Video Blog Shines Light on Iraq War

 
 
By Paul F. Roberts  |  Posted 2005-11-02
 
 
 
Those frustrated with the mainstream medias coverage of the Iraq War have a new source of information on the conflict: raw video footage from the conflict released under an open-source "Creative Commons" license.

Video footage from the Alive in Baghdad project has been released on video blogging site blip.tv. The video segments include the aftermath of bombings, Iraqi police actions and interviews with ordinary Iraqis living in the war zone.

The footage is being distributed for free in an effort to make U.S. citizens and the world aware of the everyday experience of Iraqis living in Iraq, according to documentary film maker Brian Conley.

Conley traveled to Jordan in September, after raising funds for the trip from friends and supporters in the United States. He has been reporting his experiences in both Amman and Baghdad on his blog, aliveinbaghdad.org, since September.

A resident of Somerville, Mass., Conley is a videographer who has worked for organizations such as Indymedia in the past. Conley, who opposes the U.S. occupation of Iraq, said the Alive in Baghdad project grew out of his frustration with depictions of the war in the mainstream media in the United States.

Conleys footage from Baghdad opens an unusual window into the 2-year-old conflict. His video includes interviews with peace activists and others critical of the U.S. occupation, as well as raw footage from the streets of Baghdad, where the gunshots of Iraqi police officers and roar of troop transports pierce the night.

A posting on Oct. 24 featured video footage from the neighborhood around Firdos Square, taken shortly after a bombing at the Palestine Hotel, where many journalists are housed. The video offers little in the way of hard news, but provides what mainstream media outlets rarely do: a long-format, unedited glimpse of the aftermath of a bombing, with scenes of smoke billowing over neighborhood buildings, grainy shots of Iraqi police officers roaming the streets, and street sounds punctuated by loud bursts of gunfire.

Other video segments include an interview with a woman named Rana Alouiby, who is described as the director of International Peace Angels, and Khalid Jarrar, an Iraqi who runs the secretsinbaghdad blog and has been critical of the Iraqi government.

Conley is distributing his work under a derivative Creative Commons License. All media created for the Alive in Baghdad project will be free for distribution, editing and reuse, according to the projects Web site. Distributing the content under Creative Commons is a way to reach the widest audience possible, Conley said via instant message from the Baghdad flat where he is staying.

Conley teamed with blip.tv after trying Googles video upload service and an ISP hosted service. The 6-month-old New York City-based video blogging site offered him an easy way to distribute his video content online that supported video streaming and also allowed visitors to download the video files themselves, Conley said.

Blip.tv has given Conley access to U.S.-based FTP (File Transfer Protocol) servers to upload his content and a Web site to host the files once they are uploaded, said Mike Hudack, a New York software developer who helped found blip.tv.

"Brians our first war correspondent," said Hudack, in an instant message conversation with eWEEK.

Hudack claims that blip.tvs staff generally takes a hands-off approach to video blog submissions, but became aware of the Alive in Baghdad project after Conley uploaded his Firdos Square footage to the site. After seeing the footage, Hudack immediately volunteered to help Conley get his video footage to the public.

"Its a wonderful thing, if you think about it ... the fact that we now have this footage of Iraq that isnt owned by the big media companies. Its a disruptive development," he wrote.

Blip.tv supports Creative Commons, as well as other licensing schemes, and allows contributors to choose which license they wish to attach to their content when they upload it. Blip.tv then embeds that license information in the video metadata on the site and is RSS feeds and cross postings, Hudack said.

Obtaining video from Conley has not always been easy. Iraq does not currently have a high-capacity backbone connection to the global Internet, and the electricity supply is notoriously finicky, even in the capital Baghdad, Hudack said. Conley has had to post his interviews and footage by candlelight, Conley said.

Click here to read a defense of blogging.

Periods of low Internet use—such as the recent Ramadan holiday—have also provided windows to get content out of the country, Hudack said.

The Alive in Baghdad footage is not exclusive to blip.tv and shares the Web site with bootleg concert video footage and video blogs of new puppies. However, the posts have garnered some interest, according to Kevin Hart, who runs the AliveinBaghdad.com blog, and communicated with eWEEK via instant messaging.

Click here to read how SixApart is simplifying video blogging.

A cable access station in Boston plans to use some of the Iraq footage, and several independent news Web sites have used the footage as well, Hart said.

Hart met Conley when both men worked on a documentary of the Free Trade of the Americas demonstrations in Miami called "The Miami Model." He said that the Creative Commons license promotes the free exchange of information.

Hart and Conley both said they are comfortable with the notion that the Alive in Baghdad footage could be used by media outlets or individuals who do not share their views of the conflict.

"Just because the footage originated with us does not mean we are the only ones who are capable of interpreting it," Hart wrote.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on image editing and Web publishing tools.

Rocket Fuel