The World is Changing, and Smartphones Provide a New Visual Grammar to Record It

by Hugh Brownstone2 Comments

No snark or affiliate links on this story, the first in what we expect to be a series about the increasing role of smartphones in news gathering and social change.

We chose NOT to post a story back on August 13th about a CNN reporter being accosted while reporting with a smartphone on the Tianjin blast, because we felt it really was about the wrong thing: a western reporter using technology from a remote part of China and being jostled, rather than the tragedy and its victims.

We weren’t going to post this story about a Swiss TV journalist covering the Syrian refugee crisis with a smartphone for the same reason: technology is not the issue.

But in the end we are a digital filmmaking web site.

We’ve decided to post both without any further comment on the tech other than to repeat what I wrote in another brief note about the Syrian refugee crisis: we can now see things the way we couldn’t 75 years ago — and now that we can, we cannot and should not look away.

Put differently: smartphones now combine image quality and a form factor in a unique way. It no longer makes sense to think of them as limited so much as providing a new visual grammar that is profound in what it can communicate.

Maybe the revolution IS being televised.

iPhone Report for Swiss TV, from Hungarian Border

Via Vimeo Description:

On 25th August 2015 I arrived at the border between Serbia and Hungary. At this time, virtually no other international media were there. Moreover, no live standup positions were available. Therefore, I shot two standups with my iPhone 6+. And sent them back to Switzerland via local 3G-network. Moreover, I started to film the situation at the border, and the refugees coming from Serbia into Hungary. The next day, I did more pieces to camera, and edited this report on my iPhone. Overvoice was done in extremely hot rental car, on a field near the old railway track in Röszke. Only riot scenes from refugee camp were inserted later in Swiss newsroom.

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)

Hugh Brownstone

Hugh Brownstone

Hugh is the founder of Three Blind Men and An Elephant Productions. He and the team write, direct, shoot, score, and edit web-centric films; conduct photo shoots; and write copy, white papers and blog posts. Hugh also writes screenplays (he recently optioned a TV pilot) and just published his first eBook (Apple's iPhone: The Next Video Revolution). If it's about telling stories, it's in their wheelhouse.

And always with the ambition of authenticity, humanity and wit.
Hugh Brownstone


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