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, 13 August 2010

Friday 13th!

Thursday 12th

In the morning I had the pleasure of checking out a view that I am pretty familiar with. it is the vista from Calton Hill at the east end of Princes Street in Edinburgh.

The iconic view of Edinburgh.

I was there to check out the location for possible live broadcasts into Daybreak, as GMTV is about to become on the 6th of September.

The live broadcasts will be on the day of the Pope’s visit to Scotland.

It was a simple job. I already know the area and all that I needed to check was where the satellite truck could park and confirm that it would be able to see the satellite from there.

So with a quick flourish of my newly acquired geek iPhone app that shows me exactly where the various satellites are in the sky I was done and heading for a cup of not particularly hard earned coffee.

Life does not get much better when all that is to be done is be paid to go and look around a beautiful place and then relax.

The wider view including the castle and the Old Town.

The view you don't often see to the north east.

I was meditating on that thought in the evening as I relaxed even further with yet another cup of coffee in my hand when the phone jingled heralding a blocked call.

That would be the office.

There is no such thing as a free coffee. Pay back time had arrived.

I was due to do a couple of simple live broadcasts from the roof top position at STV.

It was going to be a couple of straight forward down the line interviews with comedian Steven K Amos and some guy I had never heard of.

The call was relating to the live with Matt Parker. Who?

Seemingly he is some kind of mathematician.

Anyway the live broadcast in the morning was going to be something to do with Rubiks cubes.

Angela from GMTV in London asked hopefully if I happened to have one.

I certainly did have one but it was long gone.

So now at after 9 pm I was set the task to try and find one for the morning.

I scratched my head and thought about who might have one.

A few phone calls and text messages later things were not looking good.

As the time ticked towards bedtime I had given up any hope of one appearing.

Then a call from one of my sons changed that. He had found someone with not one but two.

I dispatched a much amused taxi company to pick up the little coloured cubes and bring them to me.

The driver was very bemused and excited that he was delivering two small bits of plastic that would be appearing live on national television in the morning.

He asked when the broadcasts would happen because he wanted to text lots of people.

Not too sure if I would like to be a passenger in his cab for the next wee while. “You’ll never guess what I had in my taxi the other day?”

The Cubes!

At least I had them in my hand and was regarded as somewhat of a hero in the office in London for managing to come up with the goods.

I went to bed for almost a full night’s sleep before I would meet Matt, do the live broadcasts and discover just exactly why the cubes were needed. I had just about fallen asleep when it had dawned on me that I did not know why on earth I had been asked to hunt them down.

Friday 13th

Well, Friday the thirteenth pretty much lived up to its billing, not that any one watching would have known.

The first little hiccup was when I arrived at the STV building in George Street in Edinburgh.

I am pretty familiar with the place having had an office in there for a number of years and going in from time to time to do live broadcasts.

First thing I had to do was get into the basement car park.

My pass for the car park had long since been deactivated. I just needed to buzz the security guy to open the barrier and the roller gate.

I pressed the button on the little panel for a good five minutes or so.

He must have been out on his rounds of the building.

Eventually the barrier and gate jerked into activity and went up.

I had plenty of time to get rigged on the roof and prepare for the broadcasts so I was not worried just slightly inconvenienced.

I got my kit out the car and went to go from the car park up to the roof.

I pushed the door to get into the building.

It did not budge.

I pushed again, a little bit harder.

It was firmly shut.

Then I noticed beside the door, a little swipe panel that had not been there before and was obviously new.

The door was now locked and needed a card to open it from that side.

I went to the intercom system and pressed the buzzer.

There was an answering click. I was relieved, the guard was not on his rounds this time.

That click was followed by the roller gate and barrier juddering open again.

I pushed the door again.

It was still closed.

“He must be on his way down.”, I thought.

The roller shutter gate and barrier closed but no car had come in to the garage.

I pressed the buzzer again and when I heard the answering click again I shouted that I needed to get into the building.

Another click came in reply.

The roller then started rolling again in conjunction with the barrier going up.

I tried the door once more.

It stayed purposefully shut.

I rattled and pushed at it in minor frustration. Time was now becoming a slight issue but not a major one.

The roller rattled down and the barrier followed.

No car had appeared down the open ramp.

I went back to the intercom and this time when the click came I yelled in frustration that I needed to get into the building, I was already IN the car park.

A few moments later the rather red faced and apologetic security guard opened the door from the inside to let me in.

As I had expected it was not John the usual guard, he was off on holiday.

There was still a reasonable amount of time to get things sorted out on the roof. All I needed to do was pick up the bag with all the cables, connectors and earpieces, romp up to the roof and put it all together.

I met Alex the STV engineer, said good morning and sauntered into the store room to grab the green bag with all the vital bits.

I put my hand out expecting to bring it back clutching the rather careworn rucksack full of techie things.

It came back empty.

I looked around. The bag was nowhere to be seen.

I went out to ask Alex if he knew where it was.

He gave me the reply I did not want to hear.

With his head slightly to the one side he said, “is it not there?”

He then came in and looked.

We both looked around the small room.

We both looked around the crew area in the office.

Alex looked in the library room.

I looked in other technical type rooms.

We looked at each other trying to think of a way around the problem.

Then Alex exclaimed, “There it is!”

The bag was nestling beside one of the journalist’s desks.

We made our way up to the roof with the stuff, camera, tripod, cables, earpieces, etc.

There was still enough time to get set up, just not enough time to gulp a coffee whilst doing it.

Alex went back down to his techie heaven to speak to Glasgow and London.

I assembled all the bits and pieces.

The job was almost done when Alex called to say that both the guests were there.

The camera set up on the roof ready for the guests.

Matt Parker the mystery Rubiks cube man was due on in around five minutes time.

He came out on to the roof.

I was mildly put out to see that he had in his hand a Rubiks cube.

He proceeded to tell me how difficult he had found it to try and get one yesterday evening when he knew he was going to be on the programme.

I agreed and looked at my poor pair of understudies that would now not make it to air.

Not destined for stardom but in a beautiful setting.

I then found out what it was all about.

The Rubiks cube can be solved in a maximum of 20 moves from any starting position, but only by computer.

The average human Rubiks cube expert takes about 40 moves.

I found this out as I stuck a microphone up his jacket and rammed an earpiece into his ear.

The talkback from the studio in London was not as loud as we would have liked but he could just about hear with the thing shoved in almost as far as his eardrum, and if no big buses or noisy trucks went passed on the the street below it would be fine.

I was going to make a final adjustment to the mic when Matt said, “hold on.”

It was clear that he was listening to a voice in his ear.

I backed off. There was nothing in my ear. We were on a break were we not? I had heard the signature music to signal the start of the break and then as I would expect nothing until the break was over.

Matt was obviously acknowledging something or someone and nodding. He then started to listen quite intently.

“We must be on our item” I thought.

Sure enough suddenly Matt started to talk as if in answer to a question from Emma in the GMTV studio.

He proceeded to chat about the cube and the computer.

He answered another couple of questions that were mute to me.

When it was definite that the broadcast was finished I extricated him from the mics and earpieces.

Matt with "his" cube.

When he left I set about a quick investigation as to why I had suddenly gone deaf to the programme and see if it was possible to get more volume from the guest talkback.

My talkback deafness was simply a cable that did not have a little locking clip on it and had come loose.

Alex brought up a couple of amps to try and boost the levels a bit but, the connections were not compatible with the bits that were already there and there was no time to try and source the correct ones.

Steven K Amos would be on very soon.

He came up to the roof not looking the brightest.

It had been after 3am when he got to bed. So, even at after 8am he was still tired and was not at all used to being up and about at this early hour.

I shoved the mic up his coat and put the earpiece in his ear.

There was not long to go until his slot talking to John and Emma.

He said that he could not hear the talkback at all well.

It was a real struggle for him to hear the director and producer in London talking to him.

I tried to get him to shove it in further.

When he did, the little earpiece came off in his ear.

He managed to pull it out and stick it back on the thin tube.

When he pushed it back in he could still not hear clearly.

Simon the director told me that we had about one minute until we were on air.

I grabbed another slightly bigger earpiece form my bag in the hope that it would help.

As soon as I stuffed it in Steven’s ear he said, “That’s better.”

Simon spoke to him.

Steven acknowledged and then we heard Emma start to talk about the Edinburgh Festival.

We would be on air in a few seconds.

I heaved a small sigh of relief, which was a bit premature.

Steven started to talk in response to Emma’s question.

Almost immediately two red lights started blinking in my viewfinder.

They were battery warning lights.

In all the fuss trying to get the talkback working I had not had the chance to check the battery levels.

Now here we were live on air to the great British breakfast audience with a camera that was on the brink of switching off because of lack of power and there was nothing that I could do about it.

I just hoped that the thing would last for the short time of the broadcast.

When Steven got to the end of his first answer I fully expected another question.

I was not disappointed, but I had hoped it would be the end.

As he chatted on for another few minutes answering many more questions I just kept saying to myself, “make this the last question. Please!”

I thought that the lovely Emma and jolly John were never going to shut up. I was beginning to think that Emma was less than lovely, John less than jolly and Steven not at all humorous.

I don’t think that I have ever done many longer down the line interviews.

At last the time was up. The camera was still on, but only just. The blinking red lights were now static red.

I wonder if Steven and his minder were aware of the reason for my joy and happy thank yous as I unclipped the microphone and extracted the earpiece.

When I had done that which took all of fifteen seconds I turned back to the camera to see that it was totally inert.

Steven K Amos.

The job was done. I got away with it. This time I was able to have a proper sigh of relief.

Think I will take the next Friday the 13th off!