Friday, August 20, 2010

Video Forensics

One of the key tools used to solve the crimes in Speaking of Murder is video forensics. What's video forensics, you might ask?

JB, Lauren's boyfriend, works as a civilian video forensics expert at the local police station. The tool he uses is dTective from Ocean Systems, developed by Grant Fredericks and used by police departments around the country, to clarify surveillance video and present video evidence in court.

The dTective software just happens to sit on top of Avid Media Composer, for which I wrote technical documentation for 14 years. Hmm, coincidence? You decide.

I knew I wanted to feature this software in my books. I was fortunate to be able to consult with the Raynham, Massachusetts police department, and also the Bristol County District Attorney's office. They each use this software in their daily crime-fighting. Chief Lou Pacheco of Raynham (and his video analyst Tim), and Kelli Hutchings of the DA office each spent a half day with me, demonstrating the software and talking about how they use it.

It was a fascinating look into some of the inner workings of the criminal justice system. I hope I've done justice to their expertise.

Several of the things you can do with this software:
  • Apply a standard to see how tall someone is
  • Lighten a dark image of a license plate
  • Zoom in on a tattoo or other unique physical characteristic
  • Compare a fingerprint left on a counter to one taken after arrest
I'll a couple of images here. It's very cool stuff. Pix from the Ocean Systems web site.

  • Note: I should have included (and now have) that Grant Fredericks developed the dTective software and was the generous soul who pointed me to Chief Pacheco in the first place. Thanks, Grant!


  1. Interesting, Edith. Never heard of this software before. I wonder of its used in NYC where I understand they are installing more and more cameras for crime detection?

    N. G.

  2. Fascinating, Edith, and I can see how this would tie in nicely to a character and to your plot. Looking forward to reading your work.

  3. Glad to see you've discovered dTective Edith. It has revolutionized police work. Chief Lou Pacheco was one of the earliest users of the technology in the country. Now thousands of agencies have followed his lead and use it to help solve the most serious crimes we see in this nation.
    Good work,

  4. cool stuff. looks like the html problem got worked out satisfactorily

  5. Thanks, everybody!
    @Allan - I saved my file as .txt and then it imported just fine. (I think I did that the first time but forgot the procedure...)

  6. I saw your post on Guppies and am checking it out. Very nice - and informative for your fellow crime writers. I like the idea of your Quaker sleuth. I live near Philly and have a Quaker character who figures prominantly in my latest.

  7. Fascinating stuff, Edith - I LOVE doing this kind of research. It feeds plot!

  8. Grant Fredericks writes that he was only one of many who contributed to develop dTective. I didn't know this and certainly didn't mean to slight the others!