The impact of GoPro cameras, video-recording drones, and even phone cameras in combination with social media have changed the pace, reach, and audience of the news. More and more of the video footage seen in the news is recorded by the phones of regular people who just happen to find themselves in the right place at the right time. These videos can be immediately uploaded to social media and shared quickly amongst users. It can take very little time for a simple video to go viral.
According to Journalism.org, nearly 62% of U.S. adults are now getting their news from social media. This is partially due to the way that social media has developed over the past five years. The same studies done in 2012 showed that only 49% of adults sourced news on sites like Facebook. But with the improvement of camera technology it has become natural to share relevant content in such an effective way.
Not only will the number of adults getting their news from social media increase, but social media may take over formal news sources. Many news websites have shut down or have had to adapt to their new audience. Journalists have had to learn to make their news articles shorter and more efficient, grabbing the reader’s attention with photos and videos and keeping things interesting to deal with increasingly shorter attention spans. This requires writers to learn new skills, including video recording.
Small portable cameras have played an important role in recording stories that would have otherwise been missed. This includes police shootings, unexpected events such as the military coup in Turkey, and many more. In today’s society it has become normal to take photos and videos in public spaces, which has made the public comfortable with being recorded.
The issue goes beyond comfort – in most countries, including the U.S., it is legal to take photos and videos of things that are plainly visible in public spaces. This includes government buildings and police officers, unless you are interfering with law enforcement operations. Even in places such as supermarkets, where recording is technically not allowed, people are generally indifferent to being on film.
In busy tourist cities it is especially normal for everyone to have their phones out, and it can be difficult to avoid walking into other people’s photographs or videos. What eased people into being comfortable with public recording were CCTV cameras. They have grown in popularity since the 911 attacks; and despite initial protests, they have stuck around for the public’s benefit. Many studies have been done on the unintended effects of CCTV including the “halo effect” and the “displacement effect”.
“Halo effect” means there is an improvement in security in all areas of the city, even outside the view of the cameras. However, it can also promote a false sense of security, and the resulting laxness of citizens can increase petty crime. “Displacement effect” on the other hand is an increase in antisocial activity throughout the city because people want to avoid being recorded.
While CCTV provided a base ground for people to get accustomed to public recordings, portable cameras took it further. Today, with Pokémon Go especially, it is common to see people photographing others on the street as a backdrop for their Pokémon catching. It has become so normal that very few people will protest even if they know they are being filmed or photographed.
Finally, portable cameras have been changing the role of videos and film making itself. John Lasseter, the co-founder of Pixar, has high hopes for the GoPro. He points out that iPhones have already been used to make amazing films and that these types of movies feel much more personal since they are filmed from a first-person perspective.
Lasseter may have an extreme opinion because he believes the iPhone will replace DSLR. But he also believes that the way films work will change with these new technologies. Not everyone is of the same opinion, and some people just see the GoPro as a tool for amateurs to imitate professionals. Today, a brand new GoPro can cost as little as $200 and can make 4K quality videos. But can these videos really go beyond YouTube?
Drones have helped take GoPro cameras to the next level. A simple camera-carrying drone can create effects that are used in Hollywood movies. Filmmakers from Los Angeles, for example, used a drone to film a short YouTube movie called Superman with a GoPro. It was used to make a film from “Superman’s perspective” and demonstrated how easy it can be to create cool film effects using cheap technology.
Especially when it comes to low budget films, GoPro cameras alone can help capture unique shots and add depth to the film. Thanks to the waterproof quality of the camera, it can be used when filming near water or even under water. With a drone they can also do bird’s-eye view shots from above that can look professional if done correctly.
As Lasseter explains, these portable cameras aren’t just for helping low budget movie makers look more professional. Mastering the technology can help create shots that would otherwise be impossible. The first person viewpoint for example, has been done in the past using professional cameras, and it doesn’t always come out as expected. A high quality phone camera or a GoPro can take these videos a step further.
The development of portable cameras has grown exponentially; and newer, better cameras are produced on a monthly basis. The more affordable quality cameras get, the less need there will be for expensive professional equipment that requires training to use correctly. Society’s time-is-money attitude helps push for change in the news and film-making industries alike.