dr wooo on Fri, 7 Apr 2000 21:33:40 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> media action

Camcorder Kamikazes 

 Utilising Technology As Mobile Media Units To Ensure Public
 Right To Democratic And Ethical Television 

 Video activism is born from frustration with the limited interests of the
 established corporate media. Mainstream media dis-empowers the
 individual by dictating what issues make or donít make the news and
 reports are biased towards the large corporations who offer
 advertising and economic cooperation with the stations owners. Hand
 held video recorders or camcorders have revolutionised accessibility to
 the structures of media production and as such has allowed for
 grassroots issues to be supported through the ready accessibility of
 visual documentation. 

 The media is modern manís most effective tool of persuasion, now
 dominating the role of storyteller and teacher. The current monopoly
 of media ownership and information distribution is in the interests of
 the power and wealth of the few controlling elite. Effectively
 dissenting voices are squashed and instead we must watch what we
 are told to watch. The failure of mainstream media to adequately
 cover social and environmental issues leads to massive ignorance by
 the public about issues not deemed worthy of coverage. 

 The de-centralisation of the media would allow for more widespread
 coverage and increased awareness. Recent improvements in
 equipment allow a single person to provide broadcastable footage with
 less technical baggage between themselves and their subject, allowing
 them to uncover stories larger organisations can or will not. Television
 stations rarely attend blockades in remote areas and often only provide
 one camera crews for relatively short periods of time at events such
 as Reclaim the Street because of the large costs involved. Video
 activists working for free and able to sustain longer coverage of
 events, are often the only camera present when conflict arises. 

 With or without a camera present activists risk violence from
 retaliation from right-wing groups such as loggers and police.
 Cameraís discourage violence or may be essential to proving liability
 later, thus offering security for all involved. For this reason though the
 video activist can become the targets of angry people and should not
 arouse conflict but take an observational role. 

 Video activists bridge the gaps in corporate media by utilising new
 technology to convey what would otherwise be unseen and thus can
 be integral to redefining political agendas. Their are multiple other
 avenues available to video activists to get the more complete picture
 shown. Contributing footage to mainstream media by supplying
 television stations with footage is a great way to get publicity for your
 campaign. They are usually only interested in high action footage, and
 will pay between $50 - 100 per station or larger amounts for exclusive
 footage. Pre-negotiate pricers before handing over tapes and never
 give them your originals! Video activists can also get involved with
 community television stations by either submitting footage or editing
 and broadcasting their work. Compilations of stories in the form of
 video zines such as News Unlimited or Undercurrents, or projecting
 footage at dance parties are other effective non-corporate avenues to
 reach audiences. Community groups are also often pleased to have
 screenings at fundraisers. The internet is beginning to accommodate
 video footage although at present a series of stills or slides taken from
 the footage is much faster and more accessible. 

 Video activists can also provide media training for others. Practicing
 interviews and training others to use equipment greatly empowers the
 group and shares responsibilites. Two cameras is always better than
 one to cover an action. It is important to involve other members of the
 group in decisions about the intended purpose of all footage and to find
 out what the real needs of the campaign are. Involvement will ensure
 more effective use of time and tape stock when gathering evidence
 and testimonies and finding the right people to articulate about the
 campaign. Many activists are hesitant to be filmed but I think it is
 important that people get comfortable with cameras and utilise their
 presence by informing them about what is actually happening. Often it
 is very hard for a viewer that was not involved to understand the
 situation unfolding before their eyes without some narration from those
 involved. With this intimacy however video footage is often more
 compelling than that a corporate television crew could provide. 

 It is important not to forget that the most persuasive pieces are still
 objective. Try interviewing a miner, logger or locals about how they
 feel. Experts on the local regions biodiversity also provide much
 needed balance to the passions of activists. Your number one
 objective of documenting your story is to persuade your audience, and
 not to provide propaganda. 

 Corporate television with its vested interests has probably already
 done that. The video activist has to be more tactical if wanting to
 change peoples opinions. 

 News is always relatively subjective because it relates the interests of
 the filmmakers as they provide information. Mainstream media would
 love us to believe their myth of objectivity. It is the video activists job
 to find the real story forgotten by big budgets, advertising and target
 audiences. A video activist may take six months rather than half an
 hour to complete a story allowing for much greater coverage . Your
 video is of great value to the community because it provides a voice
 for the major minority. 


 * Broadcast quality camera - Video 8 with Hi8 tapes is higher quality,
 Hi8, SVHS, Mini DV, Betacam 
 * long life batteries in a belt pack/bum bag 
 * headphones to monitor sound 
 * wide angle lens and filter to protect your lens 
 * directional/cardioid microphone attached to camera 
 * lapel microphone 

 * Donít cut off peoples heads, rather give them some "looking" room
 i.e. some visual space in the direction in which they are looking 
 * Try to use a lapel microphone or a cardioid/directional microphone
 attached to the top of the camera....camera microphones are usually
 poor quality and your video is 50% sound 50% vision. Donít
 underestimated the ability of poor quality sound to ruin the
 effectiveness of your work and make audiences tune out and off! 
 * Donít interview people in front of windows! The contrast is too
 much for the camera and audiences eyes! 
 * Use manual instead of automatic focus unless you are unsure of you
 abilities. Automatic white balance and focus is easier to use in high
 action sequences. 
 * Try to keep some distance between yourself and the main action. If
 you are right in it you probably wonít be able to see what is happening
 and there is a large chance your equipment may get broken. 
 * Donít ever get your equipment wet or dusty or sandy! It will kill it!
 Try to get a dust/rain jacket or at least a clear plastic bag. You can
 make covers out of clear pvc. Or get a friend to hold an umbrella over
 you. Some cameras can be fitted into a splash proof case (Sony have
 released a range). This is a good investment to protect your baby! 
 * Cameras should be serviced every 3 months to clean the heads etc.
 Head cleaning tapes strip the heads so use infrequently. 
 * Take out Personal Effects Insurance as it covers your equipment for
 lost, theft and damage anywhere within Australia. 
 * Always take more batteries and tapes than you think you will need! 
 * When the action is happening let the camera role because conflict
 erupts in seconds! 
 * Two cameras is always better than one! 
 * Ask people to explain what is happening. Interaction is exciting
 * Try to Log your footage on site or as soon as you get home. All it
 takes is a notepad and youíll need one anyway to get all the important
 information and names (especially of dodgy cops) . 
 * It takes 3-4 seconds for the human eye to understand what it sees so
 make sure each shot is long enough and still enough. You also need
 extra time to edit with so donít cut shots too short! 
 * Tripods are good for interviews but no good for action because you
 simply donít usually have time or space. Practice holding the camera
 as still as possible. Zoom aggravates hand shake so move up to the
 action yourself and stay in wide shot if possible unless you are
 confident. Practice makes perfect! 
 * Police may try to confiscate your footage so have it well hidden or
 convoyed out by people you can really trust. Never give Police or
 T.V. crews your master tapes! 

 AND RADIO...... 
 If you get good enough sound recordings on your video you can
 provide radio as well as televisions stations with your footage. Getting
 good sound effects and atmos ( 1 min of background noise) helps
 editing footage later. 

 COMMUNITY TELEVISION Most captial cities have Channel 31 as
 their dedicated community televsion band width. Melbourne Channel
 31 has a highly successful fortnightly environmental activist
 programme on Monday nights called Access News (ph 03 9663 6976)
 and Actively Radical Television in Sydney run a fortnightly
 environmental activist program called GreenSeen. They seem happy to
 edit footage, run stories or even train up those willing to be serious and
 dedicated and will provide a copy of the finished story. 

 Contact greenseen@hotmail.com. Every other week their 9.30 pm
 Sunday slot is filled by a poltical activist programme called "Voices of
 Protest" ARTV screens 9-11pm Sunday nights at Emu Tek Cafe, 149
 Enmore Rd, Enmore. www.emucafe.com.au. 


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