The loss of privacy is a fact of modern life.  Technology, specifically surveillance technology, now both powerful and ubiquitous is partially responsible.  We are surrounded by networked surveillance cameras, small or easily concealed recording devices are easily obtained, even our own mobile phones and desktop computers can be used to watch and track our behavior or even unwittingly capture our images.

In this course, along with students from Tisch’s Grad Film department, we’ll explore surveillance tools in the context of documentary film production. We'll explore how new and yet unimagined technologies can work within the world of documentary filmmaking, in production, research, and display. In particular, surveillance and the technology of surveillance will be explored as both the topic of documentaries produced as well as the means of production.

This course will be co-taught by ITP faculty member Shawn Van Every and Carol Dysinger from Grad Film.  Enrollment will be limited to 8 students from each department working together in pairs or small teams.  It will run from 12:10 to 3:00 at ITP for 12 weeks during the semester.  Likely, it will meet on weeks 1 through 9 and 12 through 14 with a “production break” during week’s 10 and 11.  (The “production break” is when the Grad Film students go into production on their directing class assignments and may be when the filming for this class will occur as well.)

The course will be broken up into two sections, weeks 1 through 9 will focus on exploring the topic and tools of surveillance in a documentary film context and weeks 12 through 14 will focus on the completion of a project.

Office Hours

Shawn Van Every's Office Hours are Wednesdays from 3:30PM to 5:30PM and Thursdays from 1PM to 3PM or by appointment. Sign up here:

33.3% Weekly Assignments
33.3% Class Participation/Attendance
33.4% Final Project


There will be weekly assignments, relevant to the material from the previous class. You will pair up or paired with a student from the other department to complete each assignment. We'll be reviewing this work each week in the following class.

If your work involves true surveillance or otherwise includes participants who have not signed releases, the work itself should not be posted online. Documentation of the work though is required and should be posted online.

Mailing List

A mailing list will be used to allow for discussions to take place outside of the class as well as administrative purposes. Sign up:!forum/surveillance-documentary-group

Class Participation

This class will be highly participatory, you are expected to contribute to discussions and give feedback to other students. 


Mandatory. Absences will affect your final grade. If you are going to be absent, please let us know ahead of time if you can.


Excessive lateness will affect your grade. Don't be late.


Laptop use is prohibited while other students are presenting or during discussion. At other times, you may use them for note taking or class related work. Respect your fellow students and don't check your email.

Week by Week Breakdown

Week 1 (2/4) - Introductions - Syllabus - Technologies of Surveillance - Documentary Genres

    Assignment:  Given limitations gear/your life and not getting arrested, take pictures of anything (non-human) that makes you feel watched as well as what is being watched.  

                            Upload original to Flickr and submit to the Documentary Surveillance Flickr group (

                            Make sure that location reporting is turned on when you upload (EXIF Data On and Import EXIF Location Data in

                                 Also, make sure that Location is recorded when you capture the image:  
                                        iPhone: Settings - Privacy - Location Services (on) - Camera (on)  
                                        Android: Settings - Personal - Location (on) and make sure that it is enabled within the camera app

Week 2 (2/11) - Introduction to IP Surveillance Cameras

    Assignment:  Using any of the photos from last week, construct a short narrative (a few minutes at most) that explores surveillance.
                            Get up and running with and capture some footage from one of the IP surveillance cameras

Week 3 (2/18) - More with Surveillance Cameras

Week 4 (2/25) - Storytelling with Surveillance Cameras

Week 5 (3/4) - Programmatic Control - Motion Tracking - Face Recognition

Week 6 (3/11) Project Review

Spring Break

Week 7 (3/25) - Midterm Project Discussion and Data Surveillance: Network Data Sniffing/Data Analysis 

Week 8 (4/1) - Midterm Project Review - Data Surveillance Part 2

Production Break Week 1 (4/8) - No Class

Production Break Week 2 (4/15) (ITP Students Meet) - Intro to Documentary Filmmaking

Week 9 (4/22) - Mobile, Wearable, Point of View, and Hidden Cameras

Week 10 (4/29) - Final Project Workshop - Additional Topics - Other Sensors - Drone photography - Computer Cameras, Microphones, Recording Calls (Skype) - Remote Access Tool/Trojan (RAT) - Screen Recording - Call Recording

Week 11 (5/6) - Final Showings