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, 27 May 2009

Stress and Frustration. All in a Days Work.

Tuesday 26th May (pm)

I went out for a little walk in the down time before we might have to shoot a piece for tomorrow’s programme. I savoured the atmosphere of the long straight shopping street that ended at the Piazza Venezia.

I was thinking about grabbing a cappuccino in one of the cafes and people watch for a while. Then the phone rang. It was Elaine. 

“Bang goes my coffee.”, I thought as I hit the answer button.

Sure enough I had to hot foot it back to meet her to go out to one of the iconic sights of Rome to record an 18 second promo to be broadcast tonight.

It needed to be back in London by 4:30pm UK time. It was already after 2pm.

I power walked back to the hotel in double quick time.

Somewhat sweaty I got in a taxi with Elaine to go to what is one of the most famous spots in the city, The Trevi Fountain.

It was thronged with people throwing coins in the fountain, getting their picture taken and generally enjoying the place.

We tried to start filming but there was nowhere safe to leave our kit. After one or two aborted attempts to film Elaine in the mass of people whilst keeping an eye on the valuables we spotted the welcome sight of a couple of British Bobbies.

Great, we would not only get a shot of them for the piece but we could ask if they could keep an eye on the stuff for the length of time it took to shoot the piece, all of twenty seconds.

In a manic flurry of activity we managed to get it done, get shots of the cops and get some excited fans. 

We retrieved the gear. Nipped in to a nearby cafe to get the material into Elaine’s laptop so that we could get it sent to London.

When I say lap top it is not really a true description. The computer actually calls itself a “Mobile Work Station”. 

When Elaine goes through security at airports it is checked not for explosives or drugs, but to see how many illegal immigrants might be concealed in it.

After Elaine having to carry the thing what with all the cables and power supplies  that go along with it she has developed a bit and I would not want to challenge her to an arm wrestling contest!

Although she does appear to be getting shorter every time I see her now.

As we composed ourselves I discovered that someone had made off with my sun glasses during the hustle and bustle at the fountain.

I was gutted for two reasons. Firstly they were pretty expensive Oakleys, but mainly they had been a birthday present from my wife Anne and my sons Cameron and Murray.

The material went in to the computer without a problem. 

When it came to sending it my rather down mood deepened. We were now up to deadline time. There was no broadband signal to get on to the internet to get the material to London.

Laden with the camera, run bag, bits bag, hand bag, computer bag and holding the computer with the broadband dongle dangling we searched for a signal.

It appeared. We sat in the middle of a group of tourists and managed to get the piece sending.

It did not take too long to get there, thank goodness. We were becoming a tourist attraction in our own right as we sat on the ground surrounded by various bits of electronic paraphernalia.

The sigh of relief was just easing out of the pair of us when the phone rang. The sound on the piece was unusable. All that the people at GMTV in London could hear was the delightful sound of the fountain and a distant but a hardly audible Elaine.

We checked the edit. Sure enough the audio track that had gone to GMTV was not the correct one. It was the effects track and not the audio from Elaine’s mic.

The piece was then resent. I double checked that the correct audio had gone this time. 

It was now well past the deadline time.

I confirmed with the tech guys back in the UK that the piece was there and the sound was OK. 

We heaved a giant sigh of relief. 

We could now turn our attention to the imminent arrival of Emily the Producer and Ben Shephard the Presenter and the pieces that needed to be shot.

I was on my first mouthful of water when the phone rang.

The promo was not going to be used because the sound of water from the fountain in the background of the shot could be heard. The promo department wanted to cover that shot with other shots that did not have water in them.

I was livid. If we had known that “clean” audio had been required I would have shot the piece to camera somewhere else.

The brief we had been give was: an eighteen second piece to camera containing the word that had been e-mailed to Elaine.

We had just wasted nearly three hours of what could have been productively put to use filming for the pieces for the morning.

I had just ended that call when Emily the Producer called to say that she and Ben were almost at our location.

We met, quickly got the hellos done and downed a quick drink of water. A plan for what was left of the day was formulated after a bit of discussion between us and the office in London.

Ben, Emily and I dashed of to do some shots of Ben around the Trevi Fountain and talking to some fans as he walked around. 

This was needed to show Ben around Rome on his first visit to the city.

The light was starting to become an issue as I started filming with Elaine.

The piece needed to talk about the amount of dosh it was costing the fans to get here, where they might be staying and give  a flavour of the growing excitement. 

I did some shots of guys selling scarves and shirts. There was a chap who had come all the way with his son from Australia just to see the match and there was a group of singing fans that I filmed and Elaine did interviews with.

That was two boxes ticked.

We jumped in a taxi and headed across the city, past the stadium to the area dubbed “Fergies Field”. this was where a lot of fans would be camping.

The sun was down but there was still enough glow in the sky to film for a little bit longer.

We did an interview with some students who did not have tickets but were happy to be there just to enjoy the atmosphere.

I was setting up to do a piece to camera with Elaine when five guys started to get there tent put up. 

They did not get very far because they had forgotten the tent poles.

After we finished the piece to camera I filmed the guys and some of the others on the campsite taking the mickey out of them.

It was all very good humoured and made a great little end to the film.

Darkness was well established by the time we got back to the hotel.

All we needed to do now was get the material in to the computer again and get it edited.

If ever a piece of technical equipment was nearer to being blown up with the enthusiasm Richard Hammond and Co blow up caravans it was Elaine's monstrosity of a computer.

I had shot the material and Elaine had conducted the interviews in such a way that it could be edited quickly and easily.

It was going to be a while before it got to the editing stage.

It took the best part of two hours to get the material into the computer.

Anything in brackets that says anything like “not responding” now sends me in to an instant Pavlovian rage.

If there was a prize for the most exceptional “exceptional error” then that computer gets a gold.

The computer had to be shut down and restarted more times than Gordon Ramsey says his famous word!

After being up at before 5am I left Elaine at 10pm to get the edit done.

It took her less than an hour to edit a great little piece full of the colour and atmosphere of what it is like for the fans in Rome.

Unfortunately for her it then took until 2am to get the material to London.

LIke me she had been up since 5am and was due to get up like me at 5am again. At least she had managed to get an hours kip when I had taken my walk to the Piazza. 

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