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Redacting digital media evidence with Amped Replay

ADVERTORIAL: By Amped Software

The introduction of Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS) in policing has offered the opportunity to not only store large volumes of forensic video evidence electronically (and therefore saving countless amounts of time and money with storage and access) but has also introduced the ability to view, edit and prepare the evidence for court use.

Although this model empowers police officers and investigators with preparing their own video evidence for court without the need to pass it on to already overworked in-house video evidence units, many challenges and obstacles remain.

For starters, preserving the quality and other data associated with the video (such as timing information, timestamps and device/location metadata) is still an issue that most DAMS struggle to deal with properly, in particular when handling proprietary CCTV formats.

And secondly, the editing, redacting and annotating of video (and audio) for the court is still fiddly and has its limitations. It may be possible to top and tail long body worn clips and video recorded interviews, for example, but not to edit out audio segments containing sensitive information within.

Amped Replay was designed with these challenges in mind: it offers practicable and forensically safe solutions for all Police personnel, including those who do not have a background in video processing but are still in need to prepare the evidence for court.

With this program, you simply drag and drop your multimedia evidence into the interface. There is no need to worry about how to play or ingest video that would normally require proprietary playback software. The Amped Conversion Engine that is included within Amped Replay will, in most cases, recognize the format, convert it into a compatible and quality preserving format (if required), extract timestamps and show everything together on your screen, ready to play. The forensic technicalities of this process are automatically taken care of by the program.

Issues that are normally the concern of trained forensic video technicians (such as field scan, aspect ratio etc.) can quickly be corrected. Amped Replay “understands” the problems associated with raw video and, with your supervision, corrects them quickly and safely. You are then just left with the task of redacting and annotating your evidence. And nothing could be easier!

Let’s use a very long VRI (video recorded interview) as an example. The recording is proprietary to the equipment used at the Police station where the suspect was interviewed. We need to redact sensitive material (such as a witness’s name and address for example) and produce it as a new digital multimedia exhibit so that it can be passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision. We have a transcript with counter times to help us do this but we do not have time to wait for the video evidence unit which is already dealing with a major crime case; so we want to do this ourselves in a safe and sound forensic manner.

First of all, we drop the proprietary recording into Amped Replay. This is converted automatically so that it can be played, edited and redacted immediately. The interview is very long but the conversion takes seconds because it involves a process known as copy-streaming (that only skilled technicians know of) which is both quality preserving (the original pixels in the video are retained!) and instantaneous. Let’s click on the Annotate tab, ready to redact (1).

Using the provided transcript, we identify the counter times of the section which reveals the witness’s personal details and we drag our play head to that section (2) using the Elapsed Time indicator (3). The program shows two audio plots, which makes it easier to identify areas containing speech and spikes in volume. The bottom waveform bar shows the plot for the whole interview. The top bar can be zoomed in to show the plot of a section of interest in more detail. Zooming in and out of the top bar is as easy as scrolling up and down with your mouse wheel (4).

Now that the section of interest is appropriately zoomed into, all we need to do is hold down the Alt button on our keyboard then click and drag with the mouse over the section we want to remove. The unwanted sound will be immediately replaced by a 1khz “beep” (or silence, if preferred). Yes, it’s as easy as that!

While dragging, the counter times of the beginning and end of the redaction will be displayed at the edges of the selection and highlighted in orange to make it easier for you to follow the instructions in your transcript (if you have one). You will also be able to amend any existing redaction by hovering over its edges and by dragging back and forth as required. Once that’s done you can move on to your next redaction and you can create as many as you like. As you start building up a number of redactions, they will all be listed in the redaction panel at the bottom right of the program, arranged by counter times. In this panel you will be able to quickly jump to any redaction and/or remove them as required.

You will also have the ability to add textual comments, which will go in the report and can also appear on the screen for the duration of their corresponding audio redaction, if you so prefer. This could be useful as it will offer an explanation on the screen as to why the content was removed.

Once you have finished redacting, you can apply further enhancements as required, any other visual annotations and then export your redacted evidence in a quality preserving and CPS compatible format.

As Amped Replay is first and foremost a forensic video processing application, it can also automatically generate an auditable report admissible in court. This contains file information, details of any processing and annotations conducted on the evidence and, as you may imagine, will also contain full details of all the redactions you have performed on your video evidence, including in/out counter times and redaction comments (when created).

Amped Software offers a cost effective multi-licensing solution for this product, making it extremely easy for your IT department to implement, administer and roll out. So if you are in need of an affordable, easy to use and forensically safe video evidence processing and redacting tool, give Amped Replay a try. It will not disappoint.

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