VIEVU tackles problem of body camera video redaction with new software

Police now have the ability to choose what to redact from video in compliance with their state laws and agency policy – and do it instantly

As the 122nd annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference (IACP 2015) gets underway, body-worn camera manufacturer Vievu has announced a new software solution for the automatic redaction of video footage.

The complex problem of redaction has been plaguing police leaders across the nation as they look to implement body-worn cameras into their agencies. Earlier this year, the Seattle Police Department was forced to tackle the problem head-on by bringing in local tech talent after a blanket public records request shined a light on the daunting logistics of manually editing videos frame-by-frame in accordance with the state’s legal requirements for public release. While the agency’s experimentation eventually uncovered a solution, it was considered imperfect and temporary – an algorithm that blurred entire videos as opposed to portions of them. The amount of man power and time required for redaction led one Washington state department to temporarily suspend its body camera program altogether. 

The software automatically blurs all faces captured on video – without the need for a user to ‘mark’ the faces prior to redaction.
The software automatically blurs all faces captured on video – without the need for a user to ‘mark’ the faces prior to redaction. (Vievu Image)

Steve Ward, the president and founder of Vievu, understands the unique challenge that the need for a quicker and more precise solution has presented.

“Some of the hardest video to redact is body cam footage. And the reason is because of the fast action of the camera and the fast action of the actors in the video. Throw in other environmental concerns like low-light and it gets rather challenging,” Ward said. “That’s where we put a lot of time and development so we could provide a solution that actually will meet the needs of law enforcement.”

How It Works
Included as a new feature in the company’s CJIS-compliant cloud-based evidence management system, Vievu’s Automated Video Redaction (AVR) technology is designed to eliminate the hassle of manual redaction for law enforcement so that they can more quickly provide video to whoever may request it.

The software automatically blurs all faces captured on video – without the need for a user to ‘mark’ the faces prior to redaction. For departments concerned about over-redaction, Vievu has designed the product to allow an agency to “un-redact” an object from the entire video with the simple click of a button.

“Imagine you have a couple of police officers talking with a couple of citizens. You can initially just run the automatic redaction where it blurs out all the faces, but then if you want to un-redact the police officers’ faces, all you have to do is unclick a checkbox and it un-redacts those faces in the entire video. It speeds up redaction by 10x, which is an amazing thing,” Ward said.

The process is so simple, in fact, Ward says it eliminates the need for video specialists in an agency – anyone can use the software. 

One Frame, Total Redaction
Given that the legal requirements for the release of patrol video to the public varies by state, departments that need to blur more than just faces in a video – such as license plates or home addresses – can do so by marking a single frame of an object, which enables the software to remove that object from the entirety of the footage. This is a far cry, Ward says, from the labor-intensive process currently in place at most agencies. 

“Video is 30 frames per second. Most traditional redaction programs require you to go to every frame and redact every frame. Ours doesn’t. You can literally select the first frame of a video, highlight an object, and our automated solution runs and redacts the rest of the video automatically,” Ward said.

Agencies also have the ability to increase or decrease the size of an area being redacted, change the opacity of the blur effect, or switch the automatic redaction from faces of actors to their full bodies. 

 “It’s kind of an unusual request, if you think about it. There are not many industries out there in the video space that require an automated redaction software feature. Law enforcement has identified that need and we’re very happy to have the first automated platform for them,” Ward said.

Although currently only available as part of Vievu’s cloud evidence management system, the company is currently working on bringing the technology to departments who store their video evidence on-site with Vievu’s software platform.

“It’s going to revolutionize how police release video to the public,” Ward said

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