See something newsworthy? Get the footage!

OK, so you’ve seen a big problem, and since you carry a very capable camera in your phone everywhere you go, you’ve decided you want to get footage of it so the world can find out about it.

Great! This really helps activists, and can get problems fixed.

When you’re filming or snapping photos, here are some tips to consider, some based on a chat with a Channel 7 journo following a previous foray into this. Obviously these thoughts are in the context of my particular campaigning interests, but hopefully they’re useful more broadly.

Mind you, many of these pointers are also relevant to simply getting photos and video of any newsworthy event, not necessarily just one that highlights a problem to be fixed.

Show the problem. Show the scale of the issue; some context. A crowded train doorway on its own isn’t a problem. The entire carriage being packed, and people giving up and waiting on the platform is a problem.

Make notes about what it is you’re showing, and post those (even if brief) with the material. Are we looking at a tram that’s packed because the three before it were cancelled (so the problem is service reliability) or it’s packed despite everything running smoothly (so the problem is service frequency and the number of trams)? Why is this significant? Is it part of a wider problem?

Don’t mislead. If you’re aiming to get a problem fixed, your photos and video are only part of the evidence — it may be what sparks further investigation, but fundamentally you’ll be wasting your time (and quite possibly set your cause back) if it turns out you implied something which didn’t really happen.

Don’t be creepy or irritate people — when I’m trying to film packed PT, I’m not trying to film individuals, I’m filming crowds. Occasionally I’ll get stares, and I’d be happy to explain what I was doing if ever asked, but do I think there’s a way to film in a crowd while not lingering on specific people, and not giving the impression of creepiness.

If possible, be prepared. Sometimes things happen spontaneously, and it might be a struggle to whip out your phone camera in time and snap a pic or shoot some video. Other things are regular events. For the summer timetable crowding, I knew it was happening every day, so took along a proper camera and positioned myself at the end of the carriage to be able to get good shots.

Be safe and considerate. Don’t do anything silly to get a good shot, and don’t get in the way.

For videos

Hold that shot. You’re aiming for footage in a news report, not a music video, so don’t wave the camera around too much. Hold it still and steady, and get shots of at least 5 seconds each, preferably a bit longer.

Vary the angles. For television footage, they’ll need to chop up your video so it works well for viewers. Be sure to provide a few different angles. For January’s crowded train footage I included a shot through the end-of-carriage door into the next carriage. It was a bit arty, but worked well — they used it — and helped show context as well — it wasn’t just my carriage that was sardine-like.

Video is, of course, better for TV, but photos also sometimes get a run on TV, and online and in newspapers. A mix may be good, if you can manage it!

Don’t talk over it. If you’re trying to be a reporter, rather than a witness (if you know what I mean) then don’t talk over the vision. The noise from the event itself may be more important than a commentary, which can be added later. That said, spontaneous commentary can work okay.

Finally… but critically…

Shoot video in landscape. It seems to be way too easy to forget that whether it’s on the TV news or Youtube, most video is better viewed landscape, not portrait. Turn your phone 90 degrees before you start shooting – it makes much better use of the camera’s resolution.

The very worst crime in this category I ever saw was someone had filmed something off a widescreen television in portrait mode. For heaven’s sake, isn’t it blindingly obvious you’d turn your phone to match the TV screen?

Turns out there’s an iPhone application to force filming in landscape, but of course the people who most need this type of app will never install it.

More on this topic in this amusing video:

Where to take the footage?

Okay, this is easy for me because I’ve built up contacts in the PT world.

But all media outlets these days look for contributions, because good photos and video are invaluable. Contact the newsroom at your preferred outlet, explain what you filmed and why you think it’s important.

For a story to get a good run, it may be better to initially give it to only one outlet unless it’s utterly explosive (perhaps literally).

And be prepared to be interviewed/quoted, though depending what it is, they may be prepared to take it anonymously, or at least not identify who had the camera.

Does this work? Do things get fixed?

A picture tells a thousand words, but it’s also a thousand times more convincing to sceptical authorities who are likely to deny there’s a problem.

I suspect it’s rare to see a direct correlation from this kind of publicity to a real fix (as in New Year’s Eve), but often strong media coverage can be the thing that gets the ball rolling.

The 2006 weekend train overcrowding footage highlighted that 3-car trains were no longer adequate on weekends. Apparently this was news to Connex. Perhaps it would have happened anyway, but a subsequent upgrade led to almost all weekend trains running as full 6-car sets.

Why is the government on the back foot over White Night public transport? Partly because the media picked up a PTUA press release based on photos posted on Twitter on Saturday night, some of which were posted in response to a request for people to snap them.

Happy hunting!

Anybody got extra tips? Leave a comment!

Names from the past

The neurosurgeon attacked at Footscray Hospital was Dr Michael Wong, aged 43. I went to school with a Michael Wong; presumably he’d be 43.

Digging around, I haven’t found any other detail to confirm or deny it’s the same bloke (there are tons of Michael Wongs, even just in Melbourne, and my usual method of trawling social media networks didn’t help), though I note he studied with a Professor Andrew Kaye – name of another fellow student at Melbourne High School.

Either way, I hope Dr Wong makes a full and speedy recovery.

Update 12/7/2014: Today’s Age has an article on the neurosurgeon — it’s inspiring stuff, well worth a read. He has recovered fully. The article also notes he migrated from Hong Kong when he was 18, so he’s not the same Michael Wong I knew.

Christmas wrap-up

Christmas Day was largely spent with family, eating too much, playing with a giant cushion-like water balloon (which burst when, tragically, nobody was watching/filming) and swapping presents.

Our haul this time around included a Wii U, which should be fun, and for my own personal stash I got some great movies on Blu-ray (Help, and The World’s End), a rather nice framed original artwork, an excellent big book (The Beatles — All The Songs — great for dipping into and reading about the origins of their songs, something which has interested me greatly recently), and a voucher for MTC theatre tickets.

I was pondering if the video game console manufacturers beef up their online servers at Christmas to handle millions of consoles needing software updates, and lots of people signing up for the first time. Perhaps they don’t beef them up enough — Nintendo had problems over the Christmas period, and had to partially shut down their eShop service.

It wasn’t all good news in our house, either: our Christmas tree fell over on Christmas Day, and will need replacing. We already knew the lights were going to need replacing. Maybe they can be procured at a discount during the post-Christmas sales period?
Christmas tree fallen over

After Christmas festivities were over for the afternoon, I went on a PT joyride. Services were free, and unlike the UK where virtually the whole system shuts down, runs a normal Sunday timetable. There were quite a few people touching-on/off their Myki cards — hopefully they were charged nothing, as advertised… obviously not advertised widely enough. But wouldn’t it be good customer service to open all the fare gates? Most at Caulfield were closed.
Christmas Day at Caulfield station
(Of course, the biggest problem preventing more people using the system on Christmas Day is lack of services. Trains and trams were okay, but with most buses only hourly, it’s very self-limiting, even with free rides.)

On Boxing Day I went farming, where I helped to count sheep, and didn’t fall asleep once.
Sheep

I also learnt to speak sheep. “Baaaaaaaa!” (Thanks Kate for the photo.)
Daniel tries speaking sheep. "Baaaa!"

I also managed to bang one of my toes on a metal chair leg, leaving me with a big bruise and pain when I walked, until both thankfully faded away about a day later. Here’s the bruise in its small, early stages. Scary colour to see on one of your toes.
Toe bruise

In Euroa we spotted this Stump People Nativity scene — very rural!
Stump people nativity scene, Euroa

Saw the second Hobbit movie on Saturday. Very good. Watched it in Gold Class at Southland — parked by the non-existent railway station.
Parked at Southland, next to the railway station

Hope you all had a good Christmas.

Merry Christmas

Thanks perhaps to a couple of big presents this year, our small aging plastic Christmas tree looks more Christmassy than usual (yay rampant consumerism!) — though a lot of the lights have stopped working, and need to be replaced.

Hope everyone’s had a good year… have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Christmas tree 2013

#46664

The whole idea of state-sanctioned racism, treating non-whites as second-class citizens by law, seems ludicrous now, yet it lasted into the 1990s in South Africa.

It was always a ludicrous concept, of course. No wonder The Goodies parodied it as “Apart-Height” in one of their episodes.

As a kid growing up, there had often been news from South Africa, of violence in the townships.

Some of my (white) English relatives actually lived there for a time, and in 1984 my mother visited them. While it appeared my relatives treated people well, my mother came back with amazing photos of Whites Only signs in public places, and stories of the segregation of whites and others, entrenched by an inherently racist rule of law.

Nelson Mandela
(Pic from: South Africa The Good News, published on Flickr.)

I’ve had to look up the date — 11th February 1990 — but I remember it was a Sunday night in Australia. I was 19, and I stayed up watching television. On-screen for an awfully long time was a shot of a driveway outside the prison where Nelson Mandela was being held. Those present, and the many of us watching on television, were waiting for him to walk out to his freedom.

The ABC was taking a feed from the South African Broadcasting Corporation. When the SABC went to a commercial break, the camera man would take his camera off his shoulder and point it at the ground, or swing it around randomly. The commentators noted that he obviously hadn’t been told his shots were being relayed around the world.

Eventually, Nelson Mandela appeared, in a suit, walking out into the world, to the cheers of onlookers.

Over the years, as South Africa has transformed, I’ve often thought of that night in 1990, and I did so again on Friday when news of Mandela’s death came through. That night was just one remarkable moment in a wholly remarkable life.

And who remembers this song — the iconic Free Nelson Mandela by The Specials?

And this one, not nearly so iconic: Sun City by just about everyone (even Peter Garrett’s in there somewhere)…