My Own Examination Calls Into Question ABC’s “Enhanced” Zimmerman video showing injuries (with photos)
April 4, 2012


ABC News' enhanced photo of Zimmerman injuriesOn Monday, ABC News released “enhanced footage” (video available here) of the controversial “George Zimmerman arrest video”, now purporting to show “injuries” to the back of Zimmerman’s head that were not immediately evident in the original untouched video. Upon hearing the news, (on Huffington Post) the first thing I wanted was to see the photos… plural… not “photo” but “photoS”. So when I saw just ONE still shot taken from an entire video, I immediately questioned the resulting image.

First, some background. In my former life as a computer engineer, I originally sought a “computer graphics” degree in college, later going on to do video editing and graphics design (I did the art for this site btw), so I know a thing or two about digital image manipulation. Despite what you see on TV programs like “CSI:”, turning a blurry ATM security-camera image into a sharp & in-focus picture so clear you can read the state motto on the license plate of a car parked across the street, borders on fantasy (though, when you have the budget of the DoD, I wouldn’t be surprised if the technology exists somewhere). On TV, they simply work in reverse, starting with a clear closeup photo, make it blurry, then pretend to clear it up to amazing in-focus quality. But that just doesn’t happen in real life. Techniques used to “improve” an image introduce all kinds of flaws (called “artifacts”) to the resulting image. Unlike “film”, digital images are made up of tiny dots. You’ve heard the term “Megapixels”? That refers to the number of “dots” in a picture. The more dots, the more detail. Video cameras are usually MUCH lower quality than your standard digital camera because they have to capture a lot of information repeatedly very quickly. Security cameras are the worst quality of all because high detail video requires a lot of storage space that most businesses would rather not pay for.

Unlike old “film” images where the quality of the enlargement was limited only by the skill of the photographer (and other factors not relevant here), the best any software can do to “enhance” a digital image is make an educated guess as to what the missing “in between” dots must be in order to recreate the image at a higher resolution. The more you “enhance” a photo, the more “guessing” the program must make, until eventually the “enhanced” image just can’t be made to look any better. Think about it. If you could “enlarge” any image to perfect clarity, you could count grains of sand on the moon by enhancing the image taken from a Barbie Digital Camera. Dream on.

The “Enhanced” Zimmerman footage:

First, keep in mind that… while I have access to some very good software… I can NOT 100% recreate images of the quality produced by “Forensic Protection” for ABC News. But I CAN explain to you why I have serious reservations regarding the results they produced. I leave it to you to decide whether those results are trustworthy.

ABC News released the original arrest video of George Zimmerman over the weekend. Immediately, everyone said the same thing: “Where are the injuries”? No broken nose. No blood on his shirt from either his nose nor blood splatter from shooting Martin “at close range” And the back of his head likewise shows no “gash” that Zimmerman’s friends were reporting as resulting from Martin supposedly “pounding Zimmerman’s head on the pavement”:

Still image showing no injuries
Original unmodified still showing no injuries (click to enlarge).

ABC News then released this “enhanced” image taken from the same video:

'Enhanced' image showing 'injury'
‘Enhanced’ image showing ‘injury’

“Discolorations” that appear to be signs of injury to the surface of Zimmerman’s skull are now apparent that were not visible before. On the back of his head there appears to be two areas of interest: a dark spot in the center of his head that looks like a gash (which I circled in the photo below), and a dark reddish area on the right that appears to be abrasions. I also circled the stenciled text on the back of the police car to point out the “halo” effect produced by their “enhancement”. Are these “real” injuries or simply “artifacts” introduced by the “refocusing” process?

'Enhanced' image showing 'injury' and artifacts.
‘Enhanced’ image showing ‘injury’ and artifacts.

I wanted to enlarge the image to get a better look at the wound, but the enlargement process itself introduces issues of its own. Using special professional enlargement software (that can make an image bigger without destroying the quality), I got this:

Enlargement of enhanced still
“Gash” in more detail (click to enlarge).

As you can see, the “dark spot” that looks like a gash on the back of Zimmerman’s head is actually the intersection where four bright Klieg lights in the ceiling are reflecting off Zimmerman’s skull.

That leaves the reddish abrasion. I have a problem with the fact the “abrasion” itself appears curved. Here’s why:

“UN-enhanced” photo of a cue ball with similar lighting:
Cue ball photo
“Enhanced” photo of a cue ball:
Enhanced cue ball photo

See the sharp contrast between the shades? To increase the detail of an image so that disparities stand out, the contrast is raised so that the shades between (for example) “pink” and “red” become more distinct. As you can see, this can make it appear like something is there that isn’t (remember, I’m not saying the injury ISN’T there, just pointing out that the results are highly questionable.)

I was seriously put off by the fact there weren’t more pictures of the “injured area” than just that one screen shot released by ABC; anything to show “movement” of the affected area as Zimmerman turned his head would add credence that the discolored area was actually ON Zimmerman and not just a flaw introduced by the “enhancement”. I scoured the Net for more “enhanced” photos other than that single still released by ABC News. There are none. The ABC News website has the video of the newscast touting the “enhancement” (see link at start of this op/ed), but it “jumps”, skipping the frames both immediately before and after so you can’t see if the “injured” area moves (notice how the scene jumps from an obscured shot to the highly “enhanced” still image):

ABC’s “Enhanced” video does not show injury in motion.[flv: 512 288]

(Note: The most likely reason for the “jump” is because the still image is enhanced more than the complete video for maximum clarity. I myself could not “un-blur” the original video to the point where you could see four distinct light sources reflecting off Zimmerman’s head using the software I have available to me. Trust me, I tried for almost an hour.)

There are actually TWO separate arrest videos on YouTube. The unenhanced ABC footage and a second (supposedly) “raw” video taken from two different cameras with no annoying graphics in the way (though with huge chunks omitted). Going through both videos frame-by-frame, I “enhanced” several key frames, finding no evidence of injury (though note, even though my own software is not as high-quality as the high-dollar forensic software used by ABC, I believe my enhancements are “good enough” IMHO to raise serious doubts about the ABC still frame claiming to show injuries):

Unmodified frame from original video.

My enhancement
After my enhancement (click to zoom).

Several other images following my own “enhancement” (click to enlarge):

My own enhancement of same frame
My own enhancement of the same frame used in the ABC “enhancement”
(notice no border around car-text that I circled in ABC’s enhanced still).


Enhancement from “raw” video.


Reverse angle of officer inspecting head
Reverse angle shot of officer “supposedly” inspecting Zimmerman’s head for 1.7 seconds (from “raw” video).

Big question here: WHERE IS THAT OFFICER? A brief Google search for ANYTHING about the officer that “checked out the back of Zimmerman’s head” turns up nothing. Nada. Zilch. The original police report claims Zimmerman “was bleeding from the head and nose”, yet just 38 minutes later with no medical attention, there is no blood to be seen anywhere and his injuries are so faint it requires forensic video analysis to try and determine what (if anything) the police may have seen. Did he see a wound? There is no record of him making a statement on the subject. Sure would be nice if he made all this “speculation” and “video enhancement” unnecessary, huh?

Next room
Next room and a closer camera. Best shot closeup of Zimmerman’s head.
(why ABC didn’t use a still from this particular clip remains a mystery).

Of course, all this speculation would be totally unnecessary if the Sanford, FL police had actually TAKEN PHOTOS of both the crime scene and Zimmerman’s supposed injuries. The very fact that they did not makes me question whether they witnessed any injury at all.

Have you noticed the way all coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting fell off the radar literally overnight upon ABC’s release of an image supposedly showing injuries to Mr. Zimmerman consistent with his story? People now think they’ve seen evidence that makes it more difficult to defend the unarmed young man that was shot to death for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What if the conclusion as to what that ONE image actually shows was 100% totally wrong? Doesn’t matter. They got the story off the front page. I have to think that’s exactly what somebody wanted.

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April 4, 2012 · Admin Mugsy · No Comments - Add
Posted in: General, Guns & Violence, myth busting, Racism

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