Identifying the Boston bombing suspects through enhanced images

Identifying the Boston bombing suspects through enhanced images

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PHOENIX -

Investigators spent days pouring over and enhancing video and photos of the Boston bombing suspects before releasing them to the public.

We spoke with a valley video and audio expert who's been called for many cases, including the Jodi Arias trial.

He says many of the images the FBI released Thursday were tweaked to give the public a better view of the suspects and gave us an inside look at the process.

"You never know what you're going to get, but it does boil down to a key frame or two almost always," said USA Forensic's Bryan Neumeister.

The FBI is hoping a key frame or two from surveillance video will help reveal the identity of these two Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

"You can see right here -- the time code window.. it was off someone's surveillance camera, they just enhanced it," said Neumeister.

Neumeister is a court certified expert for audio and video analysis.

He says the Boston surveillance video recorded 15 frames per second and the FBI likely did something called pixel stacking or frame averaging to get these images.

"In other words, they might take a frame before and a frame after and overlap them to come up with a cleaner image," explained Neumeister.  "These are obviously from a lower area.  They're straight on so they're probably from cell phones."

He says one photo was blown up.

"The good thing is this hat becomes something that anyone familiar with this team can identify."

Facial recognition software is in its infancy, so these kinds of images are often difficult to match up with any kind of criminal database which is why Neumeister suspects the FBI is taking these images to the public to  help identify the suspects.

"I think what they're really hoping for is just to throw it out there and people who recognize the logo, the face, the body, then get better pictures from people who were there," he said.

Neumeister enhances video and audio for a living. He showed us a side by side photo taken from gas station surveillance video.  At first glance, the license plate is unreadable.

"When you frame average it.. when you take a bunch of frames, average them together, you have more pixel data," he said.

We had Neumeister work his magic on a FOX 10 photo and in 10 minutes, Andrew Hasbun, hiding in the background, was more easily identifiable.

"Now you could definitely recognize the gentleman there. In a crowd, that's what you'd be doing -- picking one person out of a crowd," he said.

But he really can't work magic and Neumeister admits there's still the "CSI effect."

"People watch 'CSI' and come in here and say see that guy on the mountain over there, can you see who he is?  It is not physically possible," he said.

Still, Neumeister expects these kinds of images to only improve over the years.

"As we're seeing better and better, cameras for less and less money, we'll have more to work with."

Neumeister says if you're looking for surveillance cameras, you want one that's high definition and he suggests streaming footage to the internet, not your house -- it makes for better quality.

 

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