Caught on Camera: the crowd calls the shots

December 17th, 2010 by

microtask_camera_crowdOne of the reoccurring complaints about our shiny, super-connected modern world is that everywhere has become a bit samey. From Moscow to L.A. it seems like everyone’s drinking Starbucks, eating pizza and tweeting about WikiLeaks from their iPhones.

Such generic experiences can lead previously well-adjusted people to suddenly book crazy adventure holidays trekking in the Sahara, or start spending hours on Google maps trying to get Street View in Outer Mongolia.

But, thanks to film director Kevin MacDonald, help is at hand for those afflicted with globalization frustration. Clearly not immune to the travel bug himself (credits include the Ugandan based Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void, set in the Peruvian Andes), for his latest film Kevin has chosen to sit back and let the crowd show him a whole new world.

A 5000 hour day later
Life In A Day is a feature length film created entirely from crowdsourced footage. The concept is simple: one day in the life of the world. Anyone with a video camera can upload film of their day – wherever they are, whatever they happen to be doing – onto the Life In A Day YouTube channel (for more on the delights and dangers of crowdsourcing YouTube, I leave you in Tommaso’s expert hands).

To make sure he didn’t only get material from the camera-phone addicted West, MacDonald sent over 400 video cameras out to people in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

And what do you get if you issue an open call for life on earth? Over 5000 hours of film, from professionally shot, stunning photography to shaky mobile phone clips. Time for the project’s 80 professional editors to knuckle down for a caffeine-fuelled month of trawling through footage…

The finished product (due to be screened at Sundance next year) is still emerging. But the trailer and video galleries, with their combination of the shocking, sublime, ridiculous, tragic and mundane, leave you in no doubt about the astounding variety of modern human experience.

The crowd’s work is never done
The combination of clear directorial vision and crowd enthusiasm can give some pretty stunning results. Take an earlier example called Mass Animation (a project which surely deserves an award for sheer geekdom): an old school crowdsourcing competition that got amateur animators to breathe new life into their favorite DC comic characters.

While Life In A Day is already an ambitious project, why not have the crowd go further? How about letting them help with the editing process? YouTube already has a ranking system for video clips. It would be simple to let the crowd select the most watched or most liked footage, narrowing clips down from say, 5000 to 500 hours in an initial edit.

Film makers uploading clips to Life In A Day are asked to tag their work (funny, sad, monkey plays drums etc) to make it easier to categorize. Long term this means the project won’t just produce a crowdsourced feature film, but also a massive, pre-catalogued database of open-source video clips. A unique resource that will be available to future film makers, journalists and academic researchers. Not to mention iPhone addicts, while they wait for their Starbucks.


  • http://twitter.com/HollYouAct Roll Camera Movie

    We extended the idea to a full-featured movie!! See that becoming real in http://www.rollcamera-themovie.com

  • http://www.microtask.fi/ Ville Miettinen

    Oh, coolness!

  • http://karjaw.com/ karimun jawa

    “take your camera and brong a lot of photo” :)
    nice quote

    my vilage: karimunjawa


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