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, 17 March 2010

Is That Really Your Blood Pressure?

Wednesday 17th March

Yesterday had been a pleasant and largely stress free day doing some filming with GMTV’s health expert doctor Hilary Jones and the dinner ladies at a school in Edinburgh.

I filmed some shots of the ladies at work feeding the kids at Gracemount Primary as Michelle the producer and I waited for Hilary to arrive from the live broadcasts he had done this morning.

Nicola the head of the kitchen and her ladies were very welcoming and provided us with a very tasty school lunch.

After lunch all we had to do was to shoot Dr Hilary doing blood pressure and cholesterol checks on the ladies.

That would have been very simple and easy to do. The only problem was that we did not have the cholesterol testing kits.

Michelle had been given a glucose testing machine instead of the cholesterol ones.

Before we could shoot there was a slightly increasingly frantic flurry of phone calls to local become less local chemists as I tried to get one that had test kits in stock.

I managed to come up with three kits within collecting distance.

I jumped into the car with Michelle and we sped off along Edinburgh’s city by-pass to collect them.

Meanwhile Hilary used the time to get medical histories from the ladies and have a chat with them to put them at there ease, something Hilary is somewhat of an expert at, particularly when the patients are slightly star struck women of a certain age.

In the large school kitchen I set up and lit an area for Hilary to do his stuff.

We did tests on five ladies. Given Scotland’s record of heart disease when the first four were all very normal and well within acceptable limits I was beginning to think that getting a case study to illustrate the problems associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol was going to be difficult.

Then in came Denise.

Hilary put the cuff oh her arm and pressed the start button on the automatic blood pressure machine.

I focused on the display. The numbers flashed up high and then higher and then higher still. Then the machine then proclaimed its protest with an error message.

Hilary redid the test.

Once again I filled the frame with the display.

Again the machine was not happy producing the same error message.

At the third attempt after resetting the machine and refitting the inflatable cuff on Denise’s ample upper arm there was a result.

Even with my limited medical knowledge I took an mental sharp intake of breath.

Judging from the figures on the screen if a small needle punctured Denise’s veins or arteries the resulting jet of blood would do a good job of power washing very dirty masonry.

Dr Hilary was at his best telling Denise in measured calming tones that her blood pressure needed to be dealt with as soon as possible because she was at severe risk of major heard disease and or a stroke.

He wanted her to call her doctor and make an emergency appointment there and then.

We had our case study. Purely from a TV point of view, a really good one.

Michelle asked if Denise would mind if we did our live broadcasts from her house this morning.

She was happy to agree.

Michelle, Hilary and I then left the dinner ladies behind and went to STV in Edinburgh where I set to work with trusty Final Cut on my Mac to edit the material that I had shot.

After Scotland Today was finished the cut material was fed down to GMTV in London ready for this morning’s broadcasts

It was a seldom enjoyed joy for me to have to travel only ten minutes from my own cosy bed to live location.

When I arrived at Denise’s small slightly cramped and cluttered flat Paul the SIS satellite engineer from Newcastle was already there waiting patiently.

The Newcastle HD Truck in the Estate.

Colin the sound recordist had not yet arrived.

A few moments later Hilary and Michelle turned up.

I started to get the equipment rigged.

There was still no sign of Colin.

Not a problem there was still a little while to go before our first broadcast which would actually be nothing to do with Denise and the Doctor Hilary Health Checks we were doing.

Dr Hilary’s comments were needed on a story running about hospital and ambulance hygiene.

The one aspect of the story that was giving rise to a bit of annoyance was the prospect that doctors should not be allowed to sit on a patients bed during a consultation.

So I needed an background that was neutral.

The only inside bit of the tiny flat that was usable for that purpose were the plain off white curtains.

That item, we were told was scheduled for six fifteen.

It was now getting close to 6am and the start of the programme.

unusually there was still no sign of Colin.

I called his mobile which he answered fairly quickly, but with a confused and sleepy voice.

There had been a confusion about his booking for the job. Although he had been told about it a week ago it had not been confirmed.

Thankfully he only lives a short distance away so it would not take him long to get here.

However, he would not make it in time for the six fifteen broadcast.

That was not a major problem I could throw my radio mic on Hilary and I dispatched Michelle to the satellite truck to get the talkback units for the programme sound.

Not long after Michelle arrived back in the flat with an armful of radio receivers they burst into life with the GMTV title music.

There was still a bit for me to do, the lighting was not nearly done and I had not finished wiring up Hilary for sound.

No problem we still had almost fifteen minutes, plenty of time.

I put the mic on Hilary as well as the receiver with programme sound.

I retreated to finalise the lighting.

Paul’s voice came over the talkback saying that the audio coming from me was not usable.

I had a quick listen. The battery had died on the microphone.

No worries there was still a little more that five minutes until the broadcast, loads of time to sort it out.

I was just about to get a fresh battery when Simon the director’s voice came over the talkback.

“With you in one minute.” he said matter of factly.

I grabbed another microphone, shoved the cable into the camera and thrust it into Michelle’s hand.

She pointed it at slightly bemused Hilary.

I moved the lights so that he was lit with no shadows.

I framed up the shot after doing a hurried white balance.

Ben was already talking about the hygiene story and asking Hilary about it.

Hilary spoke into the camera lens and gave his thoughts about the problems with hospital and ambulance cleanliness.

He had a strong opinion about the no sitting on the bed nonsense.

When he finished it was only just after ten past six.

We’d done the first broadcast but only just.

Slightly breathless but none the less looking pretty good for just having leapt out of bed and jumped into his car Colin came in as we got ready for the first broadcast about Denise’s blood pressure.

There is often not enough room in peoples houses and flats for a TV crew with all our equipment, particularly lights that we need to get the job of live broadcasting done.

Denise’s flat was a perfect example of that.

The lighting problem is often how to light the subjects without there being horrible hard shadows all over the place yet the lighting nit looking flat and lifeless.

With the limited amount of lights we carry the solution I tend to go for is to bounce the light off ceilings or walls, but for various reasons that is not always possible.

In these strapped for cash days, unless of course your a banker or council chief a cheap way of doing things is always being looked for.

I had, I hoped, found an inexpensive way of bouncing light in tight spaces like Denise’s.

I was going to try it today for the first time.

I had bought a roll of reflective foil from a large DIY store that was designed to be used behind radiators to bounce heat into the room rather than it be soaked up into the walls.

It had two sides like an expensive photographic reflector, a shiny one and a flat white one.

I cut the roll up and using blue tac stuck it on to the walls.

I was pleased that once it stayed on the wall the results were good.

The Flat White Side on the Wall.

The Shiny Side.

We did two broadcasts about blood pressure and another one about the hygiene story.

Hilary made sure that Denise got an appointment with her GP later in the day even although there were none available.

Not that long ago with blood pressure as high as she had 196/138 it would have been an admission to hospital straight away.

During the gaps in the broadcasts Hilary checked Denise’s blood sugar level.

Dr Hilary Takes a Little of Denise's Blood.....

.....and Tests it for Glucose.

Thankfully that was normal.


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