Enhancing a digital image

Recently my CCTV camera recorded an unidentified vehicle parked on my private property without permission. I am trying to read the license plate, but the resolution is inadequate.  In addition to the still image shown with this question, an executable file which plays the recorded video (~40 MB) is published at www.mauitradewinds.com/Test.  I am hoping there is a way to enhance the image detail sufficiently to accomplish this.  Thanks!
Image20100413-01.bmp
ddantesAsked:
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lherrouCommented:
ddantes,

Unfortunately, there isn't sufficient information in that image to enlarge or enhance it sufficiently to get that kind of detail. And, when I try to view the movie you posted, it appears to be cropped to 720 X 240, cutting off everything on the top half of so of the screen (so we never get to see the car).

It does look, from the video, that the video is less blown out than that single frame, so if there's way to get the video in full frame, it may be possible to see more.

Cheers,
LHerrou
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BillDLCommented:
Hi David

I got the same results as LHerrou with the still image.  At first I had problems loading the site to get the video, so I tried to enhance the still image.  In doing so I could see the face of the driver (who behind the reflection of the windshield looked like a cross between Charlie Chaplin, Hitler, and "Cheech" Marin).  I couldn't get sufficient detail to a range of possible letters or numbers.

I got the video and have looked at it repeatedly but, like the still, it is not of a high enough resolution to even filter down the registration plate characters to a few possibles and derive some permutations, eg. could be U, L, J, but definitely not Z, A, B.  My immediate impression is that he is a dealer with a bag of some substance, if you want my opinion.

I have attached a text file with information about the downloaded "Video.exe" file for any others who may "play" it and then realise that it is a setup package.  The program installs a Codec to your system to allow playback of the *.AVI file, and the information in the text file is relevant for those who don't like programs messing with their system without being asked whether or not to allow a process.

As LHerrou has asked, I am curious to know some details about the video that perhaps could help us further:

1. Does your CCTV software create packaged EXE files to your drive, or did you create the EXE for distribution using one of the software's optional functions?

2. If you created the EXE yourself just to distribute the relevant footage as a clip, how is the video data normally stored on your drive if you just want to go back and re-ply some footage?

3. If it is stored in some proprietory format then it probably won't help us, but if it is stored as eg. AVI, then is that stored video of the same quality as the packaged "clip"?

I'm just trying to establish if your main video source data was reduced to create a "distributable", and if it's worthwhile trying to get the relevant footage out in its original quality to a useful format.  The EXE installs the "GeoVision MPEG4 Decoder" to the system playing it back.  The video in it is an AVI encoded with the "GEO-MPEG4" encoder as:
Size: 720 x 480 pixels
Data Rate: 1285 kbps
Frame Rate: 30 frames/sec
Sample Size: 24-bit
Compression: GEO-MPEG4
but perhaps the original source video was encoded with more quality.

If you can try and find out these things perhaps we can offer some better assistance.

Bill

Codec-Removal-Info.txt
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BillDLCommented:
May I suggest that you perhaps add this question to the "Video Editing" Zone as well:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Programming/Multimedia_Programming/Video_Editing/

There are experts who frequent that zone and work with video for a living, but perhaps don't visit this zone which tends to concentrate on still images.  They may be able to make some suggestions for enhancing a copy of the video file.

Incidentally, even with the "GeoVision MPEG4 Decoder" installed the *.AVI will not play in Videolan's VLC Player and a couple of other media players I currently have installed.  Trying to get a screenshot from Windows Media Player and pasting into an image editing application usually just pastes a black frame.

How did you get the still image?
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ddantesAuthor Commented:
Thank you for those comments.  The CCTV camera connects to a video capture card which interfaces with software called MultiCam, distributed by GeoVision.com.tw   This software records camera activity in a log of avi files.  In order to play these avi files on a computer which does not have the GeoVision MultiCam software, the GeoVision codec must be installed.  The GeoVision software can also export avi files in an executable format which apparently installs the codec, allowing the avi to be viewed on the client system.  I have played the avi files, and they appear to be the same resolution as the video in the executable package.  I will try posting this question in the Video Editing zone also.
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ddantesAuthor Commented:
Sorry, I forgot to respond to the question about how still images are derived from the video.  When an avi file in the video log is being played, it can be paused, and a bmp file of that screenshot can be created by the GeoVision software.
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ddantesAuthor Commented:
I have tried to find the moment, on video, with the clearest view of the license plate, and I will upload a jpeg image which may be more helpful than the original bmp. Thanks for your efforts!
test.jpg
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BillDLCommented:
That's the exact position that I was trying to somehow make the characters on the plate more defined.  I tried everythibng I know, and that includes half closing one or both eyes and looking sideways at it ;-)
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lherrouCommented:
The screenshots appear to be more blown out (overexposed) and to have more color noise than the video. But in any case, there just does not appear to be sufficient detail present to enhance or bring out any of the numbers or letters. Sorry :(
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ddantesAuthor Commented:
I am attaching a few more screenshots which were made by pausing the video in full-screen mode.  Someone who saw the plate noted that there were six characters, the first three being NSW.  The last three were not recalled, but probably included a 2 and a 5.
3XX.jpg
523.jpg
X2X.jpg
X53.jpg
XX3.jpg
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BillDLCommented:
Hi ddantes

I'm afraid that the uploaded images are still way too "pixely" to see any defined characters in that reg plate.  In fact, I see that you have added notes to the 5 new images attached.  The notes imply that you have one of the following possible reg numbers:

NSW 235
NSW 253
NSW 325
NSW 352
NSW 523
NSW 532

There are obviously other ways that you could go about tracking the vehicle if you are reasonably sure you have the right numbers, for example: checking car hire companies, asking anyone who know a local cop to run a chack on the various permutations.  You probably know what make of car that is better than I do, because I live in the UK and there are often differences between the same models between countries.  The "NSW" part is probably also significant there, but means nothing to me in the UK because the letters and digits on our registration plates have a different meanings (eg. year and place of first registration).

I wold be curious to know who the guy in the golf cart was.  If it wasn't you, then he may be able to confirm the model of the car.  There was also a white Subaru left shortly after the imposter.  Perhaps the driver may have some information.

Anyhow, this is getting off the topic here.  My concern is how you can identify the characters on the plate when I can barely even make out whether there are any, but that's from the attached image files.  Perhaps images are "optimised" and consequently degraded during the attachment process here.  I know that I have seen colour bleed in screenshot JPG images I have previously attached to comments.  I am going to test something to verify whether this is the case.  I will attach one JPG file as that file type, and then attach the same source image renamed as a TXT file, then download and compare the two.


Screenshot-01.jpg
Screenshot-01-As-Text.txt
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BillDLCommented:
Damn, it determines the file type from the image file header and displays it as an image.  It didn't result in what I expected.  Although the image is definitely badly degraded from the original one after upload, that is ONLY the way it DISPLAYS in the little preview window below the comment.  Downloading and Saving the Target file demonstrates that the image is NOT optimized during upload to the Experts-Exchange site.  So, in downloading and saving your new screenshots we are seeing exactly the same images you attached, but I still can't make out anything apart from dark patches on the plate.

I really don't know what else to suggest that would allow you to let us see the images in what is obviously finer quality to the extent that you can distinguish characters on that plate and I can't.  I have good vision, but I even put on reading glasses just in case.

Sorry, I would like to help but am helpless.
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ddantesAuthor Commented:
Dear BillDL:  I appreciate your best efforts, although we couldn't produce the desired result.  
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BillDLCommented:
Thank you ddantes.  I'm very disappointed not to have been able to help more.
Depending on how important your quest is, it is possible that a company with forensics experience in digital imaging technologies may be able to subject the original source footage to some specialised equipment.  Those services probably cost a lot if you have any of those type of companies where you are, and you still wouldn't be guaranteed success.
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