6 Crucial Tips to Effectively Conduct Forensic Video Investigation

Work Tips

Working as a forensic video analyst, you could always encounter challenges during your work, which could sometimes severely impact and even lead to your case cracking and investigation being in vain.

However, it doesn’t mean you’re out of chances to improve the expected outcome of your investigative cases.

Based on our over 20 years project experience working with forensic video experts on various successfully closed cases all over the world, below few crucial tips is of some help to effectively conduct your forensic video investigation.

1. Initially Focusing on Video File Recovery

Lack of integrity of forensic video footage is almost the majority of cases nowadays when it comes to forensic video investigation.

Most of the time, investigators are led to a dead end only because incomplete video files are the first findings in hand at the very beginning and the negligence of that thus results in none of the progress during the forensic analysis being reliable and trustworthy.

That’s being said, you’ll want to ensure the original video evidence as integrated as possible when you’ve first done with the collection of the findings.

Though a variety of video file problems and errors could stuck you from smoothly carrying out, you’re still advised to follow below few verified practices:

a. Get prepared for data loss in your recording devices

As you can tell, multiple reasons can lead to data loss which would harm your forensic video analysis work in a way. You’re supposed to be aware of some potential reasons so that it’s more possible to get them fixed.

To name a few, these are some of the most common reasons:

  • Water Damage
  • Fire Damage
  • Accidental deletion
  • Malware
  • Hardware failure
  • Bad sectors

Causes of Data Loss Statistics - Pie Chart

Based on our research on the most common reasons for data loss, most of the reasons are human error and hardware failure, which means it’s not impossible to fix it in a way.

Obviously, obstacles are out of nowhere during a forensic investigation, even at the very beginning.

b. Do essential video file integrity practices to recover

Though severe damage to the recording devices makes it less possible to retrieve all data back, however, there is still a chance by cooperating with some sort of data recovery software like DRS (Data Recovery System).


Thanks to technological evolvement, massive manpower to diagnose and investigate into data loss and recovery work has become a thing of the past. At present, with simply one click on a proper recovery tool, an expectable outcome is achievable, which saves your valuable time and resources especially when it comes to the investigative case being at stake.

Note that it’s the most recommended option for a qualified forensic video analyst to give preference to the assistant tools from professional digital forensics solution providers like SalvationDATA, instead of open-source or free tools everywhere from no one on the internet.

Otherwise, it’s apparently out of guarantee what potential risks could be hidden being harmful to your vital evidence files.

c. Dedicated DVR and CCTV units problem solving

When surveillance video cameras like DVR and CCTV are deployed across every corner on the street nowadays to ensure public security, it’s so common for a forensic investigator to unveil what was the overall event in case of a crime or illegal activity based on the video footage.

However, even a seasoned forensic video expert gets stuck when problematic surveillance video footages like those being erased, damaged, corrupted, or formatted, are the only available evidence in hand.

In this case, it’s always not a wise option to try to resolve the problems based on your own expertise and judgment, since a great chance is out ending up with worse harm to retrieving and integrating the files due to improper operations.

To scientifically and effectively aim at the issue, in response to the leading DVR and CCTV brands in the world like Hikvision and Dahua coming up with corresponding solutions become more advisable practice.

By following the step-by-step guide to diagnose and recover problematic video files From Hikvision to Dahua CCTV in our previous ultimate article, you suppose being acknowledged across:

4. Locate the hard drive and disconnect it

3. Review the results

By comprehensively understand and follow about 3 advisable practices, almost the majority of video file recovery issues will be addressed in a way, which means you have also set a solid cornerstone to get to your follow-up forensic video investigation.

2. Salvage More Available Frames by Video Enhancement

According to a recent survey on video forensics back in 2021 in ScienceDirect, video quality issues are the major factor impacting the forensic video investigation analysis, especially the reason of low-resolution content which leads to hard identification of small details. Even if the most trending technique like facial recognition in video forensics is not applicable to really identify an object in extreme cases.

For obvious reasons like poor lighting, long distance, improper recording angle and extreme recording circumstance like typhoons, low quality of video footage content have always been an obstacle, not to mention the video footage capturing devices themselves with various metadata configurations and hardware components(Camera components especially).

Even so, the following techniques are going to prevent you from being stuck among most obstacles.

a. Sharpen those blurry content to make it more visible

For some of the fuzzy and blurry content on video footage, it’s a common practice to first adjust the contrast of each frame to achieve the most possible clearness. However, you don’t want to break or deform the actual detail due to an over-adjustment.

b. Unstable forensic video content improvement

What not surprises us is that a surveillance video or digital video camera does not capture information in an ideal circumstance to reflect the overall event all the time. Artificial video recorder shaking or any objective factors like bad weather influences the stability of the captured content in a way.

Just like those common functionalities for video stabilization on video editing software we usually notice on Final Cut Pro X and Premiere, by cropping the length of each frame and applying sophisticated algorithms and filters based on various elements, it’s possible to restore what is video content normally captured.

Though there aren’t many forensic video tools in the market to provide corresponding industry-grade level functionalities for video content stabilization, VIP 2.0 from SalvationDATA has already researched and developed the technology in the past 20 years, which ends up producing experienced and verified performance on this field.

C. Target locked by masking

In essence, forensic video analysts are tended to not focus on every detail within video footage but on the most meaningful part of it. To effectively filter the valuable hints, draw a proper shape to get the interested target locked and then keep playing the footage until some obvious alterations occur.

d. Slow down the variation

Though it sounds as dump as it implies, this action is incontrovertible. Most of the time, little changes in a captured object unveil a key valuable clue. For instance, a suspect rapidly steals the wallet of a woman with his hidden hand beyond his back really just like magic.

It would be something out of your observation if the video footage keeps playing in its normal condition.

e. Zoom in for small details

Zoom-in is one of the most common tricks in forensic video enhancement practice. However, unless the resolution of the video content is higher enough to preserve the majority of the captured information, you’re unlikely to simply apply this trick to achieve the expected outcome.

In essence, we already mentioned this traditional thinking here to clarify simple zooming in won’t necessarily output clearer video content for you unless the combination of the sophisticated algorithm has been incorporated to achieve higher resolution.

f. Adjust the lights of the footage properly

“You can only take advantage of what you have in hand”, this is the typical situation in not only digital forensics but traditional crime investigation. When it’s the case without the possibility to acquire clearer video content, it’s your own responsibility to apply essential light improvements to the existing video footage.

Try your lights adjustment based on below few aspects:

  • White balance
  • Light overlays
  • Overexposure
  • Tone mapping

g. Identify various objects intelligently

Prior to speaking of object identification and detection, note that most of the above-mentioned tricks are conducted manually. However, spending endless time and effort by manpower to identify objects and people ends up with unreliable so-called “clues” or “observations” has been verified to be absurd nowadays.

With all the emerging technologies like facial recognition, motion detection, and object identification, most of the work is possible to be processed by industry-grade video forensic tools like VIP 2.0.

Motion Detection

It’s never more easy than today to intelligently identify a car, weapon, drug or person automatically and calculate the most possible alteration of an identified object among their moving direction and motion trail.

Other than all the above-mentioned techniques, below ultimate technique we summarized for forensic video enhancement is for your better understanding.

Recommended reading: 15 Forensic Video Enhancement Techniques

3. Scientifically Analyze and Deduct the Forensic Videos

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is priceless”. However, the fact is that even the most treasured video files evidence does not always reflect every detail and hint directly unless you know how to scientifically decode it.

It’s out of the question that a wealth of information is there lying in the video files. All you need to do is get yourself equipped with analytical thinking to conduct forensic video investigation.

To achieve it, follow below practical actions :

a. Make sure the video and audio recordings are legitimate in case of any disputes and inadmissibility in the court.

Any tampered or illegally recorded video footage is inadmissible in court. So, do essential preventions before you even get started with the analysis process.

b. Try possible methods to identify an object

Facial recognition in video forensics has been increasingly developing in recent years. Processing the comparison of a suspect’s appearance and the one in the database, it’s a great chance to determine if they are the same person.

Similarly, even if the compared objects are not people, by comparing scanned objects with proportions match, this technology is still possible to help in a way to determine the final outcome.

c. Obtain as much information from the moving objects as possible

When analyzing a moving object, you’ll want to acquire as much information as possible since it’s going to provide more hints for your investigative conclusion.

Let’s presume a typical Hit and Run incident (Cars crash and the suspect run away)example and see what we’re supposed to pay attention to:

  • Car Plate

it’s more than common to immediately target the plate of the car so that there is a chance for us to connect it with the ID information of the owner.

However, when the fuzzy and blurry number is the case resulting in difficult identification, the essential video enhancement techniques we mentioned above ought to be taken into account the first time.

  • Running away direction and route and speed

Though manually deducting the possible escaped route along with the estimated direction and speed of the suspect vehicle is hardly achievable for human beings, it’s not that unrealistic for today’s technology.

By cooperating with VIP 2.0, a massive of sophisticated algorithm covering the factors of its heading and speed would be applied to calculate the most possible route. Thus, the vehicle becomes trackable and the cops are therefore able to make an arrest.

d. Whether a crime has taken place

We don’t want to let go of any criminals but at the same time, no one innocent deserves to be on a trial.

It’s always worth being noted that whenever the only available video evidence in hand is flurry and fuzzy severely resulting in less visibility to really identify a person or an object, there is no necessity to conclude the scene as the base for further analysis.

Unless available enhancement techniques and practices really assist you to draw a reliable conclusion, you would have to forget about an uncertainty like that.

e. The exact date, time, and location of the crime

Across all kinds of video footage including digital video footage and surveillance video footage, a timestamp is one of the most crucial elements worth checking out deeply.

It reveals the overall incident and crime from a concrete angle covering date and time, which enables you being possible to string each piece together in a certain order so that things are more organized and rational. Meanwhile, by combining the testimony and your observation, there is more likely a more meaningful clue coming out of the way.

Besides, when it comes to digital video footage, for instance, those video footage are shot from a smartphone, it’s even better to have a chance to utilize its metadata of it for further valuable information.

In normal conditions, GPS containing longitude and latitude, the model of a camera, the uploaded date so on and so forth are all available for a bigger picture to draw out.

4. Following the Chain of Custody When Handing Your Video Evidence

As one of the most important concepts and disciplines in forensic video investigation, complying with the chain of custody when handing in your video evidence is supposed to be your consistent conviction.

For one thing, you don’t want to miss out on any valuable findings owing to not following the chain of custody. For another, It’s also a certitude for the court to deem the evidence admissible.

If you’re still not familiar with the principles and process of it, keep below most vital factors in mind:

  • Never tamper or directly utilize the original files
  • Document all digital evidence into visuals by taking photos and screenshots
  • Record and organize all files based on collected time and formulate your timeline in order
  • Apply essential data imaging crucial computer forensics evidence by using DRS or any other supporting tools capable of doing so. (Note that, you would also need to verify the integrity of the image when the data imaging has been done, just to prevent any corrupted piece exists makes it not completely reflect the original files. )

Other than that, ensure all your evidence presented is demonstrative, testimonial, documentary, and real and this will help your report more admissible.

5. Rigorously and Objectively Prepare Your Evidence-based Video Forensics Report

To effectively make clear your video forensics report, it’s bound to be your first priority to coordinate the internal digital forensics groups and multiple departments from police officers to judicial personnel during a proceeding, with a straightforward and digestible recap of the actual event.

Only by ensuring the admissibility and reliability along with their full understanding of your submitted evidence, they’re grounds for taking their next steps and drawing out conclusions objectively.

In this case, always drawing out evidence-based conclusions instead of intuitive deduction or conjecture is supposed to be the ultimate consideration across every piece of your report.
The conclusions present are bound to be based on what the factual event reflects.

In addition to this, primarily get to below follow overview tips to write a qualified forensic report:

  • Tip 1: Stick with the best practices template when writing a digital forensic report
  • Tip 2: Learn and imitate the most recommended forensic reports before really writing yours, especially the format and key points about what is to be covered.
  • Tip 3: Always pay attention to your instant thoughts when writing the digital forensics report, since it could imply valuable hints in a way.
  • Tip 4: Double-check and refine your report to ensure it’s complied with not only the needful judicial and administrative requirements but all your conclusions correctly.

In actual practice, writing a video forensic report really requires high-level expertise and seriousness to not only satisfy multiple personnel from different backgrounds to achieve the same understanding as what you concluded, but comply with the judicial principles to normally proceed with the proceedings.

It’s strongly recommended to give it an in-depth study on the subject.

Recommended reading: Write a Forensic Report Step by Step [Examples Inside]

6. Whenever Presenting Your Findings, Ensure These Steps Conducted

Present your findings and corresponding conclusions almost the final test to verify your efforts and judgment during a forensic video investigation.

You just don’t want to be in vain in this very phase.

To avoid being effortless though, always remember to:

Handle the evidence in a forensically sound manner and fully comply with the chain of custody
Organize and label your video evidence based on their relevancy and collected time
Enable the evidence accessible to everybody involved in the proceeding
Correctly prepare your forensic report and presentation

For a better understanding of the proper video evidence presented in court, check our previous complete step-by-step guide here.

Final Thought

Even if you’ve fully mastered the above techniques and disciplines, yet, it is not enough to make you outstanding for your career promotion.

What do you do?

You’re also supposed to get prepared as a qualified video forensic analyst according to what the hiring employment department is requiring.

Knowledge, skill, and qualification to be ready for forensic video investigation department make you fully vital personnel in the field, from now and in the days to come.