Thursday, May 10, 2012

Finding the perfect video on YouTube

The quest to find the perfect video to accompany your story.

There was a short period of time in the late '90s when a few small groups of people had an idea for the future of cinema.  With ever-advancing computer technology, the advent of digital moviemaking, and this newfangled internet thingy that had only recently risen to prominence, they thought the future of cinema was 360º photography - videocameras with lenses that could capture data from a complete 360º, leaving the viewer to decide what to watch, and when, by controlling the framing from a computer while the movie unfolded.

This was a very stupid idea.  I remember downloading a 360º movie from either ifilm.com or atomfilms.com -- two pioneering websites for independent short film distribution, neither of which exists anymore -- and confirming what I'd already expected: this was not a good way to watch a movie.  The camera just sits immersed in a scene, completely static, while things happen all around it.  And somehow you, as the audience member, are supposed to know where the interesting thing is taking place.  It was difficult to control and, in those days of ultraslow internet, took way too long to download.

Filmmakers are always looking for a way to draw the audience into a story, and get them to engage with what they're seeing.  This was not the way to do it.

But every good technology has its place.  For example, Google uses 360º cameras for their Street View app.  But the first time I ever saw a smart use of a 360º camera was back in 2001, when Three Rivers Stadium was imploded.  Now there's a situation where having the option to look in any direction at any time is going to be useful and interesting.

When I was writing about the Three Rivers Stadium implosion, the first video I thought to include with it was the 360º camera as covered by the local news at the time.  But since I was writing from a very specific first-person perspective, I figured it made more sense to use a video from outside the stadium - the way everybody saw it happen.

There was plenty of video to choose from on YouTube.  Every news channel, of course, had an aerial view of the implosion.  There were also long views.  Here's a really good angle from Station Square with absolutely no interference.

But most of the footage you find of the implosion is from far away, and either slightly or greatly elevated.  I got it in my head that I should really find video with the on-the-ground perspective that I was writing from.  Video from right there in Point State Park would be ideal.  That's where most people, including myself, were standing when it happened.  And I'm told (though I strongly question) that 20,000 people were there that day.  There ought to be a ton of video from Point State Park.

Nope.  I ran search after search after search on YouTube, trying all sorts of word combinations to find a video that someone shot from the ground, inside the crowd, at Point State Park.  There was a pretty good in-the-crowd angle that I found easily, but it was shot from the North Shore, the complete opposite position from where I was that day.

Then there were these dipshits, really doing a great job of representing Pittsburgh to the rest of the world:


Yeah, thanks, guys.  Confirming every negative stereotype of Pittsburgh that the outside world has.  *sigh*  I'd like to think that's not what my friends and I were like back in college; but if I saw some vintage video of us, who knows?  I might be disappointed.

It took a very long time and a lot of YouTube searching, but I finally found exactly the video I was looking for.  It was at ground level, from Point State Park, had a clear view of the proceedings, wasn't too shaky, and even did a little bit of panning over the crowd.  It was perfect!  Given the fact that I didn't shoot any video myself that day, I couldn't have asked for anything better.  So that's the video I included with my story.


And, as of the moment I'm writing this, this video has less than 100 views?!  Come on, people!  This is the single best look at the Three Rivers implosion.  Let's get that view count up!

(20,000 people witnessed the stadium implosion, and this is the only video from Point State Park?  I really question that number.)

A very special thanks to cocotut23, whoever you are, for providing this excellent video.  It really made my story complete.

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