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, 25 November 2009

Cumbria Floods Day 5

Wednesday 25th November

This morning it was one of those good news, bad news days.

It started off with the bad news.

There was no hot water for me to get a shower. I could do nothing with my hair. So my secret ambition to be like the professor in Back to the Future had at last been realised.

The good news followed.

It was not raining so I could take my car.

Once again we had a little convoy of the lighting truck and Sean in the satellite truck.

The Truck with its Sail Up!

The location that we were heading for was the temporary rail station that was being built on the north side of Workington.

Richard sped off to check out the location and work out what we could do when we got there as we had not seen it.

I was leading the two slower trucks.

We were tootling along about as quickly as we could go. If it had not been a black emptiness outside the side windows we could have enjoyed the beautiful Cumbrian landscape.

I lead the guys over a roundabout. I was not, as is usual following sat nav because it would guide me to the wrong side of the town and over the stricken bridge.

I had gone a little way passed the roundabout when I realised I had taken the wrong exit.

I gave myself a severe talking to. We could not turn around safely until the next roundabout.

A few moments later we were on the right track again.

The phone was ringing. Richard told me that the location that had been selected for us to do the live broadcasts from was no more than a flattened bit of earth and some piled up scaffold poles.

There was nothing for Neil to light because there was nothing to see.

So we were going to go to the Calva bridge.

When Sean, Neil and I arrived at the bridge we all had to work quite quickly to get set up ready to go for our first broadcast at the start of GMTV.

Sean expressed some concern for the speed and gustiness of the wind.

He parked the truck in the most sheltered area we could find.

He then got the dish set up. Pete got his sound kit ready. Neil dragged out his big lights. I got the camera ready and Richard pulled the cable out.

It was a blur of action as it all came together as the GMTV titles rolled.

Well all except that there was a problem with the programme sound getting to us.

The GMTV gallery could see and hear us but we could not hear them down the programme sound circuit.

I was able to hear the director because I had dialled into the gallery talkback.

We just had time to let them know that Richard would have to take his cue from me.

I gave him the cue and off he went talking about the temporary rail station up the road and the damage to the bridge.

As he was talking the programme sound burst into life with perfect timing for us to hear Helen the news reader apologise to the viewers for our pictures and sound disappearing.

The wind which was picking up had blown the satellite dish off the satellite.

The beam of radio waves that the dish sends around 32 000 kilometres into space to the satellite transponder is very narrow and as a result it does not take much movement of the dish to knock it off.

Sean was doing his best by transmitting with as much power as possible. The boys in London receiving the signal coming back from the satellite were doing their best by using as big a receiving dish as they could to suck in as much of the signal as possible.

The dish could not maintain the signal on to the satellite for any guaranteed period.

It was too risky to attempt another live broadcast.

What we could do however, was record a piece and feed it back as many times as was needed until there was a full version there.

It was then that we noticed a problem with what we needed to show.

The problem with the bridge was a crack in the middle arch of the three arch bridge.

The bank of the river beside the bridge has lots of trees on it which currently were bare of leaves but festooned with all kinds of debris left behind by the water.

In all our rushing to get on air for the first broadcast we had not seen that the central arch, the important one was slightly obscured by a few annoying branches.

Some of them we managed to bend back a bit and wedge behind other parts of the trees.

However, there was one that was too far over the river to get a hold of to bend.

It needed to go.

It was the first time I had used the saw attachment for my Swiss Army multitool.

I was pretty impressed and how easily it went through the branch that was not much thinner than my wrist.

At Least We got to see the Bridge Lit Even if the Viewers Didn't.

The Swiss Army Tool at Work.

We were all set. There was plenty of light. We could see the relevant part of the bridge.

We did a recording.

Back in the truck Sean tried to feed it back to London.

Standing inside the truck was like being on a ship the wind was rocking it so much.

Sean tried sending the piece a number of times. GMTV in London were only getting a few second before the signal was blown away.

Sean Plays and Re-plays The piece of Tape.

Still Windy.

There was one more thing we could do.

Sean took the truck to see if he could find a sheltered area to set up in and we would send the piece from there.

The light was starting to come up so we did yet another piece on tape.

Even in the most sheltered place he could find the wind still caused problems.

We were pretty frustrated with it all by that time.

That was when the technology gremlins decided that they would get in on the act to add to our nightmare.

The computer that controls the dish and all the associated electronics exerted its own power by not allowing Sean to increase the power of the radio beam.

No matter what he did or said to the unhelpful collection of silicon chips it the tiny blip on the spectrum analyser stayed tiny compared with the large ones from other trucks beside it.

Sean Tries to get the Computer to do as it's Told!

We all left feeling tired and deflated.

At least the rain had held off for my wiperless journey north.

It held off for the start of the journey.

My days misery was not over as I drove home in relays, stopping to wait for a lull in the rain that was sometimes just light drizzle and often torrential downpour.

I did get home eventually. 

No comments:

Post a Comment