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.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The phone's too hot to handle and Camel Polo.

Tuesday 17th

Dubai as the sun rises.

Another rise too early for breakfast and left the room without taking a shower.

My wake up dousing was courtesy of The Leap of Faith which is the Atlantis the Palm Dubai’s white knuckle high, steep water slide.

In the post dawn chill I took our little GoPro camera and launched myself down the slide a few times to get a point of view shot for something that we would be doing later in the week.

The Leap of Faith water slide.

After drying off it was time to help the guys get rigged for the first set of live broadcasts from the beach in front of the hotel.

This was a two camera shoot needing eight radio mics. So, as well as Richard with his satellite dish we had extra help from two local guys, Andy, an Aussie cameraman who had worked in London for eighteen years and Jax the sound recrodist a native of Goa in India but brought up in Northern Queensland.

Simon and Nigel rigging "the gallery".

The satellite truck on the beach.

Once all the technical set up and tests were done there was time to catch our breath and grab a quick coffee from the hotel’s Starbucks coffee shop.

It was not long before our merry band of presenters, producers, experts and the most important people of the week, the Downsizers came to join us.

Don't worry Maria Jax is not doing a tracheotomy it's just the t-shirt he's cutting.

Karl, ITV Daybreak’s executive producer got on with getting Sarah and Mark Wright sorted out with what they were to say and the energy with which they should deliver it.

Mark had arrived last night.

Sarah Heaney and Mark Wright raring to go...

...time for a quick pic though.

Sarah and Mark rehearse with Karl.

It was a hectic morning with lots of main broadcasts interspersed with a liberal number of live shots and short teases.

Executive producer Karl talks to Simon about the broadcasts.

We were busy rehearsing for one of the broadcasts when Erron the director in London’s voice cut through the sound of the programme to say that it was three minutes to a little ten second tease.

We quickly rejigged what we were doing to set up for it.

As expected Daybreak went to a commercial break and the talkback went eerily quiet. It is normal but, you never get used to it.

The short rehearsals carried on.

The silence lasted for what felt like much longer than the duration of even the longest break and had surely lasted longer than the three minutes standby we had been given.

The next thing that I heard was the ringing of a phone and then the programme burst back into our ears.

Standby, “coming to you in thirty seconds”, said Erron.

We were slightly confused now because of the length of time things had been quiet.

Surely we had missed the tease and it was, we though too early for the broadcast that we had just been rehearsing.

Simon quickly spoke to Erron to check.

It was the broadcast we needed to be on standby for.

There then followed a frantic scramble to get into position.

I could hear Kate and Dan in the studio start to talk about Dubai as my camera wobbled around and Sarah with her co-presenter got to their first positions.

Things settled down a fraction of a second before Erron said, “on you Dubai”.

Sarah picked up and we were off.

It didn’t go quite as we had rehearsed it but, the viewers would not have been aware of the madness that had just gone on halfway around the world from where they were watching.

What had caused the problem was that due to the heat the phone that was being used to get the talkback from London had shut down flashing a warning “Too Hot to Operate!”.

Nigel and Simon had quickly swapped to another phone.

The rest of the morning’s broadcasts were still as hectic but, went off without any more technical hitches.

Once we had partially derigged the equipment it was time to unpack another packed lunch to eat on the way to the next thing on the agenda.

Simon, Jax and I left Nigel and Andy to put the rest of the kit away. We were off with John, Mark, Elise, Emma and the four Downsizers, Amy, Richard, Laura and Jordanna to spring another surprise.

John talks to Elise about the words for the piece to camera.

Mark and Elise were kited up with the appropriate gear for the afternoon’s fun, Camel Polo.

Soundie Jax looking cool and ready for camel action sound.

Elise posing in her polo kit.

I think that it would be fair to say that Mark was not the keenest person in the world to get on the back of one of the beasts.

He was not the only one. No surprise really when the camels showed off why they have a reputation for being a bit grumpy.

They growled and bared their teeth at us and the handlers, who were proper camel polo players.

The camels and their handlers.

Simon gets the sack and the camera.

Camel Polo can be dangerous, disclaimers need to be signed.

There was some great stuff that Simon and I got of the guys getting on and trying to have a go at playing a game.

"I'm behind you Mark!" Getting the POV shot.

There were a couple of moments of drama. The first was when Richard had to be told that he would not be able to stay on his camel because it was struggling with his weight.

He took it very well when Emma told him that he had to get off.

Then when Elise was hurtling towards the goal about to score Laura’s camel decided she’s spent long enough in the saddle. He got her to dismount much quicker than she had mounted up.

Carol-anne the nurse who is travelling with us dashed to her aid. Thankfully Laura was fine.

It might have been the end of the day with the sun setting fast as we were driven back to the hotel but, it certainly wasn’t the end of our working day.

Nigel and I had time to squeeze in a hurried meal from one of the buffet style restaurants. It would have been great to have been able to take our time and enjoy the excellent seafood and sample the other delicious looking exotic dishes on offer. Sadly we had to just grab eat and run.

We went to the Neptune Suite to shot a session with Emma exposing and starting to deal with the mental side of the guy’s over eating.

The suite is pretty spectacular opulent with the main attraction being that the bedroom window has a fairly unique view. It looks out into the huge aquarium.

We did the sessions in front of that window.

Nigel and I had filmed in this very suite before with Ben Shephard when the hotel first opened.

We did an interview with Micha Barton in exactly the same place. It was during that interview that I was slightly shocked when I saw a part of Micha that I would think not that many other people see.

I could tell that she was not planning to wear a bikini.

Earlier in the day the front part of the hotel had been closed off and during various times of the day other parts of the hotel were off limits.

This was because there was a Chinese action movie being filmed in and around the hotel.

It was reportedly the biggest budget Chinese action movie ever made starring a couple of their megastars.

There was lots of signs of impressive bits of kit like, Technocranes, tracks and huge lights.

Our budget didn’t quite stretch to bringing a lighting kit so that we could keep the crazy excess baggage costs down.

The hotel’s PR department came up with a little working light that might help because the lighting in the room is quite muted and not ideal for lighting an interview.

The only thing was that there was no stand to get the light to the correct height.

Another little problem that had to be overcome was the need to have a two shot of Emma and the person that she was speaking to in order to edit into the single shot that I would have. There would be no second take on capturing the raw emotions that would inevitably come out during the session.

There was a little Z5 camera that we could use, but like the light there was no tripod for it.

It was time to improvise. I had a look around the the bedroom and bathroom to see what could be used to do the job.

Two laundry baskets were the answer.

Lighting on a budget, well no budget really.

Who needs a tripod when there's laundry basket to hand?

Nigel getting ready to put the microphone on Emma.

Amy's turn to get mic'd up

The sessions went very well both from television point of view. We got the kind of emotional shots that were needed.

It was also a success for the guys because Emma was able to get them off the starting blocks running on the tough road to losing some of their extra weight.

At around ten thirty Nigel and I switched off our kit and put the room back to the way it should be and retired to get a short sleep.

It would be another breakfastless early start to head out to the desert.

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