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, 8 April 2013

Laura Tobin, Daybreak's weather presenter at Edinburgh Castle and some F-Type Jaguars

Wednesday 8th April

Spring’s brief assault on winter last week was being counter attacked this morning.

The warmth had retreated from the chilling charge of the biting cold with dark clouds heralding a possible strafing of snow.

We were on the esplanade of Edinburgh’s beautiful castle to do the weather forecasts and broadcasts to launch a week long series of items entitled “Laura’s Landmarks”.
The castle in the pre-dawn light
Alex, with the little STV satellite truck, Colin, the sound recordist and I were getting out of our warm vehicles when Daybreak’s weather presenter, Laura Tobin and producer Helen arrived in a taxi.

Laura and Helen talk scrips in under esplanade floodlights
View from the esplanade looking south over the city to the snow speckled Pentland Hills
More script chat

Producer, Helen gets down to a bit of e-mailing
It was going to be a busy but, hopefully not too stressful morning. All the live broadcasts were technically straight forward. Well, all except one.

In one of the short teases that would come just before the main broadcast about the castle itself Laura would mention how ghostly the place is.

My plan, a variation on a very old visual trick was to have Laura's voice up at the start and then gradually appear as a translucent spectre, eventually becoming a solid being.

The technique simply needs a pre-recorded locked off shot of the background, which is then mixed into the same locked off shot with the presenter in it giving the illusion of her materialising from nowhere.

Achieving this effect is not at all difficult given the right bits of kit, namely a VT machine and a vision mixer which the ability to do a very slow mix.

These days a lot of satellite trucks are equipped to do this. Unfortunately the small truck that we were using this morning had the VT machine but no vision mixer.

So, it would require a bit more co-ordination involving the guys in the gallery in London, the man in the recording area, the technical director and a producer.

I had a quick word with James, the technical director, James the programme director and Ola in the recording area to check that it would be possible and that they knew what we were planning.

Once it was all agreed we got on with the other simple tasks of the morning.
Laura in full flow, forecasting
It was a busy morning because the routine with the weathers coming from a live location is now that as soon as possible after the live forecast the following one is recorded as a standby just in case there is a problem preventing it being done live.

This in effect means we do double the number of weather forecasts that are actually shown.

With that added to the other broadcasts meant there was not a great deal of time hanging around in the cold doing nothing.
Colin and Laura did get time for a quick chat between busy broadcasts..
..and Laura got a chance to admire the view
There was one bit of excitement not involving television when three rather flash cars, two red ones and one white drove onto the esplanade beside us.

They turned out to be brand spanking new F-Type Jaguars, the only three in the UK.

They were at the castle for very brief photo shoot.

The new Jaguars all set up for a still
The photographer at work
Hope our satellite truck's not spoiling the shot.
It wasn't. Anyway, we were there first
Didn't have time to ask the price
If you need to ask you probably can't afford it!
About ten minutes before the tease was due to be transmitted I set the camera up and got Ola to record the shot.

Gill, the producer down at Daybreak in London then quickly had to get it into the system so that James the programme director could see it was there and he could roll the pictures.

Laura then stood in front of the camera ready to do her little walk.

With two minutes to go James said that he could not see the shot in his system. Helen made a quick call to Gill who confirmed that it was on its way.

A few seconds later, we were relieved to hear over talkback that the shot was there and ready to roll.

As I heard John Stapleton’s introduction to Laura I hoped that it would work.

James rolled the tape and cued Laura.

Off she went.

The vision mixer eased the mix through.

We did not have any off air feed to hand so were not sure if it was working but, there were no exclamations from the gallery or harsh words afterwards. So, we assumed it had been OK.

Within a matter of minutes Gill sent an e-mail to Helen to say that it had indeed worked.

Pleased that the plan came together we did the main broadcast with Laura linking into the film we had done.

Another bit of fun we had was when Laura gave the clue to where she and Helen would be tomorrow.

The guys in the gallery were certainly amused when a random iron, borrowed from Laura and Helen’s hotel appeared in shot.

Then with just another two weather broadcasts to do the day was done.
Alex stowing the dish when we were given a clear
No long drive for me today.

I dropped Laura and Helen off at their hotel leaving them time to grab their bags, get a cab to the airport for a flight to a place near…..well, iron is the clue and then I drove to breakfast.

We had filmed the little VT that Laura introduced a week or so ago.

I had a new toy to play with then. Colin and I had picked it up, along with a monitor from Hammerhead the local TV facilities company.

It was a Wally Dolly, a set of tracks that is easy and quick to use.

We took the car through the vehicle tunnel bored into the volcanic rock that the castle sits  atop.

It feels like the drive into a Bond baddie's lair.
Driving through the tunnel to the castle
The first thing that we did was to have a quick recce with Fred the producer who had come up from London to check out the places that we would use for Laura'a pieces to camera and get some general views before she arrived.

It was Thursday and Laura had already had one of those Daybreak weeks, "no sleep 'til Friday". She had been doing her normal morning weather forecasts from the studio and then immediately heading off to the various locations all over the country to do the filming for these little VTs. Then getting back to London to be ready for the next morning.

Her schedule for today was quite tight. The plan was that if her flight was on time, she could get into a taxi quickly and the traffic was not too bad she would be with us at the castle just before 1 pm.

That would be in time to see and react to the famous and loud one o'clock gun.

We had done a few GVs and needed to get set up at the gun before the crowds started to gather. So, at about twelve forty five we got into position to wait for the big bang and hopefully Laura, she had called to day that she had arrived in Edinburgh and was in a taxi on her way to us.

That gave us the time to have our quick lunch break.
Quick picnic lunch for Colin
The one o'clock gun..
..some of he crowd gathering to see and hear it
On the stroke of one the gun went off. I had locked the camera off to prevent me holding it when the blast burst from the barrel. I knew that if I held it I would react to the very loud noise with an involuntary jump which would rock the camera.

There was no sign of Laura.

Fred had gone off to meet her. The pair of them had heard the gun just as she had exited the taxi.

When she got to us we had to crack on to get the pieces to camera done as quickly as we could because she needed to get back to the airport to catch the return flight south.

This time though she would not be going into the studio. As she was arriving at the castle she was being told that tomorrow's live weather forecasts would come from a beach.

There was a little telephone conference between Laura and the news desk in London about which beach would be best.

Laura arriving with Fred lending a hand with her bag..
..then showing her the script
Camera set up on the tracks for the first piece to camera
Using the track we did the pieces to camera at various locations around the castle, a few set up shots and an interview with Nigel on of the guides.

the track set up in the Argyle Tower for Laura's entrance shot
Nigel, the guide that Laura interviewed
Using the track in Crown Square,..
..the heart of the castle
It was not all that easy working around the crowds of mainly foreign visitors busy trying to take photographs and enjoy the spectacular views of the city that can be seen from the castle.

The castle staff were very accommodating and help in every way possible.

I always feel a sense of pride in my city when the media are given so much help and freedom in what is one of the busiest tourist attraction in the UK with well over a million visitors a year crossing its drawbridge.

Even today we were not the only TV crew working in the historic site. A crew from the History Channel were also doing their thing. It has to be said at a slightly slower pace than us.

The final shot I got of Laura was as she was heading down to leave the castle on her way back to the airport.

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