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, 16 June 2014

From Rio to Manaus in the rain

Tuesday 10th June
Rio de Janeiro

At least Sean and I had a few hours, around three or four, in our beds.

After spending the evening in the hotel lobby and then having a quick shower Rav joined us at midnight when Guiherme came to pick us up to drive us to the ITN apartment.

Tonight going through a series of red lights and seeing armed police on the street corners felt normal.

We got to the apartment in plenty of time to do our broadcasts as the guys that were staying there were heading off to bed, all except Colin the engineer. He was there to make sure all the technical things worked out right, which they did.

There were no problems and the broadcasts went off without a hitch.
Sean on air in my camera monitor
The timing of the last broadcast was perfect. We had no sooner come off air when the heavens opened sending the rain lashing down.

Not all the kit had been brought in so we had to dash around getting the camera, sound and lighting away whilst trying not to get soaked.

The spectacularly hot, bright sunny weather had deserted us. When daylight came the rain eased but the thick grey clouds remained.

We went back to bed for another few hours sleep before getting up again for some filming in the afternoon.
Grey sky, deserted beach, only the mountain says Rio not Britain
The promenade at the deserted Copacabana beach was busy with fans from many countries taking a stroll.

We did a lot of interviews with some of them about who was going to win and all that kind of stuff.

At the far end of the beach the main official Fan Fest area was being set up. We were surprised that it was not nearer completion with only a couple of days to go before the kick off of the first game.

I did a piece to camera with Sean expressing this.

The afternoon was dragging its greyness into evening when we got back to the hotel for Rav to get to work on the edit.

Once we had the material in the computer we needed to get some food. Earlier we’d spotted what looked like quite a nice sushi restaurant not far from the hotel.

The Brazilian born Japanese lady owner who had lived in London for a few years was very welcoming.

The sushi was very good, and more importantly came very quickly. We wanted to get back to the hotel as soon as we could to get the voice track recorded, the piece edited, our kit packed for tomorrow’s trip to Manaus and get some sleep in the few hours that would be left before we had to go back to see Colin at the ITN apartment.

Wednesday 11th June
Rio de Janeiro

I had managed about four hours in bed as had Sean. Rav’s time between the sheets had been a bit less but not as bad as last night because the Internet connection had been a bit better and there was just the edited report and a few other shots to send back to Good Morning Britain.

This time Guilherme was not alone when he met us at midnight. We needed another vehicle for the kit. So he had brought along a taxi.

It would not be possible for us to do a full morning’s live broadcasting because we had to leave to catch a flight to Manaus before the end of the programme.

On the balcony of the apartment the now well-drilled rig was done in a few moments. Things were all up and running giving us time to have a cup of coffee.
Rav and Sean go through scripts..
… then time for a broadcasting breakfast
Colin connecting the camera to the satellite equipment
Mine ended up pretty cold. The warm much needed caffeine hit had just been poured when we heard the rain.

Unlike yesterday we were not going to miss this deluge.
The rain begins
As quickly as we could we deriggged the kit and got it rerigged inside.
Inside camera position for me...
..not so for Sean and Rav, the human brolly stand
Unfortunately for Sean there was no room to also get his broadcasting position under cover.

After we had done our second to last live broadcast we recorded the short tease and broadcast that would go out when we were on our way to the airport.
Sean on air when the rain eased up
Despite the dreadful conditions we got through another morning with no major problems.

The only minor glitch was that one very short bit of voice track that was needed for a promotion spot later on ITV had not been recorded properly in London and we had to do it again, but we did not find out about that until we had put most of the kit away ready for our rush to the airport.

Thankfully having to get a lot of the kit back out and set up again did not make us too late. In fact, although there was a long queue at check in and the machines initially did not recognise our booking, by the time we did get checked in there was time for a very quick coffee because the flight was delayed.
Leaving a grey, wet Rio

This week it has been a case of sleep when you can not when you need to
A rather taciturn driver was waiting for us as we hit the hot humid air of Manaus.

The kit was piled into the curtained minibus and we were driven to the hotel, a drive of about an hour.

It was too early to get to our rooms.

Too early?

Certainly not by my body clock it wasn’t.

What we did do was to get the gear out of the boxes and then jump straight in to our local contact, Renata’s car.

She took us out through the town to one of the rivers that flow near Manaus to catch a boat for a filming trip on the river.

The Solimões and Negro rivers meet at Manaus, merging together to form the Amazon.

True to form things were a bit rushed to get there in time because of the delay arriving in Manaus.

The trip on the river was nothing short of amazing, the clearly visible junction of the muddy brown Solimões and the appropriately almost black Negro, an incredible floating town complete with houses, church and school with no school bus but a school boat, exotic noisy birds, little alligators, monkeys and the evocative sounds of the rainforest.
Straight off the plane, into a minibus, drop off the kit, into a car and then on to a boat..
..and yes Sean you can use your mobile whilst driving a boat
On the river
Filming from our boat
Part of the floating town
One of the locals on his daily commute 
Our last stop on the boat trip was to a rickety raised walkway through the dense foliage to an equally rickety looking platform where we go up pretty close to quite a large alligator. We were told that it was just a baby.

None of us fancied meeting mum or dad.

There we did a piece to camera and I did lots of shots.

We had almost finished when the boat driver said that it was about to rain.

A few moments later his prediction came true in a torrent of biblical proportions.

Bits of tree and were being broken off with loud cracks like rifle shots, blown down and then crashing into the water as the wind whipped around us.

Our hope of keeping a little bit dry was somewhat forlorn. The dry leaves forming a roof on the narrow platform was no match for the wind and rain that lashed down.

In less than a minute or so the rain had breached the leaf made canopy. Wind driven rain hit us from all sides. Huge heavy drops fell on us from the now pointless covering.

We did a couple of pieces to camera to illustrate how quickly and dramatically the weather can change and I got some shots of the effects of the wind and the rain bouncing on the water.

Then we beat a hasty retreat back along the now sodden and potentially slippery walkway to the floating closed restaurant that the boat was moored beside.

The fairly long ride back to the get off the boat was pretty miserable. We were totally soaked to the skin.
Not the best of views..
..on the ride back.. the little jetty..
..beside it locals getting off one of the river ferrys
The only good thing was that it was not cold. Had we been this wet in a similar deluge in the UK it would not have taken long for us to succumb to severe shivering and shortly afterwards the onset of hyperthermia.

On the journey back in the car there was no way that we wanted the normally cooling effects of the air-conditioning in Renata’s small car.

The journey back to the hotel was not the most pleasant that we have had. Not only were we all still absolutely saturated an already congested city had more of a traffic problem than normal.

It took us the best part of two hours on a journey that should have perhaps taken forty minutes.

On this long drive back there were rumours starting to gather pace that the pitch for Saturday’s game was not in a very good condition.
The rain continued on the drive back.. to the evening and still in traffic
So, stuck in a line of crawling stop start traffic with the rain battering down from the dark sky the calls came in from the office in London.

Would it be possible to do the live broadcasts from inside the stadium beside the pitch?

Could we get some shots of the pitch to send back to London?

Rav made a few calls. It did not come as much of a surprise that there was no way that we could get access to the stadium tonight.

However, after a lot of conversations and phone calls we did manage to secure an appointment to get in tomorrow.

One of the on-going stories about Brazil and the World Cup was that it was not ready.

In the course of the talks about getting in to see the pitch it transpired that things might not be going all that well getting the stadium fully prepared for the start of the tournament.

There was a total power failure and things were, according to the venue manager “pretty frantic!”

When we got back to the hotel and checked in the first thing that we needed to do was to get out of our clothes, which were still very wet.

Once we had dried ourselves out Rav got on with the edit and I recorded Sean’s voice over.

At that point, around 8:15 pm (9:15 pm by our body clocks) there was a chance that we would get a couple of hours sleep.

The roof terrace of the hotel was an ideal place for our live broadcasts using the little BGAN satellite terminal.

I went to speak to the duty manager to check that it would be alright for us to be up there from midnight until about 4 am.

The access for the terrace is, rather strangely through the little well equipped gymnasium, which is only open until 11 pm.

The duty manager’s English was not very good. It took me quite a while to make her understand what it was that we wanted to do.

The pained expression on her face when she at last seemed to understand had me worried that she was not going to be amenable.

She said the she would need to call and talk to the general manager to seek permission.

After a short conversation on the phone she said that it would not be possible.

Rav called Renata to ask if she could help.

A very short time later she arrived at the hotel with a two alternatives that might work.

Not far from the hotel is a pedestrian bridge over the road that runs beside the hotel.

At the top of the concrete stairs on the opposite side from the hotel it was possible to make out the stadium in the distance, which was lit up. Obviously the power had come back on.

It was another sign that the stadium was being worked on frantically because Renata said that the lights would more than likely be on all night as they had been for some time.

This position was not ideal but would work if nothing better could be found.

The next option was an apartment overlooking the stadium.

On the way to have a look the downside was that the owner had asked for 3000 Brazilian Real as a fee to rent it to us.

This was almost £800. Renata had said that this was very much a speculative request and he would be talked down to a more realistic figure if the place was suitable.

We arrived and the current tenant showed us out on to the small balcony.

Sure enough the shot of the stadium was perfect. Apart from the flagrant attempt at a bit of profiteering the downside was that it was not possible to see the satellite from the balcony.

So, that location was a definite no.

We were now only two hours away from Good Morning Britain going on air and our first scheduled broadcast at the start of programme and we still had no firm location.

Renata suggested that there might be a possibility at another hotel not too far away.

We got to the Millennium hotel and Renata used all her skills of negotiation on the girl behind the reception desk. Like her opposite number in our hotel she called her general manager.

This time the news was much better. We were given the green light and it would only cost about £70.

The only thing was that we had not yet seen what the shot was like from the roof.

Domingo, the elderly smiling security man wearing a pistol on his hip took us up to the rooftop pool area.

It was perfect. The shot of the Manaus cityscape was great, there was a clear shot of the stadium and to top it all there was a huge area of clear sky leading to the satellite.

Renata had certainly earned her fee. She dropped me back at the hotel where Rav had just finished editing the piece and it was on its way to London.

We gathered our kit and joined by Sean got a taxi to the hotel.

Thursday 12th June

Wednesday had become Thursday as I got all the kit set up in time to easily make the first of our many broadcasts of the morning.

It was hot and very sticky with the humidity. All the equipment was covered in a thin layer of dampness. I was so pleased that the days of tape were gone because I did not have to worry about the dreaded "humid" error that usually took an hour or so to stabilise.

The kit performed flawlessly.
Amazonia stadium from our camera position
Sean and Rav going through scripts.
The city of Manaus..
..from the roof terrace
Sean on air
By the time we had returned to our hotel to go to bed it was a little after 4 am local time (5 am body clock time).

We had been on the go since around 11 pm on Tuesday night. No wonder we were feeling a bit jaded. It had been a 30 hours shift.

At 10 am we were on the go again. We were being allowed into the stadium.

The story of the state of the pitch and the power cut was gathering pace.

Sean and I were two of the very few media that managed to get inside the stadium to film the pitch.
Amazonia stadium Broadcast Information Office
I had my accreditation, now the camera had its official sticker
Louis, one of he FIFA media team escorted us as I got shots of the pitch and some chap going round with a probe testing the ground.

Sean did a piece to camera at the side of pitch and then one up in the stands.

We had to work pretty quickly because we were only allowed to be in for a short time. Although he was very helpful Louis was quite firm on the amount of time we could film.

Clearly the story about the pitch did stand up because it was clear to see the areas of brown and Sean saw grass seed in the area near one of the corner flags.
..inside the Amazonia Arena Stadium
When we came out I did some general views of the exterior of the stadium. Whilst I was doing this a couple of guys from Washington near Newcastle came up and had a chat. It turned out that they were cycling around South America.

They had quite a good little story to tell so Sean did an interview with them after which I did a few shots of them.
Sean with Phil and Johnny after the interview
We now had plenty of material for a good news story and a bit of colour if we needed it.

Renata came up trumps again taking us to an excellent restaurant for a late lunch.

The opening ceremony was being broadcast as we ate.
Watching the opening ceremony in the restaurant.. 
..with a local soft drink and Tanbaqui, fish from the river
Back at the hotel Rav got on with the edit after I had recorded Sean’s voice over.

Outside there was the constant crack of firecrackers that had been going off all during the game and for quite a while afterwards.

It was around 6 pm when I got to my bed. I would have to be up by around 11 pm to start to get ready to set up for our live broadcasts.

We had hoped to be back at the perfect position at the Millennium Hotel but sadly there was a function going on there.

The good news was that Renata had spoken to the general manager of our hotel during the day and secured permission, at no extra cost, for us to use the roof terrace.

Friday 13th June

It might have been a dream location only two floors above my bedroom but the early part of the morning was a nightmare.

The BGAN system had behaved impeccably yesterday, never failing once.

However, for a while this morning it did not want to play ball. The signal that was being received in London was not very good to the point that the pictures and sound were unusable.

Once again we were working in conditions of very high humidity. The display on Rav's hygrometer was showing over 90% humidity.

This may have been a factor but given that the conditions were very similar yesterday it was probably just one of the foibles of the system.
Trying to get the BGAN working
The set up on the terrace bathed in blue light
Phones and computers for Sean and Rav..
..right up until..
..we go on air
We did not manage to do the first two scheduled broadcasts but got on air for the rest of the morning.

It was pretty important to get up and running for a bit of a surprise for Sean.

His kids had done a Father’s Day message for him.

Thankfully the broadcasting gods were in our favour and before it came to that part of the programme we were on air.

It proved well worthwhile. Sean’s reaction to his two kids was perfect. He had no idea that it was happening.

By 4:30 am we had finished broadcasting and were heading back to bed for about three hours sleep before we needed to be back at it, albeit in a fairly leisurely way.
Nice tidy desk in my room in Manaus
Renata took us to the banks of the Amazon where I got an opportunity to do some shots with my newest bit of kit, a small drone.

We shot some material for a project being done by one of the producers in London.
Preparing the drone

Saturday 14th June
Manaus and travel

It was great to have had a proper night’s sleep for the first time on the trip. I had gone to bed at about 10:30 last night and did not get up until around 7 am. Although, I did wake up at midnight, ready to go to work.

I went out and did some general shots of Manaus on the drone before packing for the flight back to Rio.
A quick GMB Team Manaus pic before leaving

Some (lo res) footage from the drone

It was around 10 pm in a slightly cooler Rio when we met Guilherme at the airport.

He drove us back to our hotel where we went straight to be to get a reasonable night’s sleep because from tomorrow on we would be back to sleeping four hours or so at a time.

Sunday 15th June
Rio de Janeiro

Another full night's sleep was very much appreciated. Feeling refreshed and regenerated we were ready to start a new week.

Guilherme arrived outside the hotel with a small pick up truck, ideal for the shooting that we would be doing today.

England fan Chris had travelled across the world on a Vespa and sidecar raising cash for UNICEF.

We set about doing a report on his adventures.

It was a bit of minor technical challenge to be able to get the interview done as he rode along the Copacabana with Sean in the sidecar.

The radio mic would not work very well so we decided to record the audio on Rav's camera that Sean kept by his feet and then sync it up to my camera that was in the pickup truck and the two GoPro cameras that were stuck to the Vespa and sidecar.
The best hotel in town. Not ours obviously ..
..but we were parked in front of it..
..for more phone play..
..and getting the tripod rigged in the back of the pickup
Rav and Sean meeting Chris
Getting the GoPros rigged..
..on the sidecar and scooter..
..before setting off around the Copacabana..
..and the inevitable Rio traffic
When we finished shooting, leaving Chris surrounded by a bevy of ladies who probably graced the sands of the Copacabana in bikinis in the early sixties, we headed back to the hotel to eat, edit and then grab a few hours sleep.

On the midnight drive to the ITN live location we drove past many bars filled with people enjoying the Rio atmosphere after the games had finished for the day.

After the heat of Manaus Rio's night time felt a bit cooler.
Sean once again on the block in Rio ready to broadcast
Dave, tonight's engineer doing his techie thing
When we got back to the hotel to get a bit more sleep after the uneventful broadcasts the city was still not coming to life.

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