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, 23 April 2010

Red Light? What Red Light?

Thursday 22nd April (pm)

On our way down to the media centre to watch the debate Ravi and I came across a little demonstration on the opposite side of the river.

A large handful of protesters with a few banners in support of the people of Palestine were in front of an almost similar number of police.

There was also a healthy amount of cameramen and photographers surrounding them.

There are a Some Protesters In There Surrounded by Media and Police.

There was no point in us going over to join the mass for two reasons. Firstly there were plenty of ITN cameramen over there and secondly it was a very small group.

So we went in to a cafe bar and after Ravi had helped the bar staff deal with a noisy drunk we sat down for a coffee and watched the little demo dispersing.

The coffee was on its way when a wide eyed police sergeant lead a group of policemen running past us.

I quickly picked up the camera with a mixture of boring resignation and rising excitement to follow them.

They convened at our side of one of the pedestrian bridges over the river.

Another group of police were stopping a group of media from crossing the bridge.

The sergeant urgently started deploying his officers.

They formed a line. A few of the officers were a cross between Robo cop and modern samurai warriors ready to do battle.

They were wearing helmets, body armour and segmented armour covering their legs and arms.

They were all set to take on all comers.

I could not see the reason for the sudden stress. Another couple of cameramen and photographers that had managed to get over the bridge before it was blocked and I looked around slightly bemused.

Then we saw the enemy they were preparing to take on.

A small, slight but sprightly grey haired lady approached shouting into a megaphone expressing here displeasure of Gordon Brown and the current government.

She was followed by maybe ten younger longhaired scruffy characters with pro Palestinian banners.

There were probably almost twice as many police on foot as protesters. There were also a few on horses and some with dogs in case things got out of hand.

Still on the other side of the bridge I could see a handfull holding round transparent shields.

I hung around for a very short time until it was obvious nothing was going kick off before going back to join Ravi and enjoy my coffee.

For the rest of the evening there were a lot of police wandering around in full riot gear as suited office workers and evening diners enjoyed a drink the warm setting sun.

Ravi and I watched the debate from the media centre along with the rest of the massed media.

The Media Watching the Debate.

ITN Cameraman Tony Scott Gets Shots of the Watching Journalists.

When the debate was coming to an end we went over the river through a couple ot security checks and stood outside the exit of the debate chamber to get shots of the leaders as they left.

The Sky News Projection on the Arnolfini Building.

The Sky News Debate Logo.

The Projection Continues.

Gordon Brown appeared and I rolled the camera. Ravi and the other journalists shouted a few questions which were totally ignored with a smile as he and Sarah got into the back of the Jaguar and were driven away.

A few moments later Nick Clegg came out. I rolled the camera. Ravi and the journalists shouted questions.

This time there was an audible response along with the smile. Nick Clegg said simply and quickly that he had enjoyed himself.

His car was not far down the road when David Cameron and his wife emerged saying thank you to the folk from Sky. I rolled the camera. Ravi and the journalists repeated the very short barrage of questions.

Before he got in the car David gave us a little bit of a longer sound bite saying that it was up to the people to decide and he had also enjoyed himself.

As with last weeks debate a number of audience members that were happy to chat to us were brought out by one of the Sky producers.

There were fewer than at the ITV hosted debate but we all immediately got stuck in shoving our microphones and cameras with their bright lights on the top in the faces of these slightly startled volunteers.

ITV West and Channel 4 do Their Interviews.

ITN Producer Sam chats to Tom Bradby Before he Does his Piece to Camera.

There was one lady everybody wanted to speak to. Grace a lady in her eighties had asked a question about pensions.

She was not in the group that had been brought out, in fact none of the questioners were.

Ravi was busy asking on of the people what they thought about the debate when I saw out of the eye that was not stuck to the camera eyepiece Grace come out in the midst of a large group.

A reporter went to go over in her direction. A small man in a suit wearing a headset stopped him speaking to her.

Ravi had seen her as well.

We asked where the group was going.

The reply was short and simple “to a bus”.

Ravi and I then set off with the group quickly catching up to Grace and her husband.

Ravi politely asked if she would mind having a quick word with us.

She acceded, appearing a little surprised that anyone could possibly be interested in anything that she might have to say.

I pressed the VTR record button and switched the light on.

Grace and her husband gave us a couple of nice sound bites.

Ravi and I said thank you as I switched off the light and squeezed the VTR button.

Further up the queue of audience members now patiently waiting to get on a coach we spotted Mary an attractive blonde who had asked a question.

We walked quickly along the line.

Ravi once again politely asked if she would mind chatting to us.

As soon as she said yes almost simultaneously I switched the light on with my left hand and pressed the VTR button with my right thumb to start recording.

I concentrated on the frame. It was looking perfectly sharp and the exposure was also looking good.

I could hear Mary’s voice clearly in my earphone and the level meter was bouncing away as it should.

The picture and sound were perfect given the circumstances but there was an alarm bell ringing in my mind. Something was not right.

Then suddenly a bright light pinged on in my brain. That was because there was no bright light on in the viewfinder, a pretty important red one.

The interview was not being recorded!

Instantly I squeezed the VTR button and the red light came on.

At least everything now appeared to be working.

We were a few seconds into Mary’s interview.

I let Ravi ask another couple of questions and when it was clear that he was about to finish I asked him to ask the first question again.

He happily obliged without giving me one of those quizzical sidelong rather irritated looks that you get from reporters when you tell them that something didn’t work and a quetion needs to be done again.

In the satellite tuck when Keith the engineer was feeding the material back to GMTV in London via ITN my schoolboy error was apparent.

At the end of Grace’s interview the picture went dark as I switched off the camera light. A blur of of dimly lit people at a peculiar angle then whizz past the camera. A faintly seen curly blonde with her back to camera appears and turns to speak to someone to the right of the camera. The camera starts to frames up on her. As the camera is coming up there are two frames or so when there is bright light.

The sound track to all this wobbly incoherent action consists of fast paced footsteps combined with a babble of unintelligible voices culminating in Ravi’s distinct voice saying “thank y...”

Next Mary is perfectly framed, exposed, audible and well into telling us how the debate went.

Quite obviously I had not hit the VTR button hard enough at the end of Grace’s interview to switch the recorder off.

Long time since I made that mistake. Glad it wasn’t on of those instant never to be repeated reaction type interviews.

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