Tag Archives: g20voice

Using the Canon HG10 for G20

IMG_0525Just reflecting on my G20 experience last week and whether asking for the HG10 was the best choice. Yes. It was.

I just asked Colin from 1000heads when I saw him at the Oxford Tuttle to see if I could get a loan camera because they had run the HG10 trial that I was part of before and I knew it worked well for me as a combination video and stills camera.

For this gig, it helped me enormously that I knew my way around the camera already. And it works beautifully, it’s light but robust and to
demonstrate the quality as a stills camera, that pic above of Obama is at the full extent of the zoom, without a tripod.

As a video camera, I thought that I’d be mostly zipping around with my flip for interviews and using the HG10 for stuff that needed to be higher quality especially with zoom. It turned out that pretty much all the video I shot was with the HG10. This is because switching from video to still and back again is so simple so I just wandered around with one camera.

It meant that I had to be a bit more ballsy to stand up at the front with the big camera boys and a couple of times in briefings I was told that I couldn’t video and had to point out I was just taking stills. Minor hassles given what outputs I was able to get.

I could have done with some time to mess around with the colour balance for the video – a lot of it looks more washed out when processed than it did on the viewfinder – but of course I’d left it to the last minute to get it. I’ve blogged everything I shot, I think, but it’s all here if you want to compare and contrast. Make sure you check out the HD versions.

Also I should have remembered that I’ve switched over entirely to Ubuntu since I last used it and I had a moment of panic when I thought that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to get the AVCHD files transcoded without some serious linux-wrangling. As it was I wasn’t able to find the solution until after I’d left the Excel, but Handbrake is a great DVD-ripper and general transcoder (also available for Mac OSX & Windows, I believe) and once I’d had a little fiddle to get the settings right (using the FFMPEG codec rather than h.264 was the main thing for me), I just set up a big batch process to pump out .mp4’s

Big thanks to Canon and to Colin & Donna at 1000heads for facilitating the process – now what do I have to do to get to keep this baby?

You can quote me on that

I chatted with lots of people about my involvement with G20Voice and the G20 summit last week, but a few of them happened to be journalists who ended up quoting me in their pieces.

Rory Cellan-Jones on the BBC dot.life blog was looking for the angle on how social media can be used to organise protest as well as report news:

Also among them is Lloyd Davis, a British social media consultant who told me that 25 years ago he’d stood on picket lines during the miners’ strike but was now a little old for that kind of thing. “They might say we’ve all been ‘captured’,” he told me, “but I’m interested in the issues here, and how we can organise our way through this recession or depression.”

Mr Davis and his fellow bloggers have had security clearance so that they can get into the Excel centre and attend the press conferences, which means there could be an alternative view of events from that provided by the mainstream media.

Laura Oliver on journalism.co.uk asked me more generally what we thought we were doing, of course I told her I haven’t a clue:

Yet while coverage has been opened up beyond traditional news organisations and platforms, the independence of reports from NGOs and other interested parties must be considered, Lloyd Davis, who is involved with both the G20 Voice project and the Reuters events.

“How do people like me get to report on thinks like this without getting some help from somebody – including technically?” he tells Journalism.co.uk

“I have been lent an iPod Touch, lent a camera by Canon to do some photographs and video – this enriches what I’m going to produce but in a political environment like this, there’s a question of patronage and sponsorship.”

There is an opportunity however to find new things to say other than the mainstream media, who ‘will already have got an idea of what the story is’, says Davis.

“I think there’s a gap to be filled in the middle that’s not mainstream media and the people on the streets. There are people being brought in to for some kind of semi-social thing,” he says.

“I have to admit we don’t really know what we’re doing. As usual as bloggers we’re jumping in and seeing what we can do.”

Then Lisa Devaney chatted wiith me on home turf at the Tuttle club and reported on her BrandRepublic blog and caught me rambling about what it all meant:

I saw Lloyd today following his exciting experience being part of G20Voice and got to hear his thoughts:

“What gets me is trying to understand what $1 trillion dollars really is, and how it will make a difference in our everyday lives. There is also a huge gap between the content of what was discussed in the communiqué planning, and how this information translates to ordinary people. The people at the top aren’t very good at communicating what the ideas mean to the rest of us and I think we need layers of communication to push through the concepts and better understand the complexity of what is happening. I don’t understand it all, and that leaves me, and others, to have to trust our leaders. But do we and can we trust these leaders? What also struck me is that here was a gathering of great leaders from 20 of the world’s leading economic powers, and not too long ago we were all in a tense situation of possibly killing each other. It is really important that we are at a point in history they were able to sit down and talk to each other about the economy.”

G20: Lessons Learned

IMG_0256The G20 Voice team did a brilliant job. The first I heard about this gig was a phone call from Shane McCracken on the day I’d returned from SXSWi (ie when I’d just finished a 16-hour journey and was trying to stay awake to stave off jet-lag) and then two weeks later I was sitting in the Excel Centre a few yards from President Obama.

Not everything went perfectly, but the problems were not of the obvious kind that could have been predicted and mitigated against. They were mostly things none of us knew about how the day would run, what the content would be and how a group of 50 bloggers would react to being thrown together to report on something so huge. The main feedback I gave to G20Voice was that I was very impressed by their flexibility and willingness to learn with us over the course of the two days we were together.

So there’s a bunch of things I think I learned in the course of the two days we had together that I’d like to work out and share here.

The only events I’ve covered before have been traditional conferences or trade shows. There’s always *something* going on, whether it’s plenary sessions, product demos or just delegates hanging around chatting at lunchtime, and so it’s easy to blog without very much preparation or knowledge of the subject area. You can do the standard in through the ears, out through the fingers liveblogging or get out among the people with a camera, jump in and ask open questions, following up with intelligent probes.

The G20 summit was not like that.

The summit happens in private, away from any reporters at all. They talk all day, perhaps have a little argy-bargy, but then emerge with a summary of what they’ve agreed – the communique.

IMG_0348I felt cut off. Cut off from the action and cut off from my online tribe because I was being boring – I had nothing of interest to say for most of the day, because nothing was really happening except the occasional entrance of a Minister or Celebrity Activist. I blogged during the day (and the day before) that I didn’t know what to do to be useful. I wanted to be like the other guys who seemed to know everything about everything and were, no doubt, writing Pullitzer Prize-worthy copy all day long. I kept thinking that I should be doing something else, but when I went and did something, I thought I should be back at the desk and online.

But just because it’s a news event, doesn’t mean you only have the day to publish stuff in. I’m lucky, I don’t have any deadlines or a target for how much to write or create, except those that I make for myself. And I was forgetting that I do have an eye for interesting stuff and so the behind the scenes content that I’ve shared with you seemed like it was a cop out, too easy, just hanging around behind other people being photographed and filmed. It wasn’t until I got it all out and had a look at it that I realised where the story was and that I had stuff that was unique.

So Learning Point #1 Remember you are unique and have a unique perspective. Be yourself and trust that you will be enough.

my workstation at the G20 summitIt helped me to have plenty of equipment so that i knew that when I did have something to report, I’d be ready. I had two laptops, one mainly for tracking stuff on twitter, flickr and the G20Voice site and the other for getting stuff done, writing, encoding video and uploading photos. I was lent an HG10 by Canon (thanks to Colin & Donna at 1000Heads) so I could shoot anything I wanted to. I was also lent an iPod touch and handsfree set (thanks to Best Before TV, especially Karen & Steve, whose touch it was!) so that I could record Audioboos – I like this a lot. I also had my flip camera in case I needed to just do something simple and quick, my N95 for backup photos, video and Qiks and my Edirol in case I wanted to do longer audio interviews.

The thing I’d forgotten was that I’ve switched to Linux on my two laptops since I last had an HG10 and I could have done without all the faffing needed to start from scratch in order to transcode from AVCHD to MPEG. I’ve now found Handbrake which is actually very good indeed especially once you have time to play around with it.

Learning Point #2 Take more than you need and ask for what you want and need. Make sure you’ve got all your software up to date and test loan kit before you get there.

Yes, I felt cut off. But surely I was on a table full of bloggers, just like me? Well no, I was actually on a table full of specialist journalists (in some cases operating in a tiny niche) who choose to mainly communicate online. They were mostly lovely, but there wasn’t a great deal of playful collaboration. There were few other media hacker types of the sort that frequent the Tuttle Club.

I quickly tired of us being referred to as “The Bloggers”. I think if there’d been a media hacker table or just a few more of the folk I normally play with, we’d have come up with something more creative. It might have got us chucked out or severely reprimanded, but it would have been more fun.

Learning Point #3 is for the G20Voice team (or anyone else doing this sort of work) and comes in two parts: a) All that bloggers might have in common is that they have a blog. and b) Focus the Briefing Day on helping the bloggers get to know each other, trust each other and collaborate and interact online (there’s a whole nother post on this, I think)

IMG_0525I was really pleased with the photos I took of the president at the podium. I know they’re all much the same and that people all around me were taking the same shot too, but I really like that I got them for my very own. I could not have done so if I’d done what I was told. Firstly, I went to the front of the queue when photographers were called. I took advantage of the fact that my pass said “Blogger” while others had, I imagine, “Journalist” or “Photographer”. I used the ambiguity to be a writer when it suited me and a photographer when that’s what I wanted to be. So I then just went up to the front of the hall with the other photographers. It was crowded and the press office guys were going back and forth trying to weed out people who weren’t official photographers. I felt a little inadequate with my little video camera, but I just stood my ground and avoided eye contact with them by looking at my viewfinder.

Learning Point #4 Be confident, use ambiguity to your advantage, go for what you want.

So by the Friday morning, I felt like I was just about ready to get started. I guess the overall point would be it’s OK to learn as you go, keep asking the question of how you can be useful and remember what you learn for next time.

G20: Behind the scenes

I decided that much of the time, the most value I could add would be to give you a feel for what it’s like in the press room, on that floor that you, watching at home, could see behind any TV presenter reporting live from the summit.

Of course, the press room itself is “behind the scenes” of the summit itself. The 22 leaders and their delegations were off in the Red Zone working out the detail of what was agreed and published. Only occasionally would red-lanyarded people wander into the press & TV area to be ambushed by crowds of bored journalists eager for a story. But what I’m sure you saw most of was well-crafted, polished presentations of those moments and the pieces to camera on the TV stage.

So I’ve three bits of video that show you what’s going on from another angle.

First, here’s Simon Berry getting ready to talk to Bob Geldof. We’d spotted Bob talking to our colleague Todd Lucier and Nick Booth had encouraged Simon to go round and talk to him too and show him the idea of colalife. Nick filmed the real substance of the exchange here but my clip tries to show that even when the people filming and being filmed are fellow bloggers, there’s some further enrichment to come from seeing how it was set up.

Sticking with Geldof, I captured a little of him being interviewed (by someone in the studio) for Channel 4 News (I think). He’s a great performer, as I noted when I saw him at Innovation Edge and you see here the point at which the feed goes live to him and he launches into his spiel. I think it’s good to see what’s going on right next to the camera – can anyone find a clip from C4 to compare with this?

Even when we were in the briefings with Brown and then Obama, pretty much the same pictures were being taken throughout – the great man, at the podium – I was as guilty of that as anyone. So finally, if you watched the Gordon Brown press conference on the telly, you’d have seen a few flashbulbs going off. This is what it looked like from the floor where I was kneeling next to the press photographers.

G20: DFID Youth Bloggers

Sunball and Joe are two of the DFID Youth Reporters, a group of young people who are part of a mentoring programme to help them bring a youth perspective to debates about “poverty, climate change, growth, stability and jobs”

My experience of them both was that they combined a startlingly deep knowledge of current affairs with the determination of the young to call the previous generation out on the mistakes that we have made so that together we can all put the world right.

They were a great reminder, if one were needed, that I’m too much of a grumpy old man most of the time.

[disclosure: DFID are a client of mine, I have advised their web team on using social media to get information quickly out of crisis areas. I’m not involved with the Youth Reporters scheme.]

G20: Todd Lucier

Todd was one of my fellow bloggers with G20 Voice. He’s a passionate Canadian nominated to be in London for climatecafe.org and he explains here just why it was so important that a bunch of bloggers were given accreditation to come along to the summit.

I only found out during the day that Todd is also a fellow seesmic-er. If I’d known and thought about it beforehand perhaps we could have done something together to get people talking on seesmic. I’m writing a post about the lessons we learned – one of them is how to get the bloggers to know each other better and ready to work together better before going into the event. It’s hard.

The video may need some fiddling with – I’ve not been used to using such a flash camera of late and the HD from the Canon HG10 I was loaned might still need compressing down a bit.

G20 it’s lunchtime already

020420091180There’s simultaneously nothing going on here and loads of stuff going on. The bloggers desks have been visited by Bob Geldof and Douglas Alexander. The first of those brought the biggest crowd – you can tell when anything’s happening here in the hall because there’s a crowd of photographers gathered round it and a bunch of TV cameramen walking on your desk trying to get a better shot.

I realised last night, thanks to Nick Booth, that the thing to do here is to focus on what I’m interested in. I’m going to try and get some interviews this afternoon about leadership and the real meaning of this sort of event. And I’m thinking a lot about the difference between what we’re doing and what the folk who followed the “Broadcast” sign above are up to.

In the meantime, you can of course see me on twitter, I’m popping up photos on flickr and I’ve got one bit of video on blip.tv but am struggling as I forgot that since I last used a Canon HG10 I switched to Linux… so the high quality video may take some time.