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, 29 April 2011

Daybreak's Royal Wedding coverage in St Andrews.

Friday 29th

We might have been four hundred miles north of Westminster Abbey but in St Andrews there was still going to be a bit of an event to celebrate Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.

The University at which they were students and had met was putting on quite a do to view and enjoy the marriage.

The stages and seating in the Thursday evening light.

The first thing that had to be done was to send the pictures that I had taken last evening to Daybreak in London.

There were some shots of the decorations around the town and the start of the ceilidh that started off the town’s festivities.

Testing the big screen with Lady Penelope.

The ceilidh in the quad....

......for old and young.

It was a perfect early summer evening in the home of golf.

The golf courses of St Andrews.

Golfers on the old course.

Dave and Bill with the satellite truck had already set up the radio camera and talkback that I would be using for the broadcasts this morning.

Our orange truck in the cluster of satellite trucks beside the university library.

All that was left to do was get Gregg the correspondent wired up with talkback and a mic.

Colin wires Gregg up and producer Christina chats to Daybreak in London.

Almost as soon as we arrived at 5 am the bands started doing their sound checks on the various stages that were set up for the entertainment.

Our first little broadcast tease was at the beginning of the programme along with many of the other locations around London and the rest of the UK.

The Band on stage sound checking.

We roped in one of the bands to be tuning up during our short transmission.

Obviously the main broadcasts were coming from the various important venues around London.

The BBC doing their television live broadcast....

..and waiting for a radio one.

There was a lot of stress around which could be heard in the voices of the various people on talkback.

A lot of planning had gone into the wedding and the way it would be covered. From the day the date had been announced there were meetings and discussions dealing with as may eventualities as possible.

No one wanted anything to go wrong so when Dave the technical director came over talkback to say that the studio could not hear any of our sound.

It was not long until the broadcast there was a moment of panic before we heard Dave’s voice say that he could hear us now.


If there was going to be a hiccup at least it would not be at our location.

Red gowned students start to gather for the fun.

The principal of the University Professor Louise Richardson joined us for one of our short broadcasts.

Christina dong the most important job. Getting the coffee!

Before handing the morning’s coverage over to ITN we had one final slightly longer broadcast at nine minutes past eight.

In this one we would be featuring a choir from the University that had done an accappela version if a Lady GaGa song with a bit of a change in the lyrics to reference the happy couple.

We had time to do do a couple of little rehearsals to get the timing right.

In between those we had to have a break and move out of the way to allow a pipe band to march into the quad and onto the largest of the three stages.

The band marches in.

Another quick rehearsal and then it was time for our last contribution to the Daybreak wedding proceedings.

The contributors to Daybreak's last broadcast of the morning from St Andrews.

After we came off air Gregg received a text from the boss in London to say that he was happy with what we had done.

So, we might still have jobs for a little while longer.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Gand national preview and weather

Friday 8th

In the dark chill Liverpool morning I met Leon the Producer outside the city centre hotel.

The drive to Aintree Racecourse was quick. Getting to our live location on the course was not quite so quick.

Firstly all the vehicles had to be searched.

When the lady from the security company asked to see into Leon’s bag I thought, “This is gong to be a long morning!”

However, when she asked me to open the tailgate she said, “I think that the dog should do this one.”

A few moments later in the harsh light and dark shadows of the temporary floodlights a boisterous Spaniel with muddy feet was leaping in and out of the car.

The handler was pointing at things and apologising for the state of his dog’s feet. The good natured beast carried on the game for a short time, jumped out disappointed at the lack of drugs, explosives or other contraband and headed off to have a sniff around some other vehicle waiting in the queue to be searched.

We drove our mini convoy of two camera crew cars and satellite truck through the car park for the horseboxes that had transported the fast, precious and expensive animals to the course.

The reason for the two crew cars was that there was going to be two cameras on the job this morning.

One would be doing the job of shooting Dan Lobb the presenter for the morning and the other would be covering the weather with Lucy Verasamy Daybreak’s weather presenter.

We parked up in front of the Princess Royal stand. The BBC truck parked not too far from us and they got ready to do their thing.

Our vehicles and the BBC truck beside the rails.

The Princess Royal Stand.

There was a bit of a discussion as to how we would organise the cameras, who would do what and which camera would be on a cable and which would be on the Digi Link.

Geoff and Pete would do the camera with Dan, which would be on a cable, and I would play with the Digi Link with Lucy.

My first little technical nightmare was that my radio mic was not working properly.

That was quickly and easily sorted when Geoff gave me a loan of his.

As the light began to come up the sky was clear but across the course in the gloom a delicate shroud of mist covered the ground in a cool embrace.

Aintree in the mist.

Dan went off with Geoff, Pete and Leon on to the course to prepare for the opening of the programme.

Lucy and I went up into the stand to get as good a view as possible over the famous track and its fences.

The BBC setting up on the misty course.

The course lights piercing the fog.

We set up and I dialled in to the studio sound feed so that Lucy could hear the programme.

There was a moments stress when we could not hear the programme for some reason but it was soon sorted.

Doug, the technical director spoke to us over the talkback. Everything was up and running. We were ready to go.

The first broadcasts went off without a hitch.

When the sun made its appearance trying to burn its way through the low grey fog the racecourse looked like an eerie dream world.

The sun starts to make its presence felt.

Lucy bathed in its golden glow.

Just as Dan was about to do one of his broadcasts from our vantage point high in the stand Lucy and I could see a band of much thicker and higher fog very slowly advance down the course. The fences, white rails and green grass were being gobbled up by the grey monster.

Eventually it drifted over Dann and the crew. What a few moments ago had been a perfect racecourse scene was now just a grey glow.

Dan and the crew in the mist.

It was not long after that when the gremlins came out to have their fun.

They started off during one of Lucy’s weather broadcasts by choosing that moment to let me know that the battery in the radio mic was starting to go flat.

Along with the viewers of Daybreak I could hear the occasional sharp fizzing sound.

I replaced the battery and sacked myself again. This time for not putting a fresh battery in the mic transmitter when Geoff gave it to me.

We wanted to do the final weather broadcast from down on the course near the most famous of the fences, The Chair.

Lucy checks the forecast on her Blackberry before going on air.

The gremlins then came out in force and although we were much nearer the satellite truck with the Digi Link and there was nothing to block the signal the picture started to break up to the point that it was unusable.

The easiest thing to do was because we were down on the course and not far from Geoff’s camera he and Pete would have the pleasure of doing the last weather.

I helped drag the camera cable to the position and then trudged off to the truck to put the kit away as Lucy began the forecast.

Geoff and Pete doing the final broadcast with Lucy.

My work was done. All that was left to do was say goodbye and drive the five hours north. At least it would be the last long drive for a few weeks because I was off on holiday

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Daring Do by Dotty the Donkey.

Tuesday 5th

Yesterday I had made the long drive south from Edinburgh to Scarborough and met Gregg at a farm on the outskirts of the town.

It was a nice easy shoot.

Dotty the donkey was going to get an award for bravery from the PDSA.

Dotty the "Have a go" hero donkey.

She had saved the life of her friend Stan the sheep who was being attacked viciously by a pit bull type dog.

Stan the sheep and Dotty the donkey.

Dotty had jumped on to the dog that was clinging on to Stan’s face, forced it to let go and chased it away.

In the barn that housed them both I did a few shots of the pair and we then did a couple of interviews with Anne the owner and witness to the attack, and Elaine a vet from the PDSA.

At our hotel not far away Gregg edited the report and sent it over the internet to Daybreak in London.

This morning in the predawn darkness we made our way back to the farm to do some easy live broadcasts.

Well at least they should have been.

The satellite truck in the farmyard.

Just before the first live broadcast we were moving to get in position when the camera cable got snagged somehow and was pulled out of the connector attaching it to the box that is then attached to the camera.

A new cable was needed in a hurry. There was not much time until we were due to be on air.

Sean the satellite engineer jumped out of the truck and started to unwind the other drum of cable. I ran it out to make sure that it was the right length to get to the positions we had to get to.

Within a few seconds the frantic activity was over and we were ready to go in time for the first live report.

Sound recordist Pete attaches the new cable to the box.

That one was out of the way and had pretty much worked, although Dotty had wandered off and was not in the ideal position for me during the broadcast.

The saying about working with animals and children is a real cliché but only because it is so true.

There was about an hour until the next broadcasts. We stood around the truck chatting about our recent jobs, me in Japan dodging radiation clouds and Gregg in Libya dodging smaller but more instantly lethal bullets, whilst drinking the tea and eating the biscuits generously provided by Anne.

In a leisurely relaxed manner we prepared for the next broadcast at around 7:45.

It certainly was a real farm.

We were in position with plenty of time to go. That would be our last one for the morning and the job would be done.

For Anne and the PDSA people it was just the start of the day because there was going to be a little ceremony where Dotty would be presented with the award.

There would be a good media presence at that, including our colleagues from ITV Granada’s Calendar programme.

The BBC was also doing some coverage starting with a radio report not long after we came off air.

As we stood ready for the broadcast Gregg said, “That’s the Beeb arriving.” He motioned to behind the satellite truck.

“As long as he’s not parked on our cable.” I said.

There was only a few seconds until we went on air.

From the scene of the attack Gregg did the introduction to the report that we had done yesterday. During the one minute fourteen seconds that the the report was running we would reposition into the barn to see Dotty, Stan, Anne and Elaine.

It was all very similar the the earlier broadcast.

The only thing was that the BBC chap had indeed parked his van on top of the camera cable which meant that when we went to move to the barn there was not enough length to get there.

The driver had vanished.

I yelled out, “Where are you Mr BBC!”

Gregg tried tugging at the cable but it would not budge.

Once again Sean leapt out of the truck and this time ran to the farmhouse where he thought that the BBC chap might be.

Gregg then called on Anne to come out of the barn and come up to us.

It was a nightmare. The whole purpose of us being there was to see Dotty the donkey and we were not going to see her on the live broadcast.

Gregg spoke to Erron the director in the gallery and asked him to have some of the shots from the report ready to run again during the chat with Anne.

Amazingly he was on the ball having heard all the commotion and had the pictures ready.

The PA counted the last few seconds out of the report and we were back on air.

Gregg talked to Anne and Erron ran the pictures of Dotty.

The guy from the BBC came out of the house and moved the van those few vital centimetres to free the cable.

It was too late.

He was very apologetic when we came off air.

The BBC van with it's mast up after we were off air.

The cable still almost under the wheel after the van was moved.