Behind the Cameras

Behind the Cameras is a six-month research project that aims to develop an understanding of the work practices of camera operators, with the aim of developing novel systems and infrastructures that support this activity by the masses.

Recording and sharing video footage online by members of the public is an increasingly commonplace activity, driven by the prevalence and ownership of smartphones and fast mobile networks, and enabling ad-hoc documentation of cultural and leisure events (concerts, festivals, sporting events etc), and more recently supporting citizen journalism. However, broadcasters raise concerns regarding quality and measurable provenance – even though there will typically be large amounts of simultaneous and complementary footage generate by the crowd, compositional coherence is often limited, especially when compared with the broadcast quality material produced by a skilled outside broadcast team.

Behind the Cameras is developing insights from the expert work practices of professional camera operators working in film, television, and new media. We are investigating camera work at two opposite ends of the spectrum of expertise: studying professional camera workers in action, and secondly how they learn or are taught how to be professional camera workers. This includes both the practical manipulation of operating a camera, and the social organisation of camera work on the ground.

Funded by the Mixed Reality Lab’s EPSRC Platform Grant (EP/F03038X/1), we are working with two external partners who are providing both specific sites for ethnographic study, and opportunities for including expert contribution. Blast Theory ( are renowned for creating new forms of performance and interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet, live performance and digital broadcasting. Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies ( includes commercial recording studios, a film production company and a dedicated facility for media education.

Ultimately the project will design and propose novel systems that link and integrate video media spaces on-the-ground and online to teach and support non-professional users. Still cameras increasingly aim to reduce user error with smile and face detection, shake and red-eye removal – we hope to suggest a new generation of camera systems that should also take into account social and physical context in order to support the crowd in collaboratively generating engaging video content.