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, 11 September 2012

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Singapore

Monday 10th September

A little convoy of plush leather seated large coaches took the media contingent to the Brithish High Commission not far away from the hotel.
Our hotel
One of the well dressed porters
Yes I know, it's just a bus, but it is a posh one
Cordelia thinking about the script before we left the hotel
Nick Loughran, one of the press officers gave us an in depth briefing on the logistics for the Singapore and Malaysia part of the trip followed by Miguel Head, the press secretary to the Duke and Duchess giving the details of the Solomn Islands and Tuvalu.

There was coffee and biscuits for us. We wondered if the styrofoam cups and powdered milk was due to the current economic climate. It was not shortbread, Digestives or Rich Tea but the famous traditional American Oreos.
Preparing for the briefing
Diving in for the press packs
It was looking like Cordelia and I would not be getting to a lot of the events with the Duke and Duchess because of our commitments to doing live broadcasts.

We even had to leave the briefing before the rest of the media and catch a cab back to the hotel to get the gear to go out and start shooting. We only had about an hour and forty five minutes before we would be broadcasting live.

In that time I had to shoot an interview with royal expert Robert Jobson, do some general shots of the Botanical Gardens, get some vox pops with locals asking how excited they were about William and Kate coming to Singapore.

Once that was gathered it needed to be slightly edited and then sent to London.

We did a quick "grab" with Robert at the hotel, jumped in another can with all the gear to head to the satellite truck.

Lim, the engineer greeted us with a firm handshake and wide smile. He showed me where the live location was, about two hundred meters from the truck.

As we walked down his two man team were busy putting the camera cable in, making sure that none of the visitors would trip over it.

Once I was happy that the shot would look fine the pleasantries were over. It was time to get to work and fast.

I grabbed the camera I needed to shoot on and went off to do a few shots of the beautiful gardens.

That done Cordelia joined me. We accosted a few Singaporeans and got the answers we hoped for. They were very excited about the visiting royals regarding them as very much A listers.

Then thankfully I began the process of getting the material in to the computer under the large blue gazebo that Lim had put up beside the dish.
Our satellite truck, dish and essential gazebo
I had only just pulled out all the delicate electronic kit, cabled it up and started ingesting the footage when the wind freshened heralding a tropical deluge.

I got as much of the edit done as possible before I had to turn my attention to getting sorted for the live broadcasts.

It was a great relief that as suddenly as it had started the torrential rain stopped.

This morning not only did I have the outgoing pictures and sound to deal with I had to sort out the programme talk back.

I had my little comms unit with me which hooked up to a mobile phone provides rudimentary radio talk back. That allows us to be free of cables if we need to do a bit of walking and talking.

There was none of that today as we were in a static position.

The first set of live broadcasts are always quite frantic and nerve wracking. This morning was no exception.

After the manic hour or so and the rain it was getting very close to broadcast time when I started getting things rigged for the fast approaching live broadcasts.

It was a great relief when all the technical things worked as soon as it was set up.

The pictures and sound from my camera were being seen by the truck and at the first attempt after speaking to Doug, the technical director we established the programme talk back.

The first little tease went off without a hitch.

I then had to turn my mind to getting the little slice of edited material back to London as soon as possible.
Cordelia checking her script as news of the couples arrival came in
Under normal circumstances that would be done via the satellite dish. However, on this trip that would not be possible. There are a few technical reasons for this, the main one being that the recording is on HD (high definition) but the trucks and dishes that we are using only transmit SD (standard definition).

Hence material had to be sent using the Internet.

A nice fast hotel WiFi connection makes that not too much of a problem.

Of course this morning, now approaching the afternoon local time on location that was not an option.

It would be up to our little BGAN satellite dish to do the job.

Being in a beautiful tropical botanical garden was great with all those brightly coloured flowers and majestic trees, their big wide green leaves sprouting into the sky.
The Singapore Botanical Gardens.
..with strange plants..
..beautiful ones..
..and lots..
..and lots of tall trees.
Thereby lay or should I say stood my next problem. I had to be able to point the rectangular dish towards the satellite not too high in the sky. Unlike the satellite that the big dish was pointing which was more or less directly overhead.
We are near the equator so the dish points almost straight up
I waved the dish around roughly in the direction of where I estimated the satellite should be through the clouds and through some little gaps in the trees.

Soon I heard the annoying yet reassuring series of beeps getting closer together to let me know that there was an acceptable signal to be able to send the material to London.

Before I could get the mac connected and get the footage whizzing through the ether I had to dash back, sweat running down my back and dripping off my nose to do the first of our proper live broadcasts.
The BGAN, in the foreground, and the mac
The fist transmission jitters had gone I was much more relaxed about this one.

Cordelia took her cue from the studio and James the director keying over talk back as usual.

She had only uttered a few words embarking on the story about Prince William and Kate, or Katherine as he now regularly calls her, seeing an orchid named after his mother, Princess Diana when we heard the guys in the studio in our ears appologising for loosing our pictures.

So much for being relaxed.

The bad news was our signal going and the studio not coming back to us.

The good news was that it was nothing to do with us. Phew!

The satellite signal was getting back to London crossing via LA on the west coast of America having jumped over the Pacific Ocean.

It was there that the problem lay. There was some issue that Doug the technical director did not go into details about, simply saying that he'd need to be on top of them for the rest of the morning.

The rest of the broadcasts were fine and the material arrived safely on London in time to make the allocated slot.

Rob from Australia's Channel 7 was waiting to to a live broadcast to Australia with his reporter, Adrian Brown.

Adrian is no stranger to breakfast telly albeit a long time ago. He used to work for TVam in Hong Kong.
Cordelia and Adrian talk breakfast TV
Rob was a great help to me by letting me use his lights and when the sun popped out holding the reflector.

They had less luck than us. At the last moment their broadcast was dropped.

I had been asked to do the evening pool coverage of the presidential dinner that the Duke and Duchess would attend.

It was going to be a tight turnaround for me. I had just over half an hour after our last live broadcast into the Lorraine programme to pack up, get back to the hotel, a short drive away, change into smart clobber and then catch the bus that was going to leave for the Istana, the President's residence.

Yet more sweat cascaded out of me as I tried to put on my smart shirt, tie and black suit.

I just made it on time only to find that timings had been put back.

That was a relief on two counts. I would be able to cool down in the air con of the hotel and just had enough time to wolf down a plate of pasta.

The bus took us up to Istana where we had to go through a security screening process that involved surrendering our passports in exchange for a pass.

It was the old hurry up and wait scenario. When we got to the entrance we were crushed together in the high temperature, high humidity of the early evening.

Once more my shirt was soon soaking. I might have been in best bib and tucker but I'm sure I looked as if I'd worn it in the shower.

After the steamy wait we pool chaps were then in shoot and scurry mode.

At the entrance we shot the president arriving swiftly followed by the Duke and Duchess.

Then we scurried off behind them to a point to see the Duke inspect a guard of honour.

Before he had finished that we had to scurry into the building, up the back stairs and into a room to wait a few short moments and then shoot the Duke and Duchess officially meeting the president.

Then quietly but quickly scurry to an adjacent room via a circuitous route to wait another short time to shoot the Duke and Duchess meeting the Prime Minister.

The quiet, quick scurrying continued as we were then led along more hallways and staircases to a large but not massive dinning room.
The large dining room
This was where, obviously, the banquet would be, interupted after the fourth of several courses by speeches, one by the President Tam Keng Yam Tony and a reply by Prince William.

We got set up with the sound feeds and prepared for the guests to arrive. We did not have to wait too long before they all trouped in and stood around the tables.
Our pool camera positions
Very shortly after we had set up, lead in by the president, the royal couple entered. As the three at the top table sat so did all the other guests.

We were then ushered out quite quickly. Now though the scurrying was over.

There are no shots allowed of royalty eating. Not sure why but, that is the protocol.

The good thing was that the lovely Singapore staff had provided us with a meal. Not as posh as the one being scoffed up stairs but non the less a very good one.
Menu and table set for the VIPs upstairs
Menu and table set for us downstairs
The staff canteen, not too shabby
waiting to serve the VIP food
When we got word that the fourth course was coming to an end we made our way back up to our camera positions to wait for the speeches.

Things were running a bit late and the news desks in London were getting eager to see some new pictures coming out of Singapore. The various producers were texting me to see how things were going.

They were keen to get on with their edits.
President Tam Keng Yam Tony making his speech
Prince William doing his
As soon as the speeches were done we all headed for the bus to take us back to the hotel, not forgetting to retrieve our passports in exchange for the passes round our necks.

Back at the hotel I started the process of ingesting the rushes and getting them sent to Gray's Inn Road the home of ITN. They would then distribute them to the London media. I then gave the media cards with the raw footage to ITN, the BBC, Sky and Channel 5 here in Singapore so that they could do their edits.

It had been a long old day by the time all the outlets were happy and I had put my plethora of electronic things on to charge and I was pretty tired but pleased because at least we had fulfilled our commitments to our programme and the pool.

Sky News on the other hand were having a bit of a nightmare. Their camera had broken and they were trying to source a replacement as quickly as possible. They were not finding it easy.

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