Wednesday 21st April
In late afternoon Senior producer Ravi and I added to our growing collection of garish coloured wristbands by collecting our fluorescent yellow ones from a portacabin across the road from the Arnolfini centre in Bristol’s trendy new waterfront area.
We then had a look at the position that we would broadcast from in the morning.
Sited all around the area around the Arnolfini were improvised compounds ringed with high galvanised fences, the entrance gates manned by staff from a security company.
It would be safe to say that the small, round, largely balding sentinels were not from an elite unit of trained killers.
It was in one of these compounds on the opposite side of the river from the location of the second of the live leader’s debates we would do our broadcasts in the morning.
The Compound as the Trucks Start Setting up.
The Business end of the BBC Mast and the Moon.
Our colleagues from ITN, who’s satellite truck we would use, the BBC and Sky were already starting to rig.
A Couple of Local Kids Check out the BBC Kit, and ITN's Steadicam.
Sky were going for it big time. Rumours abounded that they had thrown £1 million at covering their debate. They were using it as a flagship to launch Sky News’ High Definition service.
So for once it was them rather than the Beeb that had all the boys, around 150 of them, with lots of toys.
There was a helicopter, a cherry picker, camera cranes, steadicam, numerous stages with impressive lighting gantries and lots of cameras.
One of Sky's Cranes Being Rigged and Tested.
There was going to be four of us in total doing our bit of marking this piece of broadcasting and election history.
Bathed in the early evening sunlight the view across the little river with a few boats sitting on the flat glassy water as if they were stuck to a mirror and the the old stone building looking all sculpted and ripped like a body builder before a contest was certainly mildly stunning.
The Arnolfini Centre Over the River.
The though did cross my mind, as it should because I get paid to think these thoughts that if the sun was now directly behind me looking east towards the building in the morning unless overnight the earth decided to change its orbit the sun would be shining directly into the camera.
There was not a lot that we could do to change the location. I sort of hoped that there was a bit of a warm but overcast morning hiding the glare of the old current bun.
Whatever the weather we’d, well I’d have to deal with it and “make it work”.
So I stuck the thought in my “there’s no point in worrying about it ‘til it happens” compartment of my small brain.
Ravi was dealing with accreditation issues for Helen Foster who had to come down at the last minute because Kate Garraway, the presenter who was planned to do the broadcasts had gone sick.
It had been a long time since I had worked with Helen. After stints at the BBC in Hull, Sky and Channel 5 she was back at GMTV as a news reader and presenter.
I was really pleased that she had not changed and it was a pleasure to see her again.
Helen had not been out of the cosy comfort of a studio environment for ages and was understandably slightly nervous about whether she would be OK on the road again.
Over an early dinner the talk of the evening was about two things.
Firstly the Daily Mail had a story about Helen saying that she was going to be the new main presenter with the new GMTV signing Adrian Chiles.
I think that she would be very happy for the story to be true but said that she knew nothing about it and had spent most of the day answering calls and texts from people offering their congratulations saying that as far as she was aware it was not true.
Next was the issue of her wardrobe. She had dashed out and bought a couple of coats for the morning and was not sure it either would be suitable. After a look we decided that the Orange Karen Millen one would work nicely.
Then after being reminded that it would be pretty cold in the early hours when we would be on site she realised that she had no warm base layer.
I gave her a t-shirt to see if that would help .
Ravi and Helen then went into a huddle to talk scripts and news lines.
Thursday 22nd April
In the reception at silly o’clock I met Helen, looking resplendent in her stylish orange coat and Ravi who looked somewhat less glamorous.
My t-shirt had not been any good because it was still visible sticking out of Helen's other outer clothes.
Ravi’s many phone calls yesterday had done the trick and although it had been deemed difficult from a security point of view, Helen managed to get a bright wrist band like ours.
Apart from Ian the satellite engineer and on of the highly trained security men we were the only people in the little compound preparing for the live broadcasts.
Sky's Crane Wrapped up for the Night.
The Arnolfini in the Dawn Light.
In the Chill of the Morning Ravi Checks the News Lines and Scripts.
Helen Fospero Writes Scripts in the Truck.
Helen Fospero Ready to Broadacst.
The BBC Broadcast with an Audience.
Senior Producer Ravi Deep in Thought.
We thought that we would bump into an old GMTV colleague, Eamonn Holmes as we had been told he’d be doing his Sunrise show from where we were.
He and the large crew were indeed doing the Sky breakfast programme from close to us only in a bit more comfort.
Several meters away over the compound fence, behind a glass panel sat the rotund Irishman.
He was not in need of the thermal clothing that would have made Helen’s life a little bit more pleasant because he had insisted, a little bird told us that unless there was heating he would not be coming out.
So there he was sitting in a bar right underneath a large patio heater.
The Sky Sunrise Crew.
Eamonn Under the Heater gets a Briefing.
Strange that there was not one for any of the guests on the programme or for the crew.
No Sound recordist again this morning, but it was all pretty straight forward stuff from my point of view, just Helen to camera.
The clear sky with the assurance of a bright sun was however giving me a bit of cause for concern.
Apart from heat, drinks on tap and a legion of lackeys there was one other facility that Eamon had the luxury of, Autocue.
A little of Helen’s nervousness was that having spent so much time in the studio she had become used to having the scripts right infront of the lens on the glass screen of Autocue.
This morning she would have revert to using her very capable memory.
That was until Ravi rather proudly demonstrated an app for his iphone, i-prompt.
Helen had a go at reading the scrolling script that Ravi held as near to the lens as possible. I had a very close look at the shot to see if Helen’s eyeliner to camera was still acceptable. It was.
The first live broadcast using the i-prompt worked perfectly however half way through the next two it decided to switch off unexpectedly half way through.
The i-prompt. This Time in Action!
Fortunately for Helen her memory was good enough for her to get to the end with only the slightest of a pause that would probably not have been noticed by the viewer.
Fortunately for me the sun took a while to pop up over the the top of the building in front of us and when it did it quickly rose high enough when we were not on air to be combated successfully with the aid of a reflector skilfully wielded by Ravi.
The BBC Truck, ITN Truck and Sky Cherry Picker.
Great View from up There.
The ITN Truck and the ITV West Truck.
Another of the BBC Trucks Over the River.
After the last planned broadcast we stayed around on standby until the programme finished.
We had breakfast. Helen then left to get back to London and the warmth of the studio for tomorrows programme. Ravi and I arranged to convene later on to check out a location for tomorrow and film some reaction to the upcoming debate.