I Stream, UStream, We All Stream for Livestream

Today’s Occupy tips relate to livestreaming (and other video recording). Let’s start with the technical specs. I highly recommend playing with your camera settings before going to a camp, march or anticipated police crackdown. Practice recording and make sure you like how it looks and sounds. Here are some recommendations for improved picture quality and sound for livestreams. These work whether your camera is a stand-alone unit, part of a smartphone or the webcam on a laptop.

  • Turn down Gain. This is a volume setting and lowering it will help balance the sounds being recorded. It will also help prevent feedback squeals and volume spikes that are unpleasant or painful for listeners and viewers.
  • Lower Frame Rate. This will help prevent lag during livestreams and help ensure a continuous picture of the scene is being broadcast clearly.
  • Take @OccupyMARINES advice for how to station camera operators throughout your camp to best capture everything, which you can find here.
Now that you’ve got your camera settings right, you can start to worry about the act of filming itself. The general piece of advice for this is to remember that your eyes are much more effective than a camera, and work much faster. When you turn the camera, it will take it a few moments to “refocus” the picture. Slow turns when holding a camera FTW.
  • Capture the Action. If there is police brutality happening, film it. Try your best to focus the camera’s angle toward the protester being attacked; if you can’t get that close by the nature of the crowd at that moment, try to at least film footage of the police actions. (ie, I can’t see the protester getting beaten very well in this video, but I can see a cop repeatedly punching *someone* being held down by other police and I can see cops intentionally driving motorcycles into people.)
  •  Cover the Event. Commentary is a great way to fill in viewers from around the world about what’s going on at your Occupy camp. During non-violent moments of livestreaming, catch us up. Tell us how General Assemblies work in your group, or tell us which food and supplies you need. Show us your People’s Library or Kitchen and let us know what life is like in your camp. Let us know the status of your permit, or known eviction threats. We can best help each other when we’re best informed about what each of us has and needs.
Of course, for commentary I do have a few suggestsions as well.
  • Don’t Shout. I’m surprised I have to put this here, but between the panic of a police attack and the nature of the Human Microphone, a fair few number of livestreamers I’ve watched the past couple of weeks have shouted. Remember that there is a microphone very close to your head and we can hear you just fine at a normal speaking volume, so shouts are likely to be unpleasantly loud for viewers and listeners. Repeat what’s said on the Human Mic, but do it at your normal speaking voice to let the rest of us know what’s being said. You’ll have to rely on the rest of your camp to echo shout with enough volume for everyone present to hear.
  • Don’t Taunt Cops. If you’re the guy or gal holding the camera and you’ve got hundreds or even thousands of people watching your every single move and listening to your every single word…. You might wanna be on your best behavior. By that I mean, make sure your views are being expressed at least as clearly as your anger. If you find yourself in angry full-on rant mode, it’s probably time to hand the camera over to someone else, or pause the livestream, or try silent filming for awhile. We ALL look crazed and unsympathetic when our emotions are running hot. But we’re not all being simulcast across the globe. If you are being liveviewed remotely, be sure to keep that in mind.
And one final semi-technical detail for videographers.
  • Get a light or light-bearer. The majority of the violent crackdowns and arrests have taken place after sunset (though obviously not all of them. Here’s broad daylight police brutality from University of California PD at Berkeley yesterday afternoon.) If it’s possible for each livestreamer to have a technical assistant (ya know, somebody to shine the light in the right location) I think our chances of getting clear footage of police misconduct is much higher. You can’t always count on the police to bring them for you, like last night at OccupyCal. It was incredibly hard to see a clear picture on any of the three streams I was trying to watch of Sproul Plaza last night when suddenly the police turned on two super-bright floodlights and made the whole thing much easier to see for both human eyes and cameras.
And now we come to my advice for viewers. Did you think you were exempt me from my unsolicited tips just because you’re not camping out? Pffft!
  • Be supportive, not bossy. Remember that we’re there to support the people on the ground, and that we do actually owe them a modicum of respect. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen someone who was, like me, at home in a safe and comfortable place, start advising people on the ground (through chat room) of what they should do. Camps generally decide at their General Assembly how to handle a known police threat or eviction, so your recommendations shouted out at the last moment to someone who very well may not be able to view the comments while filming is unnecessary. Whether or not to sit, or stand, or sing, or be silent, or read MILK Jr’s 6 Principles of Non-Violence, or hold an immpromptu General Assembly while waiting for the batons to come out is a decision that isn’t the viewers to make. And it was probably made well in advance of the livestream starting. Alternatively, you may get to actually watch consensus voting in action as the people there – the people facing 100% of the consequences – decide what they will do next.
  • Get the word out. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Google +. You know the tools; you know how to use them; you know which ones you have influence on. On October 29, 2011 Occupy Denver was attacked by police using batons, rubber bullets and pepper spray in the middle of the afternoon. As the day wore on, more and more officers arrived and it looked certain there would be another assualt come nightfall. So we watched. Over 10,000 of us watched that night, on livestreams and the local news affiliate’s feed, and heck, I even spent three hours watching from the Department of Transportation traffic camera stationed on the corner.Why this was important comes int the next bullet point.
  • Don’t JUST Watch. As it looked certain that the Denver PD who had already assaulted the Occupy camp were going to do so again, we called the non-emergency line of the police department and told the dispatcher, “I live in ____. I’m watching your police right now on live camera.” People called from Nashville, Portland, Seattle, New York, Oakland, Tulsa, Tallahassee, and Belarus. Yes, there is an Occupy Belarus and someone from there watched the livestream and called the local PD to let them know, “The whole world is watching.” And then it happened. Every single police officer standing down the line blockading the park with their bodies suddenly turned around, and walked back to his car. (I can say his because there weren’t any female officers there.) There was no police brutality in Denver at Civic Center Park that night, not simply because we were watching but because the police knew we were watching.
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One thought on “I Stream, UStream, We All Stream for Livestream

  1. Great stuff and much needed. I would add: please put a date/timestamp on photos and videos if possible.

    Lots of footage is replayed hours and days later. Also periodically recap what’s going on in the gaps when nothing is happening.

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