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, 23 July 2009

Sure Felt Like 500 Miles for The Proclaimers on GMTV

Thursday 23rd July

Even on holiday there’s no escape in this world of mass communication  Maybe I should have left the Blackberry at home, but then I would have missed out on a morning of stressful running around.

I was enjoying the sights and expense of Rome with my wife and eldest son. We got back to the hotel after a day in the Eternal City.

I had an e-mail from the GMTV office asking about possible locations in Edinburgh where a live broadcast with the Proclaimers could be done.

I gave some suggestions and offered to do the broadcast even although I would strictly speaking still be on leave but back in Edinburgh

So a week later I found myself on the shore at Leith in holiday mood prepared to do a nice easy couple of down the line live broadcasts with Charlie and Craig Reid, The Proclaimers.

Charlie and Craig after the runabout!

The sun was not quite shining but at least there was no sign of the rain the deluged the city yesterday.

Andrew the satellite engineer was getting the truck ready.

Colin the sound recordist and I were thinking about getting our kit organised. There was still ages until the broadcast.

I chatted with Colin and Michelle regaling them with stories of expensive bottled water and extortionately priced breakfasts in Rome.

I noticed that Andrew was looking slightly concerned but not too stressed about something.

I asked if there was a problem.

The Amps for the satellite transmission would not power up.

He was fiddling with cables and buttons trying to get it all up and running.

There was no need to get to stressed at this stage there was still plenty of time.

As he carried on we checked out the boat that Minty from the Cities and Culture Department had organised as our location.

Things were not looking good on the satellite technical front. We needed to think about an alternative if there was one.

At least that old truck works!

Andrew searching for a solution to the fault.

The only option was the STV studio or roof top position in the centre of Edinburgh.

I called the main office in Glasgow to discover that there would be no technical types in their Master Control Room until 7:30am.

It was now a bit after 6:30am. Our first broadcast was due at 7:20am

Charlie and Craig along with their manager had just arrived.

Michelle broke the possible bad news.

They took the news without jumping around or throwing a fit. 

After a chat with the security lady at STV in Glasgow and Ian the Programme Organiser at GMTV in London we decided that if we got to STV in Edinburgh in time and set up, as soon as the guys from MCR came in they could switch our pictures out to London.

The time for the broadcast was put back a few minutes to give us a bit more time to get into town.

We leapt into my car. The boys stayed in their taxi. We said a quick good-bye to Minty and Andrew, who was still busy talking on the phone and doing some kind of engineering sorcery.

We were approaching STV with the clock ticking towards 7:15am.

It was going to be touch and go just getting set up in time never mind hoping that MCR in Glasgow got the message and the guys did not go for a leisurely coffee as the came into the building.

Colin and I formulated a plan to rigs as quickly as possible.

Michelle’s phone rang. It was Ian in London to day that the truck was now up and running.

If we turned round now there was a better chance of getting on air than hoping all the things at an unsuspecting STV.

I spun the car round. The boys had just arrived at the STV door. Michelle jumped out and got them back in a taxi.

In rather quick time we got to the boat.

Colin and I were a fury of activity pulling out the camera, rigging the tripod and getting the sound mixer ready.

Michelle pulled up with Craig and Charlie. 

She said,”Can we be ready in two minutes?”

We nodded and at the same time rather unceremoniously started sticking earpieces in the lads ears and making sure they could hear the programme.

In the ear I use to listen to the gallery talkback I could hear the Senior Producer’s voice.

She was on the phone to Michelle.

We had missed the broadcast time by a few seconds.

We were all rather disappointed that after all the dashing around we’d not succeeded.

Colin and the boys ready to roll.

The brothers were not upset and realised that these things happen on live telly.

There was another broadcast due but not for about an hour and a half at 9:10am.

That was consolation because it would give us time to destress a bit and have a nice breakfast at the nearby Mal Maison hotel.

We derigged the kit and went into the dinning room.

It was great to have the time to come down with more than an hour before the next transmission. 

Over some nice bacon and eggs, and tangy orange juice we relaxed a little as our blood pressure came down and the colour returned to Andrew’s cheeks.

We were munching on our very tasty toast when Michelle’s phone rang.

She pressed answer and we heard her say, “I thought you did not want the next one until ten past nine.”

I knew instantly what was coming and got up out of my seat.

The time had been brought forward by thirty five minutes.

Michelle stopped the bespectacled pair in mid tea gulp and got them to come outside where Colin, Andrew and I were getting the kit rerigged.

This time there was not such a rush but enough to get the adrenaline flowing again.

Craig and Charlie had the earpieces in and Dougie the technical director and fellow Scot asked them for sound levels.

In true musician style they both intoned, “this is Charlie and Craig in Leith. One two. One two. One two.”

“Thanks.” said Dougie.

A few moments later they were on air chatting to Penny Smith.

The little interview went well as they helped launch GMTV’s X Factor style search for Britain’s number one talented family.

Time for photos when things calmed down.

When it was finished we apologised for all the mucking about this morning. The lads took it all with good humour. 

It was a real pleasure to meet and work with them. A pair of top guys, professional and totally down to earth.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Follow the Red Tape Track!

Thursday 9th July

When Darren the Head of Cameras at GMTV arrived for a fairly straight forward programme his stress levels were suddenly pushed up.

Simon the Director briefed him on the measuring tape that was still being stuck to the walls, doors and floors all around the the studio and outside.

Mr Motivator and Deanne would run the length of the tape which would be some way to indicate the massive success of the Bikini Diet.

In order to cover the mad run-around we would need to use three cameras. Two would come out of the studio and one would be specially cabled in.

Carl on of the off duty cameramen was called in to operate one of the cameras. I would operate the other.

I went in to the studio around 5am, and hour before transmission.

Darren, Tony and John three out of the four studio cameramen were taking the Merlin crane to bits to allow that camera to be used hand held.

Darren starts getting the camera rigged.

Yiljan manages a smile after hours of sticking tape.

Deanne smiles because she's got Simon doing her hair.

Jack sticks on the inches graphic.

"Can he do my hair too?"

Christina and Sharon stand in for lighting.

Simon goes to the gallery in time for transmission.

Richard the fourth member of the camera crew was fiddling with a small mini camera that will be used to show a close up  of the dial on the scales when the girls do their weigh in.

As well as doing the fifth studio camera on the run-around I will be operating the camera in the studio itself.

Although I spent a few years working in studios since I joined the GMTV operation more than sixteen years ago this will be the first time I have worked in the little studio in the South Bank building.

By five minutes to six Darren’s stress levels were still heightened. He was still busy getting the camera back together.

Graham and Lorraine from the sound department were having their share of stress. 

The radio mics that work inside the studio would probably not work outside.

They had to workout an easy way of making sure that Mr Motivator and Deanne will be heard throughout the run.

Graham tested the studio radio mics and after making a few adjustments he got them to work over the course. 

However, he knew that there were no guarantees and if there were going to be problems they would appear when we went on air.

So as a back up on the two cameras from the studio it would be possible to attach a mic to each of them.

The GMTV titles rolled and Darren finished the last adjustments to his camera. He could breathe slightly easier.

Tony, John and Darren rig big and Richard rigs small.

Graham and Lorraine test mics on the camera.

Nigel the happy Soundman.

Darren and John are you not supposed to be looking at Emma and Andrew?

My camera was not going to be needed for another hour.

I spent the time saying hello to some of the many friends I have in the GMTV building that I hardly ever see unless they come out on some sort of outside broadcast.

The best bit of catch up news was when Sharon the Floor Manager waved the third finger of her left hand in my face. I was dazzled by the diamond shining in my eyes.


I also had to rig some cables and walk the route with Deanne and Mr Motivator so that they knew what to expect and where to go. It would have been pretty hard to miss the massive red tape they had to follow.

There is always a bit of a buzz around the studios. Today it was caused mainly by what we were up to dashing about with cameras and cables where there are not normally cameras and cables.

The famous guests who pop in to sit on the red sofa almost went unnoticed as we carried on.

Michael Parkinson held the studio door open for me as I went in to pick up my camera in a welcome gesture of politeness.

A few of the cast of the new Harry Potter movie were in for a chat. I saw them briefly go into the studio.

Mr Motivator was a bit disappointed when he realised that they had come and gone. He had wanted to get a photograph taken with them.

The time came for me to do my stuff in the studio. It was nice and easy. all I had to do was a couple of tease shots of the girls. Mr Motivator and Deanne in the opposite end of the studio from the sofa.

That meant that the other cameras would not have to move.

The bulk of what I was needed for was in the Lorraine Kelly section of the programme.

Then things got busier and fun.

There were three weigh-in bits to do.

My role was simple I held a nice low angle wide shot, showing lots of lights. This shot was used when Mr Motivator brought the girls in to be weighed and during the little chat afterwards.

Then during the final commercial break of the morning Darren had to get his camera ready to run after Mr Motivator as he dashed out of the studio.

Carl was waiting outside with his camera at the ready to pick him up.

I went out into the corridor near make up and stood by to take over from Carl.

I would run backwards a little bit with Mr M until he came to a corner where Deanne would take over and I would scurry behind her down to the end where all the dressing rooms are.

Then I would nip backwards into a doorway to let Deanne pass and then follow her almost to the studio where Carl would pan her on to Darren.

We just had enough time to quickly go through the route without cameras so that we knew what was supposed to happen.

Nigel fresh from sorting out Deanne’s microphone pack would look after my cable.

We had planned the point where I would back into the doorway and change direction from backwards to forwards.

Mr M was on his feet nimbly getting out of the studio following the  thick red band.

Carl did his bit. I ran backwards. Simon cut to my camera. Mr M got to the corner.

Deanne picked up and started to run. I took off behind her. We got to the end where there was a sign showing the umber of inches.

This time I went first leading Deanne. 

I was getting ready to nip into the doorway. I could see out the corner of my eye that as planned Nigel was in there with the cable.

“Stay in front!” came the exited command from the gallery.

So I kept on going backwards giving Nigel an apologetic as I went past him and he dropped the cable.

Deanne and I got to the point where Carl was going to take over. I was somewhat relieved that I had not managed to fall over or clatter into anything.

The shot of the morning had to go to Darren

As Deanne came hurtling through the studio door his camera was at the perfect height and position to have the frame filled with Deanne’s bikini clad chest for a fleeting trice the instant Simon cut to it.

It wasn’t planned but it certainly kept the boys upstairs happy for the rest of the morning as those special few frames were replayed more than once or twice.

A whole of work by a whole lot of people had gone into that piece of live TV that lasted barely a minute.

It had by all accounts looked fun and manic as we intended so it was all worth it.

When we came off air I went for breakfast to wind down.

Then after collecting some equipment from Raj the Production Manager I got in my car and began the long trip north to Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Rain and More Rain.

Wednesday 8th July

When we were on they way to the location the weather did not look too bad.

However looking in the direction the wind was blowing there were thick steel grey clouds creeping closer and closer.

Movin' in the Rain.

If the wind did not cahange direction it would only be a matter of time before they menacing darkness attacked us with deluge of cold wet rain.

The edict had been sent from on high back at GMTV that if it was possible at all the location used should be outside.

There was a little shelter thing near the play area on the Biggin Hill Recreation Ground. Oliver rigged his kit under that so that if and when the rain arrived the delicate electrical gear would have a little bit of safety.

Even before any rain that might come it was cold enough on this early July morming for us to need to be wearing our warm winter jackets.

When Mr Motivator arrived he was none too happy about being outside in the cold. 

Not only would it be very unpleasant for him to strip off into his lycra but getting people warmed up and in a happy workout mood would not be easy.

We worked out what we were going to do outside. 

In the warmth of the nearby Spitfire Youth Club Mr Motivator and Deanne organised the workout and exercises.

We had a quick tease and an item to broadcast.

The plan was that Mr M and Deanne would come out with Sharon and the squad of  friends that had turned up so that they were not out in the cold for too long.

The nasty stuff from the sky started to dump over us just before we were due to go on air.

In the pouring rain Mr Motivator, Deanne and the crowd did a very quick bit of leaping around for the short tease.

They then all dashed inside.

There was no time for us to reposition the equipment inside.

It was totlly out of the question to get all the people to come outside again.

We decided to do the whole item under the little shelter and not do a workout.

Under our shelter.

Deanne smiles through the rain.....

.........but not the cold.

The Bigger Shelter.

Once we had done that there was time for us to get all the sound and camera kit into the Youth Club before the next broadcast.

We had only just finished rigging it and getting it working when it was time to do the tranission.

Thankfully it all worked.

Mr Motivator finds time for tricep dips.

Come on Simon not long until we're on air.

Pushy parent wanting to get her kid on telly:)

Jim and his equipment.

Cameraman Mike takes it all in his stride.

Oliver and Jim are ready to go.

Mike lines up the shot as Mr M gets the crowd warmed up.

Deanne does the autograph thing.

We had a visit from a voice we all knew well but a face we rarely saw. Dave, one of the Technical  Directors from the studio lives just up the road and pooped down to say hello.

He was very hospitable and invited us back to his house for bacon rolls.

After saying good bye to Dave and thaking him for the coffee and rolls I headed towards London.

Dave the TD enjoying location coffee before he returned the hospitality.

The plan for tomorrow morning was for us to do a big workout on the banks of the Thames outside GMTV.

The lesson of the last two days weather had been learned. As I was on my way I got a call to say it had been cancelled because there was no guarantee of good weather.

Something was going to be done from inside the building around the GMTV studios.

I went in to GMTV and met up with Simon the Director and the producers to discuss what the plan was going to be.

The total amount of inches that all the people that had signed up to the Bikini Diet was very imprssive. It came to more than 12 miles when added up.

The way we were going to symbolise this huge distance of shortened waistlines was to lay out a large long tape measure around the corridors leading in and out of the studios.

It meant there would need to be cables specially rigged for the cameras and there would be a lot of opportunity for camremen to run amock.

It gave the sound department a bit of a headache trying to make sure the microphones worked all over the area.

Late on in the afternoon Yiljan the Producer had to source a massive adhesive measuring tape.

It had to be sticky so that it could be put along the walls.

I lsft her making phine calls and being nice to people that were going to have to be very busy over the next  few hours.