Colonial House Picture of the colony
Meet the Colonists Behind the Scenes Interactive History Media Gallery
Behind the Scenes
Introduction Interview with the Executive Producer Colonial Life, Then and Now

The Native American Story
A Historian Awakens 1628
Religion on the Colony
The Longest Day
Building the Colony
Candid Camera
The Training
Candid Camera  
By Paul Cabana
Video icon

Diary cameras were pivotal in documenting each person's once-in-a-lifetime journey. You could sense the level of tension in the colony by looking at the video diary cam tapes -- not necessarily viewing them, but just holding them in your hand.

By looking at the actual cassette, you could guess how many minutes had been recorded, and when all four tapes were full, you knew something was up. All tapes were full the day the colony first encountered the Native Americans; there was the time when the chicken coop mysteriously moved; and then when the bread oven burst into flames; the tapes were full the on the morning of the first unexpected colony departure.

Each of the houses in the colony had a mini digital video camera perched in a small wooden box, mounted in a corner, at eye level, so that the colonists could simply open the box, turn the camera on and share their thoughts. Privacy, however, was non-existent. Recording a diary cam meant virtually anyone could listen in.

Colonists began taking the cameras to isolated spots -- a nearby hilltop, the shoreline, the store shed -- to talk candidly about their experiences. Each colonist (some more than others) used the diary cams as a running journal, at times revealing their most intimate struggles; at other moments, rambling about what they had eaten that day. There was no restraint. Personal revelations, tearful breakdowns, vents, threats, confessions -- the full emotional scope of the colonial experience was documented. In a community that was physically tight-knit, emotions quickly flared, and the video diary camera was relentlessly objective -- "my special, robot friend," as one colonist called it.

Each morning, a member of the production team would check in on the colony, then change all four of the diary cam tapes. Each tape was viewed and transcribed at a production cabin, usually that same afternoon. Every minute was logged -- who was speaking, what they were saying, and at what point on the tape. By the end of the project, 409 tapes were used.

Footage could be categorized into one of several degrees of importance. At the lowest level, the footage was paraphrased. If more significant, it was transcribed in full. And if highlighted in boldface, it meant that the clip could be a great piece to edit into one of the shows. The most critical footage had information that could alter a storyline currently being followed and filmed -- a member of the production team would literally run immediately to the colony to relay the information to the director and crew.

The diary cams served as a direct line of communication between the colony and the production team. The messages were often explicit: "My teeth are turning black" or "We're running out of goat feed." Other times, the messages were more subtle and special -- late night candlelit conversations or interviews amongst one another. It was a way of saying to the production team, "This is what is important to us and should be captured." These were moments of unparalleled access and authenticity. And for those who viewed the tapes, watching them was a privilege.

Email this Page to a Friend
About the Project For Teachers Resources Sitemap
Be more adventurous. Help bring programs like COLONIAL HOUSE to your PBS station ... [an error occurred while processing this directive]pledge online!