08/23/2011

Tim DeesPolice Tech & Gear
with Tim Dees

A $49 fix for shaky video

Technology from a company called vReveal can reduce or eliminate shake from a video clip

Now that nearly everyone has a mobile phone capable of capturing video clips, just about any witnessed unusual incident will have multiple video records created and posted to YouTube. Most of these video clips will have one thing in common: the quality will suck. Few people have the presence of mind or the knowhow to keep the camera steady and the subject in the middle of the frame. The result is that the finished clip shows the incident, but in a way that raises more questions than it answers.

A forensic video lab can fix some shortcomings of amateur video, but up until now camera shake required some fairly heroic measures to correct, hand-registering each frame with the one before and after it to keep the focus on the subjects. A technology called vReveal fixes most of this on a standard personal computer, and you can try it out for free.

vReveal uses proprietary algorithms to correct poor lighting, coloration, or camera shake for most any video clip that can be viewed on a computer. No special expertise is needed to run the software. You download the free program, install it, and point the application at the clip(s) you want fixed. After a minute or two (the total processing time is determined by the number of clips and their length), you see the finished clip(s) play back in an onscreen window.

There is a catch: if you want to save the fixed version of the video as a file to be displayed elsewhere, you’ll need to purchase the premium version of the software. The price isn’t a budget-breaker: $49. Once the fee is paid, you’ll be provided with a registration code that will unlock the features necessary to save the video and any clips you process in the future. There’s no need to download or install another program.

I tested vReveal on a video clip posted on PoliceOne. The video was taken by a citizen who witnessed a use of force incident from an upstairs window, and there was considerable camera shake over the minute or so of the clip. After processing with vReveal, the clip had considerably greater clarity.

The same software will create a still panoramic image from a panned video shot. This may have been intended for vacation movies, but it could also be useful for showing a wide-area crime scene or accident site in one shot.

There is other free software available to produce panoramic images that extend not only horizontally, but also vertically. Photosynth, a free download from Microsoft, will stitch together multiple still images and produce a panorama that can go 360° horizontally and also pan up and down. To produce a Photosynth image, stand in the center of the area you want to document and take still digital photos that slightly overlap each frame. You can pan left and right as well as up and down. When you’re done, you load all of the photos into Photosynth and it processes them for you. I’ve used this software to document entire rooms, and the process is about as painless as anything can be.

There is also a free Photosynth app for the iPhone that will process any group of photos taken with the iPhone’s camera. It overlays the camera viewfinder, so the process is even easier than with a conventional camera.

In either case, it costs you nothing to try out these video and photography tools, and they could make it much easier to document your next complex incident site.

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer, and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in Northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oregon.

He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 300 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States, and is the author of The Truth About Cops, published by Hyperink Press. In 2005, Tim became the first editor-in-chief for Officer.com, moving to the same position for LawOfficer.com at the beginning of 2008. He now writes on applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

Dees can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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