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.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Things heat up in Brisbane

Monday 24th

Today lived up to it’s billing as the logistical nightmare from hell but, we all managed to get through it almost unscathed although not totally.

The first issue that vexed Annie, the BBC producer, Tadek, the Sky producer and my Georgina was where we would edit once the events were over.

Daniel talks logistics facilitations with the BBC's Annie and Georgina.

Some of it would need to be done in Brisbane, the pieces for the breakfast programmes and the lunchtime ones. Anything later could get done when we got back to what was beginning to feel like home, our hotel in Canberra.

That was easy then we’d all come back to the hotel and edit in our rooms. Organising a late check out should not be a problem.

What do you know, it was a problem. The only way that the hotel would allow us to keep the room until the late afternoon was if we paid for another night’s stay.

So, us techie types had to stump up for the privilege of having more electronic kit cluttering our rooms for longer.

After breakfast we got on the obligatory Murray’s “media’ coach bound for the Brisbane river, specifically the Southbank area.

The Queen would be taking a trip on a boat down the river to have a look at the areas that had been affected by relatively recent flooding, do a bit of a walkabout where she would see some of the folk who’d come out to see her and then meet some of the people affected by the flooding along with the people who had helped in the rescues and rebuilding.

Peter would go on the boat with the Queen and Prince Philip. Duncan would go on the media boat that would sail alongside the Queen’s boat. As well as getting shots of the boat and the royal couple he would do the pieces to camera for the three correspondents. Phil would be in position for her arrival from the boat and I would be up in the room where she would meet the people.

First stop on our short bus journey was to drop off the guys that were going on the river.

Heading for the river.

There were still a few hours before the queen was due but in the bright unforgiving sun the heat the crowds were growing.

The bus then carried on along the river and we picked up a motorcycle outrider.

He lead us to a point indicating that the driver should stop and after a chat with our media minder, Daniel, indicated that we should get off.

What we did not realise until the bus had pulled away that we were a full block away from where we should have been dropped off.

If we had all fancied a stroll in shorts and t-shirts carrying nothing more that an air if nonchalance it would have been fine but, trussed up in shirts and jackets carrying and dragging a stack of TV and photographic kit it was hot sticky and less than fun.

It was not just the sun that was making Arthur Edwards’ face a little ruddier. He was not happy because there appeared to be a lack of direction and organisation. As a veteran of literally countless of these tours he is somewhat of an authority on what is right and what is wrong.

Arthur, Marni from the Palace and Georgina start the "Long Walk to Q Park".

The "Long Walk" goes on...

...and on.

At least there were sights to see on the way.

Our frustration increased a little more when we arrived at the location where we received a briefing from the local media facilitator who thought that the reception that both Arthur and I were going to shot at was private one.

Arthur can always raise a smile even when there's a bit of stress.

Got enough bags and pouches mate?

Australian TV live spots.

From this meeting point Arthur, a local photographer, cameraman from ABC, a reporter from Associated Press Australia, Georgina and I were allowed to be escorted by Marni from the Buckingham Palace press team up to the reception room to get set up for the Queen’s arrival.

There was quite a time to wait before the Queen and the Duke would get to our point, plenty of time to work out who out of all the people in the room that we could interview later about meeting the Queen.

Most, if not all had stories of terrible tragedy or selfless heroism. After chatting to as many as she could in the time Georgina found some that were able and willing to share their stories with us.

On the large screens on the room we could see the live TV pictures from the Australian networks of the Queen and the Duke making their way along the river in the bright sunlight.

The room that we were in had large windows that looked over to where to boat would stop and where the pair, along with the none too small entourage would walk past the huge crowd that had gathered in the heat to catch a glimpse of two of the most famous people on the planet.

I had a great view of the throng and was able to get shots of the busy ambulance men and paramedics as they carried away a succession of victims of the heat who had fainted.

The view from our window a few moments before the Queen arrived.

I also got some nice wide shots showing the Queen in the context of the large crowd that I hoped would compliment the material that Peter was getting level with the Queen and Duke.

She looked happy accepting the loads of flowers and cards being given to her by loads of kids. At one point the Duke told some youngsters to climb over the barriers to get closer to the Queen.

Some of the Special Branch officers and palace officials even helped lift some of the children over.

It was all great stuff.

Shortly before the Queen and Duke walked to the entrance of our building our little media pack moved into position the get the shot of the couple getting out of the lift and then working the room.

She would go down one side and meet the people there and he would go down the other side.

There were people that I needed to get shots of on both sides.

The Queen did her stuff and spent a short time talking the the various people.

I was luck enough to get shots of all the people I needed to during the circulation.

There was also a bit of fainting drama in the room.

Before the Queen came to one of the ladies that we were going to focus on she came over all faint and had to be helped to a seat.

Georgina spotted it and without making a fuss managed to signal to me and I got a shot of the ambulance service guys doing there stuff.

After a short sit down she was fine and a few moments later was giving the Queen a slight curtsy and chatting to her about her experiences in one of the rescue centres during the floods.

As soon as the Queen left was when the frenetic action really started because we needed to get the material from the other guys into the laptop along with my material so that we could cut it down and sent it to London.

We would not have time to do a proper edit either for Daybreak or for the lunchtime news because of the time it would take to get the material into the machine and because we had, like all the pack catch an early evening flight back to Canberra.

By the time I got to the place the Queen was giving her little speech where the BBC and Sky were they had already swapped and ingested each others material.

Shooting the speech.

The Lady herself.

It would take a bit longer to get the material into my pc laptop than it took to get the material into their macs, particularly the BBC’s XD footage.

The BBC footage goes into their machine almost twelve times faster than it goes into mine.

There was of course still Peter’s material to get.

As soon as Duncan had finished the final thing which was the Queen’s speech when she rededicated some land that had been inundated in by the floods we all hot footed it back to the bus.

The three cameramen clutching open laptops busy ingesting video footage on to external hard drives. This process continued until we were all back at the hotel and heading for the rooms that we had shelled out for earlier.

Ingesting on the bus....

...and the journalists get in a huddle.

I was getting to grips with Avid and really felt I had it on the run.

The beast can always hit with a sneaky one though.

When the footage is going onto the hard drive it is not possible to do any editing so whilst the vital shots were being gobbled up into the belly of the beast Tim was thinking about his commentary.

Once he knew what material he had having been briefed by us cameramen and the producers and having seen what was going on he was ready with his script.

The ingestion process was still going on so what he did was send the voice track to both Daybreak and ITN for the Lunchtime news via his iPhone. Thus I could carry on getting the material in uninterrupted.

Tim tracks with the iPhone.

As soon as the material was in I got busy selecting the pictures that would work best with Tim's words. There was no time to do justice to a full edit because of needing to leave to catch the flight.

So, because of this what I had to do was select, as quickly as I could, the best shots, the clips of the interviews we did and the piece to camera.

All the material was scattered around all the cameramen's’ cards.

There was a lot of stuff to go through but we got to the relevant sections very quickly.

The great shots from Peter of the Queen on the boat went down. The lovely shots of the Queen on the boat, the boat itself and the piece to camera from Duncan’s camera went down. Phil’s quick pan to the fantastic shots of the Duke asking the kids to climb the barrier went down. My wide shots showing the size of the crowd and the shots of the fainters went down.

Then came up from the canvas came Avid with a real sneaky below the belt whack.

I went to the interview that we wanted to put down and hit “play”.

Gwen’s lips started moving but was accompanied by no sound.

My blood ran cold.

I was sure the sound was there. I had been monitoring the sound both by listening to it and watching the sound levels in my viewfinder.

I made a quick whizz along to the next interview.

It was the same, silent as a grave.

I spun back to the shots of the Queen in the room. They had sound.

What could have caused the problem and was it in the edit system or fatally, was it a fault in the recording?

Given that we had not received frantic phone calls from either Sky or the BBC and me knowing that I things had certainly looked and sounded OK during the recording I hoped that it was Avid up to its tricks.

I stuck the card back into the machine and with a modicum of dread I selected a file which I though would coincide with one of the interviews and double clicked.

Up popped the Quick Time window. I pressed play and instantly the trouser filling moment was over as the sound blasted out.

I quickly re-ingested the clips we needed, cut them as required and stuck them on the time line .

There was now just over half an hour until we needed to be on the bus. I just needed to tidy up the timeline before sending it over to ITN.

I marked an in point and an out point to remove a couple of extraneous shots and hit the button.

I must have hit the wrong one because before my very eyes the whole of the timeline with all shots vanished Tommy Cooper style, “just like that”!

My eyes widened in horror and once again I was almost in the situation of needing new underwear.

I hit ctrl Z and breathed again as the material reappeared as if by magic.

In a few moments after the encoding and sending process thanks to the hotel’s fast internet London gave us a clear meaning that it was all there and they were happy with the technical quality.

Now the three of us got down to the job of getting the kit packed up in double quick time to get down to catch the bus to take us to the airport.

In reception I met a none too happy Phil. He had not been able to connect to the internet so his material had not gone to London.

On the bus Duncan said that he had managed to put together two pieces or rather two versions of the one piece.

There was one small problem when the bus dropped us at Brisbane's domestic terminal. We we very far away from any trollies and even though we were all travelling as light as we could we still needed trollies.

Tim on the phone to London.

Now just where are the trollies?

Ah! There's one. Georgina the trolley dolly.

That'll be the producer with the trolley and of course the correspondent is on the phone.

Another day. Another airport check in.

When we were in the lounge and were waiting for the flight Phil was able to resume working on the Sky News package.

Sky's Jonathan Samuels and Phil editing at the airport in Brisbane.

Arriving in Canberra. Another airport. Another trolley for Georgina.

When we arrived back at the hotel in Canberra and Tim had spoken to London there was as ever some good news and some bad.

The bad was that there was a bit of news that had broken about the Queen’s visit to Brisbane.

Some smart ass (pun intended) had mooned at the motorcade as it went past.

This needed to be mentioned in the piece from us on the evening bulletin.

The good news was that we had sent enough material before we left Brisbane that if Tim did his iPhone thing again with a new commentary the piece would be edited in London.

That meant we could get go bed marginally before midnight. Well at least if I was not finishing off this blog I’d get to bed then.

The BBC were having to stay up to do an edit for there evening news so like Nick and Duncan I was staying up a bit longer that maybe I really needed to.

The BBC's Duncan and Nick Witchell editing in the hotel in Canberra.

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