What Is 3D Modeling?
Essentially, 3D modeling for video forensic evidence involves using video to recreate the scene of a crime, accident, or other incident to determine what happened. It’s a type of computer animation that shows what occurred from all angles. It can be presented in a courtroom and gives plaintiffs and defendants the information they need to prove their case.
Why 3D Models Are Superior
Traditional methods of documenting crime scenes primarily relied on photographs and videos, but the integration of FARO scans and 3D crime scene reconstructions has ushered in a new era of forensic science. 3D models based on FARO scans are the ideal way to accurately visualize crime scenes for investigators and juries alike. No other method combines precision, immersion, and interactivity into one holistic investigatory tool.
All About FARO Scans
FARO scans employ laser scanning technology to create detailed and precise 3D representations of crime scenes. These scans capture millions of data points in a matter of minutes, providing an accurate and comprehensive record of the scene.
In contrast, photographs and videos may miss crucial details, and their accuracy is dependent on factors like lighting conditions, the camera gear being used, and the skill of the photographer. For instance, in the case above, the dash cam footage alone was not enough to show that the defendant was at fault. FARO scans offer a superior level of data accuracy, minimizing the risk of critical evidence being overlooked or misrepresented in court.
3D crime scene reconstructions go beyond traditional 2D photographs and videos by providing a three-dimensional view of the entire crime scene; they create interactive investigatory tools that allow viewers to immerse themselves in the scene and get a precise perspective on scale, distances, and the location of objects. This allows investigators, expert witnesses, and jurors to virtually walk through the scene, providing an immersive understanding of the environment. This level of detail can be invaluable in court, helping judges and juries visualize the spatial relationships between objects, bodies, and other pieces of evidence.
The interactive nature of 3D models allows users to put themselves in the scene, to see – with great accuracy – what a potential witness could or could not have witnessed at the time an incident occurred. Additionally, these interactions with the 3D model can be recorded and replayed for investigators or juries, creating exhibits that follow a narrative of events through a precise recreation of a real-world environment.
Investigators and attorneys can – with a first person perspective – walk a jury through various competing narratives (as told by witnesses or suspects) to explore the veracity of claims being made. The 3D model can be used to challenge witnesses or suspects whose claims or narratives are unsupported by the 3D model and how it depicts the crime scene, the scale and position of objects, and the relative distances between objects or people in the crime scene.
Avoiding Photo and Video Manipulation
With traditional photos or videos, there are myriad ways to unintentionally distort an image or inaccurately represent scale and distance. For example, focal length of the camera lens, lighting conditions, and lens barrel distortion can all contribute to a traditional image’s inaccuracy.
However, these are not issues that FARO scans and 3D models are subject to. These scans allow investigators to preserve the crime scene's integrity by capturing it as it was found, minimizing contamination or tampering. This preservation of the original scene is crucial in maintaining the chain of custody and ensuring the reliability of evidence in court.
Furthermore, 3D crime scene reconstructions enable forensic experts to conduct advanced analyses that were previously impossible with traditional documentation methods. For example, blood spatter patterns, bullet trajectories, eyewitness statements, and incident reconstructions can be accurately simulated and visualized in 3D, aiding investigators and jurors in understanding complex aspects of a case. This enhances the overall investigative process and the presentation of evidence in court.
While bringing the jury to the scene of the crime may have been the only option in the past, memory may be fallible – even that of the best intentioned jurors. With a 3D model, not only does the court not have to undertake the expense of time and money necessary to bring a jury to the crime scene; the jury doesn’t have to rely on their memory of the crime scene to inform their decision making.
With 3D models, the jury can virtually visit the crime scene as often as they like, putting themselves directly in the proverbial shoes of witnesses and suspects. This visual clarity can be a game-changer in complex cases.
The 3D Model in the Car Accident Case
With the video footage from the dash cam and laser scans of the location where the accident occurred, I made a 3D model and created a full accident reconstruction. I was able to see how fast the other driver was going and whether or not he was behind the line when the light turned red.
From the 3D model, it was clear that the defendant had run a red light and was responsible for our client’s injuries and damage to the car. Rather than going to court, his attorney settled with my client for a substantial amount.
It’s clear that advanced technology like 3D modeling offers unparalleled accuracy, comprehensive data capture, preservation of crime scene integrity, improved analysis capabilities, and enhanced communication.
When direct photo, video, and audio forensic evidence aren't enough, 3D modeling and scene reconstruction can be used to determine what really happened and clear a client’s name – or prove their case and ensure a favorable outcome.