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Locating a User Manual for that Un-Branded DVR

Those who have been recovering video evidence from CCTV systems for any length of time know that every case starts as a research project. In some cases DCCTV evidence is submitted with little or no information about the recording device. In other cases the entire device may be submitted, but more often than not it’s submitted without any manuals or documentation.

For those new to video evidence recovery and processing it’s often a bit of a surprise to learn that there are so many different un-branded, un-labeled devices recording DCCTV evidence out in the wild. No make, model or other identifiers affixed to the device. How do you start your research on the device when you have zero documentation for that little black box? Here’s a helpful tip, try using an image search.

I’ve mentioned the image search tip a few times here in the past, but in the last two weeks alone it’s played a significant role in multiple high profile cases across the country. I know this not because I worked those cases, but because the investigators who did contacted me for help when they were at a dead end. In every one of those cases we were able to quickly identify the device, and subsequently get access to the video evidence, thanks to some crafty image searching. So next time this happens to you, try this:

  • Photograph the front of the device.
  • Crop the photo such that the device’s faceplate takes up 80-90% of the resulting cropped image.
  • (optional) Adjust brightness & contrast to bring out the edges and detail.
  • Use your preferred search provider’s image search or “image match” features to locate similar images.
  • Review similar images for a device that matches yours, and follow the links to continue on from there with your research.

Sometimes you’ll find what you’re looking for right away. Other times you may go down several long and winding roads before you stumble on something useful. What I can tell you for sure is that I’ve used this process to great success for many years. Although the recent successes that I mentioned weren’t my cases, this process allowed me to contribute to those cases and expedite the related investigations. That’s a pretty damn good feeling, whether I’m getting paid to work the case or not.

Merry Christmas my friends. I truly hope you get to spend some quality time with friends and family over the holiday. Be safe out there!

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