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.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Susan Boyle Dreamed the Dream but I was Having Another Nightmare.

Thursday 1st April

I drove Jonathan and me out to Blackburn the home village of Susan Boyle.

We were off to do a story about it being her 49th birthday and she had bought a fairly modest new house not far from the place she currently has.

A very modest place considering the rumours are that she has received a nice birthday present in the form of a £4 million cheque.

We chatted about this and that on the drive out from Edinburgh.

I had totally missed the significance of the date.

However the weather gremlins that had been in hibernation yesterday when the camera and sound worked perfectly on the morning’s live broadcasts were now plotting in the warmth of the back of the car.

Our first stop was to do an interview with an estate agent about what sort of house Susan might get for her money.

I pulled the camera out of the the box and cabled up the microphone.

I switched it on and given the problems I had the other day I tested the mic and microphone channel.

I heard my “one two three testing testing” come back loud and clear through the monitor speaker.

I did a quick white balance using one of the white fluffy clouds hanging in the bright blue sky.

Things were looking good as we crossed the road towards the estate agents office.

I was being lulled into a brief period off ignorant bliss as the gremlins stayed quiet, waiting for their moment to strike.

As we waked through the door they fired their first salvo.

I could hear that familiar frying and frizzling noise coming out of the monitor.

I quickly delved into my run bag, swapped mics, and for speed mic inputs.

We had to work pretty quickly because Jonathan had the deadline of a flight back to London to catch. I did not have time to fault find.

We sorted the position for the interview and short set up shot.

I handed Jonathan the mic and did another colour balance.

The red light was on.

Jonathan started the interview with the estate agent lady.

I was thinking that the picture in the black and white viewfinder was slightly low in contrast but it was probably that the viewfinder contrast control had been adjusted a little.

They were at it again.

As the interview progressed I blinked my eye a few times. I was sure that there was something amiss. Things just appeared to be getting worse.

When the interview was finished I took the camera off my shoulder and said that I felt that there was a problem.

I was now able to look at the small colour monitor on the side of the camera.

There sure was a problem.

Most of the frame was a low contrast magenta mass.

I was horrified.

Again I did not have time to fully investigate the fault.

Jonathan went straight out to the car and brought in his little camera and once I had connected a microphone we re-shot the interview.

Our next location was the pub in which Susan is a regular.

I gave myself five minutes to see if I could solve the problem before going in to shoot the next bit.

My worry was that there was some kind of build up of moisture in between the elements of the lens.

Although that would not have produced the colour cast, but I pulled the lens off and had a close look for the tell tale blob of grey.

It was crystal clear.

I looked at the filters and through to the sensor.

There was a hint of something, possibly moisture on the sensor.

I loosened the side of the camera.

The gremlins were certainly having a laugh at my expense.

After a couple of moments things looked pretty much fine.

I stuck the lens back on and had a look through the viewfinder.

The strong bright whites and solid blacks shone back at me.

We went into the Happy Valley and were introduced to a friend of Susan’s who was happy to give us an interview.

He and Jonathan sat on a couple of bar stools and I pressed the button to start the recording.

Jonathan started chatting to our new friend.

I concentrated on the picture in the viewfinder looking for any slight sign for the image not being right.

At that moment the beastly gremlins were finding it difficult to breathe. They were laughing too much.

The interview came to an end.

I pressed the button to stop the recorder and stepped back to do another quick set up and two shot of the pair at the bar.

I framed the shot and hit the button.

The red light did not come on.

I had this horrible thought that I could not remember being fully aware of the light during the interview I was so intent in scanning the image.

I tried the button another few times with no result.

I switched the camera off and on and then ejected and reinserted the tape.

It was real party time in gremlin land.

A string of language that would not be out of place in this particular pub was on the tip of my tongue as I rewound the tape to confirm that the recorder had not been running during the interview.

Once I had re-cued the tape I tried the recorder start button.

The red light flashed for a few seconds before staying on to indicate that the recorder was working correctly.

If I managed to get a hold of one of those mischief making little beasts I could cheerfully have shoved its giggling head up the bottom of an elephant that had just eaten a particularly large very hot curry after starting off the night winning a Guinness and rancid oyster eating competition.

We redid another interview. Of course the answers on this second take were not as good as the first one.

We went off to Susan’s old house to do a piece to camera and try to have a word with a neighbour.

At least the radio mic that I used for Jonathan’s piece to camera worked perfectly.

The neighbour that had been watching what we were up to and came to his door when Jonathan knocked on it was not happy to talk to us but not on camera.

Well he was in his towelling dressing gown.

On the other hand the guy opposite was very happy to chat.

We had finished the interview. I just had a couple of wide shots to do.

They were not finished.

The sun was in the viewfinder, slightly obscured by a hazy grey circle.

If I had not had the camera on my shoulder I would have put my head in my hands, crouched down and done a very acceptable impression of Basil Fawltey crying in frustration.

There was still an interview to do with Frank, Susan’s old singing teacher.

We did the shots in the house along with a short interview with a couple of his current pupils, two young blondes that were not in the mould of Susan Boyle in any way.

The image in the viewfinder and on the small monitor looked fine.

Back in the car on the way to get Jonathan to the airport in plenty of time for his flight we checked the tape.

There was a mark slightly visible on some of the shots but with a bit of careful editing they should not make the final edit.

I was not a happy chap but at least the job was finished.

Jonathan had called to speak to the editor back in London to get an idea of what was wanted from his report but she had not been able to call back.

That was until we were a few moments from Edinburgh airport.

Jonathan told her the elements that we had for the report.

She told him that they had some footage from “Britain’s Got Talent” and the concert that she was doing in Japan as we spoke.

Then she said that they might want to include a shot of the new house that was believed to be Susan’s new home.

Jonathan had been unable to get confirmation that the house we thought might be the one was hers for sure. So, we had no shot of it.

I did a full circle of the Newbridge roundabout and we went back to Blackburn.

When we got to the house to save time Jonathan jumped out of the car and did a few shots of the house which is behind the local police station.

The second journey to the airport was not as relaxed as the first one.

I did manage to get jonathan to the check in for the flight with less than five minutes to spare.

Extremely dissatisfied with my day’s work I headed home.

My work was done but Jonathan still had to get to GMTV in London and edit the report.


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