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, 25 August 2009

Number One Family Round 2 Day One.

Tuesday 25th August

No live broadcast usually means a much longer time in bed and is a cause for celebration.

So I was looking forward to having the pleasure of luxuriating in the comfy bed in Manchester’s trendy Hilton hotel.

Then I checked the call sheet. Wakey wakey early doors again.

We had to be on location at the Comedy Store round the corner at 6:30am to rig cameras, sound and lighting for the next round of auditions for GMTV’s search for britain’s No 1 Family.

I was doing a two camera shoot with Geoff my colleague from Manchester.

We met at the entrance of the club along with Stuart and Ryan the sound recordists.

It would take a little bit of time to set up.

Geoff and I had to sync up the time code for our cameras and get them to match as best we could.

Stuart and Ryan had to rig a stereo mic for the contestants and personal mics for the judges.

The judges were Colleen Nolan of the Nolan sisters, Jonathan Shalit, a renowned manager and Jordan Jay from Universal Music.

The staff at the Comedy Store had come in at a time only slightly later than they would normally going home to help us out.

In an effort to be efficient they had put up the Number 1 Family banner. The only thing was that it was to high to be in shot.

 They had also put a table for the judges in position. The only thing was that it was too far away from the stage.

The banner was rehung without any stress or moans.

To get the table in the best position the front row of seats in the auditorium had to be removed. 

We all got stuck in to the job. Even Owen, one of the bosses at GMTV got  his hands dirty. 

The good news was on the lighting front. The stage lighting was ideal for us. 

All the lighting that needed to be done was one simple light for the judges.

When the rig was finished we got the judges mic’d up and in position. 

Owen Gets Down to Help Move the Seats.

Bringing the Banner Down a bit.

The Hopefuls Wait in the Bar.

The Final Touches to Colleen's Make Up.

Owen Briefs the Judges.

Geoff shot the families doing their auditions and I concentrated my attentions on the judges.

We saw around 30 families doing their thing. The majority were very good. 

At the end of the shoot Colleen had to dash off to another photo shoot.

Jonathan and Jordan went off quickly on a fast train to London.

After getting some food I headed back up the M6.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Where have all the Scots gone?

Sunday 23rd August

It was going to be a day of domestic things.

Then the call came from Paul the programme organiser at GMTV.

Vox Pops from people in Scotland expressing their opinions on the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the recall of the Scottish Parliament to debate the subject.

As a true one man band, shooting pictures, recording the sound and asking the questions I went on the hunt for good Scottish voices.

If it had not been pouring with rain on a Sunday during the Edinburgh Festival it would have been a very easy job.

Even out in the rain there were losds of people wandering the streets of Edinburgh.

The slight problem was that hardly any of them were Scottish.

If I had wanted the opinions of Italians, French, German or even the English it would have been a doddle of a job.

I did manage to speak to quite a few locals and some not so local.

It did take a while to find them as I dodged the showers.

I was surprised to find that in my little straw poll the majority thought that the Scottish government had made a huge mistake and that Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohammed al Megrahi should have spent all his days in prison.

I would send the pictures to GMTV in London on the satellite feed in the morning before our live broadcasts from outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh.

A Dry Day at Last!

Monday 24th August 

At least the rain had stopped and my shoes had dried out.

Outside the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood was to be the location for this morning’s live broadcasts.

The Parliament Building in the Post Dawn Light.

When I arrived the dish was up and Kevin the engineer was doing the last few techie things to allow me to hook my camera up and send my Vox Pops to GMTV in London.

When that material was all happily in the cyber world that is GMTV’s Media Acquisitions dep’t Ian the sound recordist and I rigged the kit.

My phone rang. It was Gloria.

“Can you tell the taxi driver where you are?” she asked in her Yorkshire lilt.

Rather puzzled by the request I simply said, “Yes.”

The next thing I heard was a strange accent saying, “Where about are you seer?”.

“At the front of the Parliament.” was my simple and slightly quizzical reply.

“Tank yoo seer.”

The phone then went dead.

Within no more than two minutes Gloria was climbing out of a car beside us.

The first live broadcast was just with Gloria talking to camera. 

 I positioned her where the best shot was with the building in the background in the half light of the morning.

I had selected that spot because there was a hand light up on a wall that would light her quite nicely my other light would just give a bit of a sparkle to her eyes.

I was quite pleased. It looked not to bad.

That was of course until about thirty seconds to going on air when all the lights went out and all I was left with was the reducing gloom of dawn and my little camera light.

However, it didn’t look to bad but not as flattering to Gloria as it might have been.

The next thing we were doing was an interview with the leader of the Labour party in the Scottish Parliament Iain Gray. 

Now that the light was coming up and with Iain and Gloria both being in shot I moved location a little bit to avoid a large lamppost growing out of one of their heads.

I’ve made that schoolboy error enough times before. 

It is surprising how often the thing sticking up is nowhere near the presenter. 

Then suddenly the presenter moves a little bit just as the picture is cut to transmission. They now have it as an interesting hat!!

Gloria did the interview with Iain.

Iain Gray and Gloria after the Interview.

Our next guest was the smartly turned out Angus Robertson,  SNP leader in the Westminster parliament.

He also turned up in good time. 

While he waited for his slot he caught up with the reports in the morning’s papers.

Angus Robertson and his Newspaper.

His interview was to be done down the line by Penny Smith from the GMTV studio.

This obviously meant giving Angus an earpiece to allow him to hear the programme and Penny’s questions.

Kevin produced and array of earpieces to stick in his ear.

Getting one to fit into Angus’ ear hole was easy but the bit of tube that went behind his ear was another story.

The cheeky bit of plastic kept worming its way over Angus’ ear to the point it was sticking out making him look like some strange cyborg.

It took a lot of persuasion and no movement from Angus’ head but we got it to stay still and not pop up over his ear.

Well that was of course until half way through the interview when the slippery thing slowly crept out. Thankfully not as far as it had but enough for it to be visible and annoying to me.

The Camera and the Truck.

After Angus left Gloria did the decent thing and went for the coffees as the nearby Starbucks was now open.

Coffee Boys?

Gloria in the Truck Checking her Scripts.

I looked up towards the sky and saw what looked like a hundred horses galloping across the sky swishing their tails.

I pointed them out to Ian and he confirmed that they were called mares tails and a sign of a cold front.

Kirsty McCabe doing the weather reports from an outside broadcast in Oxfordshire would be interested them I thought.

I was right. A shot of them would be used in the next live weather report which was about ten minutes away.

For those ten minutes we gazed up and saw the dramatic and spectacular cloud formation morph into a fairly nondescript mass of whispy fluffy stuff.

The shot still got used but it was nowhere near as worth seeing as it had been a few moments earlier.

The broadcasts were over. It was time to leave.

Even if we had not finished it was time to go judging by the traffic attendant tapping away eagerly on his electronic machine.

I think he was disappointed not to be sticking tickets on our windows.

We did have permission from the Parliament to be parked where we were but rather than go through the palaver of explaining that to our parking enforcer we quietly moved off.

I set course for Manchester and a shoot tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Rain Rain Rain for the Lockerbie Bomber.

Thursday 20th August

When I looked out of my cosy hotel bedroom window at around 4:30am I was relieved that the horrid rain that had accompanied me on my drive to Greenock last night and battered the windows during the night had stopped.

The streets were still a bit wet but that was OK.

Somebody somewhere must have done one stonking rain dance because by the time we were gathered outside Greenock Prison to do our broadcasts the rain was dumping on us in gallons.

The rain was so bad that it wiped out our satellite signal preventing us doing our first broadcast at the beginning of the GMTV programme at 6am.

Even at full power Steve the satellite engineer could not get the signal to punch its way through the rain and the heavy clouds and reach the satellite up there in space.

The Dish Trying to Force the Signal Through Rain and Clouds.

The Digi Link Reciever at the Back of the Truck

As the Light is Coming up the Rain is Coming Down Outside the Prison.

The shot I had of Richard Gaisford was just dreadful. 

As soon as I uncovered the lens it was soaked. 

It got so wet that it became almost impossible to wipe the constant deluge of water off the lens.

Then when it was kind of clear it started to smear and steam up.

In the increasing daylight the shot looked quite literally all washed out.

We did a few little news broadcasts and teases at the top of the hours. 

We did not go out into position until the last possible moment and as soon as the broadcasts were finish we scurried even wetter than drowned rats back to the shelter of the sat truck.

I was so glad that we had to do our broadcasts on the opposite side of the road from where the truck was parked because it was not possible to lay a cable over the road for both practical and health and safety reasons.

We would be using the Digi Link. So no wet cables to deal with.

The weather was so bad where we were and so nice further down south that the GMTV gallery wanted to show contrasting shots from us and the Oval in London in the weather forecasts.

Of course the only let up in the rain for the whole time we were on air was for a moment or so before during and after I did the weather shot!

Tartan Brolly? Well You are in Scotland Richard.

Sky's James Mathews gets a bit of Shelter Under his Branded Brolly.

The BBC Scotland Brolly Also Makes itself Useful.

Between Broadcasts Richard Shelters in the Truck.

The thought of a nice warm breakfast was getting us all quite excited when we finished the last GMTV broadcast.

We would soon be tucking into hot toast and slurping away at piping hot tea.

Then we got a call to ask if we could so a quick live broadcast for Al Jazeera.

Putting thoughts of dry feet and warm food aside Andy the sound recordist set up and waited for the Al Jazeera reporter to arrive.

At least the rain had eased enough to make the picture a little more acceptable.

ITN switched talk back and we were listening to Al Jazeera from Kuala Lumpur.

The reporter stood in front of the camera as the producer said, “we’ll be coming to you in less than three minutes.”

Nazanine Moshiri went over her script and then delivered it on cue from the presenter in Kuala Lumpur.

When she had done that she did another piece to 

Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri Checks her Script....

...and then Records the Voice Over.

As soon as she was finished Andy and I said our good-byes and put the kit away.

Dripping wet Andy, Richard, Steve and I wet footed it to the hotel for a well earned warm.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

We Saw David Cameron. Did He See Us?

Wednesday 19th August

Oh the joys! An extra unexpected hour in bed, but still up before 6 am.

I went down to the location for the down the line interview with the Conservative leader David Cameron.

The Ramada Jarvis hotel just outside Hull were very helpful and allowed us to use their conservatory area.

I had briefly checked it out last night and it looked OK.

This morning I started to see it was not going to be quite as easy as I thought.

The various backgrounds outside the conservatory were not ideal, cars, brick walls or green bin things seemed to be out of every window.

However, there was also a reasonable bit of greenery dotted around that would serve nicely as an acceptable backdrop, if I positioned things carefully.

The next thing I had to deal with was the problem of reflections. 

After a few moments of looking around I found the best spot. If the shot was on a long enough lens and I could use a narrow depth of field things would look quite good.

I put a chair in place, set the camera on the tripod and had a look.

“That’ll do.” I thought.

I started to set up a light when an other thought was forming in my head like a little smoke ring whisping up into up into the still sir.

“The sun’s not up yet I wonder where it is going to rise from?”

The thought like the smoke ring faded quickly as the sun popped it’s strong powerful head up over a cloud.

Like the best interrogators spot lamp the blinding light shone straight at me and right down the barrel of the camera lens.

I would have to rearrange things.

I fiddled about a bit moving things and came up with an reasonable shot.

The problem now was that the greatest key light ever was very much a side light.

I would need to soften it a little otherwise Mr C. would be looking very shady indeed.

I dashed over to the hotel reception and they were able to give me exactly what I needed.

With a liberal use of that most wonderful of bits of kit, gaffer tape I taped up a big white table cloth over the widow the sun was shining through.

The Tablecloth Soft Light. 

I finished faffing around with lights and the camera.

Pete the sound recordist had the sound kit all ready.

Simon the satellite engineer had done his stuff. The pictures and sound were getting to GMTV and we could hear the talkback.

Time to wait.

Things were looking good as we approached the broadcast time.

In fact it was getting very close to broadcast time.

About three minutes to go before air and the “great” man came in.

Pete and I said, “Good morning,” as he went to sit in the obvious seat.

I think he may have grunted something back but there was no sign of the genial gent I had seen a few months ago in York when he paid a visit to the GMTV “Credit Crunch Family”.

In a slightly irritated fashion he asked Pete to adjust the sound of the talkback and show him where the volume knob was and to have it within reach.

Pete obliged. Then Dougie the technical director and Ravi the producer in London said hello over the talkback and thanked him for joining us.

Then we heard Emma Crosby reading the link into our item.

She then addressed her questions to Mr Cameron.

He answered in the smooth accomplished way you expect from a senior politician.

After the last question about the elections in Afghanistan the interview was over.

Almost before I had my eye out of the camera eyepiece he was standing up taking off his microphone and with the help of Pete removing the talkback earpiece.

He then marched over to his minder and made some comment about the interview that I could not quite hear.

If he said thanks or good-bye I didn’t hear it.

“Do you think he realises we exist?” said Pete.

I then though, “I didn’t get a picture of him for the blog.”

He was in and out so quickly there just wasn’t time.

I hit the road north after a call to the office.

I would be doing a live broadcast tomorrow from outside Greenock prison, the current home of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi the Lockerbie bomber.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Hanging Around in Hull.

Tuesday 18th August

Early in the day I made the trek south to Hull.

At the railway station I met GMTV’s political correspondent Gloria De Piero.

There was a plan to do a bit of filming and a couple of interviews, but as soon as I spoke to Gloria she said that there was a possibility that the filming would not happen.

Along with George the sound recordist who had done the journey from his base in Nottingham we sat in the station cafe waiting for a phone call.

The call would tell us if it was a go or not.

There was plenty of time for coffee and scones because the call did not come until the barista had piled up all the tables and chairs, and suggested it was time we left because he was closing up for the day.

Gloria Passes the Time Munchin' a Muffin.

It was a no go on the filming. A vital interviewee was unable to do anything for us.

George said good-bye and headed home.

Gloria and I had a bit of a drive around Hull town centre looking for a place to eat.

We were looking with no luck when Gloria suddenly said, “I think John Prescott’s favourite chinese restaurant in the world is in Hull.”

She did a quick google and found loads of references to a Mr Chu’s, reputedly the largest chinese restaurant in Britain.

I loaded the address into the trusty Tom Tom and was pleased to see that it wasn’t too far away and on the route back to the hotel I had checked into.

We might not have done the filming we planned to do but at least we had a very nice dinner.

Mr Chu's Britain's Biggest Chinese Restaurant and Pretty good Food too.

The other bit of good news was that I would be doing a down the line interview with the Tory leader David Cameron in the morning.

That wasn’t actually the good news.

The good news was that I would be doing it from the hotel I was staying in and it would not be happening until 7:30.

So the result was that I would not need to drag myself out of bed until 6am.