Video Guidelines for Evidence Scenes


Peter William Thomas
Senior Sergeant 4891
Video Support Unit
Maylands

Before Setting Out

Consider

  • Do I have all the equipment I need?

  • Is camera & lens combination sufficient?

  • Lights - spare bulbs - correct leads - mounts?

  • Batteries - fully charged - spares?

  • Battery charger, if going on a long trip?

  • Sufficient tapes and labels?

  • Radio mike, headphones & leads - are they there and working?

  • Is tripod fitted with correct shoe for camera?

  • Is there any other non-standard equipment I might need for this particular job?

When on call — check that all gear is in the kits and it is working properly!

Job Details

Consider

  • Do I have sufficient job details?

  • Do I know where to go?

  • What are the circumstances of the scene?

  • Do I need protective clothing or camouflage?

  • Do I need to approach with caution?

  • Is there a meeting point away from the scene — if so when and where?

  • Who do I report to on arrival?

At the Scene

Remember you are part of a team so ensure you integrate with it effectively. Other team members could include:

  • Forensic personnel.

  • Investigators.

  • Police crowd and/or traffic controllers.

  • Fire Brigade.

  • Ambulance.

  • T.R.G.

  • S.E.S.

  • B.A.S.I.

If forensic personnel are in attendance — report to their senior officer and follow his directions at all times.

If they are on their way — wait for their arrival unless common sense and circumstances dictate earlier action.

Unless the scene is still being created, e.g. fire burning, offense still in progress, etc. DO NOT just take out camera and start shooting.

Instead

  • Get a good and accurate concept of the scene and its history (e.g. how did the scene/crime unfold, what are its boundaries, why is the body a long way from the weapon, is there more than one seat of fire, etc. etc.).

  • Make written notes in an official notebook showing:

    • Time & date of arrival.

    • Location details.

    • Victim details (name, etc.)

    • Names of other team members.

    • Times of new events.

    • Brief details of these events.

Plan the approach

  • Plan how you will record your evidence, using a systematic approach.

  • Is it safe to enter scene - will that wall collapse, the ceiling fall in, the charred boat hull give way, is it booby trapped, etc. etc.?

  • Am I appropriately dressed - hard hat, overalls, safety boots, gloves, camouflage, etc.?

  • Which way in (and out) - liaise with O.I.C. Forensic?

In the Scene

Watch for and take care not to disturb:

  • Shoe impressions.

  • Tyre tracks.

  • Blood.

  • Fibers.

  • Fingerprints.

  • Clothing.

  • Bedding.

  • Impacted vehicles/aircraft.

  • Debris.

  • Any other object with potential evidential value.

Always use the agreed safety route into and out of the scene.

Do not be sidetracked into other tasks by investigators without first consulting with the Forensic team O.I.C..

Unless urgent finish off your systematic evidence gathering run before being diverted to other tasks. This includes the note taking process.

Camera Techniques


  • Check lighting — is it daylight, artificial or a mixture?

  • Should the scene be lit — if so how?

  • Select appropriate camera filter and ALWAYS WHITE BALANCE!

  • Do not mix light of different colour temperature unless absolutely unavoidable! Consider using blue filter over artificial light to match daylight!

  • Every shot is important — shoot it as if it is the most important of the series.

  • Take your time — plan your pan — don't chase focus or subject.

  • Don't scrub the scene (i.e. pan side to side, up and down). One clean sweep is much more professional.

  • Before zooming to close up during a take, zoom, focus and pull back first - then do the take. This will avoid the awful spectacle of zooming out of focus.

  • Always take an exterior GV (General View) or 'establisher' shot of the location (house, factory, boat, caravan, etc.). This will leave no doubt as to where the scene is located.

  • Before (or after) showing a BCU (Big Close Up) of an object, do a LS (Long Shot) or MS (Mid Shot) of it to establish its location in relation to other parts of the scene.

  • When covering a long narrow section of a scene (e.g. road, corridor, rail track, etc.), consider a slow zoom from a tripod - pulling focus if necessary; rather than clumsily walking along it (Dolly Shot) with the inevitable, disconcerting sway and judder.

  • If perspective has to change (i.e. you have to see behind objects or demonstrate their separation from each other), then use of a "Dolly Shot" may be unavoidable. In this case use the lens at its widest possible angle (to minimise sway and judder) and move as smoothly as possible. Again plan your shot - route - focusing points - etc., before moving off.

  • In small rooms or spaces (toilets, bathrooms, caves, etc.) use of a high camera angle from a corner will give the maximum coverage of the area.

  • High camera angles are also useful when separation of objects on similar plains is required.

  • Don't be dissuaded from using a tripod when necessary. It may take more time but your shots will be more professional. DON'T use it if there is any risk of contaminating or disturbing a scene, or interfering with the duties of other team members.

  • AIM FOR quality — not quantity! A lot of ground can be covered with a few well planned shots. Unnecessarily repeating or prolonging shots will only bore or confuse, and won't enhance the evidential value of the video.

  • THINK LIKE AN EDITOR AS YOU SHOOT!

Remember

You are a professional — people come to you because you can do the job better than them. Ensure your techniques demonstrate this superiority otherwise it won't be long before they do the job for themselves.

Let technique master technology — don't let technology become your master. The best equipment in the world will never replace creativity and reasoning.



Article submitted by the author
Article posted July 30, 2001