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, 3 June 2010

Up on the Roof as England Arrive.

Thursday 3rd June

It was pretty cold when we left the apartment in the dark before dawn.

It was still cold but there was a band of light on the horizon when we pulled into the car park of the Southern Sun hotel at Johannesburg airport.

The Satellite Dish on the Trailer.

News engineer Kelvin was deep inside the workings of a little generator, the metal bits of the mechanism glinting under the light from his head torch.

He stood up greeted us with his broad welcoming grin,

Then he broke the bad news.

Both the generators he needed to power the satellite dish were not working.

I could see that he was busy trying to sort it.

He asked if I could check out the possibility of getting an electric feed from the hotel.

The very helpful security and maintenance staff were only too happy to help and within a few minutes a convenient power socket had been found and a door opened to give us access to it.

I went out to tell Kelvin the good news when he gave me his good news.

One of the generators was now rumbling away quite happily and the satellite dish was powered up and either by luck or his and Paul the other engineer’s consummate skill was already locked on to the bird.

Kelvin Busy Trying to get the Spare Generator Working.

We then put our minds to the sort of shot that we could get. We were in the airport area but there was no real view of any of the airport terminals or the runway from where we were.

There was a low roof that jutted out quite away from the shiny main building that might provide enough height to give me some sort of meaningful shot.

The Dish, The Low Roof and the Hotel.

Once again the staff at the hotel were great. The Chief of Security came out and said that there would be no problem if we didn’t mind climbing up the access ladder.

From the roof the shot I could get was not perfect but at least I was able to see the tail of an aircraft and a hanger with a South African Airlines’ sign on it.

The sun was coming up very strong and bright in the clear blue sky.

Martin stood infant of the camera and was very side lit, but it was not a problem because the shiny building made the best reflector ever.

The Camera on the Low Roof.

Martin Geisler Rehearses his Broadcast.

We did three broadcasts into the GMTV programme. It was a bit of light relief from the grim story that was being told by the team back in the UK.

A 52 year old man had run amuck with a gun and shot 23 people killing 12 and as often happens in these situations turned the gun on himself.

The broadcasts were all pretty straight forward. There was only one slight hiccup, just a couple of minutes before the last broadcast the programme sound from the GMTV studio dropped out.

I shouted down to Kelvin and Paul to get them on the case. I also let London know that I was listening to the gallery talkback and if necessary I could give Martin a cue.

The boys down below were well on the case and with enough time for Martin to hear the link to him from Penny Smith the talkback was back on.

At the time of that last broadcast the England team’s plane was landing.

Reuters, APTN and the BBC were the only cameras permitted to be on the airport building to get the shots of the players arriving.

Martin was keen to try and get a shot of the team coach as it left the airport and do a little piece to camera.

So as soon as the broadcast was finished we scrambled down the ladder and jumped in to his car to head to a vantage point that he knew of.

As we had been told some of the roads were closed but with a confident wave of our FIFA Accreditation we were ushered through the roadblocks.

Martin drove to the area where he had been told that the bus would leave from.

To my surprise through a couple of heavy wire mesh fences we saw figures wearing the official suits of the England team getting on two coaches.

I immediately started shooting. I flicked in the lens’s two times extender which meant that I could zoom in and get very close to the figures.

The camera was on my shoulder so the shots were a bit wobbly. I held the camera as steady as I could.

I could not recognise any of the people boarding the coaches and I was aware the coach was not all plastered with World Cup decorations or signs saying that it was the England coach.

There were police cars in front of them with lights flashing all ready to go.

As the little convoy started to move off Martin and I went to get in position to combine the passing shot of the coach with a piece to camera.

The coach was full frame. I cued Martin and he went in to his piece to camera talking about the security of the team and how they’d be tucked away from the media and other prying eyes.

As the bus passed close to us it was obvious that there were none of the players on board.

Martin asked a policeman if the England coach had already gone.

He said that we had missed it by a few minutes.

Ah well. The shot was good and the piece to camera delivered perfectly. Pity none of it will ever be any more that digits on magnetic tape.

When we got back to the satellite truck where both APTN and the BBC were feeding the arrival pictures we discovered that the set up facility had not been that much more successful that our little escapade.

After a late breakfast Samson drove Mark and me up to Rustenburg to prepare for live broadcasts in the morning from as near the England training camp as possible.

We went to our B&B to check in and dump our small bags.

It had the only three rooms available in the whole of Rustenburg.

The owner, Madeline a big happy Afrikaans lady greeted us and showed us to our budget rooms.

The little lodge rooms were basic but certainly acceptable, well almost.

My room had the not so delicate aroma of wood preservative or perhaps a strong pesticide.

The Aromatic Room.

We had to check out the location for the morning and get some food so I opened all the windows and switched on the very wobbly ceiling fan when we left.

In the dark we arrived at the main gate of the training camp to see our satellite dish already busy getting ready to do a live broadcast for Channel 4.

The Satellite Dish on the Trailer Outside the Training Camp.

They were in the same position that we would use in the morning.

After checking it out and Mark getting confirmation from Gabriel Clarke from ITV Sport would be our live guest in the morning we ended another long day.

The Rustenburg shopping mall was all but deserted when we went to seek out a restaurant.

After finding one that was still serving we had a quick bite to eat then returned to the chilly smelly hotel.

The big telly in the little lounge was pumping out a live cricket match. South Africa were playing the West Indies.

Totally shattered I just wanted to get to bed. There was just one thing left to do and that was stick things on charge.

I looked around for an electric socket.

There was one below the TV with a couple of plugs in it.

I pulled one out and slammed in my chunky South African adaptor and the four way extension and connected the various phones and Blackberrys to their chargers.

I was glad I was acclimatised to a good Scottish winter because it was at least as raw as a draughty Highland castle.

I quickly jumped into bed and snuggled under the cover to warm up before getting to sleep.

I switched off the light and began to drift off to sleep.

I began to be aware of a gentle tapping.

Was there someone at the door?

The tapping became a loud knocking.

Chittering in my pants I went to the door.

when I opened it I was greeted by the sight of Madeline’s burly Afrikaans husband.

“Have you pulled out the TV booster?” he asked straight away.

“We have guys about to riot. They’re trying to watch the cricket!”

I swapped the plugs over, apologised and scrambled back to my warm bed.

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