March 31st, 2017
Factors to consider when Installing Covert Audio
Installing Covert Audio brings with it many challenges. Lateo Surveillance Ltd have carried out many covert audio installs however, we became increasingly frustrated with the inconsistent audio quality identified during the editing process. This resulted in an extensive period of research prior to purchasing some of the most advanced ‘high quality’ ‘secure’ and “evidential grade” covert audio recording equipment currently available from one of the UK’s most innovative and respected equipment suppliers.
Points to Consider
The market is now flooded with covert recording devices from across the world and prices range significantly. Many of the low to mid-range solutions can be purchased on-line. In the right situation some of this budget equipment may well get you a workable result, however there are many factors to consider prior to installing covert audio. These factors will greatly influence not only the quality of the recording obtained, but they will also limit the duration that the equipment can be deployed.
Power is always an issue when installing covert audio, more so in the commercial sector because either the client pays for the visit to replenish the power or you do. Some of the budget recorders will state in their advertising material that their equipment ‘lasts 3 months on standby’ when in reality it will record for 4 hours – read the small print! Ultimately, the more visits you make to change batteries or cards increases the chance that the covert audio equipment will be compromised. The other consideration that goes hand in glove with this is that once a covert audio device is installed and known to be working as desired it really should be left alone to do its job!
Pros – Great when you need to capture every detail.
Cons – Card fills up quickly, power hungry, significantly more editing/reviewing at a cost to you or your client, No timeline on the vast majority of low to mid range recorders.
VOX (Voice operated switch i.e. voice activation)
Pros – Only records when it detects noise which means (less editing) and more space on the card/hard-drive. Can use ‘slightly’ less power.
Cons – NO TIME LINE, depending on how quick the VOX begins to record information could be missed. This all depends on the db trigger level; a device could miss low-level noise.
Very important if you want to achieve professional level audio. Most of the professional equipment will have the ability to control the gain. However this needs to be regularly adjusted and the realities of the commercial world, clients do not pay for an operator to be on hand 24 hrs a day…
Contrary to popular belief ‘it ain’t Hollywood’ and unfortunately, equipment gets found for a variety of different reasons so when installing covert audio and if security is a priority the equipment should have the bare minimum of a card/hard drive lock.
Covert Audio Editing
Editing or enhancing covert audio can be a ‘significant’ cost and in some cases more than the price of a covert audio install.
Editing covert audio takes time. It can be ferociously difficult to improve upon poorly recorded covert audio. For example, 10hrs of footage requires 10hrs of listening, on top of this the editing process starts, learning on the job should not be at the client’s expense!
Commercially it would be rare for a client to want to sit through hours and hours of irrelevant audio and many will ask for two copies, one original and one edited (with any highlights).
The editing software we have chosen to use has a significant cost to it (there are free editing programs out there but the one we have chosen is not). You need to build in the cost or at least make the client aware of this process should it need doing.
Can it really be edited/enhanced? Sometimes, just like video or photographs, if the detail hasn’t been captured then it cannot be enhanced. It many cases covertly recorded audio certainly can be enhanced and in some cases cleaned up significantly BUT for this to be the case it needs to have recorded the audio in the first place. This gives you a starting point to work from.
Good equipment! We are now the very proud owners of some seriously good covert audio recording equipment, the best in the world, by some distance. Unfortunately, it comes with a significant price tag, however we feel that the price is one well worth paying.
Professional Microphones. Custom built high sensitivity covert microphones should be used when installing covert audio and are vital to obtaining quality audio. Think of it covert audio along the same lines as you would when considering a quality camera; you can spend a small fortune on a high end DSLR body however, fit a low-quality lens to it and you may well have wasted your money!
Sighting the Equipment and Microphones. Just like a camera, a covert audio device needs to be sighted correctly in order to give it the best possible chance to record quality audio.
Security. Our systems audio files can only be opened and viewed using encrypted software which means that even if the card was found the files could not be listened to.
Should the covert audio recordings need to be used in court our system provides a Secure Hash Algorithm Certificate with each recording (guaranteeing evidential integrity)
Solutions: a multi-step approach
1. An industry standard fit, using standard covert recording equipment.
Pros – Lower price
Cons – Standard quality recording capability.
Very good possibility of editing/enhancement required.
No/very limited time line.
Increased visits to change batteries and cards.
2. Top of the range solution.
Pros – Best possible chance of achieving a result.
Low power = less visits (reduced cost) + less chance of compromise
High recording capacity = less visits (reduced cost) + less chance of compromise
Less chance of editing/enhancement = reduced cost
Government approved encryption.
Card lock down.
Timed, schedule or buffered VOX recording.
IMPORTANTLY we now have a timeline when using all the above recording functions including VOX (huge step forward)
Secure Hash Algorithm Certificate with each recording (Guaranteeing evidential integrity)
Cons – Increased cost to the client.
We will always recommend the solutions that suits you best. We will be completely honest about what can and cannot be expected from a covert audio install. If you would like to speak with us about a problem that you may have then please do get in touch.
CONTACT & MORE INFORMATION
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The principal investigator of Lateo Surveillance Ltd is a full member of The Association of British Investigators endorsed by the Law Society of England & Wales.