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, 16 April 2013

Making a Splash in Spain with Gethin Jones and Mark Foster

Saturday 13th April

It looked like the weather was taking a turn for the good when the plane took off from Edinburgh this morning. The sun was shining and there were only a few white candy floss clouds floating in the blue sky.
There was even a bit of a heat haze on Edinburgh's runway
However, by the time it landed at London’s Gatwick it was the opposite. The clouds came close to the ground making it a depressing grey day.
It was another weather story at Gatwick
The time between this flight landing and the one leaving for Spain was a tedious five hours.

Daybreak was doing a week-long series of broadcasts and films trying to encourage children to learn to swim.

At least it should have been a week-long series. On Wednesday there would be no items because most of that day’s programme would concentrate on previewing the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.

The launch of “Make a Splash” would come from a hotel on the Costa del Sol presented by Gethin Jones with Olympian swimmer Mark Foster.

There would also be a family that wanted their two kids to learn to swim coming out from the UK to take part in the broadcasts.

As sure as night follows day the darkness fell as the aeroplane took me south.
Clear sky as we fly past Madrid
Daybreak senior producer Chantal and Claire, one of First Choice’s PR team were waiting in the baggage hall.

Their Easy Jet flight had arrived a little ahead of schedule. My BA flight was a little behind schedule. However, they had not had too long to wait.

The transfer to the hotel was quick and easy. As was the check in procedure, which really just consisted of having a yellow plastic band secured loosely around our wrists.  Even so, it was around 11 pm when we got to our slightly warm rooms.

The air conditioning was still on a winter setting.

In the original planning Sunday was designed as a day to recce the locations, work out what we were going to do and get the satellite truck and the cables all rigged. There was also a bit of leeway just in case there were any delays in getting the others out.

That plan was ripped up almost as soon as it had been formulated.

So, instead of a fairly relaxed normal length day making doubly sure that there would be no problems on Monday by getting it all organised nice and early it was going to be a manic and long day.

At least we would get a proper night’s sleep first.

Sunday 14th 

At a civilised 8 am in the deserted buffet restaurant we did breakfast.

Then the day began to slowly gather speed.

Patrick the hotel village manager gave us a tour of the hotel where we would be doing our broadcasts, but first, we had another plastic band placed on our wrists. This time it was a red one.
Waiting for the tour. Chantal does what a producers does, sends and gets e-mails on their Blackberry
Two bands boys
This meant that we were eligible as all inclusive guests to all the food and drink we wanted.

I rather suspected that as exciting and inciting as that was, we would not have much time to take full advantage of the hospitality. As it turned out I was not wrong.

As ever there were a few issues, logistical, technical and practical that needed to be addressed.

It took a wee while to get all these little things sorted out.

By that time we were about to segue into the first bit of filming.

Dr Hilary had arrived to spend a few hours with us doing a little film about dealing with allergies on holiday, which would be transmitted in a few weeks.

In his signature good natured, professional, relaxed manner we did a piece to camera by the pool at the hotel and some general shots of the people around it doing what people do in and around a pool when they are on holiday.

Next on the agenda was a short taxi trip to do another piece to camera in front of a pharmacy in Fuengirola.

On the beach on the other side of the road we did a bit more stuff.

Chantal asked one of the beach restaurant’s owners if we could do a bit of filming in there to talk about taking translation cards detailing any specific allergy to show waiters.

They were happy to oblige.
Chantal briefing the chef on his walk-on part
Hilary all set for his piece to camera
The timing of this was perfect. The other part of the Make a Splash team had just arrived. We were quite a small compact unit; Gethin and Mark the on screen talent, Glenn the sound recordist, John the producer, Michael the programme assistant and the Chaudhry family who would be learning to swim. They were at our hotel and were going to have lunch.

So, we stayed put and had our very nice lunch.
Lunch cooking on the beach
Hilary then had to go straight away to catch his flight back to London but, not before we recorded his voice over for the film.

I did this in a purpose built sound proofed acoustic sound booth...
..I wish..No, it was just the back of the taxi
The day’s gentle journey began to gather speed a bit and stretch out before us.

Dr Hilary was not the only addition to the “Make a Splash” team and hence the work load. Laura Tobin had also come out with the team to do weather broadcasts.

Just in case the whole of the next morning’s broadcasts did not work for what whatever reason we needed to record a couple of standby weather broadcasts, which we would be sent to Daybreak.
Producer Chantal briefing Mark and Gethin, showing that he's a true professional by taking charge of the tripod and camera run bag whilst Glenn and I got on with the filming 
In one of the hotel rooms we recorded a voice over with Gethin for the film that would be shown tomorrow. 

Glenn set up another acoustically perfect area...
..well at least deadened any echoes with pillows
That done we scuttled off with Laura to the pool area where tomorrow’s broadcast would happen, in order to record the two standby weather forecasts.

Of course because it was very late on in the afternoon the sun was in completely the opposite direction to the morning and also the place was thronged and sun worshipping parents and their noisy pool loving kids.

The holiday atmosphere was enhanced with music blasting out of a large loudspeaker.

I had to shoot Laura looking in the same direction as the morning because the shot looking the other was not nearly as good.

This gave me an easily solvable problem. Laura was going to be fairly back lit by the sun with not a lot of light falling on her face.

The simple schoolboy answer was of course to use a reflector, problem solved.

Glenn sorted his blaring music by getting it turned off, surprisingly not meeting any complaints from the sunbathers or the kids, they were too busy having fun to notice.

We also moved far enough away from the cavorting kids with Laura's back to them shielding the microphone that we got away with it.

The thing about my problem was that at that point there were only the three of us, no extra pair of hands to hold the reflector. Again this was a very easily solvable problem.

The shot of Laura was just a static one with no movement needed from either her or the camera. So, I set the shot up, locked the camera off, flipped the little monitor out so that I could pretty much see the shot from the side of the camera, pressed the record button and stepped away from the camera to hold the reflector lighting Laura’s face.

Laura then launched into her two pre-records. One was to be about forty five seconds and the other one to be as near one minute and thirty as possible.

Glenn was timing them.

Laura did one take on each of the forecasts. She finished the first one after forty three seconds and exactly ninety seconds after she started the second one.
Glen getting Laura mic'd up for the pre-records
Job done.

Then we had to do a VT with Mark showing a few tips on learning to swim.
Producer John talking things over with the hotel's swimming instructor, Patrick the manager and Claire from First Choice before we start shooting the VT
Gethin and Mark before we started filming..
..Mark in the pool..
..with the kids and a few onlookers
Of course I also ended up in the pool to get a few shots. Pity I did not have swimming shorts with me. My normal shorts got very wet and heavy. Not very pleasant for the rest of the day as they didn't dry out until I tool them off. 

The satellite truck arrived crewed by the two Pablos.

Getting the cable from the truck the steep embankment to the poolside involved one of the workers from the hotel doing a bit of clambering and scaling a couple of fences with ladders.

When what I thought was all the cable had been coiled up beside the fence I began to sort it into a figure of eight.

This is a standard way of organising a long length of cable in one area so that it will pull out quickly without getting all snagged and knotted up.

When the cable is normally coiled up making it into an eight takes a little while and involves twisting the cable as it is laid down to prevent it flipping and getting in a mess.

I was busy doing this when one of the Pablos came over to me obviously quite angry that I was doing this. Neither of the Pablos spoke English very well. This Pablo had virtually none at all and my Spanish is limited to ordering a cafe con leche and counting to six or maybe ten on a good day.

So we had quite a short but heated bilingual discussion about the way the cable should be organised.

He was going to be doing the "cable bashing" for me. In other words it would be his job to make sure that wherever I went the camera cable would come with me and not get snagged on anything, when I walk backwards he would keep it away from my feet and prevent me clattering into objects that can not see.

What I had not realised was that there was another drum of cable that he attached to the end of that one but, he also coiled that one up.

I was still not convinced that it would work as well as an eight. He was in charge of the cable though, so reluctantly I had to acquiesce.

Glenn and I cabled up the sound kit to the camera and connected it to the satellite tuck to do a quick test. Happy days, everything was working going to the truck.

Whilst I had been having and loosing my little international battle Chantal was busy with the other Puablo feeding the material that we had shot back to London and John the other producer was off with my stills camera taking some pictures of Mark, Laura and Gethin larking about in and around the pool. 

He wasn't doing it for fun. The press office people wanted them so that they could send out some form of press release stuff in the morning or overnight.

When all that buzz of activity was finished we had a series of ad hoc production meetings to discuss things that we had all the things sorted that were were needed for the morning.

At this point we realised that the voice over for the little film we had done with Mark had not been recorded. John needed it to be recorded so that he could take it back to London to edit.

So, this time in Mark's room, which was not so acoustically refined  we recorded our third voice over of the day.
Doing Mark's voice over
There was only one small job left to do. That was done after our dinner in the bustling all inclusive buffet restaurant. The photographs that John took were to be e-mailed to London.

Over dinner the three amigos went through the shots, deleting the ones that they felt were not suitable for public viewing.

We retired from the now very empty restaurant when we were firmly told that it was late, it was closing and we should leave.

Time for bed, well almost, Chantal and I got the photographs organised and e-mailed to London, she made phone calls to the office and I made sure that all my batteries were on charge. 

Glenn went back down the location to quickly set up and test the talkback system.

Then it was time to get to bed.

Monday 15th 

Rather annoyingly after only four and a half hours feeling rather cheated of sleep I awoke before my alarm went off.

In our hotel reception at 5 am local time, 4 am UK time I met a few bleary eyed people including Steve, another sound recordist. He had arrived late last night. He would be an extra pair of hands to help out on what was going to be a busy day.

We rammed all our boxes, of mainly sound kit, into a small trendy red Fiat 500 which was driven to the other hotel and we followed on foot.

In the darkness around the pool we got rigged.
Steve and Glenn rigging the sound kit
The three presenters got a tincture more sleep that we did, coming to join us about an hour or so later.

It was then that I found out that we needed to re-record the pre-recorded weather forecasts we had done yesterday afternoon.

There were two reasons for that. The first was my fault. In one of the two recordings I had managed to get the a little bit of the reflector in shot. No one had noticed it until it was being edited to go into the Daybreak system. The second was kind of my get out of jail card. The weather forecast had actually changed quite dramatically in the 10 hours or so since we recorded it.

As soon as we got the satellite signal sorted and made contact with James this morning's technical director in the gallery in London I fired up the small camera light and once again Laura did both the forecasts in one take.
The satellite truck down the embackment
It was still very dark for these recordings with the only light coming from the pool and a few ornamental lamp posts.
Laura in the dark checking the weather
It would be the same for the first couple of actual live broadcasts. I noticed that Laura's dark hair pretty much disappeared into the dark of the background. I really needed a back light to help give some definition to her hair. Unfortunately I did not have any lights with me.

It was time to improvise...
..using the light from Steve's iPhone
Amazingly it worked quite well although Steve's arm got a bit sore as we waited to go on air.

Until the sun came up and before the holiday makers that could be bothered to get up early when they were on holiday came down to join us things were fairly relaxed.
Costa del Sol sunrise
We had one main broadcast to do for the Make a Splash campaign and a few short teases and live shots.

So, along with the weather when it came to 7 am UK time, 8 am Spanish time it got busy.

Mark having a chat with Laura
Steve sorts Gethin's talkback
Laura does autographs in between her broadcasts

We had all walked through the main broadcast and petty much knew what we were doing but, did not have time to do a proper full rehearsal.

There was a lot of moving around very quickly. My reservations about the way Pablo had organised the cable were unfounded. At no point did I feel the cable tug or have it in my way.

He also had a nifty little clip for attaching the cable to my belt hoops.

Doing the live Make a Splash broadcast.. 
..Pablo in the white t-shirt with the cable..
..then another weather forecast
Once we came off air there was a chance for..
 .. a sit down with a welcome cup of coffee for Glenn,..
..Pablo the cable basher..
.. and get a Make a Splash crew team photo
Then we had to get out fairly quickly, some sooner than others. Once we had been given a clear by James the technical director in London Laura said a series of quick goodbyes, hurriedly did a few more autographs and then dashed off to her taxi for the airport.

I was next to leave, having just enough time to throw myself in the shower and change after I had packed all my kit. Breakfast needed to wait until I got to the airport. 

I thanked Pablo for his help and we parted on good terms. The entente cordial between Spain and Scotland had been restored.

It had been helped a great deal by Glenn throughout the morning. He speaks Spanish fluently and acted as translator between Pablo and me.

The rest of the guys had a slightly more relaxed departure a few hours later giving them time to have a late breakfast/early lunch.

Gethin and Chantal were going straight to Preston for tomorrow's "Make a Splash" broadcasts.

The rest were going back to London.

My journey back was much less tedious than the one on the way out. Although not direct to Edinburgh, it was via London City, there was only an hour between flights.

I was home by around 7 pm UK time, 8 pm in Spain.

No comments:

Post a Comment