Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Jamaicans on Firewire Hunt!!

It was still dark when I got up. The light was just coming up when Yiljan and I had our breakfast in the lonely gloom. The dark sky was not just because the sun was not up. It had something to do with the rain bouncing off the tin roof over the the little dining patio. It was not looking good for showing Jamaica in it’s best light. 

After breakfast we asked the lady at reception about the Wi Fi internet that we were told was available. She told us very cheerfully  that yes, internet was available, but not Wi Fi and only on Monday afternoons when the manager came in. Oh dear, looks like I might have to feed over the satellite. Long story short. Derrick (Mr Motivator) organised another hotel for us that definitely has good internet access and generally better facilities.

We went up to Derrick’s house way up in the hills. The weather was not looking good as we drove up through the clouds and the water cascading down from the mountains. He proudly showed us his little estate and the fun things like zip lines and paintball areas. The sky was still heavy and very grey. We had a plan  to shoot some material to show Derrick’s family in their colourful home but the weather was just horrible. His place is 2ooo feet up in the hills. Often down on the coast the weather can be a bit better. So we went down to our new hotel on the coast to try to get the shots done. The rain on the drive down was just horrid. 

Why do we get to places for the worst rain in months!!!!

At our new hotel FDR (Franklin D Resort)(don’t you love the Jamaican sense of humour?), we checked in to the nice two bedroom apartment. I got the gear set up and we waited for a break in the rain. 

Waiting for a hint of blue sky!!

There was a chink in the clouds so we dashed out on to the board walk with a table that was quickly set for breakfast. Thankfully Derrick got the piece to camera introducing his family done without too many takes because the rain did not stop for long. I then had several more very short pieces to camera to shoot. Once again in between the often very heavy rain showers we got them done. The good people from the GM.TV website wanted a couple of full workouts to put on the site. I got some help from the hotel setting speakers and giving me a separate audio feed which I needed for editing reasons. We did this with the equipment covered with towels and sunbeds so it did not get wet. There were a couple of lulls in the rain, it never stopped completely. A few of the staff and a couple of willing American tourists were enlisted to join in with Mr Motivator on the beach. The persistence of the rain meant that we had to do both the workouts in one take. 


It can sure rain!

The shooting completed we retreated to the shelter of the hotel to start the process of getting the material to GMTV in London. That was when a fairly normal length working day ended up stretching out to a marathon. All I needed to do was connect the camera to a mac, hit a few keys, wait a little while and after a lot of electronic computer wizardry the shots would be back in London where an eager Producer and Editor were waiting to chop it in to a bit of watchable telly. 

For the next seven hours the Island of Jamaica was being scoured for a 6pin to 6pin Firewire cable.That was the one not in the kit. I use no journalistic hyperbole when I say that people were taking rowing boats across lakes, driving for hours on dodgy roads and tipping out boxes that might contain anything related to computers. Others were trying to download software from various internet sites to enable their computers to recognise my camera via a different connection. Others were ripping television sets off brackets to use monitors so that I could get the audio and video on to a format that could then go easily on to my mac. Every business with anything in its’ name that sounded or looked like computer, internet, pc, mac, technology or electronic was called on the telephone by either Yiljan me or Frank.

This all happened when I asked Frank the owner of the hotel if I might be able to buy or borrow such a cable. Although a jolly laid back sort of a guy as most Jamaicans are, he’s the kind of person that makes things happen. 

The buy option was a non-starter because it was Sunday. Of course Jamaicans being Jamaicans they need a day of rest so everything is closed. The only answer was going to be getting a loan of one. The other ways of trying to transfer the pictures and sound all failed for so many reasons; the incompatibility between PAL and NTSC, camcorders not being able to record from a external input, computers not recognising a professional camera and on and on.

After a couple of hours Mark the hotels IT man arrived a bit breathless. He had twice taken a rowing boat out to where he though there might be a cable. He went twice because he had not looked in the right place the first time. He was clutching various video and audio cables along with a cable he handed to me triumphantly. Straight away I had to say that his was the same as the one I already had with the wrong end. He looked at the cables  shrugged his shoulders in apology, then joined Christian, the owner of  several scuba diving shops, and me in trying to work out why Christian’s pc would not recognise my camera when we managed to connect the camera to it.

In the middle of all this stress my wife called to ask for help. She had been working on some important documents on our computer at home for five hours solid. The compter had suddenly shut down on her. When she restarted it the file had been corrupted and would not open. Isn’t technology great. I am not sure if I was as sympathetic as I should have been. I did try.

At around 2am London time, a charming, shy and very wet guy called Lindon came in and quietly asked if this was the cable we needed. Without thinking about any reward other than a thank you he had driven for miles and miles through torrential rain over rough potholed roads  to bring us the cable that would save the day. After saying a very grateful thanks and reinforcing it with greenbacks I set to work getting the material to a couple of tired folk far away in sleepy London. As the shots were being encoded and sent Lindon enjoyed a well earned bite to eat and dried off. 

At last we got the call from the office to say it was all there but the sky looked a bit grey!!!!

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