Gadgets, Phones and Drones Multi-Perspective Documentary Storytelling

Eva Vitija

Zurich University of the Arts ZHDK, Switzerland

Annette Brütsch

Zurich University of the Arts ZHDK, Switzerland

Christian Iseli

Zurich University of the Arts ZHDK, Switzerland


Documentary filmmakers have always been quick to adopt new semi-professional and consumer cameras. However, they have not replaced conventional professional cameras, but added to the vivid variety of documentary style.
Today, multi-perspective storytelling in documentary forms is on the rise. On Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat and in TV-Formats various cameras like cellphones, action-cams (GoPros) or drones are commonly used in addition to the classical single-perspective camera. Because the phenomenon is still young, there is very little research and literature on the influence of multi-perspective use of cameras in documentary.
Our practice-led, comparative research project ‘Gadgets, Phones and Drones’ investigates the differences of single- and multi-camera storytelling in documentaries and aims to clarify how the use of multi-perspective in documentary is developing.
Multi-perspective storytelling is examined by semi-structured interviews with experts in the field and by a practice-based comparative study. In a short documentary about a dog school, we aim to tell the same story in two different ways: We compare the classical shoulder-mounted single-camera-perspective with the multiple camera perspective documenting the very same events. In this process, in the multi-perspective version the dogs as well as their owners and the dog trainer were equipped with cameras and, in addition, the situation was also filmed by a drone.
This paper gives insight into questions that arose throughout this artistic research as well as into the discussion of multi-perspective storytelling among practicioners. The mixed method approach will not only add to scientific research, but will also serve as direct feedback for the artistic discussion in current documentary filmmaking.

Keywords: Documentary, Multi-perspective, Storytelling, Authentication Strategies.

1. Introduction

Innovations in camera technology always have a direct impact on the cinematic aesthetics of the image. This is especially true in documentary film, where camera models from the consumer and semi-professional sector are often used in professional film-making. However, the new possibilities associated with the incorporation of these kinds of cameras in documentary filmmaking do not simply replace existing ones but establish themselves as parallel design options.

New consumer camera models (mainly mini DV) initially promoted an amateur look in the 1990s. This was reinforced by the fact that the cameras were so easy to use that amateurs could handle them. From 2008 onwards, DSLR cameras conquered the documentary film industry and, due to their shallow depth of field, brought back a certain cinematic look and with it a renewed aesthetic appeal comparable to 35mm film cameras.

Starting in the first decades of this century, a paradigm shift in documentary film can be observed. More and more often, several and different types of cameras have been used simultaneously, up to the present day, where the ubiquity (especially of smart phone cameras) of many cameras is the rule.

The decades-long ‘anthropomorphic gaze’ of a single camera, usually mounted on the shoulder of a professional cameraperson, was replaced by the multiple gazes of versatile recording devices intended for the consumer sector. Multiple ‘gadget’ cameras – such as the well known action camera ‘GoPro’ or sophisticated mobile phone cameras – are being adopted by documentary filmmakers for their versatility and for the fact that they can be deployed simultaneously for documentary films. Thus, we have witnessed the arrival of the multi-perspective Documentary. Multi-perspective in the sense of a narrative content that is visually and/or narratively composed of distinguishable perspectives that document exactly the same event or course of events. Sometimes with several but identical camera types from different angles, sometimes with different camera types that produce raw material that obviously looks different or differs greatly in the nature of its possible use.

It is not only the makers of cinematic documentary films that have adopted this new multi-perspective technique. Especially in the field of television and documentary sports reporting, filmmakers work extensively with multi-perspective aesthetics and technology. In sports broadcasts, it is now common practice for athletes to wear helmet cameras (e.g. skiers, high divers, divers etc.) or for the event to be accompanied by drones. This may be in addition to the classic rope cameras or shoulder mounted cameras used at football matches. In TV-documentary-series and reports the drone is probably the most frequently used additional camera besides the shoulder mounted camera. In multi-perspective documentaries, humans (and in some instances animals) are equipped with additional action-cams or smartphone cameras. In animal documentaries, not only are animals equipped with recording devices, but potential danger is avoided by placing robot cameras at watering holes or other crucial meeting spots for animals, thus providing previously unseen insights into the life of wild animals and contriving a sense of nearness for the viewer. Multi-perspective narration is even more present on portals such as ‘YouTube’ or in documentary short or super short forms which are distributed via Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat by professionals and amateurs alike, thus contributing to the democratization of filmmaking:

Video cameras are no longer specialized equipment wielded almost exclusively by professionals, but rather something that most regular people routinely carry around in their pocket. Therefore video footage portraying unstaged events is more readily available. News outlets incorporate bystander videos into stories of breaking events. Social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter provide an accessible means of distributing this sort of material. Individuals now regularly encounter video actualities through these platforms. (Hall 2017)

In that sense, the current development could be considered as the second wave of the democratization of filmmaking, following the first wave of the mid-1990s, with easy to handle DV Cams. Today, pretty much everyone is carrying a camera in their pocket and, on top of that, the means to instantly distribute their footage to an audience.

In research (see State of Research, Chapter 2) very little has been written about the most recent aesthetic development in the field of documentary film, the multi-perspective. However, the research project ‘Gadgets, Phones & Drones’ addresses this topic. In addition to reviewing the scarce existing literature, semi-structured interviews were conducted with protagonists of this change, such as cinematographers, directors and film festival directors, in which they refer to aesthetic innovation on the one hand and discuss influence on their own artistic practice on the other (see Chapter 3). A practice-based comparative study was conducted, focusing on the differences between the classical single-perspective narration and the multi-perspective narration in documentary filmmaking.

In a short documentary about a dog school (see Chapter 4), we told the same story in two different ways: We compared the classical shoulder-mounted single-camera-perspective narrative with the same narrative with multiple camera perspective with additional GoPros, Cellphone cameras and Drone footage of the same situation. In this process, the dogs were equipped with GoPros, the dog trainer with a cell-phone camera and the entire scene was also filmed by a drone from above.

In this paper, we work on the theoretical foundations of a practice-based comparative study and address the questions we have been confronted with while filming, offering an interesting insight into practical aspects of the implementation of a multi-perspective documentary work. First, we need to clarify the terminology we use when discussing multi-perspective camerawork. How is multi-perspective actually described in research? As a further step, we will also consider the ways in which ‘authenticity’ and authentication strategies are defined in the field.

2. State of Research

2.1 Multi-perspective in Documentary

Because the phenomenon is still young, the increase in the use of multi-camera perspectives has not been widely investigated. So far, the only critical analyses that have been carried out are on individual films. In ethnography, the film Leviathan (Leviathan 2012) is an example of how this discussion began only a few years ago. This film makes exemplary use of multiple camera perspectives that are decidedly different from a human, anthropomorphic single-camera view. Several articles in Visual Anthropology Review deal with the new visual style, and it is widely believed that Leviathan is a sensitive and exciting kind of cinematic ethnology, contingent on the use of new technology.

‘Thanks to certain tools (such as multiple Waterproof GoPro cameras (...) we become resolutely, adamantly part of the thickness, the density and the turgidity of a world in which it is very difficult to find our land legs.’(Stevenson and Cohn 2015, 50) For this sensory audience experience, ‘the phenomenological term immersion’ is often used. The film scholar Ohad Landesman emphasizes an unusual, unmoored experience when watching the film and describes how the ‘perspective of others - not just of its filmmakers’ becomes an integral part of the ethnographic method. It is important to bear in mind that Leviathan is a radical form of ethnographic film in which observation always takes priority over narration. But the history of trying to accommodate other narrative perspectives in anthropological filmmaking had already started with the work of Worth and Adair in the USA (Worth and Adair 1972) and Eric Michaels in Australia, both in the 1970. A more recent summary on the subject can be found here: (Jay 1991, 325-343).

In recent film studies, there are isolated references to the effect of the multi-camera perspective in Leviathan. For example, Bill Nichols writes that the images in this film possess ‘an eerie, mysterious quality’, ‘in which the human figure, let alone any distinct individual, is difficult to recognize’. Kris Fallon places both Leviathan and The Cove (The Cove 2009), in which multiple cameras are used covertly, in a tradition of films in which the boundaries of cinematic aesthetics are extended by the latest technology. In the case of The Cove, these included ‘night vision cameras, thermal imaging, or multiple Go-Pros in order to deliver rich, multi-sensory experiences to viewers’ (Fallon 2016, 125). Carl Plantinga (2013) sees the use of multiple hidden and technomorphic cameras as an attempt to create objectivity in a film that is otherwise characterized by subjectivity.

It is interesting that all studies strongly emphasize the differences in both the use of technology and the perception of the audience, while ignoring the narrative perspective.

While narrative perspective is traditionally associated with the anthropomorphic gaze, Eriksson (Eriksson 2012, 292) cites Chapman who impressively describes how much this perspective is ultimately linked to the actual author’s intention and how cameras operating without any authorial intention fundamentally contradict this concept:

In observational type documentary filmmaking, the videographer often becomes the de facto director. Even though the common wisdom is that documentary films are made in editing, if the recorded material says something else than the intended storyline and other fabula related elements should, an audience understanding cannot be ensured. And to sort things out in editing is always foolhardy. It is simply not enough to press the record button and hope for the best. Therefore, in observational documentary production the directorial burden has fundamentally shifted to the recording stage. (Chapman 2007, 93)

A totally different approach to multi-perspective in a practical and theoretical approach - and with it a more and more widely acclaimed use of archival footage in documentary - is being investigated by the artists group around the architect Eyal Weizman. They call their multi-perspective reconstructions of events ‘Forensic Architecture’. The group around Weizman investigates and meticulously reconstructs events of ‘corporate violence, human rights violations and environmental destruction all over the world’ ( by adding up all the found footage around such events, for example the reported Killing in Umm Al-Hiran ( or a refugee shipwreck near Lesbos ( By putting the multiple perspective found footage in a single narrative timeline and adding all this very different kinds of footage to it (for example, Facebook photos, cellphone videos, helmet action cameras or drone footage) the false reports of specific events by media, politicians or other involved parties, are deconstructed. In the meantime, a clear narrative of the events is built, that seems to be more objectively documented by using precisely this multi-perspective found footage that was not specifically or intentionally shot for the purpose of such a reconstruction. The sense that ‘multiple eyes’ bear witness to the event adds to the credibility of the reconstruction. ‘We use the term ‘forensics,’ but we seek, in fact, to reverse the forensic gaze and to investigate the same state agencies – such as the police or the military – that usually monopolize it.’ The multiplicity of perspectives of the found footage they use is the main challenge to the monopolization of vision of the documented events by states or other agents of power.

The narration achieved through the use of multi-perspective visual material is fused by a voiceover that contextualises and explains the different materials and by doing so reconstructs the event. The multi-perspective material is therefore used as evidence for the oral narration and a clear timeline. It helps to create the feeling that the event has happened exactly as it is reconstructed, because we viewers where shown all the evidence. The voiceover therefore takes over the anthropomorphising role of leading the narrative while the visual material appears as if it were taken with no narrative goal, but more by chance (as the narrating voice stresses), which makes the power of proof of the visual material seem all the stronger.

The example of ‘forensic architecture’ shows us how the multi-perspective use of cameras can be applied to filmic strategies of authenticity. It is an even more compelling demonstration than the intenionally secredly installed GoPro cameras in The Cove or - the more repetitious (not plot driven) ethnographic example of Leviathan. And what already applied to Landesmann for DV cameras is even more true for the multi-perspective use of smartphone cameras: ‘We can relate the constructed DV world so easily to our own simply because we do not only consume it in our daily reality but also create it ourselves.’ (Landesman 2008, 43)

2.2 Authentication Strategies in Documentary

The documentary form has a closer relationship to ‘the real’ than do fictional forms of filmmaking. When choosing stylistic devices, documentary filmmakers do indeed repeatedly ask themselves what effect these devices will have on an audience’s perception of authenticity. Because authenticity, in the sense of the closeness to reality, the credibility, truthfulness or genuineness of a certain form of cinematic representation (for a definition of authenticity, see (Kalisch 2000), (Knaller and Müller, 2006), and in relation to the documentary film: (Hattendorf 1999). While authenticity as a concept has retained its status among practitioners in the filmic environment, it is controversial in the humanities more broadly and in the context of postmodern discourse in particular has become increasingly inappropriate (cf. Knaller and Müller, 2006, Huyssen 2006, Graulund 2010). Recent publications, however, again point to a growing attention to concepts of authentication (Daur 2013). It becomes clear that scientific discourse usually does not start from authenticity per se, but rather from concepts such as authenticity effects, or authentication strategies, which are creating the basis for authenticity (Daur 2013). In relation to documentary film, Manfred Hattendorf suggests, among other things, the concept of authenticity signals, which in their sum ‘convince the viewer of the credibility or truthfulness of a depicted situation’. Authenticity in this sense is understood as a code of a mediatized reality – in direct dependence on the visual style – which can be produced as such and used for feature films or mockumentaries. In other words, it can be constructed (Kreimeier 1997, Hohenberger 1998, Hattendorf 1999, Odin 1998, Huck 2012, Landesman 2016). The strategies of authentication of a chosen cinematic form or a certain documentary method are thus among the basic considerations in the creative decision-making process (Iseli 2009) and were taken into account accordingly in the present exploration of multi-perspective filmmaking. Another term that raises suspicions is realism. Rooney (2012) sums it up well:

Researchers have primarily conceived of realism as a multi-dimensional construct (Busselle and Greenberg 2000, Hawkins 1977, Potter 1988, Shapiro and Chock 2004), involving various types of subcomponents—such as, for example, how much a representation simulates real sensory data, or how much it represents what is likely to occur in the real world. Resulting from qualitative focus groups, Hall (2003) identifies six dimensions that she claims constitute perceived realism; plausibility (something that could be true), typicality (commonly or frequently occurs), factuality (accurate representation of specific real-world events), narrative consistency (internal coherence of the story), involvement (generates emotion), and perceptual persuasive-ness (the extent to which the film creates a compelling visual illusion of realism).

In communication/media studies and media psychology, the term perceived realism as a term for what viewers perceive as the relation of a film to reality is a frequently used concept, but it is never uniformly defined. Pouliot (2007, 255) stresses the connection between an event and the perceived reality:

[W]hen viewing a documentary film, viewers are more sensitive to cues that indicate that what they are witnessing on screen is not made up or acted, but is a direct recording of events in the real world. If the film is successful in conveying that idea, semantic factuality is likewise higher than for fiction films, because viewers do not have to imagine or pretend that what is presented is plausible in a suspension of disbelief.

She adds quoting Nichols (1991), who states that: ‘documentaries call for activation of belief in the reality of what is presented.’

3. Semi-Structured Interviews

Both in the theoretical study of film and in the applied field of writing on filmmaking, only a few studies have been done on multi-perspective in documentary, as discussed in section 2.1. For the field of documentary film – and for our practice-based research approach in particular – the lack of literature can be considered as typical. Clarifying the state of research therefore required a procedure tailored to the specific nature of the project. Thus, data was collected through interviews with selected experts in order to elicit the reflexively condensed empirical knowledge gained from practice. The focus was on well-known cinematographers and filmmakers from all phases of production and distribution. The systematizing of these expert interviews (Bogner and Littig and Menz 2009) not only compensated for the lack of literature and studies in the field of multi-perspective filmmaking, but also enabled a qualitative deepening of the practical perspective. Ten semi-structured interviews, each lasting three to five hours, were conducted, which on the one hand refer to aesthetic innovations during the time of the participant’s career and on the other hand address the influence of the topics around multi-perspective on their own artistic practice. In part, the interviews were based on film excerpts in order to generate comparable data for the subsequent analysis and to achieve the most precise focus possible (Bortz and Döring 2003). The basis of the systematizing expert interviews was a detailed guideline with key and contingency questions, within which the experts were nevertheless granted a high degree of autonomy in their elaborations in order to achieve the most systematic and complete information acquisition possible (Bogner and Littig and Menz 2009). The key questions aimed to shed light on similarities, contrasts or connections between the aesthetic means and their anticipated effect on the audience. In the evaluation of the expert interviews, the categorizing elements of the means of design were processed by means of structural analysis (Bortz and Döring 2003) in order to characterize the aesthetic features of the film clips. The interviews were recorded on video. Our minute-references in the citations refer to these videos.

Of the 10 interviewees, seven were Swiss practitioners who enjoy an international reputation for their work. They were supplemented by three voices from abroad. Among them were five camera people, one of them also specialised in post-production, three directors, and two festival directors who observed the historical change in a practical way and played a significant role in shaping it.

Because this paper is too short to refer to the entire research project or interview topics, I will focus here on just very few aspects that were mentioned repeatedly in regard to multi-perspective filmmaking and that was decisive for our experimental set-up: How does the narrative perspective relate to the choice of technique? Can the camera perspective be regarded at all as a perspective detached from the narrative perspective? All experts expressed doubt over the latter.

So it [the use of GoPros and drones, author’s note] is very dependent on the theme of the film. I’ll tell you two examples (...) If a documentary is a portrait of a fisherman in deep Russia and he’s on his ship and fighting like a madman to get some fish because there are no fish in the sea anymore. And it’s very clear that the whole film is on him. (...) I don’t see any use of for example a drone over the sea at all. If the film goes on how the landscape (...) at the sea changes, how the position changes, how many complications would we get into, sea and city, sea and earth, I see, for example (...) an absolute, legitimate use of a drone.’(Interview Maintigneux 2018, 40:36)

In general, the use of multi-perspective gadget cameras or drones was more likely rejected by cinema documentary camerapersons because they felt that the new technical possibilities and their specific different perspectives were generally not used in a meaningful narrative framework, although they were widely adopted by television, commercials and the image-film-industry:

Yeah, I mean, one in two corporate films now has some kind of drone shot. Which used to be something, how shall I put it, special. Nowadays, being able to fly over something is almost normal. (...) I now always take an extreme example about somehow some glue sniffers in the ghettos, I don’t know if I need another drone flight there or if I just better stay with these people and show the space through some shaky ride out of some dented Toyota. (Interview Mennel 2018, 58:33)

The use of the camera as a pure instrument for a specific narrative purpose is emphasized again in the words of a director: ‘you mislead yourself if you think that you will capture something from having something like kind of a third eye [refers to GoPro Camera, author’s note] because it’s not an eye, you have a tool, you have a device to approach something. (Interview Bron 2018, 49:47)’

The fact that it is not so much a question of the specific camera but rather its use for a specific narrative goal is stressed even more in this quote about the multi-perspective use of the camera:

We have of course already used this multi-camera technology, but it’s always obvious things. Things that can’t be interrupted in the course of events, like concerts, like actions on stage, actions that take place in a public space, where we really document, that are not influenced by us or could be stopped or timed. There (...) we naturally shot with many, with several cameras.
(Interview Lindenmaier 2018, 35:51)

However, the same interviewee emphasizes that multi-perspective is not a question of camera type, but only of how several cameras are used:

But we’ve also done it with film already. It hasn’t changed that much, I did as one of my first works, we made a film about ballet on Super8 and there I developed a system that we not only had this 2.5 to 3-minute limit (...), but that we could also synchronize with several cameras. That was on Super8.
(Interview Lindenmaier 2018, 35:51)

The feeling that the perception of reality is enhanced by a multi-perspective recording of an event was confirmed in our interviews:

In the street when something happens everybody is taking his iPhone and is filming and you have this multiple point of view, you have all these points of view and you think that you capture something from reality, because you have so many cameras to film this single event and you can have the feeling that, ‘ok, so now I have a kind of objective or it’s really what’s going on’. (Interview Bron 2018, 46:15)

Nevertheless, each camera has a very distinctive style or specific practical application that leave its marks on the material it produces and paves the way to how it is used for narration:

It’s [the GoPro, authors note] a device for the police, for me in my mind, it’s really a device that you mount to prove something. You want to prove, that you are there, you want to prove something. I want to prove, that I was there. I think that is the main goal of the GoPro. I was on the mountain, I was (...) I was flying. I was running so fast on a cliff, I was climbing this thing, I was a policeman, I was arresting this guy. You want to prove and maybe you want to use it to say something to use it in a court‘.
(Interview Bron 2018, 51:05)

And therefore, the camera-type and its nature determines the style of the whole documentary:

I have to say that everything shot with the iPhone will be an iPhone movie one day. I don’t have the focal lengths anymore, I have to edit differently, I only have the wide angle, i.e. I always bump over every cut. I can’t play with the space, I can’t play with the depth of field, I can’t use all the things that are peculiar to the cinema anymore. I can’t focus, I can’t emphasize, I give up a lot of things then.
(Interview Mennel 2018, 24:34)

4. Practical comparative study

4.1 Multi-perspective in a dog school

When planning our practical comparative study, the main focus from the very beginning was that we wanted to make two documentary films where the narrative had to be absolutely comparable (i.e. one or more events take place in both versions in absolutely the same way and can be captured according to the principles of documentary filmmaking without staging the situation). This was the consequence of a previous comparative study about camera-size and the depth of field where we noticed that even small deviations of the narration distorted the whole comparison. In order to achieve sufficient comparability, we had to capture a version with single-camera perspective and a version with multiple camera perspectives at the same time.

The difficulty arose that we had to shoot with a classic, shoulder-mounted single camera as well as simultaneously shooting for a multi-perspective rendering of the scene. The problem is, however, that the various camera people are restricted in their freedom of movement because they are always in each other’s frames.

As the literature and the interviews had shown us, multi-perspective images also had to have a meaningful narrative multi-perspective. The classic, shoulder-mounted camera is suggestive of the anthropomorphic gaze, because of its association with human eye level, a subjective (and limited) point of view, a rambling gaze, and just as easily, a focusing of attention. Thus, for the multi-perspective version, we also wanted to narrate a non-human perspective, to offer as an alternative to this anthropomorphized view.

An example of the emphasis on multi-perspective filmmaking, detached from the human gaze, is the aforementioned film Leviathan, which, through the use of GoPro action cameras both defies the harsh conditions for cameras on the high seas and also manages, by diving into the water, to take on the perspective of the fish, so to speak.

This decision to incorporate a non-human perspective, in terms of both point-of-view and narrative, led us to attempt filming from the perspective of dogs. In our shooting of footage we concentrated on a dog school where the dogs complete various training exercises, courses and educational tasks with their owners. The dog school is attended by 5-10 dogs with their owners and is led by a dog trainer. The repetitive nature of the training allows for the difficulty of shooting with multiple cameras simultaneously. You can prepare yourself for the movements of the exercises and you can combine similar parts of the action in editing without influencing or distorting the course of events.

We used the following cameras for our experiment: For the shoulder camera we used a Sony FS7. In the case of the dog perspective we used the action camera GoPro, which can be installed on the dogs’ back at dog’s eye level with a little harness that can mount the camera. Additionally, we filmed the dog training from above with a drone and gave the dog trainer a mobile phone in order to film his lessons from his own point of view.

4.2 Multi-perspective on the set and multi-perspective in editing

A problem of multi-perspective filmmaking immediately apparent in editing was when a camera technique results in camera shake and the loss of spatial orientation. In our case, the dog’s point of view was simply too unstable, risking the loss of viewer attention. The narrative goal, which is normally determined by the person leading the camera, becomes completely random with dogs. On the other hand, the ‘unintentional gaze’ of the dog’s GoPro camera shots added up to an understanding of the dog’s perspective whenever unintentionality was especially visible in the images. Whenever a dog came very close to another dog’s camera (where a cameraperson would have immediately kept a certain distance) it created the experience of being there, very close to the dogs in a very unfamiliar and at the same time very credible dog perspective. When, in their GoPro harnesses, the dogs unintentionally created perspectives that are very unlikely for human beings, like going under a table for example, it had a more authentic feel to it. These examples show how important the link between camera perspective and narrative perspective is. Only this link makes a multi-perspective narration possible and remains distinct from the appearance of ‘bad editing choices’, that choose random but none-meaningful jumps in perspective, that a viewer can not possibly make sense of.

The drone, on the other hand, offers so much overview that the camera team was usually within the frame. To us, the drone perspective seemed much more difficult when shooting, because it was not as well targeted, narratively speaking. This aspect is also underlined by the quote referring to the flight perspective in the film Koyaanisqatsi:

From the outset, Koyaanisqatsi is wholly indifferent to narrative, and this indifference helps to underline the effects of Reggio’s camerawork. As a point of contrast from narrative filmmaking, Alfred Hitchcock’s camera is demonstrative, helping to tell a film’s story. There are moments when Hitchcock’s camera seems to insist ‘Hey! Make sure you see and remember this!’ as in Psycho when the camera moves in on Marion’s motel room nightstand, where she has folded a newspaper over stolen money. Godfrey Reggio’s camera, on the other hand, is unnervingly impassive. It stares at city traffic for twenty-four hours without blinking. And when it moves, it moves not to point something out to viewers but to intensify its stare.’ (Varner 2017, 5)

Surprisingly, however, the drone perspective turned out to be useful during editing, especially for spatial orientation (or only the feeling of it) in combination with the dog’s shaky and disorienting perspective.

Our experience with filming with a smartphone camera showed that the images it produced did not contain any signifiers to show they are smartphone-captured images per se, and at times could not even be distinguished from the shoulder-mounted professional camera if there were no clear signs of its use by a non-professional operator, such as the sound of breathing into its microphone, a mistakenly placed thumb in the picture, an unusual framing like cut-off heads or limbs, or the use of smartphone-typical characteristics in post-production (own aspect ratio, record icon, time insertion). Therefore, to create the feeling of a different perspective during editing, the pictures had to have those clear signs of a nonprofessional videographer: ‘...the image takes on a distinctly haptic and embodied quality, emphasising a sense of physical presence that generates a tactile proximity between the viewer and the video image’ (Cati 2019 cites Marks, 6).

However, the lack of narrative intention was often too great for the footage to be of use. For example, our dog trainer often filmed nothing but the lawn when he couldn’t watch what he was framing. The material had to meet two standards for it to be useable in our film as a distinguishable smartphone-camera perspective: A sense of narrative intention (filming the action) and at the same time filming it a little bit clumsily to distinguish it as a phone-camera-perspective filmed by a non-professional. Although these signs of non-professional or random filming were made by chance, the editors had to make very careful choices to pick the shots that met both of these standards.

The similar height of the smartphone camera image to the shoulder mounted camera images probably contributed to this. So if we switched to the smart phone perspective in the editing, and there was no clear signifier of the smartphone or how it’s unprofessional operator was handling it, it was only an experience like an unmotivated, sudden shift of the classic camera team as if they would have jumped over to film from a different angle. This adds up to the conclusion that a change of camera-perspective can only be experienced as contributing to a multi-perspectival dynamic, if the change is also clearly distinguishable on the narrative level.

In terms of perspectivation, sound also plays a crucial role. A shifting perspective can be clearly stressed or suppressed by sound. A change in the perspective of the image without a concurrent change in the perspective of the sound is confusing. Without being aurally situated, the narrative loses coherence as the camera appears to jump.

4.3 Conclusion

On the one hand, our practical comparative study has clearly shown that multi-perspective filmmaking can only be read as multi-perspectival if it is encompassed by a clear narrative delineation. Moreover, images captured by the additional multi-perspective cameras cannot be used to tell a story on their own, if only because the spatial orientation does not work with the non-directed, random camera points of view. For both narration and edition continuity, we remained dependent on the shoulder mounted camera. The multi-perspective in its purest form, without any narrative intention, abandons an author’s stance. But in documentary film, the narrative perspective of the author is an important instrument for ensuring transparency and thus establishing authenticity.


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