Police Need Help Accessing Critical Surveillance Evidence

Just got a call from law enforcement requesting help accessing critical surveillance evidence.

Here's the problem. The video is recorded on an old Tempest Microsystems DVR. To the best of my knowledge, they are long out of business.

They have a .jmv file but no way to play it back. They're stuck.

How can they view this video? Can anyone help?


Can you post part of the data files somewhere? Unless the video is encrypted or using a proprietary format it is usually possible to extract the frames using a couple of lines of code.

Morten, Thanks. How can get part of it without them sending me all of it? I can ask but I am sure they would be concerned about it accidently being publicly released?

The easiest would be is if someone has an old client that they can give to the PD. I am assuming that the archive consists of multiple files, some would be index files, others would be video data. You can usually tell by the extension and size of the files. If you just post one of the data files, we won't have access to all the evidence. Alternatively, they can send you a recording of no relevance. We can then try to do a parser and hand that over to the PD (if successful).

Hopefully someone has an old client :)

Morten, thanks for the offer. Let's give a few days first to see if someone has an old client. If not, I may put them in touch with you!

Have they tried just playing it with VLC? That'll do a pretty good job of decoding almost anything.

This link might also be helpful: California installer on Tempest support

This page has a download link. Not sure what the software linked does though: Tempest Intercepter zip file

Brian, thanks! I'll take a look and share with them.

Btw, this is why dealers just send you RFPs! :)

So I checked out the Tempest software. It's a client but I don't yet see how to import or playback files. I checked the included user manual which implies that you export files out as AVIs.

Given that it's not an AVI, I am not sure if it's an older version of the software or...

JMicroVision give that a shot...

Edit: probably jumped the gun on that, I dont think its related, it appears to be more of a CAD program. Might be worth trying anyway.

I always carry a little four-channel USB "DVR adapter" with my laptop... in a pinch, it can be connected to the output of the old DVR, and record its playback in realtime.

Matt, good suggestion! Are you then essentially recording the screen of the DVR as it playbacks or?

Any model you particularly like?

Yeah, that's about it. Something I started doing with some old National DVRs we installed that actually had no way to export: no USB, no network, no optical drive, no capability for an optical drive. Wouldn't recommend it for more than a few minutes of video on a minimal number of cameras, since it IS very time-consuming.

I was doing it at first with an Adaptec GameBridge, a USB capture adapter that was sold for the purpose of playing a console game through a laptop or computer screen, and recording your game. Never got that to work with Windows 7 though, so when I was given a whack of credit at a DealExtreme-type online store, I picked up... well, actually, I think it was this exact model: Easy CAP001 4-Channel USB 2.0 Video Capture Adapter - considering the price, the software is actually quite serviceable, too.

If there was a like button, I'd give this a like!

Good option to have for an old system where all else fails.

I was going to suggest that you could do the same thing with an encoder, and just attach it to the monitor output (which I've done with a couple DVRs), but there sure as hell isn't an encoder that only costs $9. I might buy one of those just because.

Hey, the price drops $2 if you buy three or more... group buy, guys? :)

Actually I will say that the USB capture may be complex for some people, and officers aren't known for being the most technically skilled. All the cops in charge of systems I've done have said this, and told me I need to make things "cop proof." I thought they were joking at first.

So in that case, you could get a single-channel micro DVR to do the same thing. This one looks to be especially easy. I don't think you can get easier than green for go and red for stop.

There is that... although I will say, this unit is pretty close to idiot-proof. Plug it into a Win7 machine, the drivers download and install automatically, and the software, as I say, is pretty good for what it actually is.

Interesting sidebar, though we still don't have a solution for the Tempest Microsystems situation. From what they explained to me, the video is no longer on the DVR so they have to get to playback / convert this .jmv file.

I'd second giving VLC a try, possibly along with K-Lite Codec Pack.

I'd also suggest that it's likely the DVR is simply rebranded from some other manufacturer, and if it can be identified, something "for" another DVR may work. We've seen this several times on CCTV Forum, where someone would come in with some no-name machine, post some pictures, markings, serial number, etc., someone identifies it as being made by one offshore OEM, and they're able to convert the video using the software from another machine from the same OEM.

EVerybody keeps mentioning VLC, Media Player Classic is also another great media player that can play almost anything. Here is a link to download:

Oh yeah, forgot about MPC. When I was doing IT support at a digital-arts school, that was part of our standard Win2K and then XP builds - very small, lightweight, worked great for the output of various 3D animation packages (XSI, 3DSMax, etc.) That was pre-VLC, I think, or VLC was very early alpha.

Of course, VLC has other great features like scripting and such, but those aren't really an issue in this case.

I got a message recommending a consulting firm named Forensic Video Solutions.

John, jmv is an extension for jpeg movies coming out of the MPEGDisplayMorph class which was developed to run under BSD back in 2001. My guess is that the DVR was built using NetBSD or FreeBSD and they wrote their codec using that class. There is a program which appears to have used the same class for video display called Scratch. It is worth trying to open it in that program.

Matts suggestion of MPC is good. VLC, MPC, etc all use FFMPEG libraries so they read pretty much the same files, but MPC will walk through more codecs. You might try changing the extension of the file to hint it to the program. Try using .mjpeg or .mjpg.

Otherwise you may need to open it with FFMPEG, but that will require to figure out how the stream is composed, timing, sync, mux, etc. This is a lot of work.

Did you mean mikes suggestion of MPC? ;)

Bob, thanks for the detailed feedback.

I've used Scratch before and just tried it again a moment ago. I am a little confused because it's a children's programing tool. I can't find a way to import / playback external video. Even if I could, what to do with it? Can Scratch transcode it to mjpeg, avi or?

Sorry Mike...yes I meant your suggestion of MPC.

John, there were several references to someone incorporating the player and needed libraries for .jmv files into the Scratch Movie Player Morph. It is not the Scratch development tool itself, but rather the player that someone assembled for it that could play these files. I know, it sounds weird, but it is the only thread on .jmv files around.

Like all JPEG streaming, the method of muxing and streaming is non-standard. So you have to figure out who put the glue together. Try it...may work,may not. Anyone familiar with FFMPEG development should be able to tell you how to open the stream. Might try posting on WOWZA board to see if anyone there has an idea. Those guys tend to have deep technical understanding of almost all stream formats.

Good luck...total substantiation for only using standard formats for storage. Of course this probably preceeded standards.

Hi, John, during the years of your professional practices, is this a common situation you receive from your customers?

it appears to me that the majority of enterprise who install the surveillance never had a chance to 'review' those recording.

Bob, thanks. The Morpho player looks a lot more promising. I'll pass it along.

TC, not being able to play back exported video is a common problem. So long as the DVR/VMS vendor is in business, it's usually just a temporary hassle as eventually you can get through to tech support and get a link to download a player.

Tempest Microsystems is a bigger problem because they used to be a significant supplier and then went out of business. As for cloud video's impact on this, feel free to start a new discussion.

Is there any update on this? I'm curious if they ever were able to get their video.

They said they were not able to access it using any of the software listed in this thread.