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.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The kindness of a stranger saves the day

Tuesday 11th September


I was not looking forwards to the day if I was going out into what I saw out of my bedroom window when I pressed the button that gently parted the curtains.

It was as if I was looking at a glass shower door when someone is having a very steamy shower.

Water cascaded down the heavily misted up glass with a background of unwelcome grey.

Like the rain yesterday by the time that I had scoffed a quick breakfast and we had heaved two camera kits, the paraphernalia for editing and doing live broadcasts on to the coach the rain had stopped.

All that it left in its wake was a searing heat that managed to cut through the high humidity.

Huge sweaty patches making shirts cling to the skin are an accepted part of life here.

The coach took us to a spectacular, futuristic nature friendly eco park called Gardens by the Bay.

True to form we had to do a bit of waiting before going to our position up in the park.
The waiting begins, at least there was some shade..
..time to take notes..
..or just chat, Ch 5 and ITN talking things over
We actually had to wait for the Duke and Duchess to arrive before we were escorted to our allocated area.

This was a little frustrating because had we known that I would have taken up a position in that area for as good a shot as possible of them arriving and then been ready to move.

As it was I did do some shots but, with Mark the ITN cameraman being on the pool right beside the action there was little chance that any of the shots would get used.

When we got to the area allocated there was quite a crowd, a lot of them school children and most of them appeared to be girls.

After dumping the kit in a spot that I claimed at the end of the little pen created to keep us from getting too close the the famous pair I went across to get a few shots of the flag waving crowd.
Some of the crowd at Gardens by the Bay
It is amazing that the power of a camera has, pointed in the right direction, to produce loud and enthusiastic cheering.

I captured a bit of the preteen age rapture and then took position at the side of the barrier.

We did not have to wait too long, but long enough to make Cordelia and me a bit nervous.

Were thinking of what we had to do and the upcoming live broadcasts. We had given ourselves a cut off point when we would need to leave to have enough time to get to the live location.

it was about 10 minutes before that point when the prosesion of golf buggies came into view accompanied by a rousing cheer when the crowd spotted the occupants of the biggest one.

The Duke and Duchess got out and started a bit of planned impromptu walkabout.
The couple are just about to come round the corner
The little pool was getting the shots, but therein lay our problem from the "fixed point".

Along with the photographers and cameramen in the pool slightly blocking our shots there were loads of jittery local security and officials getting in the way.

It did not take long for the photographers to start shouting to ask Nick, one of the press officers to help.

He did try his best. The pool quickly became less of an issue. It was now just the ones in suits and a few in uniform that screened, mainly the Duchess from our lenses.

Along with the shots of the couple we needed to get a very short piece to camera done with a nice shot of Katherine talking to some of the school kids.

It was only 7 seconds long but it took several attempts before we got one that was good enough.

I did a lot of shots, knowing again that Mark out in the little group leading the couple would be getting the best of stuff with possibly the added bonus of being able to hear a smidgen of one of the short conversations.

As soon as the couple had passed us, off to another part of their visit, Cordelia and I dashed out to grab a couple of interviews with some of the girls that had spoken to the Duchess. 

We only had time to do a couple and pretty much had to get at least one good one because it was part of our commitment to this morning's pool. 

We started off speaking to one little girl that I had a good shot of chatting to the Duchess. 

She was good but not great. 

Georgina, the ITN producer came up and told us that there was a kid we should speak to. 
We gently sprinted up the line to where she was and got a really good sound bite.

She was very excited and with just the right amount of emotion told Cordelia how she had asked both the Duke and Duchess what super power they would like if they were super heroes.

The Duke was first and said, invisibility. 

The Duchess then seconded it when the girl asked her. 

As soon as she started to tell us the story succinctly and articulately I knew it was going to be the story of the morning along of course with the ever present speculation about Catherine being pregnant. 

That in the can it was time to get to a taxi as fast as we could carrying all the kit between us. 

Lugging one camera kit on its own in any sort of heat is not fun. Doubling that and adding a computer, satellite dish and talk back kit in temperatures in the forties with very high humidity is nothing short of self inflicted torture. 

We arrived, saturated and dripping in sweat, at the taxi rank to be confronted by a very long snaking queue of folk.

Being horrible media types and in a real rush we went to the front of the queue and I asked in a loud yet as polite a voice as possible if we could possibly skip the queue and grab the next taxi as we had to get to our location for live broadcasts and to send our pictures of the Duke and Duchess to the UK as quickly as possible.

Most in the queue were silent, one or two nodded that we were fine but, there were two guys that were quite loud, rude and vocal in their protests that we should go the the end of the line and wait like everyone else.

Then the lady and the front of the queue with a cute little girl at her side asked where we needed to go. 

When we told her she said that she was going to the same area and that we could share here taxi. 

We were profuse in our thanks. Even getting the taxi straight away we were cutting it fine. If we had been forced to wait in the line we would have been lucky to make in time for the end of Lorraine's programme.

In the front of the small taxi I started the ingesting process with the camera in the footwell and the mac on my knee.

By the time we got to the location, "The Rainbow Centre" a facility for children with special educational needs, the ingesting process was not yet complete.

Saying a fond farewell to our kind taxi benifactor and her little daughter I balanced the mac in one hand and carried the camera in the other as quickly as I could to avoid the rain that was now falling fairly heavily over to a gazebo set up outside the centre to receive arriving guests and media.

Cordelia got our entry to the area allocated for the media and live broadcasting sorted whilst I carried in getting the material in under the cover of the gazebo as the organised chaos of registering the guests as they arrived went on all around me.
Busy people around me as I was getting the pictures sent to Daybreak
As ever things were getting close to transmission and I needed to get the material back to London as soon as I could so that it could be put into the vt that was being prepared in an edit suit at Daybreak

I got the little BGAN satellite dish set up. No need to worry about trees this morning and the very tall building that were in the process of being built over the road were, I was pleased to find, in the opposite direction from where the dish needed to point.

After I had edited the shots, recorded Cordelia's voice track, done the first encoding of the material, then the second encoding needed by the system that would transmit it over the satellite, then the process of actually sending it began.

Whilst I was doing this I was also getting the camera lined up the little microwave link that was sending our signal over to the satellite dish that would send it up to the bird which would send it to LA. From there it would take a land route via New York across the atlantic ending up in the Daybreak gallery on the South Bank of the Thames.

I also got the talk back organised by calling Bill and Doug in the technical end of the gallery.

Through my gallery talk back ear piece I heard James the director prepare to go on air. A few seconds later in our programme talk back ear pieces we heard the opening titles roll.

The material had landed in London just in time to be edited. So Cordelia was able to link into it.
ITN and Sky arriving at the Rainbow Centre
There were no major hiccups, just one minor one. For some reason Cordelia was having difficulty hearing talk back from time to time.

I checked everything I could and swapped talk back units with her but the intermittent problem persisted. I put it down to my old friends, the gremlins.

They could not let the already hectic morning become in any way a relaxing one.
The beginnings of the crowd
The final thing that we had to do was a recorded piece for Lorraine's programme. We could not be live because of satellite booking problems.

We were not the only ones using either our satellite dish on the ground or the satellite transponder out there in space.
Rob Brown from Australia's Ch 7 shooting Adrian Brown's live piece to camera
We did this recorded piece just after our last proper live broadcast. Doing it then worked perfectly for us because we were getting ready to record it when the Duke and Duchess arrived for their visit.

Cordelia was able to talk about Catherine's outfit, which was different from the one that she had been wearing at the Gardens on the Bay.
The royal car waiting for the couple to depart
That was the end of our live broadcasts from Singapore. Next stop would be Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

We were flying out of Singapore at just after 9 pm and it was already after 4 pm. We needed to get back to the hotel to get packed and get to the airport in time to do all the Customs and excess baggage thing.

I was busy packing when ITN producer called about something fairly trivial, I can't quite remember what and I happened to mention that I was busy packing on order to catch tonight's flight.

There was a mild note of panic intertwined with a hint of anger in her voice when she said, "Does that mean you won't be able to do tonight's pool at the High Commission!?".

The answer was no I would not.

I had made the classic error of just scanning an e-mail taking it that it was confirming what I already knew which was that I was doing the fixed point this morning and that was all because of the flight and because we had not actually talked about the evening job I had simply overlooked it.

There was no excuse. I offered my sincere apologies and felt bad because I had dropped Georgina in it. She was now going to have to try and persuade one of the already very busy guys to step in and do the shoot. 

That was if it was at all possible aside from their individual programme commitments. 

It was Tony from the BBC who stepped up to the plate and extended his already long day and did the job. Thanks for that mate I owe you one.

Although I did feel bad it was not as if I was lounging around.

The first chance Cordelia and I got to get anything to eat since breakfast was when we got checked in at the airport.

We grabbed a quick Indian vegetarian meal from the little food court before we boarded the short flight north to KL.

On our arrival in KL I took my trolley to the customs office for the ritual of the carnet stamping.

My heart sank when a rather lethargic uniformed customs officer sitting alongside a guy in plain clothes when I asked about getting the carnet done told me that they were just about to change shifts and I would have to wait for a while.

Perhaps his friend must have seen the disappointment on my face because he took pity on me, sticking out his hand and asking for the wad of documents that make up the carnet.

He took me into an office and with the help of a female colleague I was back out in no time.

By the time we got to the hotel and up to our rooms with all the kit and things all sorted, or almost sorted, there was a slight issue about billing. It was approaching 1 am.

I set my alarm and went for a welcome sleep.

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