Plymouth reporter files headcam reports from Afghanistan

Defence correspondent of The Herald, Plymouth, Tristan Nichols, has filed six video reports he compiled in Afghanistan, using a pioneering head-mounted camera.

He first used the device in Sierra Leone in October, filming Plymouth military units training. On his most recent trip Nichols filmed the Three Commando Brigade.

His footage included an exclusive guided tour of camp Bastion and a patrol in Lashka Gar, as well as Christmas messages home from the troops.

Although he and other journalists came under distant attack from Taliban rockets on his last night of the trip in Kandahar, the events happened too quickly to catch on camera.

Nichols said: “It was really easy to use the headcam and people wanted to talk to you so they could get Christmas messages to their loved ones. “We are still very much leading the field and are pioneering it for the industry. It offers a view of people in a war zone rather than just a colourful story.” Nichols underwent training with Plymouth company Audax Business Consultancy, which produces the cameras. Nichols was trained in light and sound quality as well as composition and delivery.

The digital footage from the £1,700 Cylon Body-Worn Surveillance System was sent to the newsroom via a USB connection on a laptop in AVI format, where it was then edited for the web. The Herald’s web editor, Neil Shaw, said: “Some may think it’s a gimmick but it has all sorts of benefits.

“It gives the viewer a unique perspective through the journalist’s eye, which you do not necessarily get with a film crew. “You don’t have to carry bulky camera equipment, it can just sit in the palm of your hand. Its size makes it very unobtrusive and people feel less intimidated; it affects the way people react to you. “Also part of the journalist’s job is to take notes and the headcam frees up their hands so they can do this.

“It is particularly effective in somewhere like Afghanistan where the reporters are embedded. Viewers get a real idea of what it’s like there, day in and day out. “Tristan was not generating standard reports, he wrote a first person piece about his experiences and with the head camera that’s what you get; a first person view.”

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