Sunday 21 June 2015

TV news cameraman and tears, ties and tiaras.

There can be nothing more annoying for a TV news cameraman such as I, than to be given a filming job and to be asked to 'dress up for the occasion.' No... We stevedores of hot glass and tripods are more attuned to the sartorial elegance of a chimp in an advert for PG Tips than a racehorse owner at Royal Ascot. Well, i am anyway, as you very well know.

Having just read 'BBC Tie wearing 101 for TV news cameramen,' I folded it up for future reference...

It's not often that you hear me complain bitterly in the pages of this esteemed publication, (Shut up.) but we here at the ukcameraman institute of TV news studies believe that freedom of expression must be allowed to run free and to feel the tightening noose of shirt and tie or the cold steel of a razor blade no longer.

Now it must be said that my employers have given me free reign to a certain extent over what i wear whist representing them on the streets, but in the past few weeks i have been obliged to wear a shirt and tie not once, but twice, and it has caused me concern on a deep, personal level.

I hate wearing ties and shaving, it brings back memories of my former life...

You see many years ago, as a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, the Queen personally forced me to wear a tie and shave daily for ten years via her employment of a series of particularly brutal Senior NCO's who were invariably called Crusher, Gripper, or Mad Killer McMad. They would sit you down on the Regimental Sergeant Major's couch with tea and biscuits, and gently persuade you that Queens Regulations stated that formal No2 Dress was to be worn with a tie fashioned just so, below a clean, freshly shaven face. For those wondering, here is my (young) freshly shaven face...

Having just joined up, your author is unaware of the tie and shaving hell that awaits him for the next ten years...

Failure to adhere to my employers regulations would result in my tea and biscuit rations being withheld forthwith, followed by a course of headlong aerial acrobatics along the corridor and down the HQ's staircase, courtesy of 'Mad Killer McMad.'

Let me tell you, the Queen is a fair, but firm employer, and regulations are only waived during 'hot' campaigns where your head parts company with your shoulders and your tie slips off. Even then 'Mad Killer McMad' would charge you a weeks wages for having the 'wrong attitude' of a British soldier, and getting shot in the first place. I have such fond memories.

Now don't get me wrong, i will not turn up at a filming job all 'Gangsta style,' with my trousers showing the under garments of a refined gentleman, even if i am wearing cargo shorts. Nor will I ever sport a mankini on the court steps of Winchester on a hot and balmy day, I do still have a certain standard when it comes to turning up for work.  Also, i begrudgingly carry a tie in my news van for unexpected occasions, should my former Royal employer decide to visit my patch and catch me sans tie. However, a cameraman wearing cargo shorts, shirt and tie is a funny spectacle to behold, but i'm sure she wouldn't mind after all these years... I think she owes me one...

So I will see you on the road. I may not be cleanly shaved or be wearing a tie, but my lens will be clear, batteries charged, my camera card formatted and my time code set to 00:00:00:00.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter, and asks you not to laugh at the picture of his 17 year old self.

Thursday 14 May 2015

TV news cameraman and General Election trail tribulations.

As a TV news cameraman, the past month or so has been somewhat busy, but mostly it has been weeks of following the fortunes of wind bags of various political hues around voting districts of this green and pleasant land.

Eventually, the battle over who gets to suck the will to live, money and all hope for the future out of the British populace came to an end. For those of you reading from warm, sunny and well governed countries and don't particularly care, the British General Election has now come to a close and one political party who once shared power, now have all of the power, and the love and admiration of all the British people for the next week or so...

For now though, things are settling down nicely into the post election phase of smugness, recriminations, in fighting and outright hostility. We did however, lose a few leaderships and well known political heavyweights to the will of the people... So all is well.

I have though, noticed a few things on my travels around the patch. Things are certainly changing in the news industry on a sliding scale of 'This is a good thing,' to 'Oh, Christ... we're all doomed.' And that wasn't because i had seen the election candidates, oh no...

This is Mims... After winning the Eastleigh trestle table stacking championships, 2015.

This is Flick... After covering up the F on her poster, her message seems entirely inappropriate.

On a lighter note, in two constituencies i happened to film in, we had candidates called 'Flick' and 'Mims.' Yes, you read that right, 'Flick and Mims.' I for one want these two to be running a Government Department such as the 'Ministry of cutesy nicknames,' or the 'Ministry of nicknames that in no way suggests sexy-slang.' Hey, they both got elected, so this is entirely possible. I will be lobbying for it at Parliament with my MP, 'Bunty,' now in charge at the 'Ministry of jolly hockey sticks.'

What i also noticed was the plethora of media recording equipment deployed by various broadcasters and media outlets. I lost count of the differing numbers of cameras, formats, lenses and livestreaming capabilities. From traditional TV news cameras and satellite trucks, to TV cameras attached to LiveU's and Teradeks, to mobile phones live streaming on Periscope or Meerkat.

Recorded media went out live on tv and radio, live on the internet via Twitter, YouTube, blogs, newspapers, websites. Recorded, stored, stored and forwarded, streamed and FTP'd. It seemed that different broadcasters and media outlets had a different way of doing it, but one thing was for sure, the speed at which we were doing it has certainly changed the reporting and TV news cameraman landscape for us poor freelancers living on gruel, stale bread and Red Bull.

Sky News... Students, camera from Toys R Us, and a LiveU.

I post the above picture not to take the piss... Really, i don't. Sky News had about 350 of these things around the country on election night. The reason being is that the kit with which we do our jobs as purveyors of news worthy pictures is certainly changing at a rapid pace. Whether broadcasters have the will, or indeed, the money to keep up is debateable, depending on who you talk to. One thing is for sure, as freelancers we need to keep our eyes open, watch our backs and change with the times that face us. For my part, the ability to broadcast live, via satellite or streaming media, is the main goal for now...

Also during this election, i noted that the top politicians only appeared at heavily structured, set up PR run events which in no way... at all costs... made contact with the great unwashed general public. Basically, only appearing with party minions and pre-vetted friendly people on private property made for a dull, soulless and uninspiring election. Speeches were made to nodding donkeys of the party faithful. Cringeworthy handshakes with long ago prepared, mid level functionaries of corporate Britain in a sanitised, safe environment... And we tagged along, hoovering up what we were given.

Most noted however, was the tawdry heckling and shouting down of journalists asking pertinent questions to politicians by rooms full of party apparatchiks, followers and boot boys. Don't like the question..? Shout it down. It was shameful... by all parties. Try meeting the public and stop preaching to the already converted.

As a TV news cameraman though, i was bored after the first week. PR sanitisation and control won this election press coverage, no matter the snazzy kit and speed of light news gathering. In my humble opinion we as the media, in most cases, failed to challenge it robustly, which may be to our cost in the future.

In days of yore, filming elections gave me the hope of capturing splattering eggs on Ministers foreheads, soap boxes and reasoned argument in public spaces, angry mums challenging the powerful on a street corner, and Deputy Prime Ministers punching large, florrid faced men in the face.

Those were the days... But after this election, all i have is Mims and Flick. Come back proper electioneering... All is forgiven.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.


Thursday 26 March 2015

TV News cameraman and the Cornish pasty pandemonium.

You know as a TV News cameraman that your day is going to be a long one when you are hired by an outlying newsroom 87 miles away and it takes you 2 hours to get there through the rush hour traffic. You also know it's going to be a tough working day when one of your stories include an investigation into a double murderer who was let out of prison on day release only to go and kill again that very day...

(For my American readers, Yes, they actually do this here... I know, i know...)

The Cornish pasty mountain near Liskeard, Cornwall.

However, when another story comes along that involves gangs, large amounts of cash and 20 Million pounds worth of Colombian marching powder, crack and heroin, you just know that your day is going to involve driving, waiting, copious interviews, pieces to camera, GV's and not a lot of time between, in which to scratch your arse in a contemplative, serene moment of rest.

So you think i would have brought some lunch with me...

You see, believing Oxford to be a city of fine cuisine and a journalistic life of eating punnets of strawberries whilst punting on the river, alongside big brained Oxbridge graduates studying the works of Oscar Wilde, Nietzsche and Dan Brown, i wrongly thought that lunch would come easy. I know... What a twat.

Instead, it was a day of flitting between location (Dodgy) and location (Shit hole) resulting in a day with a 297 mile drive and a brief stop at a fuel garage where fifty pounds was duly spent on fuel and two pounds on a rather delicious looking, hot Cornish pasty. Not having time to stop and eat, my meat and potato repast was consumed on the tail end of traffic queues and traffic lights.

At each stop i would force as much of the pasty into my face as was possible, forcing my cheeks to bulge and flaky pastry bits to fly everywhere, much of it down my front and into my lap... At one such stop, i noticed a young girl in a car next to me, giggling at the fat faced, hamster cheeked idiot in the news van, and i could imagine the conversation with her Father...


"Yes princess, what is it..?"

"Why does that man in the van look like a hamster..?"

Daddy looks over towards the van and sees a stressed looking, fat cheeked cameraman covered in flaky pastry with a lump of potato and gravy resting on his chin, masticating furiously before the red light turns to green, then disappearing in a cloud of tyre smoke...

"Oh... It looks very much to be a TV news cameraman, princess... and that's why you need to do better in school. Take a good long look sweetheart. You don't want to end up like him..."

Well, that's how i imagined it anyway, and having arrived at my next location to interview a rather pleasant Senior Investigating Officer from the fine body of men and women that is the Thames Valley Police, i got out and introduced myself. I shook her hand warmly and returned to my news van to gather the tools of my trade... It was then i realised what i must have looked like, and i again imagined the opening conversation between my journo and the police officer...

"Hello, my name's Leggy Hairdo... BBC... Pleased to meet you."

"Good afternoon, i'm detective chief inspector plod...  (Leans in and whispers...) Why is your cameraman covered in flaky pastry, gravy and potato pieces..?"

"Well, that's a TV news cameraman for you, chief inspector... Don't worry, it's normal."

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter, and his life is a mess.

Thursday 12 February 2015

TV News cameraman, pulp fiction and dark crevices.

I guess many of my loyal and regular readers thought i had given up the blog. Not a bit of it. I'm still living the fast, furious and fun filled life of a TV news cameraman with all that the job entails... rubbing shoulders with the great and the good, warm far flung locations, good food and an amiable relationship with my desk bound producers.

The truth is, things took a turn in my personal life with regards to my Son, who as many of you know, is disabled. Don't worry, the turn our lives took was a good one, as my Son is now receiving the care he deserves. As a carer for him for over 15 years, it came as a welcome diversion from trying to work full time as well as being full time carers. I reassure you... All is well. It did however, mean i had to take my eye off the ball writing wise for a few months as things moved at quite a pace, meaning i had to concentrate on a few other, essential parts of life.

So today, i bring you all back down to earth with a bump. As is usual for a TV news cameraman, much of the past few months have been taken up with the usual court cases, health, business and crime stories and one transporter ship which decided it had had enough and took a lie down for a few weeks in a main shipping lane in the Solent.

"Well.." Said the proctologist. "That was certainly inserted with a great vengeance and furious anger..."
 The rain has softened my skin, the harsh winter wind roughed it up again, a hole appeared in my boot and my back reminded me that i'm not as young as i used to be. So all is normal. So normal in fact that this morning, during a filming job outside an inner city school i was reminded of the breadth of human kindness.

Filming school kids as you know can be a tricky situation to find yourself in and most parents don't mind you being there once they know whats going on. Once everyone was happy, children were filmed, vox-pops were recorded and general views lovingly sequenced. I did however, say most parents, and not everyone it seemed, was happy...

Some, thankfully a small minority of one mother in this case, deem themselves as saviours of all children and experts in the law of filming in public places. Apparently, i have no right to film children. I need express permission from parents, even in a public place. I was told that if i pointed my camera anywhere near her children, there would be a distinct possibility i would be going home with an urgent need to visit a proctologist, the need of a newer, cleaner lens wipe and a lie down in a darkened room. Her actual words were...

"If you'se point that fuckin' fing at my kids, i'm gonna shove that camera up yer arse..."

I think you will agree that her grammar, diction and use of the first person pronoun was outstanding. The kids around her were certainly impressed, i was sure. With her skin tight leggings, baggy top, tattoos and scraped back hair she came across as a bastion of the legal profession, as M'Learned new acquaintance followed up her rapier like examination of my legal shortcomings...

"Youse need fuckin' permission to film 'ere..."

It was only a matter of time before i was called a nasty little pervert who liked filming children for sexual gratification, so i told her that all she had to do was to ask me not to film her kids and i would happily oblige, and there was no need to be so testy about it. However, there is just no pleasing some people, as our heroic, newly qualified street lawyer walked away, muttering something about human rights, kiddie fiddlers and something related to my camera and arse... again.

Sometimes... just sometimes, it would be nice if a random aggressive gobshite would learn a more sleek, powerful and impressive way to verbally assault a TV news cameraman... Something like this would be good: Ezekiel 25:17 ( Cameraman Edition. )

"The path of the righteous cameraman is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil producers. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good white balance, shepherds the journo through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his tripod's keeper and the finder of lost B-Roll. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I shove that camera up your arse."

Now that i could listen and adhere to... Alas, i think it is never to be. But it's nice to know isn't it dear reader, that whilst you may have missed my wise words and cunning prose, my sublime, erudite and crisp grasp of the English language, things have largely remained the same in the TV news cameraman world.

So I bid you farewell for now, as i'm off to buy an industrial sized bucket of lube... just in case i have to film there again next week. I can't be doing with all that chafing and anyway, my camera is a bit on the large side.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Saturday 27 September 2014

TV news cameraman and an offer to be refused.

It only seemed like five minutes ago that i was stood outside Parliament as our leaders voted for the last war in our continuing 'War on terror.' (Syria Edition.) Yet here i am again... only this time it's for 'The war on terror... The revenge, Part 3. The Jihadists strike back.' (Iraq Edition.)

This time, we send everything we have... They don't like it up 'em...

 Yesterday, i spent my considerable TV news cameraman talents on wandering the streets asking various people's opinion on the chances of the UK re-engaging in the Middle East. By re-engaging, i mean in the form of dropping a metric shit load of bombs onto Jihadists of various hues, captured American hardware from the previous visit that were left lying around the desert and wedding parties.

It would seem that we are to spend lavishly on sending some highly expensive flying machinery to drop some eye-wateringly expensive bombs on a rag tag bunch of Jihadis driving left behind moderately expensive U.S. Humvees and artillery pieces that we left behind for them to use against us. What are we like eh..?

Anyway, i digress... Our esteemed leaders were recalled from their holiday board meetings at 'BombsULike Ltd' and 'ThinkOfTheChildren Inc,' to vote in Parliament on whether to send our entire Royal Air Force of 6 fighter jets and a mechanic back to Iraq, and to light up our entire stockpile of Tomahawk cruise missiles which are kept in a shed somewhere in Milton Keynes.

The Royal Navy declined the offer, citing a lack of aircraft carriers for their aircraft.

Somewhere in the Ministry of Defence, the stockroom boy had found the 'Fire Before' date stamped on the missiles, causing panic amongst the General Staff who ordered some extra large tupperware and informed the Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street, who wanted to avoid a repeat of the 'soggy bottomed' Trident missile mishap of some years previous, when they were left unused during the Summer months, costing an overspend on the yearly household nuclear budget.

So here we are again... Voting for war.

Many Voxes were popped. A brand new, not yet in place Bishop was questioned on the moral validity of our intent, and yet more popping of voxes in a different town. Impromptu, well meaning peace rallies sprung up around the area like Autumn mushroom clouds.

"We should have done it properly in the first place.." Said an ex soldier from our previous two excursions to the region.

"Leave 'em to it... Let their God sort 'em out" Said Mrs Housewife.

"Haven't we finished Afghanistan yet..?" Said Mr well intentioned.

News was happening fast. Top of the bulletin lives were planned. We planned ours outside two pubs on a Friday evening in the town centre with some hippies, and hoped for the best. As my Journo and i practiced our moves before going live, a quick witted jester of the local Al-Fresco drinking community breezed past, and loudly intoned some insightful reasoning for our country going to war...

"F**k her in the p**sy..!"

Oh dear... my first one, but at least we were not live, he missed out by a mere three minutes, the twat.

I fear this new jolly jape may become a 'thing' for us TV newsies, following widespread videos of similar happenings from the USA which have pervaded the internet in recent months. Not content with gurning in general at the back of a live shot, these talented, funny and socially aware fuckwits have taken to shouting this... I fear for the future of live TV news links.

Such as everything in life, whatever happens in the States will eventually happen here. You only have to look to the past... Chewing gum, pop socks, Rock 'n' Roll and the sport of precision bombing unlikeable people who are far, far away, whilst our own population still struggle as local facilities are closed down for the lack of cash and investment.

I heft my TV camera back onto my aching shoulder... Bombs away..!

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.