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Hi, I'm Daniela. Welcome to my personal lair on the Internet. This is where I write about storytelling, activism, technology and pop culture. Sometimes I post videos. I update my lair when the mood strikes me. Follow me on Twitter for daily updates (@dcap).

Camera Craze: An Introduction to Military Gun Cameras

This past week I visited the City Opera Thrift Shop to price cool finds for my new loft home. While I was there, I stumbled upon a rare treasure:

WWII U.S. Navy aircraft gun camera!
WWII Gun Camera

Gun cameras have been used as a gunnery training aid since the 1914-1918 war. (via warandgame)

During WWII, the Bell and Howell company developed the gun camera for the U.S. military. The cameras used 16mm film and most had a 35mm lens. The gun camera was designed to operate when the aircraft guns were firing, to provide a filmed record of targets fired upon. The footage was also used to create simulation exercises and drills for fighter pilots.

As early as the 1920’s, the Japanese navy mounted machine-gun cameras on their fighter planes. One of the earliest examples is the Type 15 Gun Camera with Watch. It was inspired by the Hythe gun camera made by Thornton-Pickard in Great-Britain – the O.G. of camera guns. (via

Hythe Gun CameraMark III Hythe Machine Gun Camera, 1915

If you’re a war movie buff or recently watched a documentary about WWII, you’ve probably seen actual gun camera footage. It is often the source for stock footage for war films.

There is also a subculture on YouTube that collects and shares WWII gun camera footage. Many aficionados are white males who either served in the military or are currently enlisted, or are from a military family.

What is most fascinating to me about gun cameras is the different reactions that their existence continues to provoke. For me, it was just an old camera that I found interesting. For a WWII veteran, a gun camera might conjure frightening or depressing memories experienced from watching the processed footage. A camera buff tracking footage on YouTube might consider it a work of art, material to remix and incorporate into their own videos about war, fighting or to punctuate a political point of view.

Gun Camera (via siimvahur‘s flickr)

The creation of gun cameras and their use as a training tool (recording maneuvers and studying them) must have influenced the military to use video games for combat training. Watching the footage was a way for WWII gunners to evaluate their performance or for soldiers to learn from their peers mistakes. Today, a soldier is more likely to use virtual reality to study technique.

Army Experience Simulator (via Army Experience Center‘s flickr)

As the Washington Post recently commented, this is the video game generation of soldiers. These war games have transformed the way the United States military fights wars, as well as soldiers’ ways of killing and how they process death.

An even more fascinating development is the invention of gun cameras for video games.

Gamers (and soldiers) can record their actions within the video game to create video from games and other programs. It is often triggered by the firing of a weapon in a way similar to the original guncams of WWII. An example of this software is Growler, a program that can turn recorded video game video into AVI files, animated GIF files, and even JPEG screen shots. Gun cameras for video games are primarily used to create machinama and to improve gameplay.

Military/Video Game/Computer-Inspired Films:

TRON (1982)
A hacker is literally abducted into the world of a computer and forced to participate in gladiatorial games where his only chance of escape is with the help of a heroic security program.

War Games (1983)
A young man finds a back door into a military central computer in which reality is confused with game-playing, possibly starting World War III.

The Lawnmower Man (1992)
A simple man is turned into a genius through the application of computer science.

Hackers (1995)
A young boy is arrested by the US Secret Service for writing a computer virus and is banned from using a computer until his 18th birthday. He and his friends create video games and use video game-style interfaces to hack into company servers.

Gamer (2009)
Set in a future-world where humans can control other humans in mass-scale, multi-player online gaming environments.

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