The number one lesson I learned from our mini photo protest at the Miami Herald last month was that I really don’t like shooting video with smart phones or Flip cameras.
Well, that and the fact that the Miami Herald does nothing to teach their security guards about basic First Amendment rights regarding photography of landmark buildings from public sidewalks.
Also the fact that Miami police will blindly back the security guard up until you point out the actual law to them.
Yes, it was one of those absurd days, but luckily we had several video cameras recording – including one that was live streaming – so it was quickly resolved.
Let’s first talk about the cameras; smart phones and Flip cameras are perfect in a pinch when you’re just going about your day and find the need to record something. In fact, you’ll rarely find me without both on me.
But if you’re going to plan on shooting video, bring the best camera you have, just for the stabilization factor alone, which in my case is the Canon XA 10, the camera I was using during my last arrest in which police deleted my video and I was able to recover it.
But I left that camera at home on this protest because I was testing out a new iPhone app called TapIn.TV that allows one to not only live stream but instantly upload videos to a cloud that is inaccessible to police – something my Canon cannot do unless I rig it to a laptop in a backpack and who wants to do that during a protest that might land you in jail?
Unlike other live stream apps like Qik or Bambuster, TapIn.TV does not require you to register before using it, which makes it convenient if you find yourself at a protest with no live stream app on your phone, but want to start live streaming without having to waste a lot of time creating usernames and passwords and waiting for confirmations on a tiny browser.
“You can download our app and start shooting in 30 seconds,” said David Tyler, one of the four men who built the app and asked me to test it before it became publicly available last week.
“That was our priority over everything else.”
TapIn.TV was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests last year, which made Tyler and his friends realize there was something lacking with the existing live stream apps.
“Back in November, we were watching Occupy Wall Street live streams and things would get very interesting for a minute-and-a-half, then it would get boring,” Tyler said.
“But even though we knew there were multiple people live streaming from the same place, it was hard to find them online.”
To solve that problem, TapIn.TV pins the videos on a map, which makes it easier for viewers to watch multiple angles of the same event. And unlike those other apps, it doesn’t require users to fill out a description or even include usernames. You can remain anonymous if would like.
It also allows users to post links of videos they shoot to Facebook or Twitter. I shot a quick video of Davy Vara and his kids when they were visiting Miami last month and posted it on Facebook in less than a minute, which shows the potential to share breaking news to people who are not even actively watching your live stream.
It is ideal for protests and teams of citizen journalists in that regard. Perhaps if mass protests heat up again, we can experience TapIn.TV at its full potential.
From what I’ve seen, it produces higher quality video than Qik or Ustream, but I haven’t done any side-by-side comparisons to anything other than the Flip, which you will see in the above video where the Flip won hands down, but that’s not surprising considering the Flip produces a resolution of 720p and TapIn.TV produces a resolution of 360p for easier live streaming.
Right now, the app is only available on the iPhone through the app store, but will eventually be made available for Android. It is free.
TapIn.TV has already received very positive feedback from the tech community as you can read in the comments in this Tech Crunch article.
That being said, I was using TapIn.TV in its extreme beta stage, so it failed to capture the initial confrontation with the security guard after I stepped off the short bus as soon as we pulled up to the Miami Herald building.
Tyler told me this could have been a result of some technical issues they have since resolved. Or maybe it was a result of me not being sure I was recording because the indicator light doesn’t stand out in the bright sunlight, something Tyler said they are addressing as we speak.
But I know I was recording because that was the whole point of it all. It was just hard to ensure that I was recording while I was recording, something I always try to do to prevent screw-ups.
Anyway, the guard immediately told me I could not photograph the building because it was historical, which is along the same lines he told the Miami blogger that inspired the protest and even a more stupid reason than the old perceived terrorist threat they always use, as much as I hate to admit it.
Unlike the last two protests where I created Facebook events and sent out invitations, I kept this protest a little low-key because Random Pixels had talked to a Miami Herald official who made it seem as if we would not have any problems.
We had almost ten people where in the other protests we had almost 30. But there was only one security guard, so that is all we needed.
After some back and forth with the guard, whose name was Jorge, I decided to pull out my Flip because I wasn’t fully confident that TapIn.TV was recording. So I ended up walking around with two cameras in each hand, which not only meant I had little stability but also that I would occasionally cover the viewfinder with my fingers (I have big hands).
Fortunately, Jorge wasn’t confrontational after his initial order. He just called the cops and stayed away from us as we took pictures of the building that they will soon tear down.
He didn’t even bother the random couple that strolled up to take a picture in front of the building. But seeing that couple made me wonder just how many people do get harassed for taking photos in front of the building.
Four Miami police cars pulled up a few minutes later and the first cop to confront us told us we were not allowed to photograph the building simply because Jorge said so.
I get a little excited in these situations, so I immediately started correcting her all while trying to record her with the two little cameras and she eventually admitted she was wrong.
Actually, she said she was under the impression that we had entered the building because Jorge had apparently told her that.
Three more cops had arrived, including one officer who waved at the camera, demonstrating that he didn’t have an issue with it.
We eventually got into a conversation about whether or not it was legal to record undercover cops. They were under the impression that it was illegal. We told them that it was not illegal, but I also told them I would probably not record them if they just asked me nicely not to do so instead of threatening to arrest me under an unlawful order.
The cops were cool. We had a civil discussion and I imagine they probably set Jorge straight on the law regarding photography of public buildings, which is more than the Miami Herald had done.
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CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
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Also, in an unrelated PINAC matter, I recently went through a hair transplant operation and I’m documenting my recovery on this blog if you are interested. I did not pay for this transplant, which is why I’m promoting the doctor through the hair transplant blog.