It is only a matter of time before paparazzi will be armed only with video cameras, believes Gary Morgan, co-founder of Britishowned US-based showbiz news agency Splash.
Splash claims to be the first agency to provide paparazzi video clips, having started with between one and three video clips a day on its site five years ago.
As demand has increased, it is now adding up to 500 video clips a month, with video antics of tabloid favourites such as pop star and rehab regular Britney Spears and heiress socialite Paris Hilton in high demand.
“All I can say is, the demand we are getting now is all moving online and is video. Everyone is going for the younger audience, and the younger audience is online. The younger audience is more visual by nature, and it wants to see video,” Morgan says.
Splash sends a stills photographer and videographer to every job, as stills taken from video aren’t good enough quality for print.
But Morgan says that the technology will develop soon that will allow them to take highresolution still images from video.
“There’s always a need for still cameras – there’s certain situations where you’ll need one, but you can strap 600mm lenses onto videos now.
“The quality of shooting is getting really good but it’s not quite there yet. If there’s nothing else out there, it’s definitely good enough, but they’re not as good as still cameras at the moment and won’t be for two to three years minimum.”
In February this year, Splash made $1m from the sale of controversial video footage of the last moments of Anna Nicole Smith’s life that showed Hollywood medics trying to revive her outside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel.
That figure is largely down to the exclusivity of the footage, rather than the quality, but video footage has the advantage of ensuring that split-second incidents are are not missed – an example from Splash is the brief moment that Britney Spears lost grip of her baby son in New York last year.
“There were about 10 still cameras and two video guys, but the person who made all the money was the video guy. Because you’re training your camera on them all the time, from the moment they leave the car, he captured the whole thing.
“All the photographers captured parts of it, but because they shoot a few frames, walk backwards, shoot a few more, they can’t keep going as long,” Morgan says.
Splash also has a People Paparazzi operation – where members of the public are encouraged to “snap, send and sell”. Morgan says that the quality of video content is low because most contributions come from camera phones. Most sales are photos.
One fortunate People Paparazzi contributor made $30,000 from a picture taken on a camera phone of Hollywood actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and two of their adopted children while they were on holiday in Canada (above).
Although poor quality, it was the first time they had been pictured together as a family, which made it a world exclusive.
“They can’t compete with a professional photographer, but you’ve got four billion phones out there,” says Morgan.
“If they happen to be in a restaurant and Jennifer Lopez is having dinner, they can take a picture before a photographer can get there.
The same people who would have called us are now taking a picture and sending it to us.”