Working With Video Evidence: 8 Challenges in Law Enforcement

Work Tips

Just like any other area of digital forensics, working with video evidence comes with its own set of challenges. Knowing how to navigate these difficult waters can mean the difference between being able to solve a case or letting the guilty go free.

Since time is of the essence when you find yourself in the middle of a digital forensics process of a criminal investigation, learning as you go is not a viable option – you need to study these situations in advance so you will come prepared and ready to face them as they appear.

Unlike what the popular culture might have you believe, obtaining and analyzing video evidence is far from simple. For example, we can’t just zoom in on the picture and enhance its quality as they often do in the movies. It just doesn’t work like that.

To give you a glimpse into the unique challenges in video forensics, we’ve compiled a list of what you can expect during the digital video forensics process:

1. Processing image quality

Whether it be due to budget constraints or using dated surveillance gear, in practice, a DVR examiner will often need to work with low-quality footage. This can make it extremely challenging to identify a person, license plate, or similar.

As luck would have it, not all is lost – by using the right DVR recovery software such as VIP 2.0 by SalvationDATA, you can enhance the video quality to an impressive degree, thus allowing you to spot the details you’re looking for.

video clips filtrated by Area, Movement Direction, Trap Wire, Human and Vehicle

To identify objects from a distance, you need reliable digital forensics software like VIP 2.0.

The challenges, however, don’t end with details being hard to read due to digital compression and similar reasons. It’s also important to consider how to present video evidence in court because certain forensic video enhancement techniques that rely on AI can make it inadmissible.

In other words, a forensic video analyst must carefully consider what video enhancement methodology is and isn’t suitable depending on the intended use.

2. Legal professionals are often not familiar with technical concepts

The legal system mainly consists of people who are familiar with the field of law. They are legal professionals, but not necessarily tech geeks. Due to a lack of having a technical background in digital forensics, the judges and the jury may have a hard time judging the validity of the video evidence presented.

Unfortunately, despite performing a spotless forensic video analysis, the correctness if the work done can easily be overshadowed by the opposing side’s legal representation who may deliver a more charismatic closing speech.

Remember that lawyers are trained for this and it’s often easy to sway the jury’s better judgment – they are human after all.

CourtAs intimidating as they may look, legal professionals are only human.

3. Anti-forensic measures and manipulation

Due to technology evolving at such a rapid pace, several anti-forensic measures and video manipulation techniques are now much easier to execute than ever before.

Since they also tend to be easily accessible to anyone who has little more than a basic understanding of how computers work, using video evidence in court got much trickier than it used to be because its validity and legitimacy always seem to be in question.

Examples include:

  • Deepfakes
  • Image and video manipulation
  • Misattribution

The fact of the matter is, that you will often see high-quality deepfakes being posted on social media for the purpose of entertainment rather than malice or deceit (see example below).

And if they’re simple enough for a teenager to produce, there’s no stopping a criminal who knows what they’re doing. Given all of this, how can we truly know the footage in front of us is real and not the fruit of a con artist?

4. Unbiased interpretation

Video footage may sometimes contain elements that are hard to take at face value and are as such open to interpretation. Since humans are biased creatures, this can sometimes dictate how we interpret things, including video evidence. On the flip side, simply being aware of the concept of human bias can help a forensic video grapher make the right conclusions with the right forensic video analysis training.

Without it, it’s easy to be subjected to confirmation bias, which essentially means purposely seeking out clues that support one’s preconceived notion and ignoring all evidence that points to the contrary. And again, there doesn’t need to be any malicious intent behind it – it’s just how a human brain is wired, and the wiring can be difficult to overcome even after having obtained the necessary education.

AIThe human brain is susceptible to bias.

5. Proprietary video formats create issues

Typically, CCTV surveillance systems produce videos in proprietary format. But the issue is, can you use video evidence in court unless it’s in easily accessible formats like AVI or MP4? Very rarely so. Oftentimes, a forensic videographer will need to work with the hardware that’s available on court premises, which means compatibility remains a priority.

Thanks to VIP 2.0’s Ultra Transcoder and Player feature, this no longer needs to be a concern.

Contact us to apply for a Free Trial Now!

By using an industry-grade digital forensics tool, you will avoid all the typical issues that can arise during conversion, including:

  • Loss of quality
  • Loss of metadata
  • Loss of originality

In turn, this will allow you to preserve the chain of custody and make sure the video evidence presented is admissible in court.


Thanks to VIP 2.0’s Ultra Transcoder and Ultra Player functionality, you can convert to the desired format without fear of compromising the integrity of the evidence.

6. Privacy and human rights violations

Although there is much pressure to extract every last bit of incriminating evidence from video footage, human rights must be respected at all times. Violating them (such as the right to privacy) can render the video evidence inadmissible in court.

Law enforcement agencies are advised to work within the legal framework and apply only the kind of forensic audio and video analysis techniques that don’t violate anyone’s human rights, including the right to privacy.

7. Cyber security

Since the digital forensics industry works with a large scale of sensitive data, it’s important to focus on preventing an unauthorized third party from tampering with it. To achieve this, when working on the footage, it’s vital to do so on devices that are disconnected from the internet to prevent someone from messing with the video evidence remotely.

It’s also of great importance to study the cyber security essentials and learn how to recognize the common cyber security threats and avoid them at all costs. This includes generating strong passwords, using two-factor authentication, and keeping your OS and software up to date.

Cyber SecurityIn digital forensics, cyber security remains as important as ever.

8. Infrared imaging

Security cameras often record footage in suboptimal conditions, either in bad weather or areas that have insufficient lighting or are completely dark. To combat this, they rely on an infrared illuminator to make the video footage appear brighter.

The problem with this, however, is that the appearance of the objects recorded can lose all reference to its original color. In other words, even a shirt that’s completed black can appear white on video footage recorded with this technology, which can sometimes make a CCTV investigation crew draw the wrong conclusions.

On the other hand, a trained digital video forensics expert will know to differentiate between these two completely different signals. That is not to say that infrared lighting doesn’t have its uses, but the technology is far from perfect and thus has its limits.

T-ShirtWhat color is this shirt? If an infrared illuminator was used to record this image, it may in reality be grey or black despite appearing white.

Tips when working with video evidence

Now that we’ve established what issues can commonly arise when working with video evidence, we can start looking at ways how to mitigate them or eliminate them altogether.

1. Maintain the chain of custody

For the court to deem the video evidence presented as admissible, it’s imperative to maintain the chain of custody at all times. This is a well-documented process that provides the necessary insight into:

  • Who has come in contact with it
  • At what time
  • What the purpose was
  • The digital forensics approach used
  • etc.

This will drastically reduce the chances the court finds any kind of fault in it and thus render it inadmissible.

2. Verify the integrity of the footage

The integrity of the video evidence must be unquestionable and it must be presented in its original form. A common rookie mistake is to re-record the video footage displayed through a smartphone camera – an experienced forensic video analyst knows that quality can suffer drastically as a result, not to mention losing valuable metadata that can shed a light on important details essential to solving the case.

Another thing to check is that the footage hasn’t been tampered with by criminals trying to conceal evidence of their wrongdoing. Due to the increasing availability of deepfake and AI-powered technology, anti-forensic measures have been an increasing challenge in recent years.

3. Upgrade your tools

To preserve the quality of the footage and stay on top of anti-forensic measures, you need to upgrade your tools to ensure they meet the strictest industry standards. Consider using VIP 2.0 and SVR for Hikvision, both of which are cutting-edge software solutions created by SalvationDATA.

Among the rest of the functionality and benefits you’ll get, there is:

  • Efficient retrieval of corrupted, fragmented, or deleted video files
  • Built-in support for almost every DVR and NVR device out there
  • Full compliance with the legal system
  • Key element detection
  • The ability to extract video footage without pausing the device
  • Advanced filtering
  • Free trial
  • 24/7 support

4. Stick to the scientifically-validated processing

Although image and video forensics often calls for out-of-the-box thinking, there is only so much room for experimentation. In other words, to meet the proper digital forensics standards, the workflow must be:

  • Repeatable
  • Correct
  • Reproducible

Those with the right forensic video analysis training are familiar with several industry guidelines that have been scientifically validated, including:

  • OSAC
  • UK FSR

5. Get the proper education

Last but not least, aim to get the proper education to fast-track your way to a promotion and get recognized and validated by your peers. Along with granting you the ability to solve more cases with a greater deal of accuracy, this should give you all the motivation you need to reach the next stepping stone in your professional career.

To help you reach your professional goals, SalvationDATA offers many training and certification programs, including Expert(SFAC) DVR Forensics Analyst Certification.

SFAC Certificate

With this forensic video analysis training, you will learn all there is to know about the best industry DVR Forensics practices and get access to advanced video forensics knowledge to handle any challenge that comes your way.

Trainning in SalvationDATASalvationDATA provides training to law enforcement agencies from all around the world.



Working with video evidence can be a tough nut to crack. If you want to stay on top of the latest industry practices, ongoing education is necessary, along with knowing the right tools for the job (and how to use them).

Only by educating yourself in the field of video forensics and obtaining the proper certification can you truly claim to be armed with the knowledge necessary to solve complex cases and ensure that any video evidence obtained in the process is taken into consideration by the court.