Using 360 Video for Crime Scenes - The Future of Crime Scene Investigation + Documentation

The advent of 360 videos opens the door to improving crime scene investigations for law enforcement. Virtual reality (VR) motion headsets have already gained popularity in the gaming industry, as they enter law enforcement. The technology is in demand and here to stay and police agencies have the opportunity to utilize its benefits to ensure criminals wind up in prison.

What 360 Videos Are

The concepts of virtual reality and panoramic video have been around for decades, but have advanced significantly in recent years to become affordable, practical and powerful for several industries. Real estate agents, for example, use 360 videos to present virtual tours of the properties they're selling. Watching 360 videos requires wearing VR goggles, allowing the viewer to experience a simulated video scene as if they were physically there.

A 360 video is comprised of various photos from different angles, so that you can see every corner of a room through a VR headset. The photos are "stitched" together to create a spherical effect. 

What More Expensive Cameras Allow

Since 360 videos can be made from cheap cameras that cost under $200, it's important to understand the wide range of quality that's possible. The best quality 360 cameras cost over $1,000 and some run up to $60,000. The most expensive models deliver the highest resolution stereoscopic 3D video, as opposed to lower resolution monoscopic 2D video.

Higher quality 360 cameras have greater capture capabilities. One of the primary reasons to invest in a higher grade 360 camera is durability. Other features that define higher priced models include waterproof quality, a removable durable battery that lasts up to two hours, USB-C port compatibility and a touchscreen. 

An example of a high quality model is the GoPro Max, which allows for the live streaming of 6k spherical video. It's designed for hypersmooth video stabilization and comes with a very user-friendly video editing system.

How 360 Can Be Used for Investigations

Investigators can use 360 videos to speed up analysis. Instead of looking at several different photos in a slide show, the entire scene can remain in tact for forensic scientists to view at once remotely at any time. It means less yellow tape and a quicker return to normal conditions at the crime scene.

Law enforcement can utilize 360 videos for various other reasons, including training sessions. It's an effective way to cut training costs and speed up learning curves. The combination of realistic video and acoustics makes the training inspiring and intriguing. Other significant ways in which VR technology will improve the legal system include reducing unnecessary hearings and cutting litigation costs.

Using 360 During a Trial

In a court case, 360 videos can virtually take jurors to the crime scene without leaving the courtroom. By seeing vivid panoramic imagery, jurors will have a better understanding of the crime scene. Traditionally, sketches and photos have been used to depict crime scenes, but this evidence isn't always the most effective. Documenting bullet holes and blood is more realistic with 3D rather than 2D visuals.

Methods of Bringing Equipment to the Scene

Since law enforcement agencies routinely visit crime scenes to collect evidence, it's advantageous to invest in portable equipment that delivers high quality imagery. To get the best footage, you need a tripod to keep the camera steady. Using flexible mounts on a cage allows for easier set up. To get the best effects, you should set up at least six cameras, synched with the same software. This equipment can be easily transported on a camera cart.

Editing and Production

While editing and production might seem complex on the surface, several 360 video cameras are equipped with easy editing features. Capture devices with automatic on-camera stitching and footage processing can help save time on editing and production. If you do use editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro, the steps are:

  1. import footage
  2. adjust settings with Preview Window on VR Mode
  3. edit video on a timeline: trim, slice and add color
  4. export footage

Staying Updated on Technological Evolution

Top manufacturers of 360 video cameras include Nikon, Samsung, GoPro, Kodak, Nokia, Acer and Garmin. The technology is rapidly evolving toward more flexible, seamless and user-friendly qualities. Easy integration with other technology is another characteristic that is improving with each new generation of 360 video cameras.

More advanced models include Bluetooth connectivity and multiple microphones to capture cleaner audio and spatial effects. The more capture options (lens, burst mode, timelapse, slow motion), the more powerful the production can be.


Technology is evolving rapidly toward smart and virtual solutions. Video plays a major role in this transformation, which can benefit law enforcement agencies tremendously. Ultimately, 360 video will improve crime scene investigations, while building solid evidence against criminals. This technology will strengthen law enforcement capabilities the more widely it is adopted.