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.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Frustration with Technology and no Sleep.

Wednesday 29th April

By the time the edit was finished and the piece sent over to GMTV in London there was little opportunity for sleep. I climbed into my sleeping bag, setting my alarm for just two hours later. 

When it went off I reluctantly heaved myself out of the bag and pulled on my rather dirty, ripped trousers, courtesy of crawling around last night in the somewhat unhygienic gutters of Basra’s old town. I woke Richard. He, bleary eyed shuffled off to have quick shower to make himself almost presentable for the British public. Paul our Media Ops Major arrived with a vehicle to take us to the live location. He had heard briefly about last night and was keen to know the details. As we drove the short distance to the live spot via the DEFAC to grab a quick take away breakfast we filled him in.

The location we had chosen was a part of the base that looked as little like a military base as possible because our story for this morning was about Basra itself. So we were beside a Basra road sign with non-military buildings in the background.

Between us we rigged our little live set up. Unlike the BBC, Sky and ITN we did not have the budget to use a large satellite dish to send high quality broadcast pictures back to the UK. That costs a fair amount of dosh, needs lots of heavy kit and more people to assemble and operate it. Our set up is much easier, in theory, to put together and use. Therefore it is, again in theory much cheaper. However, both systems rely on satellites and time on them regardless of the equipment can be expensive.

The shot was set and the sound was working on the camera. All we needed to do now was dial into GMTV via the satellite. It took a few attempts to get through. When we did establish contact the sound that should have been coming back to us over the satellite link from GMTV was not there. I called Doug the Technical Director in the Gallery in London. The problem was at the technical end in GMTV. He was trying to chase it. The problem could not be sorted in time for our first broadcast. Instead of Richard linking in to out filmed piece about last night’s action it was done from the studio. At least the video tape went which was the important thing.

Operating the camera, monitoring the sound and getting the cue from the studio

Our set up is cheaper if we don’t spend too long on the satellite. As we had to remain up for longer than just the transmission time to try to find the fault the costs were racking up. At the end of the morning we were no further forwards. Richard was really tired after, like me only a couple of hours sleep. I was also starting to float into a sleep deprived semi trance. 

Added to the problems with the satellite communications was mobile phone communications. The mobile phone signal is to say the least not the most reliable. The only way that we managed to get a couple of our lives done when we eventually got through to London was for me to listen to the Technical Director in London and give Richard his cue.

Just to throw another trial to add to the morning’s list there were a few threatening bits of rain. So we had to keep the computer that runs the system in the dry in a car.

When our transmissions were finished I hoped to get some sleep but that did not happen for quite a while. I had to go and retrieve the tape I had shot last night from the BBC over on the other side of the camp.

Then the news came that our flights back to the UK had been put back by at least 24hrs. I then spent most of the rest dealing with getting a commercial flight home for both Richard and me on the day we want to be going home.

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