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December 13, 2004
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Enhanced Video Not Enough to Clear Nevada Man

NASA scientists David Hathaway and Paul Meyer study images of explosions on the sun and atmospheric conditions on earth at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. But in recent years their work has lead them to help police departments around the country to solve and prosecute crime.

Helping federal agents analyze video from the 1996 Summer Olympic bombing in Atlanta, they developed video enhancement technology known as Video Image Stabilization and Registration (VISAR). VISAR digitizes video and can then stabilize shaky or out of focus images. Multiple images, or frames, within a video are combined to produce one cleaner image. Hathaway agreed to look at the poor-quality security camera footage of the Nevada robbery for which Bryon Leon Garnett has been convicted.

The case marked the first time Hathaway has testified in court, although VISAR has been widely accepted in courts and the law enforcement community. Hathaway said he is seeing a vast improvement in the quality of security videos, but said VISAR can even help digital recordings. Such was the case in the Florida abduction of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia. Just before the perpetrator's arrest, Hathaway was able to enhance digital security camera footage of the abduction.

Hathaway said he and Meyer, who work on crime tapes for free, are trying to patent an improved version of the technology they have dubbed VISAR Plus. "It''s satisfying knowing that something we developed is helping to solve crimes," said Hathaway.

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