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Video clarification technologyThe technology behind the Zimmerman arrest video

Published 13 April 2012

Van Nuys, California-based Forensic Protection was asked by ABC News to clarify the grainy video showing George Zimmerman being brought to the Sanford Police Department headquarters; the video clarification work was so good, other media outlets used it (even if they attributed the technical work to ABC News); Forensic Protection insists that its client not disclose what it is that they are seeking or looking for in the clarification process: this allows the results of the clarification to stand on their merit

Last week, HSNW reported on the killing of an unarmed African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, by a self-appointed neighborhood watch guard George Zimmerman.

In the original surveillance video of Zimmerman’s arrival at the Sanford, Florida police headquarters, released by the Sanford PD, there was no indication that Zimmerman had sustained any head injuries.

ABC Newsthen contacted Forensic Protection of Van Nuys, California, to enhance the grainy video released by the police to see whether there was anything not shown in the original regarding an injury to Zimmerman’s head.

HSNWspoke with Doug Carner, the founder and president of Forensic Protection, the firm that performed the clarification of the original police video. Carner explained the technology behind the enhancement of that video, and also the clarification of the 911 calls surrounding the incident.

Carner told HSNW that he disliked the word “enhancement,” likening the process more to “putting eyeglasses” on the video.

He explained that the process involves finding a known object in the scene, and clarifying that object to the highest level possible. In the case of the Sanford police video, the selected object was a police officer’s badge, which was clarified  by correcting motion blur to the point of legibility of the badge.

This process provides the settings needed to establish the standard for the software to adjust the rest of the video content.

In the case of the Sanford police video, Carner explained, the clarification process used a combination of open-source and proprietary software, along with twenty-four hours of computer running time to complete, made “dramatically faster” by the use of MotionDSP. The result was the clearest image available.

Carner told HSNW that ABC News had asked him to perform the clarification of the video, and that by day’s end he saw his work on CNN, Fox, and virtually every newscast he watched, all showing the video with the ABC News logo superimposed on it.

The crucial step in clarifying a video is to find an element that can illustrate the degree of motion blur. As an illustration, he was asked to clarify a motion-blurred video of an automobile. On examining the original image, he noticed a light streak that took the shape of a question mark. He corrected that streak so that it became a straight line, then applied those settings to the entire image. The result was a clarified image with a legible license plate.

Forensic Protection was founded two years, and Carner brought more than  twenty years of experience as as an audio and video expert to the company.

Carner also explained the process behind “enhancement” of audio, as in the 911 calls in the Martin case.

The process involves taking the original recording and separating the voices into different “channels,” as is done with the background noise.  He then suppresses the background noise, and increases the remote caller’s voice, suppressing the distortion and “noise” at the same time. The result, he says,  has the sound of a conversation between two people in the same quiet room.

Carner is insists that his client not disclose to him what it is that they are seeking or looking for in the clarification process. His intent is to treat the work at hand as objectively as possible, and allow the results of his refinements to stand on their own merits.