As part of a team experiment of two CU-Boulder journalism classes using various digital techniques and equipment to cover the annual “4/20″ marijuana-law protest and cannabis celebration, reporting-class student Thomas Cuffe set out during the height of the protest with a tiny Looxcie video camera perched on his right ear.
The device recorded video of what Cuffe saw with his eyes, and when he saw something worth saving, he tapped a button to store the previous 30 seconds of video. An iPhone4 that Cuffe carried in his pocket connected to the Looxcie camera via Bluetooth connection, so he could see what he was recording on the phone’s screen using the “Looxcie Moments” app. (We had hoped to have Cuffe send in his best 30-second video clips from the field, which the Looxcie system is capable of, however we ran into bandwidth issues; Cuffe resorted to bringing in his clips for downloading at the end of the day.)
How was the Looxcie as a reporting tool? Cuffe’s report on the experience is below the photo.
By Thomas Cuffee
The Looxcie was fun to use. It was unobtrusive, and though this made me feel a bit like a voyeur, it allowed me to capture a good deal of the action. With a regular camera there is often a barrier between the photographer and the subject. The Looxcie removed much of this, though I imagine that people who saw the large white growth jutting out of my ear might differ.
Being that the camera was attached to my head, much of the video was jerky, though I tried to minimize the wandering of my gaze. Not knowing how well the shot was (as evidenced by cut-off heads) or even if the camera was still capturing video, I kept looking at the iPhone to make sure that the camera was still running. In so doing I wound up taking a lot of unintentional video of the iPhone’s display.
Overall, I thought it was useful — especially for catching an idea of the generalities of the event. More practice with it would of course have helped me to take better video.
Some CU-Boulder 4/20 video clips captured with the ear-cam:
1. As the protesters made it to the Norlin quad, traditional site of the 4:20 p.m. “smoke-out” but which this year was roped off and (earlier in the day) spread with smelly fish fertilizer:
2. Protesters chanting:
3. More chanting, at the field near the Duane Physic building, where the mass lighting-up of several hundred protesters took place:
4. The crowd, with one more minute until 4:20 p.m.:
5. The 30-second countdown to 4:20 p.m. on 4/20:
I'll note that we (at CU's Journalism program) have a few of the Looxcie 1's. The newer models are black and a bit less obvious (if you have dark hair, at least). It's not that I want to use these tools covertly as a journalist, but I'm not so fond of the cyborg look. :) Their value in covering an event like 4/20 is that the reporter can multitask, with the ear-cam constantly recording and requiring no hands, other than occasionally to save or send a 30-second video clip when something significant has occurred in front of your eyes.