Audio and video

Possible objectives

  • Starting or supporting dialogue between communities and the government
  • Providing concrete evidence to governments to encourage them to recognise indigenous lands
  • Supporting communities by presenting and providing knowledge
  • Collecting evidence of deforestation or forest degradation
  • Providing evidence of wrongdoing towards individuals or communities

This introduction to using audio and video is part of a Primer for using technology to monitor and share information on rainforest issues, land rights and indigenous rights. It is designed as a starting point for organisations and activists interested in adding technology to improve their advocacy work, and is the product of a partnership between Rainforest Foundation Norway and The Engine Room.

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Rainforest Foundation Norway The Engine Room

What is it

  • Films or audio recordings can be recorded on mobile phones, or specialized devices like digital cameras, dictaphones or video cameras.
  • Videos can present short advocacy messages, collect visual evidence of human rights violations, publish participatory films by community members, or document deforestation over time. Audio recordings can perform many of the same functions.
  • Many smartphones now allow you to record, edit and upload video or audio to the internet. They can also automatically collect the GPS location of a photo or film, meaning that you can combine it with maps or combine it with other data.

How it can help

Video and audio can communicate information about people and places that it’s impossible to explain only with text, maps or data. This makes them an effective advocacy tool that can explain a campaign quickly in a personal way. Video and audio evidence can also be used in legal cases on human rights violations or illegal activity if you follow specific procedures. The StoryMaker app for Android phones is designed to help you create multimedia stories on your Android device, and theCameraV Android app can help to collect digital evidence securely, and verify where it was produced.


Don’t assume you need to buy a new smartphone or camera. Many older devices will still provide high-quality images (look for ones with 5 megapixels or more). Audio and video files take a lot of digital memory – compress them using free software, or use lower quality files that are easier to publish when internet is slow. You can edit directly from a smartphone or use free software like Lightworks Free and Audacity (1) (2). Accessories like tripods and external microphones aren’t essential, but will improve quality. Video4Change and WITNESS have a wide range of resources that give technical advice.


You can now create video and audio very cheaply but generally, the more complex the product, the more it will cost. Filming an indigenous group’s protest with a smartphone will be much cheaper than a professional-quality 20-minute documentary. Filming, editing and uploading can also be very time-consuming: does your organisation have time to produce a video itself, or would it be more realistic to pay a professional?

Risks and challenges

Risks to people making the recording: Recording audio or video can put video-makers at risk. Delete or encrypt personal data on devices, and clean devices frequently – fingerprints or residue can show where they’ve been. Only share sensitive information with trusted groups or lawyers before publishing, and check if it’s legal to record before starting.

Risks to people you are recording: Follow the steps in the ‘Consent’ paragraph of Getting the Data (page X), ensuring that people understand that the recording could spread widely and be seen by anyone. Turn off any location-recording functions, and blur people’s faces (1) (2).

Case studies

Using videos recorded on mobile phones as evidence

HuMa collects data on land-related conflicts in Indonesia, including videos of local communities talking about their livelihoods and experiences. The videos were recorded on mobile phones by community members and combined with other data sources like GPS data, increasing its value as evidence.

How did it help?

  • The data has been used by groups including the National Commission of Human Rights, the Chief of National Police and other NGOs.
  • The certification agency for Perhutani (an Indonesian state-owned logging company) has also referred to HuMa’s data as a basis for investigating particular incidents.

Using video to document illegal logging in Indonesia

In response to advocacy campaigns, Indonesian paper company APP signed a zero deforestation commitment. In September 2013, Eyes on the Forest (a coalition of 3 local environmental organizations in Indonesia), filmed a logging company clearing natural forest that was a known APP supplier.

How did it help?

  • The video was short and simple, making it easier to upload and publish quickly.
  • Although the video was filmed from a distance, it was still valuable as evidence because it clearly showed logging in progress. It was backed up by photographs with GPS coordinates and a detailed report.
  • APP was forced to respond to the video by stating that the logging was in an exclusion zone that it had not disclosed.

Further resources

  • The Guardian Project’s CameraV app can help to collect video and photo evidence securely and in a way that can be verified by others.
  • The StoryMaker app for Android phones helps you create multimedia stories on your Android device
  • WITNESS and Video4Change both have useful resource libraries on using video in your work
  • Small World News offers guides on making video and audio
  • Audacity offers free audio editing capabilities, while Lightworks Free version can tackle many simple video editing tasks


This site was created by Rainforest Foundation Norway and The Engine Room as an introduction to using technology to monitor and share information on rainforest issues, land rights and indigenous rights. Download the whole primer here. It was first published in July 2016. Last updated in July 2016.

Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) is one of the world’s leading organisations in the field of rights-based rainforest protection. Its mission is to support indigenous peoples and traditional populations of the world’s rainforests in their efforts to protect their environment and fullfil their rights by assisting them in:

  • Securing and controlling the natural resources necessary for their long-term well-being and managing these resources in ways which do not harm their environment, violate their culture or compromise their future;
  • and developing the means to protect their individual and collective rights and to obtain, shape, and control basic services from the state.

RFN collaborates closely with more than 70 local and national environmental, indigenous and human rights organisations in 11 countries in the Amazon region, Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.


The Engine Room is an international organisation that helps activists, social change organisations, and change agents make the most of data and technology to increase their impact. The Engine Room provides direct, project-level support for social change organisations; brings together communities to coordinate emerging ideas and collect practitioners; and documents and publishes findings to help anyone in the sector make better decisions about using data and technology.

Tom Walker and Tin Geber researched and wrote the main narrative, while Ruth Miller led work on the design and visuals creation. Vemund Olsen and Christopher Wilson provided invaluable input and editing support. The site sourcecode is available on Github. Comments or questions? Contact or

Return to the Primer on Technology for Forest Peoples’ Rights.

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