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Opinion:
Melissa BELL

Melissa BELL
International Affairs Editor

What difference do camera angles make?

Le 26-11-2011

It’s a question that's been puzzling me all day. Back in February, the balconies that overlook Tahrir square had been made unavailable. That had been achieved in a variety of ways. The police had ordered all the hotels not to let out the rooms that overlooked the square. And anytime a camera popped up on a balcony elsewhere, the flat in question was found and the equipment inside was raided.

Only one camera had resisted the raids of the feared Mukhabarat. Miraculously one agency had managed to elude their grasp and its grainy but exclusive live shot of the square was fed out almost continuously by every broadcaster in the world.

The direct result of the balcony problem for the rest of us was that our only choice was to get down into the crowd.

We were lucky. With a week to go before the end of the Mubarak regime, we found a hot air vent on the main roundabout in the middle of the square. It blew out hot putrid air all day but it was slightly elevated and even when crowds climbed onto it we could just about keep them under control. Somehow it became our air vent and everybody else seemed to understand that.

And so for nearly a week we had our live point right down at crowd level. We lived, slept and breathed (quite literally) Tahrir square. And the respect was mutual it seemed. Despite our proximity, never a hand wandered nor a hard word was spoken. We were in the thick of it because it was possible to be in the thick of it. And we could see for ourselves how the impossible had become inevitable. The February revolution was one that the world was able to watch from within.

This time the cameras are on the balconies. The view is far better. But it's almost impossible to judge if this second revolution is anywhere near possible. And I can’t help but wonder whether camera angles aren't at least partly to blame. Perhaps if we shot it differently it would happen differently? Or maybe we're just too high up to see clearly from here.

The similarities with February are striking. Same square, same weather, same smells. But the enemy is different and in many ways, the potential revolution, more profound. It's just much, much harder to call.

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