Video-sniffing is a method of hacking into wireless CCTV networks to record and see what the budget cams can pick up. What started out as a game for some tech-experimenters became a methodology for artists looking to take back control of their urban environment. I was one.
Top: Homeless children and school students in Southend, Essex demonstrate with placards in local shops and businesses to promote the Free-Media cause. Bottom: Immigrant children in Kokkola, Finland protest in the local government buildings they see as making decisions about their future.
One of the best known CCTV movies ever made! The term video-sniffing is often used as a blanket description for all surveillance filmmaking and art, even if not wireless. For this free-running dance short I moved beyond the limitations of fixed-cameras by turning the 160 cameras of the Manchester Arndale shopping centre into an environmental TV studio – directing via telephone from my own multi-screen security desk in the bomb-proof control room! Winner of Audience 3rd Prize at the sidewalkCINEMA Festival and shortlisted for the Big Issue Short Film Festival. A subsequent city-wide musical has yet to be fully realised!
Why stop there?
Webcams, mobile phones, action-cams, lo-fi pocket digital cameras, even old school VHS are all tech to be repurposed by the no-budget filmmaker. I've tried them all. Like my webcam chatroom dance version of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet entitled Computer Love which received a Special Mention by the jury at the VideoDansa Barcelona International Competition, IDN Festival.
Replacing Money with Imagination
Just some examples of what can be achieved with lo-fi repurposed tech. There's even a website for this stuff - check it out at gearbox.mediashed.org. What began as experiments in CCTV during my time as part of arts collective MediaShed resulted in my leading a collaboration with New York gallery Eyebeam to develop a user-generated 'how-to' website of budget filmmaking tools to help give a creative voice to people on low incomes.
Media coverage received from the Guardian, Arena magazine, Newsweek, the New York Times, Reuters, the Manchester Evening News, Showreel, BBC NW, More4 News, BBC Radio 5, Danish Radio, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Plus my experimental surveillance films continue to be included in university papers and screened around the world!