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, 30 April 2010

Mr Hague, Mr Alexander (again) and a Big Bang.

Friday 30th April

We were to be lucky with the weather. Yesterday most of the other broadcasters had to endure heavy rain and did most of their broadcasting from under sturdy collapsable gazebos.

Just in case we had to put up with the same conditions Ravi had made a trip to B&Q returning victorious having spent ten pounds of GMTV’s or is it now ITV’s cash on one for us.

I was relieved that we did not need to use it.

An edict had come from the editors at GMTV in London that there would be two cameras used on this morning’s broadcasts.

I could not really see the need for more than one because there was not a huge amount for us to do compared with yesterday, but with the help of Derrick the satellite engineer I rigged both my camera and the one that is carried in the truck.

The shots from each camera would go over two satellite paths to the GMTV gallery.

There was a little technical hurdle to be overcome by Doug the technical director sitting at his control panel in London.

Although the camera’s were the same make and model they had not been set up to produce the same quality of picture.

They were not what is termed “matched”.

In order to get them to look as equal as possible I tried to get a matching colour balance and exposure. Back in London Doug would tweak the picture from one of the cameras to get the colours, contrast, saturation etc. as close as possible.

Sue Jameson was there to do her reports on the post debate chat, the Mirror’s Kevin McGuire would fo a bit and along with William Hague Douglas Alexander would pay us a return visit.

Sue and Kevin did their broadcasts without any problems or the second camera shot of the beautiful red brick university building being used.

When the cheeky geordie had gone Sue still had a couple of broadcasts to do.

We were setting up for the second when a producer in London spoke on our ears.

The senior producer had not been happy with the light turquoise coat that Sue had been wearing for the first broadcast and deemed that it should not be worn on the next broadcasts.

It might not have been raining but at that time in the morning even when it is shaping up to be a balmy day it is still pretty cold and some kind of outer clothing is kind of needed.

I felt for Sue as she took the coat of to reveal an rather stylish purple jacket.

I was not quite sure what the problem was with the coat but hey I am just a bloke and maybe the fashion shoots that I have done have not rubbed off on me.

The Coat Comes Off!

Our main two down the line guests, William Hague and Douglas Alexander had arrived in plenty of time which had Ravi breathing easily.

They were happily waiting behind the cameras as Sue prepared to do her broadcast.

We were almost about to go on air when I heard the distinct sound of a taxi on the road that lead up to the front of the building.

I was just hoping that it would not drive into the back of my shot when we broadcasting when it stopped and out came a TV couple straight from central casting.

The slim brunette woman in an elegant cream trouser suit got out first and was followed by a tall dark haired athletic guy comfortably carting a bundle of camera equipment.

They were a crew from Australia coming to do an interview with William Hague after he had done his bit with us.

When he saw them he went over to the attractive smiling woman and said hello.

The BBC had their camera position not far from us looking in the same direction.

Unbelievably the Aussie cameraman started to set up for a sit down interview right in the back of our shots.

The broadcast of Sue’s piece to camera was imminent. I waved to him and motioned for him to move.

He nodded in apology and took his red plastic chairs to another bit of the grass.

It was now time for the pair on opposite sides of the political divide to be on GMTV.

Jason the sound recordist wired them up with talkback. William Hague is such a pro he even comes with his own moulded earpiece.

Jason Fits Up Douglas Alexander as William Hague Waits.

I set up one camera on a two shot and prepared to do single shots on my camera.

The pair were in good spirits and joked about the cold standing in their thin shirts and suits, but being able to cope because they were both from the north. I was wearing my cosy thick down jacket, as was Jason.

The warm Aussie tones of Pete, the regular stand in freelance director in my right ear told me that he might use the two shot camera during the little debate but would start with a two shot on my camera as the eyeline was better for the introductions.

I had not needed to go through the rigmarole of telling the chaps to make eye contact with the lens and not to look away. The pair were old masters in the art of the down the line interview.

They just needed to know which camera to look at.

The Dynamic (Verbal) Dualists Standing By.

John Stapleton in the studio kicked off the discussion about last night’s debate which had focused mainly on the economy.

The two skilled debaters spun their arguments and rubbished the other’s.

When each was giving an answer the PA in the gallery was giving John a specific timing countdown so that each of the three participants, there was a Lib Dem in the studio had exactly the same amount of time.

They Listen to the Studio.

Although they had not been told now much time that they would be given their respective media machines staffed in part by folk that had worked for GMTV, other broadcasters and newspapers had a pretty good idea of the time that would be allocated to them.

So the duo would have been well briefed. I even had an idea who might have had a word or two with each of them.

If required John would wade in with an interruption to shut them up.

The party’s well honed media training added to their own skill and knowledge meant that it was as if they could hear the PA’s count as well, because their answers were timed to perfection.

When the discussion was over William Hague went to join the pretty Aussie lady and Douglas Alexander disappeared to reappear a bit later to once again take part in a little more verbal swashbuckling this time on the BBC.

William Hague Sitting Down for the Australian Media.

Their Lib Dem opponent was with them, another premier league player, albeit a veteran, Paddy Ashdown.

The Pair on BBC Breakfast Joined by Paddy Ashdown.

Sue did one more broadcast then it was time for us to be on standby. The rest of the post debate stuff would be done by John Stapleton.

He was on his way over the Thames from the GMTV sofa in the studio on the South Bank to a camera position on Abingdon Green opposite the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

So we staked out the nearby campus Starbucks until it opened where we had a leisurly cup of coffee whilst we waited like coiled mongooses ready for action if there was any breaking news or there was a technical problem at any of the other live locations.

There were none so we all went off on our homeward directions. All except Sue, she went off to see an old GMTV colleague an ex-political correspondent Susie Norton who was now a big cheese in the Birmingham film world. I never knew there was such a thing.

I set off up the M6.

I was happily tootling up the motorway when I was aware of a car in the outside lane going at the same speed as me.

I glanced over. The passenger and driver were waving to get my attention.

They pointed at the back of my car and made a gesture with their thumbs and forefingers.

Now they were either trying to be rude about the size of my manhood or telling me that I had a flat tyre.

They looked like a respectable couple so I though the tyre option would be the one.

There were services coming up so I pulled off and stopped at the air line.

Idid indeed have a slightly flat tyre, but not totally flat.

I thought that I would pump it up and when I got to Edinburgh take it in and get it sorted.

After inflating the soft one and checking the pressures in the other three tyres I joined the motorway again.

An hour or so later I exited at another service area because I was getting a bit tired.

I drove into the car park and with the warm sun on me I fell into a fitful asleep for about an other hour.

When I woke up I went to check the tyre. It had gone down a little but not disastrously.

I put some more air in it and re-embarked on my journey.

Nearly two hours up the road I was hungry and thought that I should check the tyre again.

So at my favourite service area on the M6, the Westmoreland I had a bowl of the delicious ham broth that I certainly regard as their speciality.

My hunger sated I filled the car with fuel and went over to the airline to give the tyre another top up as it had gone down again, this time a bit more than before.

I attached the nozzle to the tyre valve and I heard the compressor kick in and the tyre started to inflate.

A propellor driven RAF training aircraft buzzed low and noisily overhead making a tight turn and quickly disappearing from view.

A little while earlier a Hawk fast jet trainer had done a similar manoeuvre only much noisier and faster.

Suddenly there was an almighty sharp bang. I jumped away involuntarily as the car dropped a few centimetres.

The tyre had burst in a loud dramatic fashion.

The Flat Tyre After the Big Bang.

When I got the wheel off I felt lucky and was very thankful indeed that it had not gone bang on the motorway.

The tyre was very worn of the inside of the tread and the inside wall was also dangerously worn and that was where it had burst.

The Damage.

I immediately made arrangements to get the car into the garage to get the tyre replaced, the other one and the wheel alignment checked.

I drove relatively slowly for the rest of the more than two hours just incase the other side was as bad.

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