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.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Michael Jackson

Friday 26th June


The static and hiss on the radio was making it almost impossible to listen to as in the gently fading light I drove into the depths of beautiful Yorkshire. 


Hardly audible was the BBC news at ten o’clock. Before the noise of interference enveloped the presenters voice I heard something about Michael Jackson being taken to hospital.


An hour and a half later I arrived at my hotel, checked in and looked forward to just over four hours sleep before getting up for a live broadcast from the picture postcard town of Settle.


At some point in the small hours of the night I was awakened by the sound of a text message arriving at my phone.


I bore the news that our live broadcast had been cancelled because Michael Jackson had died and the programme was going to be devoted to that.


I switched off my alarm and tried to go back to sleep.


It took a while for me to return to the land of nod. I was thinking about the frenetic activity that would be going on in the newsroom in London.


The guys would be getting together the story of Jacko’s life and collecting a legion of tributes being made mourning the loss of this immense talent in such a fragile being.


In the morning I started the long lonely drive north. The radio news was full of reports from LA and all over the world. The music stations played lots of his music.


I did my own insignificant tribute with shots of the beautiful countryside on the journey home. 


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Thursday, 25 June 2009

How Do You Shut Someone Up? Stick An Earpiece In Their Ear!

Thursday 25th June


There was a strange noise. I searched for the source but couldn’t find it. It appeared to be coming from somewhere outside the comforting world of my dreams.


Stumbling into consciousness my waking brain was trying to work out what was going on. There was some kind of alarm going off.


It wasn’t my wake up alarm. What was it? This persistent tuneful jangle. Ah, that’ll be the phone.


I fumbled for it and with a weary “hello”, I answered.


It was Miranda to ask if she could get the keys to my car because she had left her make up bag inside.


I was inwardly cursing as I looked at the out of focus time on the phone. I was being deprived of a whole five minutes of sleep.


I got up, stuck the keys outside my room for her to collect and then switched off the alarm that was about to go off.


Once I was ready I got in the car and headed for the location.


I was almost there when the phone rang in the car. 


The familiar voice of Pete asked if everything was alright.


I told him that I was almost at the location, Marlene’s house/caravan.


Pete then asked me to confirm he was at the correct address. He was.


He then expressed surprise that he could not see the satellite truck. I thought it strange because the trucks are often on location a while before we arrive.



By this time I was turning into the road. Sure enough there was no sign of the truck.


Perhaps it is round the back which would be ideal for access.


I turned into the narrow lane that ran behind the small terraced houses. The entrance to the lane was strange because it felt like I was driving into someone's front garden.


I got to a row of garages facing each other and there it was nestled  slightly under a tree. The dish was already up.


Pete followed me round.


There was not a great deal of room to work because the large caravan took up most of the back garden, leaving a narrow passage leading to the house.



The Truck Hidden Away for a Change.

Visually it should look good the cramped space with Miranda squeezing down it would add to her words and those of Marlene.


The Caravan's In There Somewhere.

Lawrence brought the cable in as Pete and I got our gear sorted out.


There was plenty of time and we were all quite relaxed apart from the diminutive Marlene. She kept on asking why she had let herself get into this lark.


Trying to jolly her along I attached the camera cable to the box at the end of the cable from the truck.


We continued to chat light-heartedly to try and put Marlene at ease.


I was then aware that Lawrence had laid in another cable.


He said that there was a fault and we needed to change cables.


That’s no problem as there was still plenty of time to go. I connected the new cable and carried on with the PR stuff.


I wandered back to the truck to find Lawrence pressing various red buttons and switching things off and on. 


That’s never a good sign. We were creeping up to the time of our broadcast.


“There’s a problem with the cable or the box.” said Lawrence.


“Are you happy to go with the Digi Link?” he asked. 


The question was more in the form of a firm request.


The Digi Link is a bit of kit that is attached to the back of the camera and it sends pictures and sound back to the truck without the need of a cable.


In theory that is a perfect way of doing things because dragging a cable can be a pain for both the cameraman and the sound recordist.


As is often the case practice does not always fit in with theory.


The Digi Link eats up battery power with the appetite of a hungry Homer in a doughnut shop.


The thing sometimes also has the tendency to work perfectly when it shouldn’t and not when it should.


We started to put the bits on to the camera.


I heard Dave the Technical Director over talkback tell us that our slot in the programme was getting closer.


We got it all sorted just in time to get the first live out of the way without mishap or indeed any frantic stress.


Next on the agenda was on of my pet hates.


We were to do a “Down The Line” with Jan and Marlene.


This is where the Presenter in the GMTV Studio speaks directly to the guest and conducts the interview.


Today was almost a prime example of why I don’t like doing them.


When we told the two ladies what was planned and that they would have a earpiece in their ears and be speaking to Ben Shephard on the sofa in London they were not in the least impressed.


Both Jan and Marlene expressed deep concern and made no bones about how nervous they were.


Miranda, Pete and I tried to put them as much at ease as possible.


Before we came to our slot they both sat with their earpieces in looking as if they were about to face a grilling from a combination of Paxman, Cowell and the spectre of Robin Day.


A few moments before they were to go on air I was pretty concerned about how it would go.


Yesterday and for part of this morning it was hard to shut Jan up. She could easily win a talking until someone's ears bleed competition.


Marlene was a bit more reserved yet talkative.


When Simon the Director and Dave the Technical Director spoke to them over the talkback to say good morning they just looked at each other. Then looked at me. Then kind of mumbled and looked at the table.


There was no time for me to gently repeat the instruction to look straight down the camera lens and treat it as if they were speaking to their best friend through it. The PA was counting out of the VT.


I mentally crossed my fingers. It was about at that point that the earpiece in Jan's ear started to slowly work its way out.


A Nervous Pair Before "The Down The Line".

Ben addressed his first question to Jan.


She looked straight down the lens and rather nervously answered the question.


I could see the earpiece dangling out of her ear. I was amazed that she could still hear.


Ben then talked to Marlene. She also answered the question in a very nervous way, but at least the pair of them had not looked foolish.


We complimented them on their performance and said that they would not have to do that again. They were very happy and as Pete removed the talkback units you would have thought that he flicked a switch to return them to their normal selves.


We did another broadcast with just Miranda into the eight o’clock news before packing up the kit.


We then hung around for a while in case the programme needed us again before heading off in our opposite directions.


Miranda was staying to so another story. Pete and Lawrence went back to their bases in Manchester and I headed north via the M6.


There was a little excitement on the motorway around Manchester. I got behind a prison van with a full police escort. Whoever was in it must have been a very naughty boy or girl.


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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Fog 'n Technology. Don't You Just Love It?



Wednesday 24th June.


I was up at sparrow fart again. This time not for a live broadcast, but to embark on the long drive from Edinburgh to Hull.


In the summer mornings it can be a delight to drive in the early morning light when the roads are quiet and there’s the chance of catching a glimpse of the odd wild haggis cavorting in the heather or perhaps a badger wandering home after a night out in the hills.


There was no chance this morning. The good old east coast sea harr was at its best. Almost until Newcastle all I could see was a small patch of moving tarmac just in front of the car.


All the rest was an impenetrable grey shroud.


The Foggy Quiet A1


From Newcastle the journey was in pleasant sunshine.


Here Comes The Sun.


All I had to contend with were a few stretches of roadworks.



More Cones Coming Up!


I met Miranda at her hotel and we went off to film a story about the Hull floods two years on.


Some of the people made homeless by the rising water are still not back in to their houses.


Firstly we saw a very nice couple, Jan and Dave they are living in a tiny caravan on land at the back of their house.


The house is still very much a building site with the floors not yet laid and plaster off the walls.


I filmed Jan talking to Miranda in the house. She gave us some good sound bites, at on stage she got a little emotional.


We all squeezed into the little caravan and did another little chat.


Dave had said that he was kind of OK with being on camera but on no account was he going to speak. So, I did not mic him up.


I had used a radio mic on Jan in the house so I left it on for the interview in the caravan.


I should have known it. A little way into the conversation Dave started to chip in. 


I did not want to stop anything because not only would it break the flow but Dave might clam up. 


I was fairly confident that the radio mic would pick his voice up albeit not perfectly. I also had the back up of the camera mic which was pointing straight at him not too far away.


There was very little ambient noise so if it was needed his sound should be ok.


We then went to another flood victims house. Marlene and her family were in a much larger caravan in the back garden of their house.


The house was almost finished after a few escapades with dodgy builders and other so called skilled tradesmen.


When I drove up the their place I saw the familiar sight of a Sky satellite van.


They were just finishing doing some shots inside the house.


We had a very quick exchange of pleasantries. They left and we did our stuff.


It was early evening by the time we got to the hotel. 


I recorded Miranda’s voice track.


All that needed to be done was, to send the tape to be fed to GMTV to YTV in Leeds and e-mail some of Marlene’s photographs of the flooding to the News Editor.


The tape would go by taxi and the photos over the GMTV internet. 


Simple!


Y’think?


There was the issue of paying for the taxi. It took a bit of gentle persuasion to get the taxi bill put on to Miranda’s room bill. Neither of us has the £70 in cash to pay for the taxi.

That was sorted.


I retired to my room to quickly send the photo’s from the disk Miriam gave us.


I fired up my trusty mac and shoved in the disk. Up popped all the photo’s as expected. So far so good.


I had been given the password for the wireless network in the hotel. So far so good.


I searched for and found the network. So far so good.


I tried a few of times to connect but failed the signal was not very good. So far not so good.


Rather than muck about wandering around the hotel looking for a better signal I connected up my own Broadband dongle and got connected to the internet. So far back at so good.


I was getting a little tired after the early start, long drive and days work.


I clicked on to the GMTV e-mail system. It asked me for my password. 


“That’s unusual.” I thought.


My mac is set up not to need the details repeatedly put in.


I typed the password.


The computer said it didn’t recognise it. So far, once again not so good.


I made several more attempts, closed and reopened the browser, but it would not let me in.


I called IT at GMTV.


We tried for ages doing various things like resetting the password, changing browsers and re-inputting the user name and password. 


It made no difference. I was still locked out.


I gave up and said that I would try doing it with my personal e-mail account.


This time it worked and the photos arrived at their destination. 


So far the extra little things that should have taken a few easy minutes to sort ended up taking nearly an hour and a half of unwanted stress.



Monday, 22 June 2009

The Talkbacks Gone! Cue Deanne!

Monday 22nd June


The Bikini Diet broadcasts from on board the Ruby Princess had proved so successful that GMTV asked Deanne to so some more broadcasts all this week.


The first would be “Banishing Bingo Wings” with Bikini Dieter Julia,  broadcasting from her school near Doncaster.


So, late afternoon Sunday I battered down the A1 to meet up with Deanne and Christina at a shinny new Best Western hotel on the outskirts of the town.


Getting there was relatively easy. Well I should say getting to within a mile was very easy.


The last mile took nearly half an hour. That’s not fun after over four hours in the driving seat.


Both the Sat’ Nav’s I use wanted me to go over a bridge that would practically bring me out at the hotel front door.


The bridge was there but it was one way only. 


That one way was of course the opposite way from the way I wanted to go.


I drove around in the direction that I hoped would get me to the other side of the river that went under the bridge.


The bloody stupid Sat’ Nav’s did not realise what I was trying to do and kept wanting me to turn round or go another route all of which ended up in crossing the bridge.


Obviously I did get there in the end but my sense of humour was fading fast.


However the smiling faces of Deanne and bubbly Christina the Producer got me back on track.


They had arrived much earlier than I did and over dinner spent time chatting about the next days broadcasts and making girlie talk.


After a brief chat and we all went off to our beds for a few hours sleep. It was almost 11pm and we needed to leave the hotel at 5:30am.

 

Five hours or so of sleep later we left the hotel.


It was a short drive to the brand new Mexborough School where Julia works.


We were well impressed with the place. 


Tiffany, the Deputy Head guided us to the room we were going to use. It was the Dance Studio. The mirrored room would not have looked out of place in a high end fitness club.


The school’s Fitness Suite was full of the type of Cardio machines that also grace good gyms.


No wonder Tiffany was proud of her place of work.



Handy Big Mirror.

Mick, the Satellite Engineer pulled in the cable. Pete the Sound Recordist got out his toys and we got set up.


Thirty pupils in smart school uniforms were ushered into the room in time for us to do a bit of a rehearsal with them.


Although, what’s with the ties tied loosely with big knots half way down their chests?


They were typical teenagers. The boys were a bit shy and embarrassed and the girls were giggly and embarrassed but had clearly spent ages getting ready.


A lot of time and care had been spent on a lot of make up.


Girls Being Girls.



Pete Fits on Deanne's Headset Mic.



Pete and His Toys.

We did a live shot of them working out with Deanne which was nice and easy.


We were set up ready to do live for the first main hit. 


There was less than a minute to go.


Deanne suddenly could not hear the programme over her talkback.


Pete dashed over to see what the problem was.


The problem appeared to be a cable fault.


There was no time to change it.


Deanne would have to take a cue from me and Christina.


I heard Ben linking to us. Thankfully he kept to the script.


I dropped my hand and Deanne started to talk.


Phew! She’d done it perfectly.


After the broadcast, which went well I said well done to both Deanne for picking up the cue and Julia for dealing with having an earpiece in her ear.


On the second broadcast when Deanne was demonstrating tricep dips on a chair with Julia, Julia’s radio mic pack fell off.


I saw it and when the time came to move over to do the main workout with the kids I tried to frame Julia out to allow her to get it clipped back on.


That broadcast went well even with Julia laying a radio mic as she dipped on the chair.



Go For It Guys.



Deanne Always Does.

After we were off air we recorded some bits and pieces with the kids and other members of staff that can be used either on air during the coming week or on the GMTV website.


The kids produced their phones and got lots of photo’s taken with Deanne.


It had been a good mornings work finished of with a hearty breakfast.



Tesco's? The Contract was Breakfast at Tiffany's!

I then headed north as fast as legally possible to meet my son Murray coming back from his school trip....to Cuba.


Schools with gyms the envy of the best health clubs and school trips to exciting places.


In my day a school trip was an outing to the zoo to see the same animals you’d seen non the previous three years of school trips.


The gym was one hall that was also the theatre, dinning room with climbing bars on the wall that you weren’t allowed to climb on.


Saturday, 20 June 2009

Are These "Your" Thongs Gentlemen?

Saturday 20th June


In the early hours of the morning the ship had quietly docked in the port of Naples


It was time to say good-bye to all the helpful folk onboard the Ruby Princess.


We gathered in the reception ready to go. Rachel was feeling a little bit under the weather after going for it last night.



The airport check-in area was a mass of sweaty bodies trying to get on their flights.




Deanne had a slight issue with the weight of one of her bags. It was a little bit over weight.


The solution was to put some of her stuff in to the tripod case which was well within the weight limits.


A few of our boxes including the tripod case had, as usual, to go to the out of gauge baggage belt.


In the airport at Naples all the things that go through that belt get thoroughly searched by a Security Officer.


We were somewhat surprised when he did not turn a hair as he unzipped a case brought to him by three burly chaps and found a treasure of slightly sweaty crop tops, skimpy shorts and a thong or two.



Mmmm Interesting!

Bye Bye Italy were off home!


The flight to Gatwick was OK.


When we arrived in Gatwick it took Rachel a bit longer than the rest of us to get to the baggage reclaim area. She was having to nip to leave little gifts to be delivered to the fish.


I said my good-byes and went upstairs to get my connecting flight to Edinburgh. I was feeling pretty knackered. Although enjoyable, it had been a long pretty full on busy week. A few of the things not getting to air is always frustrating whatever the reason.


I was not in a good frame of mind when I got to Edinburgh airport and, as usual called to order my taxi home to be told that the taxi account had been suspended. 


I did not have a great deal of cash with me to pay for the cab home. It was not a huge amount that I needed, but I had almost totally run out.


Three cheers now that it is possible to pay for taxis on a credit card.