Research Presentation: Ethan Young

HOW THE ACTION CAMERA HAS CHANGED OUR POINT OF VIEW

INTRODUCTION

The advent of the personal Action Camera is nothing short of a revolution. Ever Since Nick Woodman, the pioneer of the first wearable Action Camera, the GoPro, made his first sale in 2004, the phenomenon of recording events and actions from the Point of View of the user has spread like wildfire. Videos recorded on GoPro cameras began to be uploaded to YouTube, showing everything from people snowboarding in remote locations, to surfing and scuba diving in the tropics, to motorcycle crashes on the freeway, all from the Point of View of the people that were living these events.
Looking at this revolution, I get the feeling that something is happening, something real and something big. Whenever a technology comes into contact with an aspect of the human experience, people ask questions. “Is this technology changing the human experience?” “What changes are occurring?” “Is it a good or a bad thing?” When Twitter became popular, and millions of people and groups started tweeting the goings-on of their everyday lives, from the average Joe to celebrities to international corporations to governments, these questions were asked. Some people say that Twitter will lead to greater democracy, while others are worried that social networks like twitter make people indifferent to human suffering and cause harm to moral values (telegraph.co.uk). In reading opinions from different sources, including users of Action Cameras, news anchors, and professional photographers and videographers, I see many different viewpoints. Some say that the Action Camera hurts the film industry, and is destroying what it means to produce quality film and photography. Others say it is nothing short of a miracle that has inspired a generation to go out and do, turning everyday people into professionals in their own way.

CENTRAL QUESTION AND ARGUMENTATIVE CLAIM
The question that I want to ask is this: is the Action camera changing the way that we humans perceive our Point of View (not our opinions on life or a perspective of narrative voice, but the literal point from which an individual views the physical world)? If so, how, and what specific changes are being made? In this presentation, I will make the argument that the Action Camera has already changed, and will continue to change what we perceive Point of View to be.

DEFINITIONS AND KEYWORDS
For the purposes of this presentation, I have defined five keywords that are important to my argument. They are:
Point of View: What you see in the physical world around you. The Action Camera gives the user the opportunity to record his or her Point of View, and show that experience to others. Seeing another person’s Point of View was nearly impossible before the advent of the Action Camera. Though this presentation, I will make the argument that the Action Camera has already changed, and will continue to change what we perceive Point of View to be.
User: Traditionally defined as someone who operates something, with the modern definition centering largely on technology. For the purposes of this project I am narrowing the definition of user as someone who records their Point of View with an Action Camera, with the intent of that recording being viewed by others.
Professional: Defined by Merriam-Webster as participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs (m-w.com). For this presentation, I will define a Professional as any Action Camera user who is sponsored by the camera company, or by any company, who makes money by recording his/her Point of View.
Action Camera: A class of digital video cameras pioneered by Nick Woodman (the inventor of the GoPro Camera) the technology has now been adopted by many different companies. They are wearable by the user (mounted on head, chest, vehicle, etc…) and are highly durable and record incredible quality video for their size.
Viewer: Anyone who views footage (filmed by an Action Camera) that shows a user’s Point of View.

OUR POINT OF VIEW
Your own Point of View (as defined earlier) is something that only you can experience. Or at least that is how it used to be before the Action Camera. When you lived an exciting or dangerous moment, did something incredibly awesome, or experienced any other event that you wanted to share with friends, family, or complete strangers, you used to have to rely on telling a story. You painted the picture of the event with your words, but it wasn’t perfect. When I recount a particularly awesome moment to someone, I often find myself throwing around phrases like, “I can’t even describe it,” or, “you had to be there.” If you were lucky maybe you had a picture or a video clip from a phone or camcorder of the event. We still rely on these things somewhat, to tell people the stories of our experiences, but now we have another option: the Action Camera. It is small, attaches to places on our person close enough to be considered our Point of View, and can be on our person and ready to record when we do things that we think are worthy of showing off to others. Liam Bartlett, a reporter for Sixty Minutes Australia, while interviewing Several GoPro Action Camera users, as well as the inventor of the GoPro, Nick Woodman, says: “They’re called GoPros, because they let us amateurs become professionals. And they’ve transformed the way professionals, like sports cameraman Brook Silvester, capture everything from sky-diving to surfing” (sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au). Brook says of the GoPro, “These cameras, mate, they’ve changed the world. I mean they’ve changed the way we film it, they’ve changed the way we see it, and, ah, they’ve definitely changed the way we capture, um, everything” (60minutes).
Full news story: [http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/stories/8561909/the-gopro-revolution]
Neil Amonson is a member of the GoPro Bomb-Squad; a group of 3 men who owe their career of speed-riding to the GoPro camera. They are professionals who are sponsored by GoPro to take their sport around the world, and film it from their Point of View. Neil speaks of watching footage recorded on GoPro cameras: “It’s like you’re looking through your own eyes. Whatever you’re watching the footage through, people, they start to sweat, they get goose bumps, they get nervous, they feel all the emotions we do. I used to call it the Ego Cam, because it’s really - it’s, like, about showing off what you do and how you do it, and if there’s one way to sell a product it’s to show off yourself and I think it’s working pretty good” (60minutes).

DIFFERENT OPINIONS ABOUT THE ACTION CAMERA
For most of use, owning an action camera is about filming things that we love doing. We aren’t getting paid for the footage, and it doesn’t matter. The reward comes from sharing it with others, and having others share with us. The cost of Action Cameras is another reason that they are so popular. The “revolution” may not have taken place if this technology cost thousands of dollars. However, the newest GoPro camera, the Hero3, is around $300USD, which is extremely affordable considering the durability of the camera, and the quality of video it produces. The low cost makes the Action Camera available to a very wide group of potential users. As a GoPro Hero3 owner, I am biased. It isn’t perfect, but it’s close. For fulfilling its purpose of filming events from my Point of View, it works wonderfully. I couldn’t be happier, and I see no downside to the widespread use of this technology. Some would disagree, however. Brook Silvester has around $50,000 of obsolete camera equipment in his home. It was rendered that way by the action camera. He doesn’t need it, and it can be outdone by a $300 camera that is available to almost anyone. Brook doesn’t seem to put off by it, though. He says, “Yeah, I’ll jump on and join em! You won’t beat that army. That’s - that’s the future right there. There’s no limit to it. Everyone is going to be walking around with something like this, and they’ll be having a day-by-day recollection of their real life” (60minutes). This is interesting, because this inevitable future posed by Brook lines up with the idea of the Technium, that people such as Kevin Kelly, author of What Technology Wants (and cofounder of Wired Magazine), are discussing. Kelly would say that we are part of the Technium already, because “The extended human is the technium” (What Technology Wants, 44). Some people see this revolution more negatively than Brooks or 60minutes does. Underwatercinema.com is a website by Rudi Herbert that deals with Underwater Cinematography Equipment and Techniques. In a recent article, Rudi shares some of his concerns with the GoPro revolution as a professional photographer and videographer. He goes into many different reasons why the Action Camera is an unacceptable substitute for quality video production, and seems to be concerned that the Action Camera is tarnishing the idea of good videography. The full article can be viewed at [http://www.underwatercinema.com/why-the-gopro-revolution-is-more-about-go-and-less-about-pro]. I am not persuaded by his arguments, however, but include the article for an interesting quote regarding the Action Camera and its effects on Point of View:

We saw things never before seen, like the scary proximity of sharp rocks flying by on cliff skydives, or how far the ground actually recedes when motocross riders jump up in the air, or the perfectly aligned rows of teeth inside a shark’s mouth. More interesting still, there was a sense of “being there” that could only come from the person performing the act also wearing the camera that records it. At first, the GoPro remained the tool of passionate amateurs, but once the top practitioners of the sports, the ones with sponsors and the wherewithal to perform their stunts in the most amazing locations, started strapping GoPros to as many appendages of their bodies as was possible without compromising safety (or not compromising it too much) then a different phenomenon started to appear: the acceptance of the GoPro as a de-facto image capture tool in the professional community. (underwatercinema.com)

SO IS THE ACTION CAMERA CHANGING OUR POINT OF VIEW?
Yes. It already has in several ways. Point of View has changed from something personal and un-reproducible to something that the everyday person can share with others, not just through stories or pictures or videos from a witnesses’ Point of View, but from the Point of View of the person that lived the event. It has created an ever growing ocean of videos of events from the user’s Point of View, and this resource has changed what Point of View means to us as well. We can watch people do incredible things from the comfort of our couches, and feel some of the emotions (fear, exhilaration, joy…) that they did. It makes us (or me at least), feel like I can do those things too. It makes me want to take chances, to film the things that I love to do, and to push the limits of what I can do, and to then share that record with others.

http://cnocamerastore.com/top-5-action-camera-summer-2014/#sthash.62dTJst1.dpbs

WORKS CITED
GoProCamera. GoPro HERO3: Black Edition - Smaller, Lighter and 2X More Powerful. Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, October 17, 2012. Web. 17 March, 2013. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3PDXmYoF5U]

“Professional.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Web. 17 March, 2013 [http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/professional]

Bartlett, Liam. “The GoPro Revolution.” 60minutes. November 9, 2012. Web. 18 March, 2013. [http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/stories/8561909/the-gopro-revolution]

JukinVideoDotCom. Top Five Worst POV Hits | JukinVideo Top 5. Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, May 23, 2012. Web. 18 March, 2013. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcm80A6kodM]

Herbert, Rudi. “Why the GoPro Revolution is more about Go and less about Pro.” Underwater Cinema. February 7, 2013. 19 March, 2013. [http://www.underwatercinema.com/why-the-gopro-revolution-is-more-about-go-and-less-about-pro]
http://cnocamerastore.com/
Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Penguin, 2010. Print.