If An Oak Tree Falls, Will A Camera Record It?

Laurence R. Penn, Senior Forensic Animation/Video Specialist



The storm which hit our area on Wednesday July 21st, 2021, was a wild one with extremely gusty winds, torrential rainfall, and golf-ball sized hail leaving streets blocked by downed power lines, cars riddled with dents, and homes extensively damaged by wind and fallen trees. After a lengthy and circuitous commute, constantly having to find alternate routes due to road closures, I returned home to find my family’s yard covered with shredded leaves, torn from the trees in the adjacent woodland by the barrage of hail. A huge, towering oak in our front yard was no match for the wind that whipped and twisted everything in its path, splintering it at the base of the trunk, sending it crashing into the power lines and fence. Our utility pole snapped, and lines were down along our driveway. As I stood in awe of the destruction, I could still hear parts of the tree cracking and snapping as it continued to settle into the drenched ground under its immense weight. Luckily, the tree fell in a direction that spared damage to nearby homes. Continue reading “If An Oak Tree Falls, Will A Camera Record It?”

“Fore! A Non-vehicular Drive Tracking Example”

Laurence R. Penn, Senior Forensic Animation / Video Specialist
Never one to turn down a challenge, when asked if I could track a ball just over 1.5 inches in diameter traveling at an average of 90 miles per hour in footage shot from a drone, I was more than happy to oblige. The footage I was working with was filmed from a DJS drone at the 2019 Legal Aid Golfing Outing in Plymouth Meeting, PA. Tracking rigid and organic objects in video footage can have varying degrees of difficulty. One of the first obstacles is the resolution and clarity of the video. Motion blur artifacts introduced by extremely high speeds, low lighting conditions or slow camera shutter speed can add an additional layer of complexity to the analysis. The distance of the subject from the camera also becomes an issue. Tracking a rigid body, such as a vehicle, with fixed features that stay at a relative distance from each other will also be a lot less intensive to track than an organic object such as a pedestrian, where posture and reference points are constantly changing. Continue reading ““Fore! A Non-vehicular Drive Tracking Example””

Fighting Fury with Forensics

Laurence R. Penn, Forensic Animation/Video Specialist
If you’re a regular streaming TV subscriber, you’ve probably heard of or even seen the documentary on Netflix, “Don’t F**K with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer.” Likely, you don’t remember the events that took place in 2010; but, as the title undoubtedly suggests, what transpired and is expertly told in the original series is disturbing, unsettling, and saddening to say the least. This article will delve into the story, revealing some of the twists exposed along the way, so consider this to be your spoiler alert.
Facebook and YouTube were about five years old at the time, and this is around when social media posts, photos and videos began being coined as “going viral.” One such video was that of an unidentified male fatally harming kittens. As the video spread, a group started to band together online to try and identify the individual to put them to justice for their utterly heinous act. The team used clues evident in the background of the video footage such as doorknobs, electrical outlets, furniture, and even appliances to locate geographically where the videos were filmed. Eventually, another video surfaced of the same individual performing more atrocious violent acts on poor, defenseless felines. This, of course, drives the online group to double and triple their efforts in identifying the monster before he moves on to harm any other creature or, as history has proven, person. Various clues left by the animal killer leads the online team to discover his name and numerous social media fan pages containing photos of himself posing in exotic places all over the world, supposedly as some highly successful and handsome male model. Yet, something about some of the photos isn’t right. As more and more information is uncovered, and with the help of some of the photos, the elusive and always changing location of the man is identified, just moments too late, by architecture and roadways in the photos and GPS data contained in the metadata. Continue reading “Fighting Fury with Forensics”

A Roadway & Vehicle “Feature Identification” Case Scenario


Laurence R. Penn, Senior Forensic Animation/Video Specialist ::::



DJS Associates, Inc., was retained to analyze dashcam footage of a collision involving a tow truck that was dispatched to assist with a vehicle located on the right shoulder of the roadway due to mechanical difficulties. Prior to the collision, the tow truck traveled in the middle of three lanes, and as it approached its destination merged into the right lane. For whatever reason, a school bus traveling in the right lane failed to slow and yield to the tow truck entering its lane of travel, and instead drove onto the shoulder. Just as the bus passed the tow truck, it failed to notice the handicapped vehicle, and impacted the stopped car with devastating effect. Continue reading “A Roadway & Vehicle “Feature Identification” Case Scenario”