Litigation lawyers are increasingly required to review video and CCTV footage as part of trial preparation. That footage can come in a wide variety of file formats and this can create difficulties for the lawyer trying to view the footage. So, what is the right software for viewing CCTV? The answer depends on the file format.
Video File Formats
A video file format is a type of file format for storing digital video data on a computer system.
In a perfect world all video footage would be saved in a universal file format that could be viewed on any media viewing software.
It’s not a perfect world.
Wikipedia lists 31 different video file formats (click here to take a look) but even that list is incomplete. For example, it does not include the DAV (.dav) file, which is what CCTV systems commonly produce (see here).
Software for different File Formats
You won’t always need extra software for viewing CCTV or video footage. The first step is always to try and open the file on your computer – if your computer has software that can play the footage then you’re in clover.
On Windows computers you’ll generally have Windows Media Player and maybe one or two other programs. I’m not 100% sure what comes pre-installed on an Apple computer.
An issue only arises when your computer cannot open the file containing the footage – what do you do then?
I don’t think it’s possible to find a piece of software that can open every type of video file.
It is, however, possible to acquire a few pieces of software that will see you through most situations.
VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player is usually my first option – it’s a free, open-source, cross-platform media player that can handle most file types.
VLC also has several useful features for video review including slow-motion and fast-motion playback, clip recording and exporting, and a user interface that is pretty easy to navigate.
It’s a good option when it comes to software for viewing CCTV and video footage, and worth getting even if you already have media software on your computer.
Amcrest Smart Player
VLC Media Player is not able to play DAV (.dav) files. DAV is the file format that CCTV systems commonly produce, so it is likely that you will encounter them at some point.
Amcrest Smart Player is my choice for DAV files. It’s free software and pretty easy to download and install. The main drawback is the user interface which is not particularly easy to navigate.
I haven’t spent a huge amount of time exploring Amcrest but I know it works. It does have an option to speed up or slow down playback, but I have found it very difficult to jump to specific points in the footage.
It’s not the best media player out there but it’s free and it plays DAV files so it’s good enough for me!
These are just some of the available options – there’s a lot out there. I’ve picked them because I use them myself and I know that they work.
If you find a file format that you can’t open, and the above options don’t work, please do comment below so that I can add to this article (and help you find a solution!).
If you know of other software options that are good, please comment below letting us know what’s good about it and how wide a variety of file formats it can handle.