Any Tips For "Forensic" Image/Video Work?

Participant ,
Sep 12, 2016 Sep 12, 2016

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Hi all.

My place of work was robbed over the weekend.  We have security camera footage and I offered to try and clean up what's there, go through it frame by frame in areas of interest, and get the best stills available of the crook.  We actually think we know who it was (a disgruntled former employee, fired for stealing) but a good image would be needed either way.

Looking at the playback, the color is washed out due to low light and it's a little choppy, but it doesn't look too blurry.  It is motion activated, thus the choppyness - I think...

I planned on using a few of the programs in the Adobe suite  (I have the CS6 Master Collection).  My initial idea was to use After Effects to scrub frame by frame and pull some good ones, then go to Photoshop and enlarge/enhance as much as I can to attempt a clear shot of a face.

The footage is still on the DVR box and nobody knows how to retrieve it just yet (boss wont let me try - he's afraid to mess with the software and is asking the people who installed it how to proceed getting me a copy), so I have a day or 3 before I get the video home.

Nobody knows what the video resolution is until we get the footage off the black box and into my hands.  Yes, the police are involved, but there is no harm in my playing a bit since they are quite busy and if I can do this it would be  ...  Nifty?

My questions are:

Does my plan sound reasonable, and is there a better way to go about the job? 

Would Premiere Pro have features that After Effects lacks to make it a better choice? 

Any Plug-Ins (for Premiere, After Effecrs, or Photoshop) (or other!) I can swindle my boss into buying for me that may make a big enough difference to make it worth asking?  Example: Is something like "PhotoZoom Pro" really that much better at enlarging than the tools already in Photoshop?

Are there any workflow suggestions or tutorials for this sort of job?

I'm asking in the lounge since it does not really involve any one program, but possibly several from the suite and maybe even other, non-adobe, stuffs and is also more about workflow and techniques than individual programs.

Thanks in advance for any input or advice.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Sep 12, 2016 Sep 12, 2016

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I don't remember the brand, but I had a security DVR at my last house (external camera feeds only) and as I remember, the saved video was MP4 (I don't remember the actual codec inside the MP4 file) and copying to a USB stick was easy

I only viewed on my computer since I didn't really need to do any editing, but it did play back so I will GUESS I would have been able to load it into PProCS6 for any editing

Good luck with pulling out a picture or two... and I hope all the door locks have now been changed

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Participant ,
Sep 13, 2016 Sep 13, 2016

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Hi John.

Thanks for the feedback.  The DVR is something I was not permitted access to.  Boss is a bit paranoid of Modern Technology and thinks only the security people will be able to access the footage for removal.

He's too scared of breaking something to let anyone else near the thing!

It's his machine, and his business, so it goes his way.  I'm just seeking any advice on how to enhance faces in such footage.

As for the locks, no need!  Footage showed him emerge from the break room not too long after closing, go straight to the office side door (with the cheap lock) and directly to the secretary's desk and right to the drawer with the "petty cash" - no looking around or anything.  He knew exactly what he was doing and where to go.

That's the main reason for suspecting our disgruntled employee.  But I'm trying to keep an open mind and sort of hope that the footage can prove it wasn't him, just because too many people already "know" that it "had to be" him.

He had gloves and a baseball cap on, but I'm hoping he looked up for a few frames and some good shots turn up.

I'll know more about the footage resolution and format today I hope.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Sep 13, 2016 Sep 13, 2016

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One method of increasing the resolution of video frames is called "Drizzle." See this link. It's mainly used for astro-photography, but it works for forensics - I have a friend who's a forensic photographer. You would want to crop into the face to do this procedure so that the alignment is just on the face.

http://www.stark-labs.com/craig/resources/Articles-&-Reviews/Drizzle_API.pdf

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Participant ,
Sep 13, 2016 Sep 13, 2016

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That sounds like a useful tool!

Thanks.  I'll look into getting it working somehow before I have to go to work soon.

Their idea of resizing and layering is different to my first thoughts of blurring, sharpening, and layering - a trick I have used with fractal images for enhancing details, but that is always hit-or-miss and I never really made a reproducible procedure from it.  It was just something I tried and found worked well in some cases.

Stark Labs, huh?

Figures Tony Stark would have the answer.  Them super heroes sure can work magic 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Sep 13, 2016 Sep 13, 2016

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If Stark Industries isn't a help, you might contact CBS to get a copy of the special NCIS version of Photoshop

Will your boss let you deal directly with the security company, so you can get direct, unfiltered answers?

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Participant ,
Sep 13, 2016 Sep 13, 2016

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The security company was there today and got the video off the box.

Boss actually changed his mind!  He didn't want to have anyone other than Law Enforcement to have a copy of the video.  I suspect it may have had something to do with me saying "That's what I said to do yesterday!" when they told him why he couldn't save the clip  (it's error message said "system busy" as a reason for the failure - so I said it was probably busy monitoring and he should turn it off to save a clip and he insisted that could not be how it works because he'd lose surveillance for a few minutes if he did that) (guess what the problem was!).

It's his decision, and I honestly don't mind it.  But it did sound like a fun project to push the limits of the suite of programs and see what it can really do!

I guess it's back to that mundane work for churches and porn sites 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Sep 13, 2016 Sep 13, 2016

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With no injuries and no stolen weapons to concern the police, I am going to GUESS you shouldn't hold your breath while waiting for the police to get around to doing anything with that video

I could be wrong, but your boss doesn't sound like he is very smart

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