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.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Where is Table Mountain?

Wednesday 11th November

The morning light was peeking round the edges of my curtains as I woke up to my alarm.

The sight that greeted me when I parted them was a window being spattered by rain, a depressing grey sky, and streets so wet they shone like mirrors.

Not only were we not going to see the magnificent rock that makes Cape Town one of the most spectacular cities in the world we were not going to see it whilst getting cold and wet.

Table Mountain is in there. Honestly.

The local satellite chaps had the dish set up and the cables running to our live location on the upper board walk of the V&A Waterfront shopping centre.

The Cape Town Satellite Truck.

A number of the families that we were going to speak to on air had already arrived nice and early.

There was a slight party atmosphere to the 221 restaurant that had opened early especially for us on this grotty morning.

There were kids in bright T-shirts, people with small South African flags and a group all dressed up for the forthcoming World Cup with very bright hats.

The noise that will provide the sound track to the World Cup will come from long thin plastic horns modelled on the hunting horn we’re all familiar with.

A lot of the people had those.

Simon and I had the camera and the sound kit cabled up to the truck nice and quickly after we had recorded a couple of tease shots and a tiny bit of voice over.

I fed that back to London and we tested the sound and vision.

Simon was looking less than happy as he tried to rig the talkback equipment.

That side of things was not going quite as well. He handed me a receiver. I could hear the studio but it was very muffled and there was an annoying hiss.

It was the result of a rubbish phone line and a radio signal that was far from perfect.

When he was trying to sort it out I did a few rehearsals of the first broadcast with Emma and Ian.

It was all going to be pretty simple because the main reason for us being where we were had gone. Instead of Table Mountain rearing up infront of us all we could see was just a grey mass.

Inside the 221 Restaurant out of the Rain.

The bulk of the broadcasts would be taking to the families that had come from the UK and made this great city their home.

Simon had sorted the talkback problem to a large extent. It still wasn’t perfect but certainly usable.

There were only a few seconds to go to on air.

Simon hoisted his sound mixer over his shoulder and went to pick up the boom microphone, the bit of kit that would allow us and the viewers back home hear what was being said.

It had gone.

A few people scattered to have a look for this long thin pole with a fluffy thing on the end.

A sense of dread was building inside me as I watched Simon franticly looking around where all our kit was.

Suddenly Michelle, like the Olympic torch bearer triumphantly entering the arena came running over holding the boom microphone, accompanying herself with the jubilant cry, “I’ve found it!”

Simon plugged it in, I pointed the camera at the hidden mountain and the lashing rain and Emma started to talk about the unseasonably bad weather.

Using a wide angle lens falling rain never seems to look as bad on camera as it actually is.

So to make the point visually I had deliberately allowed the lens to get spattered with spots of rain and would wipe it clean on air to highlight the conditions.

The first broadcast was done and worked visually and the folk Emma spoke to were very good.

Simon Adjusts Emma Crosby's talkback.

Michelle Stands by to time the Rehearsal.

A cup of coffee and a pastry later it was time for the second broadcast.

The format was simple. Emma would do a little piece to camera to introduce a short bit of video tape. When the that finished she would speak to some family members.

The presenters linked to Emma and off she went chatting about Cape Town and how big it was etc, a few seconds before she linked into the report I heard the beep of a phone line dropping out.

We had lost the studio talkback. Emma would not hear the report come to an end or anything else. So she would not know when to start talking again.

In my other ear from the one listening to the studio I was listening to the talkback from the gallery. That was still fine.

I knew that the guys at the satellite dish would be redialling the talkback but I also knew that it would probably not be back in time.

I told Emma to take her cue from me and let Simon the director know that I was the only one that could hear anything from London.

He needed to tell the presenters on the sofa that Emma would not be able to hear them otherwise they might try and talk directly to her and that would look dreadful.

The report finished. Emma took my cue and further counts perfectly like a true professional.

Simon’s nervousness about the talkback had been justified. The quality and sudden non-existence of the mobile phone signal testified to that.

We had a bit of a discussion about it before the final broadcast.

André, one of the satellite engineers said that he thought that he might have the equipment in the van to allow us to use a land line. This would be much more reliable and is generally better quality.

It was all rigged in time for the final broadcast which went off without a hitch.

The V&A Waterfront Crew Mop the Decks.

Ian gives Emma the Script.

There was no time for much celebration that the work in Cape Town had come to an end because we had to dash back to our hotel to get packed and be thrown on to the streets of Cape Town to kill time until our flight home in the evening.

We spent most of the time over a very leisurely meal back at the Waterfront watching a couple of seals bob about in the harbour.

We got to the airport nice and early to give us time to get the Customs Carnets done.

In the event the Carnets were done very quickly.

Virgin Holidays was sponsoring our jaunt to the southern hemisphere and part of the deal that had been struck was that we would get upgraded to at least Premium Economy.

It hadn’t happened on the way out for three out of the five of us.

It didn’t happen for any of the five of us on the return.

Of course being a presenter Emma was actually booked Upper Class.

When we boarded the plane and were settling in Emma brought Ian Micelle and Jack a little glass of champagne.

She also gave them each of them a nice thank you card and a gift.

Simon and I were in seats beside them.

Emma saw us and then scurried down to the front and returned with a glass of bubbly for us.

Simon and I then watched the other three members of the team open their presents which were books of photographs of Cape Town.

Emma then went back to her nice duvet covered flat bed comfort.

At least I had two seats to myself to spread out on to and Simon had an extra leg room pair of seats.

So the journey home would not be quite as bad as the outward one.

We might have had the room but we also had a pair if screaming babies that took it in turns to act as alarm clocks should we dare to nod off on the twelve hour flight.

We arrived in at Heathrow slightly ahead of schedule we got off not exactly feeling refreshed.

The customs formalities were dealt with very quickly and efficiently.

I said good bye to everyone and lugged my towering trolley of kit from terminal 3 to terminal 5 where I had to wait for four hours on my flight back up to Edinburgh.

I finally arrived home 36 hours from the last time I got out of bed.

I had been due to do a live broadcast from Glasgow tomorrow morning but Raj the production manager organised a freelance cameraman to do it so that I could get a bit of a rest.

Cheers mate:)

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