2003 March 21 Friday
On The Amateurish Iraq War Reporting Camera Operators

The cameras being used to broadcast live from the battlefields in Iraq have obvious limits on the bandwidth of their upload connections. Therefore they get very low res and jerky when a lot of movement and change happens in their view. One can accept the limitation of the technology. However, the style of usage by the camera operations is making the effects of this technology limitation far worse than they need to be.

It makes no sense to pan around at a constant rate. That cause the number of pixels that are changed from frame to frame to so exceed the uplink bandwidth that the resulting images become incomprehensible. The camera operators should pan fast and stop and then pan fast and stop again to give the camera time to send a complete image of each point and to gradually give a panoramic view of a given location. I've watched a scene out in the desert where the camera operation constantly panned and when he finally stopped panning he immediately started zooming. He never gave the image at any one location to become fully developed and resolved to a high resolution. The viewers got to watch a series of low res images of terrain that was itself very still and unmoving. This is dumb.

Another thing that would help is if the cameras have a frame rate control where the frame rate could be turned down. I'd rather occasionally look at 1 frame per 3 or 4 seconds of a moving convoy and see it with clarity than to look at some higher rate that has such low resolution that one can tell nothing more than that the convoy is in motion. I'd be curious to know how big the rocks are (if indeed they are rocks) that the convoys were moving past in the desert and to see how uneven the terrain is. But the resolution of the moving convoy images prevents one from seeing that level of detail.

A smart camera with suffficiently sophisticated software ought to be able to dynamically adjust its frame rate to maintain its transmitted resolution in spite of the cluelessness of the camera operators. What is the point of sending us a big splotch of large squares?

As for the reporters looking into the camera: Don't move your head. Just move your mouths. That'll keep the quality of the image much higher. Also, see if a tripod could be erected inside of a Humvee so that the camera operator aiming at you isn't being jostled around by the movement of the vehicle.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 March 21 10:58 AM  Media Critique


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