way they hide the video and get to the essence of it. And that’s really, the power is, and put age, you can have a thousand, video clips in, you know, 10 different folders, grab all the folders into the file list of [inaudible] and you’ll immediately get access to all the video and use the folders. And it maintains the folder hierarchy. The, the really cool thing about it, too, is that you can infuse metadata into your video evidence. So you can add witness information and you know, suspect information descriptions and height analysis, and all of the features that you want. And in a video examination, you can infuse into that data, and then it’s all searchable, right? So, so we designed it for the kind of work that we needed our office.

Eugene:
One of the features in iNPUT-ACE is the camera overlay tool where you can do things like calculate speed, but also suspect height, doing an analysis on, you know, what you can estimate a person’s height is. And a little while ago, you were, featured in one of the episodes of Netflix, which was called Exhibit A, and I’ll bring it up here in a second. How was the, did you get involved with the case first and then Netflix, or how did that go? How did you first get involved with that?

Grant:
Well, I was hired by the Innocence Project in Texas to look at an old conviction that occurred about nine years earlier. That case resulted in the conviction of a man who turned out to be innocent. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison. When I was asked to look at it, I was actually a contacted first by the Texas forensic science commission. This is a government agency for the legislature in Texas that were looking at junk science, and they wanted to know how this case got to court. the guy was still in jail. They had complaints from the family to say that it couldn’t be him for these reasons. They had an expert who provided evidence after the case was over. That was completely contrary to the prosecutor’s case. So the legislature was concerned about how do we have two qualified experts person working for the prosecution?

And then now this other expert come to a completely different, opinion about height. In fact, they were, they were seven inches off, which is absolutely ridiculous. So I was hired as an independent expert for the government. I did my examination, my analysis, put in my report, the analysis included two different methodologies. After that went through the Texas forensic science commission were very disturbed by the errors made during the prosecutor’s case nine years earlier, they then sent my report and their report through to the Texas innocence project. I was in hired by the Texas Innocence Project to you know, assist them in evaluating all the video evidence. And then eventually it to a hearing for an appellant hearing to toss out the conviction and having a released. Then Netflix, after that was all done, Netflix contacted my client at the innocence project and asked if I would be involved. And they asked me to do that. So that’s how that involvement came. It was long after it was over.

Eugene:
Right, right. Oh, that’s a really super interesting, for those that are interested, if you just do a search on Netflix for Exhibit A it’s actually, I believe the very first episode of the first season. Okay. I just, I, I saw it, I knew it was first on one of the lists, but I’d watch it sometime ago. The other thing that I want to ask about is it’s something that actually we’re working on right now. So it’s kind of a timely question for me, and that has to do with other modes of color. Cause you mentioned color as an issue, but I want to talk about infrared and thermal, and I’m curious as to how many times you have to deal with some of the effects of those. And I’m kind of asking this because I know there’s one case for sure that we worked on together where thermal came up, but I’m curious about what kind of issues come up with when you’re using a different source of light and not just regular?

Grant:
Well, it’s extremely common. The near infrared is more common than thermal infrared. I started working with thermal infrared in Vancouver when I put together the helicopter project to say helicopter surveillance. And we had a dual sensor. One was, you know, optical and the other one with thermal and the thermal infrared works at different frequencies, depending on what we’re trying to see. We don’t see thermal infrared in regular CCTV, you know, crime video. We get that, you know, from other sources primarily near infrared is extremely common. And our cameras that basically every camera that we have out there, there’s a color camera, has an infrared filter that infrared filter, which is always active during daytime blocks out a frequency of energy. We don’t call it light it’s it’s outside of the human visual system. So you know, red, green, and blue, we are right in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Our eyes can sense that frequency of color, just outside of that beyond the red is near infrared. We are not sensitive to that cameras are so the filter blocks that frequency so that we can still see color in daytime. Once the camera technology, the, the sensor in the camera detects that the light levels have gone down to a specific degree, depending on the manufacturer, the infrared filter is removed and it allows that frequency. And then the color interpretation of video signal is also removed to prevent noise. At that point, we get the infrared information into the camera that is then processed by, by the camera and the encoding system. But what it does is it sees a frequency of energy outside of color. In fact, your very, very dark areas. It appears to give us bright information, but it has a profound impact on the perception of color. We call it tonal values of clothing and of other other things. So the interpretation of the color of clothing under infrared conditions is a very, very common, tool or common thing that we have to do.

Eugene:
That’s interesting because that’s a project with an interim student that I had last year, and actually we’re continue on this year to look at these types of things. One of the problems we’re having though is trying to quantify the changes, you know like we can see the cause and effect of going into, into infrared, but it’s very difficult to sort of figure out, or do you know what, what will happen or whatever it’s difficult to calculate. And just because there’s so many different types of fabrics and blends and dyes that react differently, under infrared.

Grant:
You’ll find that synthetic, fabrics, you know, will reflect the infrared frequency. And when it reflects that frequency, it appears lighter in color, organic fabrics, you know, will absorb it so that the, the, it all depends on the makeup of the fabric. It could have a combination of everything. You’re also dependent on two other things. You’re dependent on the sensitivity of the camera. When does it turn into infrared? You’re also dependent on, the elimination. So the camera will have diodes. Those are infrared diodes that send out this energy to the area depends on their power, how far that signal goes. Then you’re also dependent on the codec, how the video images are being compressed. So I don’t know if you could ever come up with, you know, here is at what point it turns to, you know, an infrared sensitivity and how it’s going to reflect off of clothing. Each, each case I think will be different, but you’ll have the basic formation of understanding of how infrared works.

Eugene:
I want to ask you a question about something that popped into my mind. So last year, before the whole COVID thing, and we were actually in person at conferences and such, there was a gentleman who presented and he was from Boston. So he presented on the Boston bombings and he was part of the, I think he led part of the forensic identity team. But one of the stories that he told was when they had to review the video, they had like partnering agencies and they had all kinds of people coming together and handling, you know, masses are massive amounts of video. And, just thinking about this, I wouldn’t know where to start. And, I’m wondering, you’ve had some experience working with large amounts of video, for example, if there’s riots or, you know, large amounts of people and, you know, in the case of a marathon, you know, there’s, there’s tons of people around, you got to figure out who’s who, and who’s moving around, how do you manage, large, or, or video with ton of people, but plus you also have to manage a large team of people.

What can you say about that?

Grant:
The Boston bombings a little bit different than I think large riot type cases, because the Boston bombing at the end of the day, they knew where the bomb went off. Right? Remember you can see it, they just rewind the video. they could see just before the bomb went off, there’s the bond, there’s a package rewind who put the package there. Oh, that guy. And at that point, it’s just a matter of finding a video of that guy getting there. So that was actually done relatively quickly. And, you know, with doing, I think within three days, these guys were identified and I think arrested, one of them was arrested. One of them was killed. So that happens very quickly. And I, and I know the analysts that were involved in that case, and it really wasn’t as big as most people think it was, although they were collecting all of this video, much of it.

And they never went through. What you’re asking about though, are these typical cases where we have riot investigations, you know, where we have, an event, at a core, let’s say Portland, everybody down there has an evidence collection device, right? Every, every single person on the street, hundreds, maybe thousands are recording video. Sometimes they’re uploading it to social media. Sometimes they’re just keeping it in showing to friends. So those are all eye witnesses that are collecting video data. There’s also in-car video, body-worn video CCTV from everywhere. You can imagine. So you literally are looking at thousands of hours of video. How do you correlate that information? So, if we go back to, I’ll tell you a very quick brief story. If we go back to 1994, Vancouver, had a riot based on Vancouver, Canucks were in the Stanley cup finals, they lost.

So it was a riot in Vancouver. I was doing video analysis. I had a hundred hours of video all VHS that’s it. So it was easy for me to manage. We ended up, identifying 104 people convicted. Everybody that, you know, demonstrated the value of video evidence. Now, flash forward, 17 years, 2011, Vancouver’s in the Stanley cup finals again. And the whole playing field changed completely. Everything was digital. everybody had a camera. the police seized 5,000 hours of video, not just 100 hours that now became a massive undertaking. So I was asked to put together a video analysis team, to process that video. I was fortunate enough to work with LEVA and we put together, about 52 certified video analysts who came to one facility that was properly set up to handle this kind of evidence. We spent two weeks, 24, seven, three shifts, and we processed 5,000 hours of video.

At that time. It still was a very, hands-on sort of process. We had 500 different video sources. Every one of them still went through that, that research project on how to play it today. iNPUT-ACE was built to service that need, after that experience, we had in 2011, we said, we need a better way. So what we had today, you can bring in thousands of hours of video from all your different sources, throw it into your project and iNPUT-ACE. And now in place, we’ll manage it. You can search for people, you know, different colored clothing, guns, you know, locations based on GPS information. You can encapsulate that quickly. I think if I had a tool I like iNPUT-ACE back then rather than having 52 video analysts working 24 seven for two weeks, you could have probably had two or three people looking at it for a week and it would have been done really well because it’s all automated now.

And because we don’t have to go through that research process, how to play it, it plays, you know, we play everything plus the database and process the ability to, identify, track people by clothing description, heightened number of other things. The system can very easily correlate all that information and then spit out. Here’s a person, you know, an hour earlier at this location, Hey, that same person is, you know, over here an hour later at a different location st. Clothing, the committee in different crimes. So with all that information, we can very easily put together a little package that’s packages that track a suspect’s movement. And that kind of is the power of that kind of an organizational tool.

Eugene:
Because I teach at the University of Toronto and in the forensic sciences program. There’s often students that are curious about different disciplines. And, you know, I can tell you for sure, you know, forensic video analysis. It’s not, there’s, there’s not a lot of big emphasis on something like that. And it actually could be a class at university. I could see that growing into something, because of the opportunities that are there. I know that, Toronto, the Toronto police recently put together a small team and, you know, the proliferation of video, it just, you need more people to look at this stuff, but I’m curious about, what areas that you see, that may need, for example, research or development, or what, what areas do you see are like the open doors that people need to start pushing forward through?

Grant:
Oh boy, that’s a loaded question. Eugene. I, that’s a question I want to ask you. I mean, you’re, you’re sort of on the cutting edge of all of these, you know, really helpful applications. I know you’re doing, you know, blood spatter trajectory. A lot of that is video related, doing, you know, working on 3d, applications for investigations. I think that’s kind of where it’s going. And I, you know, it has a, several, I would ask you.

Eugene:
Yeah, I’m curious. I, you know, the term everybody’s talking about this artificial intelligence now, you know, where your computers are certain to stuff out of, you know, the video and images and that sort of thing. And I’m almost, you know, going back to the, the Boston bombing thing or the riots, right? If, or even if you have a suspect and you’ve captured it in five, six, seven, eight different video cameras, if there might be an opportunity there in the future for, you know, the piece of, of, of intelligence, let’s call it artificial intelligence sort of piece this together for you. What, what the person would manually sit there for hours, you know, twice.

Grant:
So, so here’s the interesting part about that is that the artificial intelligence, AI technology that’s out there, there, some of them are pretty sophisticated tools and are pretty good, but you don’t want to track this person tracked his face. You know, if, if there’s a, an object place in this pixel area, but here’s the frailty of that system is their sources are all proprietary. And so what happens is these management systems, these engines that do artificial intelligence have to have their, their source video in one format. And so all these other proprietary video sources have to first be transcoded. That’s changing from one format to another. So these AI systems can read it. So we’re seeing that we’re actually partnering with companies that are doing AI. The reason they’re partnering with us is because they want all this proprietary video transcoded into a single source, losslessly.

And why is that important is because if you’re tracking something that is red, how do you know it’s really red? Does it keep the same redness? If it’s been transcoded transcoded incorrectly, or with, with some compression shape and size of objects, if it’s being transcoded incorrectly, the shape and size will be changed. And so a truck or a minivan will no longer look like a minivan if it’s squished, or if it’s stretched, timing issues are critically important for AI. So if a video is being transcoded incorrectly, time issues are created. And so what iNPUT-ACE does is a technology called VIS that we’ve, that we have, that we have partnered with Axon and with other large companies that are providing their clients with the ability to look at the raw information, on their systems without having to have proprietary players without having to transcode. So, so I think that these AI systems are dependent on ensuring that what they’re looking at has not been altered or changed. Otherwise the credibility, the integrity of their, their, technology is going to be lost.

Eugene:
What are some of the biggest pitfalls that you’ve seen over the years that sort of just keep coming back, coming back, coming back, and you’re, you know, maybe the things you say I wish people would just, you know, you fill in the blank, what would that be?

Grant:
Recovery. Just the way that a, police investigators are going to a scene, not respecting video as a science, just thinking that what I see is what I get, picture’s worth a thousand words, it’s the silent witness. They just get a copy and they think they’re done. How do they get that coffee? That is the primary problem. a lot of the investigators who don’t understand video, having kind of video class, go to a crime scene, ask the owner, Hey, can I get a copy of your video? The owner has no clue about forensics. They push a button that says export well, that export process is, is a transcoding process in most cases. So it does change, color, shape, size timing. So that’s one of the most frustrating pieces.

Conversely, or as we go down the road to trial, that poor exhibit is misinterpreted and is being used by prosecutors in criminal and civil proceedings, you know, by, by plaintiffs, incorrectly. And they’re presenting it to a judge or jury. And the video is not at all representative of what actually occurred in front of the camera. So it starts with the acquisition and then the interpretation. And that is, that’s the most frustrating part about, you know, what we do.

Eugene:
Yeah. It’s interesting when I, when I speak to forensic video analysts because there’s like no standards, there’s no, and you get all these proprietary formats. It amazes me how much these guys have to remember. I say, guys, these people have to remember because it’s like you know, this, this Kodak or this thing, you have to know this, that, and you know, the only way you can pull something out of it is to do this, or there’s, there are so many different things. And so, I guess that’s another advantage of having a good piece of software or something that kind of brings it all together that helps you with all those different formats and all the different, you know, being able to get under the, under the hood or behind, you know, in inside the guts of the video to start, you know, tearing things apart.

Grant:
You know the duty really Eugene is to do no harm, right? To look at the video as it was recorded, as it was intended to be examined, that’s the number one thing. And so even, you know, an investigator doesn’t have to be a video expert to gain advantage from the video information. They might want it to, you know, identify where their victims were to identify where their witnesses were standing, so they could validate their observations. They don’t need an expert to assist them with that. If they’re trying to do something like photographic, video comparison, height, identification, speed analysis, they should, they absolutely should look to, to get expertise from an investigator or from a, an expert. If they’re simply trying to look at the video, the goal is do no harm and then move that exhibit through the process that doesn’t require a lot of training.

I have a two day class. My class is designed for people who have never taken a video class before, but who work with video evidence every day, every single investigator, basically. So every detective who works major crime or property crimes, assault cases, they work with video all the time. They should understand how to spell video and to do no harm. But again, you know, any of the kind of expertise in the work that you do, you know, if they want to do ballistics or anything like that, now they should move it forward to an expert.

Eugene:
Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. And in terms of training, there’s obviously, you know, there’s, there’s the, the investigators or the police that maybe need some frontline training or some, you know, two day training or whatever. What about people who want to know more? What do about people who really want to get serious about forensic video analysis? What are the options for them to obtain and become proficient at this, this area?

Grant:
Well, there’s two things. If they want to be certified as a forensic video analyst, look to leave, leave a.org, leave a, you know, the, the certification program is excellent. It takes, you know, between three to four years to get through, it’s a very, very serious program. There are other certification programs out there. We call them certification mills. You take no classes, you pay $140, $160, and they’ll send you a certificate in the mail. You’re a certified video analyst. That of course is not the way to go. You get the letters after your name, but that’s just a, you know, you’ll get killed in court if you ever go anywhere. I don’t recommend them.

If you are an investigator and you don’t want to spend the rest of your career as a certified video analyst, then go to, the iNPUT-ACE website for their training courses, or go to my website, Forensic Video Solutions. There are two day training programs and they are hands-on, designed specifically to help an investigator do the basics of moving their case quickly through the process. They’ll learn how to spell video. They’re not going to be an analyst, but really it is the basics of what I, as a police officer need to know. If I’m doing work on video for my casework, it’s the minimum information that I would want to have.

Eugene:
Now, Grant, you work significantly on an evaluation of video evidence for use of force investigations. What, what does that mean? If you have to explain it to somebody?

Grant:
Well, I mean, just look at what’s happening in the media today. Don’t even start with George Floyd go all the way back to Rodney King, you know, in all the other cases in between, this just underscores that, you know, every case that we are seeing today of allegations of police use of force is usually attached to video evidence somewhere. And, I have been swamped, since, since George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve been swamped by agencies primarily that have to go back and re-examine these kinds of where there’s video evidence. A lot of agencies have come to me and say, “Hey, we have witnessed a shooting three years ago.” It’s now come back up because of these events, we want to make sure that it was investigated correctly at that time. And so I’m working with cold cases, I’m working with current cases.

I think that pretty much every police shooting that I’ve seen on the media today has come across my desk, to ensure that it’s been accurately interpreted and then to assist the investigators moving forward. So I’m not a use of force except investigator. I don’t want to opine on anything to do with force except my job is to assist those investigators to ensure their video that they’re examining is accurate. That if they’re relying on timing, that they’re relying correctly on that timing, and positioning and you know, some of the 3-D issues that we’ve talked about.

Eugene:
Okay. Last question. You’ve been doing this for some time, so what’s next for Grant Fredericks. What’s your next, what area interests you? What are you going to get into? And then how long are you going to be doing it for?

Grant:
Oh boy, you know, I want to retire, but I’m not. I am going to continue teaching, it’s something that I think that I can contribute, too, you know, to this community. I think that I have an obligation to, help spread the word about interpretation and the importance of it. so I’ll be involved primarily in teaching. I will continue to do casework just so I can stay relevant, continue to maintain my research. and, you know, we’ll be attending court. it will, you know, my hope is that things will slow down as I continue to move more toward, you know, consulting to ensure that, you know, these kinds of cases are being processed correctly, you know, for court.

One of the issues really quick, Eugene is just a presentation in court. A lot of court systems, courtrooms, don’t have adequate display technology. And so I published a report on, you know, what kinds of display technologies are, should be used in a court. And when I go to court, now, I always send forward to my client a whole, there’s written a publication on standards for presentation in court, and it gets to how large do your display should be, what your, what kind of displays you should be using. I’ve assisted many judges in their efforts to improve the video presentation systems in their courts. and, I’m really surprised pleasantly that these judges really welcome this information because they had no idea. They had no idea that when they use the wrong video displays or projectors, they’re missing video evidence that change, they’re changing the shape of objects, they’re color, they’re changing the color, they’re changing the pixel relationship of edge pattern. And I demonstrate how that’s impacting their cases and their eyes go, wait, what? So they quickly, you know, they’re evolving their courtrooms to proper Forensic video display environments.

Eugene:
Yeah. Well, I mean, you’re, you’re dealing with something visual. There’s nothing worse than getting, you know, you can see it, you know, better on your screen. And then, you know, you’re right there in the boot, in the, in, in the box going, I can see it here, but you can’t even make out the person in the video, right?

Grant: Yeah, no, you and I worked on a shooting case down in South Carolina and the court was horrible. They had on that horrible display and we had to, you know, explain to the jury why they weren’t seeing all the visual evidence. Yeah. And that’s the sad part is that, and that’s who loses out, right? It’s, it’s the, it’s the jury right there. They’re the ones that have to understand this and they have to be able to see it clearly. And if it can’t be shown, then, you know, who knows, who knows what they’re thinking or who knows, you know, if a decision is going to be made on, on crappy looking video.

Eugene:
Well look Grant, I want to say thank you so much. I appreciate your time, here. you’re a wealth of knowledge, you know, a pillar in the industry for sure. do me a favor. I’m just gonna make a quick announcement, hang back. Don’t just leave just yet. I’ll come back and just chat with you later. Thank you. Right. Thank you very much. All right, folks. Well, that does it for this episode, again, just to close out here today, the conference for the international association of bloodstain pattern analysis, that’s going to be November 16th to 20th. make sure you go to their site. I abpa.org. And if you’re interested in attending, or if you’re just interested in submitting an abstract, make sure you do that also next week, I’m going to be having dr. Laura [inaudible], who is a French forensic anthropologist at the Maricopa County office of the medical examiner. And she’s been involved in a lot of cases. she has a wealth of experience as well. So if you’re interested in forensic anthropology and make sure you’re here next week on that note, thank you very much, everyone. And I wish you a great day. Take care.”

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