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Ed Primeau, a Michigan-based audio forensic expert, plays an important role analyzing sound recordings to be presented as admissible evidence in a court of law, and typically completes 40 to 50 voice identification cases each year. DFI News spoke with him to see what it takes to specialize in audio forensics.Ed Primeau, a Michigan-based audio forensic expert, plays an important role analyzing sound recordings to be presented as admissible evidence in a court of law, and typically completes 40 to 50 voice identification cases each year. DFI News spoke with him to see what it takes to specialize in audio forensics.

DFI News: How did you get started in audio forensics?
Ed Primeau: I got started in audio forensics by working on a case for the FBI when I was an audio engineer. It was a case where three Detroit circuit court judges were accused of bribery. There were several reel to reel audio recordings from a confidential informant working with the FBI. The FBI came to me to remove the background noise and enhance the conversation. You can read the full story here: http://www.audioforensicexpert.com/s-jerome-bronson/

DFI: What kind of training would you recommend for others wishing to get into the field?
EP: I had the ability to learn from my peers and other mentors in the industry. Over the years I learned from experience, as the technology changed, but today, the only sources for knowledge and education are The University of Colorado Center for Media Forensics, The American College of Forensic Examiners International, and Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Association (LEVA). These are the best of the best when it comes to audio and video forensics.

DFI: What would you say differentiates audio forensic work from other types of forensic analysis?
EP: Unlike tire tread analysis or fingerprint analysis, audio forensic evidence is multifaceted: it can provide information about a conversation, it can identify voices within that conversation, it can reveal information about when and where it was created, and most importantly, it is almost always helpful in the litigation process.

DFI: What type of case do you typically work on? What types of audio files?
EP: I work on cases for police departments, federal prosecutors, the American Civil Liberties Union, and defendants that involve audio from telephone conversations, digital pocket recorders, and government telephone intercepts.

DFI: What was your most interesting case, why?
EP: I would have to say the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons brawl, which occurred at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan. My job was to collect all of the video sources that were recording that night including TV20 Detroit, ESPN, The Palace CCTV system, the Palace In House Video Play-By-Play system, and any of the bystanders that were recording video at the time of the brawl on their smartphones. I then found the best footage and created a demonstrative video to help the various triers of fact.

DFI: What tools do you use to perform audio forensics? How do they facilitate the work?
EP: I use Adobe Audition in the office during the initial investigation, as well as in the courtroom to show my work product to the judge and the jury. I love the Mastering and Analysis view because it makes my work easier to explain and has high perceived value to the layperson. I also utilize tools such as the Tube Modeled Compressor powered by iZotope, the Noise Reduction process, Hard Limiter, Diagnosis features, and the FFT Frank Frank Thomas Filter; these are some of my favorites. Another series of tools I use (that are all freeware) are software programs such as MediaInfo, HxD, WinHex, the Windows 7 snipping tool, and GSpot.

DFI: Have you had any difficulties explaining your evidence in court? What is the key to explaining this type of evidence to a jury?
EP: I constantly have challenges presenting audio evidence in court. One of the biggest challenges is for everyone in the courtroom to hear what my critical ear hears. Some courtrooms have installed amazing technology, like video monitors for each juror, attorney, and judge in the courtroom. Other courthouses, like the courthouse in Howard County, Illinois, are very old fashion and reverberant, or “echo-y.” What I’ve learned works well is for me to draft a forensic transcript based on my critical listening skills for each juror or other litigator to read as they’re listening to the enhanced audio evidence.

DFI: What advice would you have for digital forensic investigators wanting to expand into audio forensics?
EP: Regardless of how you get into audio forensics, it requires hours upon hours of listening to conversations, both good and bad, in regards to quality and content. Train your ear and develop your critical listening muscle. Audio forensics is both an art and a science, and developing your artistic and scientific skills takes hours of experience.

Rebecca Waters is Editor-in-Chief of DFI News. rebecca.waters@viconmedia.com

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