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.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Kirsty's New Hair in a Hard Hat

Kirsty in the Rubbish

Thursday 11th June

Chatlerhault House was bathed in the early morning sun and the sky was clear blue when we arrived to broadcast the weather reports from there. 

It was the first time I had met the now not so new weather presenter Kirsty. 

To allow the Presenters to hear the programme they have an earpiece in their ear.

It is preferable for that earpiece receiver to be a radio so that they are able to move around without being restricted by a cable.

This morning unfortunately the satellite truck we were using did no have the radio kit and neither did Ian the Sound Recordist.

I still wanted to make as much of the location as possible because it was a beautiful setting. All the more beautiful when we were told that the building we were in front of was originally built as kennels.

The main house, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Hamilton was demolished back in the 1920s.

The easiest way for a Presenter to do any walking with talkback on a cable is for it to come out the bottom of the leg of their trousers.

It is always an interesting conversation when you tell them that as well as hanging radio mic packs from their pants there is a cable going down their trousers.

In the spirit of a true professional Kirsty allowed me to stick my length through her pants.

It was a fairly short length because once it was in I could always extend it.

The length of XLR audio cable was now sticking out of her trousers and she could walk around fairly normally albeit no to far and not in a circle.

The first live at just after 6am was straight forward and the weather was perfect the sun was giving Kirsty a healthy glow and the house behind was golden.

As the morning wore on the sun was quite quickly obscured by lots of cloud. The weather was doing what Kirsty had forecast.

We all hoped that the chance of showers did not come true.

Although the time that the weather reports are done is fixed the amount of time that the presenter has to do the report can vary quite a bit. This is the nature of a live TV programme.

The presenter is reliant on a countdown from the PA in the gallery. It is the PA’s job to make sure that the programme runs exactly to time. 

There is no margin for error. The timing must be perfect, to the second.

Just before the reports began Kirsty was given the amount of time she had to talk for.

Then as she talked the PA would give her the timings in her ear over talkback. 

There are two types of talkback that we use, IFB and Gallery. IFB is simply the sound of the programme without the sound coming from our location.

IFB allows us to hear clearly, or in some cases not very clearly what the presenters in the studio are saying so that the presenter on location can hear any cues and maybe have a chat with whoever is on the sofa.

The Director, PA, Senior Producer or Technical Director can all key over this sound to talk to the presenter. This is how the PA gives her countdown.

Gallery talkback, or Open talkback is the general activity in the production gallery. The main voice is that of the Director and PA as they co-ordinate what is going on .

I was listening to both Open and IFB. Kirsty just had IFB.

“One minute.”, Jo’s voice was precise and authoritative.

I could hear it in both my ears so I knew that Kirsty should also be able to hear it.

“Thirty seconds.”

Again the calm tones were in both my ears.

“Fifteen seconds.”

I only heard that one in my right ear on the open talkback.

I knew that Kirsty would have heard it in her ear.

I could giver her the fifteen second sign with my free hand, but I had not worked with her before and if I started to wave my hands around it might put her off.

It can be a little disconcerting for a presenter to see a cameraman make some unexpected gestures.

I would only do something if Kirsty was going way over.


Still only in one of my ears.


Right side again.

“Eight. Seven. Six.”.

I could tell that Kirsty was not going to come out on time but she was starting to get to the end. So I decided to leave her to it.

“Five. Four. Three. Two. One.”

Kirsty carried on  talking for perhaps another seven or eight seconds. Not a long time by normal standards but can be like a life time in telly terms.

I was just about to give Kirsty a sign to wrap up when both my ears picked up, “when you can.” 

That’s TV parlance for, shut up now!

Kirsty instantly said “here’s your summary.

When we finished that broadcast Kirsty was surprised that she had not heard the counts.

I explained that the counts had been given it was just that they had not come through to her.

We arranged that I would give her the standard hand signs if she was not hearing further counts.

Sure enough for all the next broadcasts some of the counts were missing from Kirsty’s ear.

Dougie, the Technical Director and I had may short conversations about the talkback and we tested it a few times.

The problem appeared to be with the switch on the panel that allowed Jo to speak to the presenter.

So, for the rest of the morning I gave Kirsty the final important counts.

Often the Presenters and Reporters get texts from various people who have seen them on TV.

Kirsty got quite a few this morning. None of them were in any way related to what she had been saying but how she looked.

A hairdresser had put his scissors to work in her blonde tresses.

Her hair was now much shorter.

Once we had finished the live broadcasts we were off straight away to do some filming.

Kirsty was going to be doing a feature on rubbish disposal and recycling.

The first thing to be done was a set up at Kirsy’s sisters house not far from the live location.

We did some pieces to camera to set the scene of a bin being put out.

Now the forecast of the showers came true. We had to scurry inside a couple of times to avoid the heavy rain

South Lanarkshire council had been very helpful laying on a bin lorry that we could film with.

The main part of the story was to be done at a landfill site near East Kilbride.

When we arrived we were greeted by a jolly PR chap called Martin.

Health and safety is a huge concern for the guys on the site so were were issued with nice hard hats and hi-viz jackets.

The other important bit of safety wear was a pair of steel toe capped boots.

We were a bit surprised when Martin handed us a box of brand new boots that were our size and said that they were ours to keep.

We were taken in a Land Rover a matter of a few yards to the area where the truck would dump it’s load of rubbish from the wheelie bins of the posh estates in Bothwell. 

I did some shots of the van tipping up we then went to the “working face” to do shots of the approved rubbish being dumped and compressed.

Kirsty, her nice new haircut hidden away under a shinny white hard hat did an interview with the manager of the site.

All done I set course for home with my now rather dirty new safety shoes.

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