When considering the tools one must use in order to record some sort of event, they need to consider several factors such as what audience it will be used for, what quality and style they expect to come of it, and how provable their telling of the event must be.
In terms of provability, the spectrum in media ranges from form to form. A written account of some event is almost entirely unverifiable, left to a writer’s word. Photographing an event captures only one moment in time per photo, and can be seen as presented in a misleading fashion. Editing together some sort of report can tell the story in an accurate and more persuasive but possibly skewed manner. At the end of the spectrum, using video footage that is complete and raw creates an indisputable account of any event.
In general, some combination of these things has the most utility for someone hoping to cover some sort of event. For example, if a group were to engage in an act of civil disobedience and had one or several people be arrested for it, they’d certainly want to document this in order to maximize the utility of their
work. If they simply write about the event or photograph it, people may be unsure of their telling of the facts or feel confused as to what actually happened. Instead, a civil disobedience event is most well received if an organization or individual can have raw video like this video of a “Code Pink” activist jumping the White House fence detailing the entire event from start to finish, as well as a video that goes through the highlights including some of what happened and its resolution. With both of these forms of media they can allow people to see the protestors’ intentions as well as trust their telling of how it happened. This coupled with photos and text to contextualize the event can produce the most convincing story about some event. Although this article lacks several photos (it was filmed on the spot with only an iPhone) it shows how to make a complete article with text and both form of video.
In addition to audiences being more receptive to a complete story with those forms of multimedia, one of the biggest forms of outreach is to receive attention from the news media. While news media may like a self-produced “package” about the story, photos and raw video give them the most freedom to report it how they deem appropriate.
With the importance of text, photo, raw video and edited video in mind, one must then ask what actual tools they will use to produce such a video. The simplest way for one to film is, of course, the cell phone. While iPhone filming may seem convenient, there are several downsides to it. Firstly, one must be sure if filming on an iPhone that they film horizontally, not vertically. Vertical video when used on any computer or television screen nowadays consumes only a fifth of the screen when maximized to its full size without cropping. See this tongue-in-cheek parody below:
Secondly, video taken on phones tends to be very difficult to get to a computer for editing/uploading to a website. If one texts a cell phone’s video, the phone tends to compress it, which takes away an already low quality. They can upload directly to Google Drive or Drop Box or email it as well, but this will still have to be done individually for each clip. When possible, a video camera is always preferred.
If you expect some form of resistance to filming, such as police, it is always good to have multiple videographers. Although you can contact me for a more step-by-step description of how to do this, using multiple cameras can allow for the use of an optimal angle at any given moment and not have your video compromised by an opponent trying to push the camera away for example. As for the types of cameras, the “GoPro” brand has become incredibly popular for its small design and the ability to wear it without using one’s hands. This can be invaluable for someone hoping to film and participate in some activity that requires his or her hands simultaneously, such as an open carry walk or holding a picket sign. Small video cameras “handycams” are also fairly cheap and easy to use, and should be purchased by any group relatively inexperienced with filming and looking to make a video without needing to learn anything advanced. If someone is looking to make a professional-grade video detailing their activities, they should hire experienced videographers with professional-grade equipment such as consultants at Solutions Institute.
As far as editing goes, when some event has concluded it is the duty of any videographer, either outside or from within the activist’s group, to get the video online in a way that will maximize viewership as quickly as possible. Macs all include iMovie, which is simple but excellent software for putting video clips together quickly and exporting without a great deal of technical knowledge. If one hopes to create videos that better tell a story, having a video person (or hiring one) knowledgeable and quick on Final Cut Pro X is a must. Though the software is relatively simple, it has a very expansive range of options to efficiently create the best and most meaningful video of an event.
When sharing the video, a person has two options: They can either share the video onto their own website, Youtube channel etc, or they can send it to some other news website that will get it greater viewership. In order to upload directly to a personal Youtube account, one can complete that process from directly in either of Apple’s current editing software packages. If he or she plans to send it to some news site, a better option could be either to upload to Youtube as “unlisted” and send a journalist the link, or share their edited or raw video via Google Drive to them. For example, News2share.com is a website that hosts its videos on Youtube, and will post any newsworthy video to their channel and their website. They can receive video via Google Drive if video is shared to firstname.lastname@example.org. Youtube also has the ability to embed its videos, meaning that even if the video is given to News2share or put on some Youtube channel, it can be embedded into any other news website.
When a video is online, an organization will always have the best luck if it also makes use of all its social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook to share it, and also shares the link in a press release to any site reporting on the event or who has reported on similar events in the past.
While this is just an overview of the sorts of strategies an activist hoping to be in the media spotlight can use, feel free to reach out to SI advisor Ford Fischer for individualized consultation or on-demand video work.
Ford Fischer is an independent journalist, filmmaker and web designer, and the cofounder of News2share.com. He has reported on a number of topics from local and national politics to international conflict and special interest interviews. You can find his videography on IMDB and a partial news portfolio here.
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