Forensic Animation- The Advantages Of Forensic Animation

Forensic Animation- The Advantages Of Forensic Animation
by Tim McGarvey

Forensic animation is the practice of turning factual reports and detailed statements from eyewitnesses, police investigators and forensic experts into 3d animated crime scene recreations or accident or disaster reconstructions. With the onset of new developments in technology, forensic animation can be created and processed at faster rates than ever before. Improved processing power and more sophisticated 3D software packages means there are more tools available to produce realistic 3D forensic animation more quickly.

To begin a forensic animation, facts must be compiled from as many sources as possible both investigative and scientific. Eyewitness accounts, photographs of the scene, statements from emergency responders and police detectives must be combined with reports from experts in relevant fields, such as weapons experts, engineers, scientists, forensic experts, etc. By combining all of the information from these sources it is possible to do a crime scene recreation or accident scene reconstruction.

Increasingly, legal animation is being used as a visual tool to help jurors understand the facts of the case. Studies have shown that very little of the verbal information that is presented in court is retained by jurors. This increases when a visual tool, such as forensic animation is used. Known as demonstrative evidence, this kind of 3D animation cannot be used to prove a case. However, if created by an experienced animator in forensics, it is admissible in court as a way of providing visual support for expert witnesses that have been called to testify.

Scientists from a wide variety of disciplines may be involved in the creation of a 3D crime scene reconstruction depending on the case. Accident reconstructionists, forensic medical experts, weapons experts, engineers etc. are often used to explain key arguments. Forensic animators must take all the fact filled reports and information from these experts and use that as reference to recreate the crime, accident or crime scene.

Forensic animations are being accepted more and more in courtrooms around the U.S. It can be extremely difficult to explain to jurors the facts of a case without visual aids to increase their understanding and retention of the facts. The overall use of 3D animation in courtrooms is still not as high as it could be due to several myths about the process of animation.

Because of our movie going experience with special effects, there is a pre-conceived notion that 3D animations are largely products of the animator’s imagination. However, trained forensic animators spends as much as 70% of their project hours on tracking down and verifying the data they are using to re-create the scene. At each and every phase, from building the models and objects to the planned movement of those objects, and the environment they are shown in, every detail must relate and correspond directly with the investigative facts, eyewitness reports, photographs, and expert testimony.

All of these issues are easier to understand when presented with visual support, especially the data driven, realistic visuals that forensic animation uses. From civil suits to law enforcement and criminal cases, animated representations can go a long way toward improving the comprehension and retention of information for judges and juries. A crime scene recreation or accident depiction helps litigators bypass the influence of the jurors imagination of the events, replacing it in their minds with a factual, realistic video representation of the events with clarity and precision.

Pricing of forensic animation projects is hard to generalize as each project has a unique set of requirements. Generally, the higher the degree of realism, the more complex the objects are and the number of times the scene must change are all determining factors. Some elements, such as water, fire, explosions are harder to create in 3D as they do not have solid, easy to build geometric shapes. These types of elements take longer and that will be reflected in the price. Some animation studios charge hourly rates while others propose flat rates per project. Other studios calculate a general fee based on a price per second of animation needed.

Changes always impact the cost so it is important to have the objectives clear from the beginning. Changing the point of view of the camera slightly does not impact the cost as much as adding new elements to a scene or changing the scene or location altogether.