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, 8 June 2013

Beautiful weather with Laura at Logan Botanic Gardens

Wednesday 29th May

After the hot, sweaty, smelly days in the slums of Freetown, the deprivation of the Sierra Leonians out in the bush and the long journey home today’s job was a breeze.

I met Ed the Daybreak competition producer at Glasgow airport and we did the short journey to Suzie Lee’s house.

Suzie had been lucky enough to win £31K in one of Daybreak’s competitions.

The door of her little house opened up as I was parking. Suzie came out to welcome us with an infectious giggle that punctuated a lot of what she said.

It must have been a family trait because her mum and dad were in the house and similarly peppered their conversation with laughter.

Suzie rather reminded me of one of the doyens of Scottish comedy, Mary Doll, Rab C. Nesbit’s wife, aka Elaine C. Smith.
Giggly Suzie..
..doing her interview
It was good to the shoot at a leisurely pace with time to set up lights and tweak them for the best effect.

We did Suzie’s little interview from three different angles for a bit of variety in the edit.

There were a few set up shots to do with Suzie in the garden and then we were done.

One of which was a little staggered three hundred and sixty degree shot around Suzie sitting in a chair.

I recorded her for a few seconds and then without her moving I cut, moved round about forty five degrees and did another short shot, continuing until I was back in the starting position.

In the edit Ed would then just us a few frames from each shot to create a very fast staggered shot going around her.

When we had done that it was time to call it a wrap.

At the Xscape indoor ski centre not far from the airport Ed and I had a late lunch before I dropped him back at the airport for his flight back to London’s city airport.

Thursday 30th May
On the road to Port Logan

Yesterday’s job had been a lovely easy paced pleasant job. Today was shaping up to be much the same.

All that I had to do was to enjoy the drive to a hotel near Stranraer on the west coast to overnight prior to a series of weather broadcasts with Laura Tobin ably assisted by producer Christina.

It was a perfect day for the drive, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and I had all the time I needed to do the almost four hour drive.

I pulled into the BP petrol station near Edinburgh airport to fill up with fuel and get myself a sandwich and drink for a little picnic on the journey.

As I clicked the fuel pump nozzle back into the pump I realised that the leisurely dream drive had just turned into an annoying nightmare.

Doing something stupid once in life is irritating but doing the same stupid thing a second time only a few weeks after having doing for the first time is really bad.

At least I had spotted it before I drove away and came to a grinding halt on the M8.

I had only gone and half filled my tank with unleaded petrol rather than diesel!

The problem was easily solvable if I had a hose. I could just syphon the fuel out and refill the tank.

Unfortunately I did not have a hose to hand. I went to ask in the service station if they could help.

A very brusque and dour assistant curtly told me that there was nothing they could do and I should call the AA.

In my best emphatically polite voice I said, “thanks for your help”.

After I drove the car to a parking slot a few meters from the pump I did indeed call the AA’s Fuel Assist department.

They could come and sort me out but, not for about four hours and at a cost of well over two hundred pounds.

Jeez! This mistake was going to cost me dear. I didn’t think ITN would be too keen on me putting that on my expenses.

Very reluctantly I booked a slot to get my tank drained. There was a possibility to cancel up to an hour and a half before the yellow van arrived.

I went online and called another couple of numbers of specialist companies.

One that I called expressed a bit of surprise when I told the operator my location. They only covered London. It didn’t say that on the website.

I did find a company that could do it within an hour and it would only cost me £165. Only £165!

Clearly I was in the wrong business.

The Hungarian guy that came to do the job must have thought so too. He told me that he was a documentary and commercial maker and was just doing the fuel draining job to make ends meet.
An expensive mistake..
..being put right
I had been held up for coming up to three hours before getting back on the road.

The sun was still shining but my mood was less than bright.

Some if the sights on the drive did cheer me up a little though.
Ailsa Craig on the drive to Port Logan

Friday 31st May
Port Logan

Christina gave me a quick tour of Logan Botanic Gardens when we arrived, showing me the areas that she thought would be good to show.

It was certainly a beautiful setting, particularly when the forecast light rain and clouds had not materialised, and the sun was getting ready to climb into the clear blue sky.
The beautiful Logan Botanic Gardens
 The locations that we chose were quite a distance from the STV satellite truck that Eddie was busy parking and also from each other.

It was going to be a busy morning just moving around and dragging a very long length of cable.

Whilst Eddie was playing with his dish, getting it locked onto the satellite and sorting his end out I started to roll out the drums of cable.

I had the honour of breaking the seal on a brand new drum of multi-core cable and pulling it out.

We were getting things done at a steady pace with a bit of time to spare.

The two lengths of cable were fully out and joined together. Andy the sound recordist plugged up his mixer to the breakout box and I plugged up the camera.

Eddie came over the talkback to say that he could hear tone but could not see any pictures.

I double-checked the connections. Everything was as it should be. Eddie did the same at the truck end. Everything was good at his end too.

Transmission time was creeping up. Also we needed to do a couple of standby pre-records before going on air at around 5:45.

I called James the technical director to let him know that we had a problem and were working on it.

Eddie dashed out from the truck with a spare set of short cables and breakout box.

We tried them, still no pictures.

We scurried to the junction in the cable and plugged in the sound and camera, still no pictures.

It was now about 5:40 am.

I unplugged the camera and ran to the truck to plug it directly into the tailboard connections, still no pictures.

I checked that the output from the camera should be digital rather than analogue. Eddie confirmed that was the case.

Just to check I switched the output from SDI to VBS ie digital to analogue.

“That’s it!”,  Eddie shouted.

I gave myself a talking to for not doing that check first as I sprinted back to the end of the first cable.

I stuck the BNC connection from the camera into the breakout box and instantly I heard a voice over talkback from London saying that they could see and hear us.

It was a little bit before 5:50 am.

We were not in the location that we had wanted to be in for the first broadcast but at least we were able to get on air.

Anyway we were really spoiled for choice because it did not matter which way I pointed the camera it was a good shot.

Laura launched into her two short pre-records, getting them done exactly to time first take.

There was then time to rehearse the opening of the programme.

As well as doing the weather and pollen count broadcasts we also had to do a short interview with Richard the curator of the gardens.

He proved that he was not an ivory tower type by being very hands on and helping to drag the cables around the gardens saying that it was much like dragging a hose.
Richard helps with the cable
One of the most impressive things growing in the garden is the giant rhubarb.
Giant rhubarb 
Although the little café does not open until 10 am one of the ladies came in early and provided us with a cup of coffee which we managed to get time to almost finish in between broadcasting and repositioning.
Ladies with the coffee
How to keep the crew happy, Laura brought the biscuits..
..had one herself of course
When we finished we were treated to a very nice bacon roll. Christina and Laura could not take as much time as me over enjoying it because they had to get to Glasgow airport so that Laura could catch her plane home.

My journey home was not as pleasant as the one coming. The forecast clouds had rolled in bringing with it some mist.

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