Along with the explosion of surveillance cameras comes a new type of filmmaker. Using a technique called "video sniffing"; they're pirating CCTV footage from shopping centres and the police to "retake control of their environment".

Video sniffing, or "warspying", was originally a game with the goal of getting hold of CCTV footage. With the help of a 2.4GHz receiver (which you can get on eBay) and an old camera, video sniffers can receive the images recorded by small shops and offices, and even the police. Once they know where the surveillance cameras are, they can put on a performance in view of them and retrieve the footage without spending an extra penny. The money-saving technique has become increasingly popular in the past few years and is now appearing in exhibitions and actual films.

'Faceless' (exerpt) by Manu Luksch

"A way to call video surveillance into question"

Monika Vykoukal is a curator at Peacock Visual Arts, a contemporary visual-arts organization in Aberdeen, Scotland.

A few months ago, we set up an exhibition about new media that focused on surveillance and the way technology affects life. Several CCTV films were screened, including "Faceless" by Manu Luksch and "The Duelists" by David Valentine. I feel that making CCTV films is a way to call video surveillance into question and to trigger a reflection about its use.

The community of CCTV filmmakers is small but widespread and bound to evolve and gain popularity. They use networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to promote their work. CCTV filmmaking is very appealing and inspiring because it's an accessible art form, something people feel they can take part in and add something to."

"An attempt to retake control of the environment"

The Commercial by David Valentine

This video was "sniffed", or pirated from CCTV cameras. 


The Duelists by David Valentine

This video was made with images from CCTV cameras, but the video artist had been given permission to use the control room. The footage was not pirated. 


David Valentine is a British filmmaker.

I released this film last year. I was given access to a shopping centre control room with 180 cameras, which I filmed from all at the same time. I'm now working on a project I've had in mind for a while; a musical, based on West Side Story. I'll be filming in Basildon in Essex, England with 20 actors. I'm basically going to use whatever CCTV cameras I can get my hands on. Primarily this will come from the town centre and the shopping centre CCTV. But I'm also looking at personal CCTV cameras worn by Basildon police and may include wireless cameras I can sniff in the area as well. [In total] the figure will be in the hundreds! Even though I personally don't like being filmed all the time, my work isn't politically driven. It's rather an attempt to retake control of the environment and allow socially disadvantaged kids to use technology freely and be creative."