Monday, 7 November 2011

Videos And Vlomo...

Any of you that follow my @ukcameraman Twitter feed will know by now that i am taking part in a strange internet phenomenon called Vlomo. This is the shortened net speak for Video Blogging Month, which takes place every November. Should you wish to take part, the challenge is to post a video blog at least once a day for the whole 30 days of November, On any subject. I had never done this before...

Video Blogging Month. 30 Videos in 30 days. It's harder than you think...

Now before you go asking what a middle aged, bearded bloke is doing posting videos to the interwebs, it's because i liked the challenge. I film the news most days using expensive video equipment. The content is heavily produced, shot and edited by professionals and broadcast to the masses on the TV. Videoblogs, on the other hand, can be what you want, on any subject, at any time or place, and uploaded to the web unedited direct from the person who made it... and the whole world can view it, should they wish to. This is what i like about it. The rawness and the immediacy of the video can be somewhat revealing to the person watching it, it can give an insight into a persons life and behaviour that you wouldn't otherwise get to see or hear. I have seen places that i will never get to visit, and have listened to people i will never get to meet, other than through the net.

Call them throw away videos if you like, many of them are. They may not be groundbreaking in any way, but the short glimpse into other peoples normality, quirks, and eccentricities, reveal a side to those who made the video that i, as a person who tells video stories on a professional level, would never be able to achieve by filming it for the news. And i like that.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Sex, Lies And Russian Spies...

Now this is my kind of story. Worthy of a John Le Carre novel written after a night on the sauce. Members of Parliament, Diplomats of various nationalities, shady Russians called Ivan, unknown British Intelligence Officers with names like x, y and inexplicably... u. You can imagine the confusion when the judge asks...

"So what did 'u' say..?"

"I said nothing your honour..."

"No, i mean 'u'..?"

"Me..? As i said your honour..." Etc... Etc...

I could go on but you get the drift. Yep, every now and again a Member of Parliament gets his... 'Ahem'... member out, pillow talk ensues, and months later it turns out that his secretary has more Russian FSB contacts than Vladimir Putin ever knew he had.  For you young people, FSB is what we used to call the KGB, the Soviets, the red menace, commies if you will... Either way, they are spies, the whole damn lot of them, and it would seem they are still capable of fielding a good old fashioned honey trap for diplomats and politicians to get their teeth into.

The Cameraman from Russia Today... I spied on his movements for hours. Turned out he was as bored as i was, hanging around street corners.

You have probably realised that i have mentioned no names. There is a reason for this. I don't want to drink my morning Latte at 9am and go to bed tonight glowing like a lava lamp following an ingestion of Polonium, courtesy of a shady bloke called Boris Tvistabollokov... Oh no. I will leave the fearless reporting to the fearless reporters. And anyway, i have a bad back. So why am i telling you this?

Well i found myself in London this morning covering the deportation hearing of said honey trap/Spy/Secretary. Deportation? i hear you say... Well yes. You see the lady in question was not a high class hooker, a disenchanted socialist bent on the downfall of British imperialism, nor was she an upper class English rose, turned by the FSB whilst her diplomat father traded cocktails at the Russian Embassy. She is a Russian... From Russia, with a well known liking for bumping uglies with diplomats on a regular basis, yet still found herself hired by a British MP, given a pass for the halls of Westminster, and all this with added benefits from said MP which involved pillows, beds, and oodles of sweat.... I will say no more.

I am not making this shit up... Honest.

So there i was, standing in my usual place on the street corner, whilst the plot of an early eighties Bond film played out inside the hearing rooms. And having filmed the protagonists entering and leaving the building, i guess that a few spying careers may have gone down the gurgler. I imagine it thus...

"Ah... Mr Bond, i've been expecting you. I saw you on the BBC News..."

But no matter. The world of treachery, spies and the shagging of important people by undercover Mata Hari's goes on as it always has, and always will. And if a good looking woman approaches me and introduces herself as Pussy Galore, then sign me up... MI6 with a license to kill. But if i were a Member of Parliament, in my fifties and over the hill, and were romanced by a pretty 19 year old Russian girl with a keen interest in defence matters, alarms would start ringing, and so would the phone on M's desk.

But i guess some people just don't see it the way i do...  Nope, instead of hosing them down with bullets from my trusty Walther PPK, I shall do so through the lens of my camera. Bring the whole sordid mess into the glare of the public eye... But from now on, if you call me on the phone or meet me in the street, the phrase you must remember is...

"The wind is cold on Westminster bridge..." And i shall reply, "It is the winter winds from the East..."

Then i will know it is you.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Getting Sweaty...

The Olympics are not very far away, so i have a feeling that i will be filming a lot more sweaty sports people over the coming months, in their attempts at golden glory and possible MBE's. Today, i found myself in Guildford, Surrey, with a differing array of sports junkies testing out the facilities at the sports centre. I lugged my lardy arse around various gymnausiums... yes... gymnausiums, basketball courts and swimming pools all in the name of news. And if it's got an Olympic theme all the better.

Getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick... or Fencing.

Now i know all too well that my sporting god days are well behind me. My sixpack has turned into a party seven ( for those of you old enough to remember them ) and i start to sweat at the merest hint of having to carry my camera kit more than a couple of hundred metres. So it was with relief that my news day was all in one place, for those would be olympians to show their prowess at poking people in the eye with sharp sticks, or fencing as they like to call it, wheelchair basketballers and synchronised swimmers, all of whom i have the greatest sympathy with as they have to visit gyms and other houses of pain in order to become good at what they do.

I bet he does crunches... me, i do crunchies, or a mars bar.

Me..? i get an adrenaline rush from the smell of a bacon sandwich and a cup of hot sweet tea. Or being targeted by unruly youths in public spaces. Yep... in the run up to the Olympics i'm going to see more blood, sweat and tears, biceps, calf muscles and shiny thighs than you can shake a stick at. Just don't tell the fencing people... they will have your eye out.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Big Time Charlie...

Most of my loyal readers ( Yes you..! ) will know by now that i spend most of my time committing TV News around the highways and byways of the South of England. Local news. Regional TV. But occasionally, someone up on high gets a bright idea and i find myself crawling into my nations capital city of London. Imagine it... bright lights, big stories and correspondents with bigger brighter teeth and firmed up hairdo's.

200 Grays Inn Road. Home of ITN.

This time, i was called into ITN, to cover a cameraman shift and be on call for whatever came up. This could mean an interview with the Prime Minister, Hobnobbing with the rich and famous London glitterati, Serious in depth filming with a top journalistic name and top journalistic hairdo, exposing the underbelly of political life in the Court of Westminster. I was looking forward to my day playing with the big boys and girls of national TV Newsgathering...

I got a court story.

I say court story, but it was of an international nature. Some halfwit banker has again allegedly squandered the thick end of one and a half billion pounds and has found himself in pokey... Oh dear, how sad, never mind. We took a taxi to the court. Hey, when in London hang the expense, this is the big time. As we drove toward the court, my journo applied the slap, dusted off and brushed her hair. Very nice she looked too. On our arrival the media scrum was in force, we did our bit and took a taxi back to the office. That was it. My big day in London was a court story, and a court story is a court story, no matter where it is or who is involved. Your journo may be a bigger kahuna than your average, but she did the same job as any TV News journo does, just a bigger audience.

So now i sit in the crew room with a cup of tea and a sticky bun. The big stories of the day are elsewhere, including the sad story of four Welsh Miners who have died in a tragedy overnight. But here i sit in central London with bugger all else to do... Hmmm... It might be busier in the regions.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Friday, 9 September 2011

Ahh! Death... I Was Expecting You.

It's the fate of many a news cameraman. Just as you plonk your arse down for a meal at home the phone rings, and before you have swallowed the first forkful you're on the road heading towards what was described as... "Large fire.. explosions.. local airport.." Nothing more was known, just reports from locals in the area that something big was happening at the airport, and it had only just happened.

Filming in fading light...

Having left the Missus with her head in her hands again, i hurtled towards Lasham Airfield in Hampshire thinking the worst. Now Lasham isn't a major airfield, but does handle large passenger aircraft that fly into the airport for maintenance and suchlike. It didn't bode well... Looking at the large toxic plume of smoke from over 10 miles away as i raced towards the scene made my heart sink and various probable causes infiltrate my thoughts.

As it turned out, the disaster i was expecting turned out to be not of an aeronautical nature, with no loss of life. As a nervous flier myself, i wouldn't wish that scenario on anyone. As it was, the fire services from three counties found themselves battling a large inferno fuelled by around 300 tonnes of recycled batteries... batteries that go bang when hot, sending them arcing over the fading evening sky like a fireworks display. It was quite a sight, let me assure you. Having settled myself and my camera into a safe spot where being brained by a flying molten battery was of no risk, i took to filming what i could as the sun disappeared, taking the light with it, to be replaced by a soft orange glow from the fire...

Filming in the dark...
As i was thinking artful soft glows in the distance, i knew there to be many brave men and women of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service battling the intense heat and poisonous smoke from the battery warehouse, still occasionally spitting hot missiles from within. But for me, the show was over. Darkness finally took a grip and nothing more could be seen from that distance. So we took to the airwaves, conducted interviews and beamed out the news from our satellite truck, and when not bumping into each other in the dark, we sat and watched the glowing horizon, feeling sorry for the firefighters who had to deal with it.

Now don't get me wrong, i live for a story with a little bit of adrenaline. Things that go bang make me go all weak at the knees. Anything to avoid the court steps. But expecting a plane crash with all the misery that entails, it was a relief to be confronted by destruction that involved no loss of life, just the loss of an awful lot of money and someones livelihood.

That i can deal with. Buildings can be rebuilt, business insurance can be claimed and lives carried on with, however hard the future. And, as the chief fire officer on the scene remarked, Life goes on. I thought about that as i lumped my kit around a dark field as i waited to go live into the late evening bulletin. Life does go on... But my dinner? well, that was cremated with due reverence in the oven at home as it lay in the warming tray, where every ounce of moisture was sucked from it leaving something resembling an old mans scrotum. But at least everyone got to go home.

Sweaty fire chiefs... better things to be getting on with.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Friday, 26 August 2011

A Dearth Of DayGlo...

This sort of thing happens every now and again. PR outings to interesting places, under the heavily watchful eyes of the corporate press officer who's duty it is to keep you safe, out of harms way, and clearly visible to the man in the moon. I'm all for the staying safe bit, i like that. I don't want to be crushed by a 10 ton tarmac ripping machine that turns once smooth road surface into dust. I don't want to be reversed over by a digger as the driver drinks tea whilst reading the Sun newspaper on his way to lunch either...

Playing a game of "spot the journo"

And so it was that i found myself wrapped in DayGlo jacket and hard hat on another tour of the major roadworks on the A3 at Hindhead, or rather what was the A3, as most of it is now ripped up, covered up, and returned to nature following the building of the tunnel that now snakes it's way a few hundred feet beneath us.

Following a safety brief from the safety officer, we were safely herded into minibuses and were safely driven to a safe part of the site, where we could safely film the works under the watchful eyes of the safety officer... So far, so safe.

The senior Engineer wears special trousers...

But i am a rebel. I don't go in for following the masses or doing what i'm told, i like to break away, free in the knowledge that i am a member of the free press, at liberty to take pictures and inform and educate the news watching public. Sod the PR people, the health and safety brigade who want to keep me safe, to hell with it... so i didn't tell them that my boots were not steel toe capped. There, that showed 'em. I wandered the scene knowing the risk i was taking, and smirking inwardly at the safety officer full in the knowledge that i had beaten him and the PR machine.

ITV Cameraman... in full Health and Safety rig. Also behind barriers, naturally.

Oh yes... i laugh in the face of impending danger. I snigger at the god of sod's law and give the one fingered salute to the 'elf 'n' safety nazis that follow our every move. I filmed my story without mishap until we were safely shepherded back to the minibus, whereupon i stubbed my unprotected toe on the rear safety step into the minibus. Emitting an audible "oohyafucker" the safety officer turned and enquired if i was ok. I bit my lip and replied that i was... thank you very much. Nothing to see here. Im sure i saw a smirk on his face. The bastard.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Fucti-Fyno News Quiz...

Listen up TV News bosses of the world...! Bare with me here... you are going to love this. I have ideas all the time about how to bring knowledge of current affairs to the general public. You remember them, the great unwashed who we try and vox-pop on their opinion of just about everything... And those that get their news from Twitter, blogs and Facebook where rumour and false information is rife.

Now i’m just a mere freelance cameraman in the world of TV News. I do my bit and feed it into the churning mass of pictures and journalism the fills our very existence. But I often wonder what most people think of the news. How much do they realise the importance of current affairs, it’s relevance to the modern world and the history behind the stories told. Now i don’t expect many people to instantly know who the foreign minister from Burkina Faso is, but how about the foreign minister from the UK..? Or the Prime Minister for that matter? Watching the news can be like a conveyor belt of bad news at times with no, or very little back story to explain the current issues. And the interest of the general public waxes and wanes. We need to keep them on the edge of their seats. We need to test their knowledge.

The news can be a very insular, specialist thing. If you don’t follow a particular story, how are the viewers supposed to make sense of the current story? What led to the current maelstrom of information now being read to me by the delightfully pert news reader? The journalist may be a specialist in his or her field. Economics, Politics, World Affairs. They all have their own backstories and histories that lead to the current story, one which the journalist knows about... but the viewer? Exactly how much do they really know? Here is our chance to find out.

The Fucti-Fyno Red button... All kinds of interactive fun.

I’ve got an idea for a new interactive news quiz for the tellybox. It’s called the Fucti-Fyno scrolling news quiz bar. This will replace the scrolling headline strap which only repeats the news reader anyway, you know, that annoying lower third information ticker bar that cuts off one third of your tv picture... normally the bit that shows what happened... but i digress.

The days news would be packaged up into categories such as conflict, disaster, politics, celebrity and finally, was that newsworthy? The news would then be read by the news anchor, video reports shown and discussed by guests from the world of politics and journalism in a normal newsy type manner... So far, so very normal.

But heres the twist. Whilst the said TV Journo’s and expert blow holes discuss the current story, the television news watching audience would be invited, via the red button, to guess an answer to a question posed along a rolling bar at the bottom of the screen. The Fucti-Fyno rolling question bar.

Imagine the lovely Sophie Raworth finishing up a story with “For more, press the Fucti-Fyno button” Go on... imagine it.

Here’s an example. Violence has again erupted in the Middle East. Fundamentalists from Gaza have fired rockets into Israel killing many people. The panel discuss / vilify / take the piss. ( Delete as appropriate ) A question then pops up on the Fuct-Fyno scrolling bar for the viewers at home.

What or who started the current intifada..?

Please press the following buttons to register your answer.

RED BUTTON: The building of a Berlin style wall, surrounding Palestinian territory, thereby restricting the movement of goods and people. ( News junkie button )

GREEN BUTTON: Religion, it’s the cause of most conflict. ( Knee jerk reaction button )

YELLOW BUTTON: Justin Bieber. ( Trick question for the celebrity obsessed )

BLUE BUTTON: Fucti-Fyno. ( Default setting for the blue button, which takes you to a web page, explaining what the fuck is going on )

I think the answers would give a very real idea of what goes through the heads of most news watching people. And... And... we could give prizes to the 1000th person who gives a correct answer, to encourage them to find out more, such as tickets to the next studio filming of Have I Got News For You, or free flights to a dictatorship of your choice, so they can witness the news first hand... The interactive potential of news broadcasters engaging with their audience is huge, and for the commercial stations, a huge money spinning venture, with link-ins to the X-Factor, natch. It’s a win-win proposal..!! So come on BBC, Sky, ITV News... Give it a go.

I give you the Fucti-Fyno scrolling news quiz bar... ( Patent Pending )

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Filming In Dangerous Places... Don't Forget Your Spare Underpants.

I've been a friend of Christian Parkinson now for a couple of years. Mainly conversing all things cameraman via web spaces such as Twitter and various blogs. And i have enjoyed speaking to him whilst he was out in deepest darkest Africa, filming news for the BBC on yet another trip to a war torn dictatorship, whilst i sip my Cafe Latte, and wait for a local interview in a sunny street somewhere in the South of England. Our professional lives could not be more different, except for the fact that we both haul lumps of news gathering equipment about in the search for a gripping picture for the same company.

Christian Parkinson in Harare, Zimbabwe. From

Christian has been the BBC News Cameraman in the South Africa office for a number of years now, travelling to war zones, disaster areas, and witnessing at first hand the Arab Spring in North Africa, Civil War in the Ivory Coast and other such African nations that seem to fall apart at the drop of a hat. Not only Africa, but the middle east is also stamped into his passport with trips to Afghanistan and Iraq. Yep... Chris has been shot at, mortared and threatened by unstable liquored up soldiers the world over and still looks like a youngster fresh out of BBC College. You would have thought that he was six feet six, built like a brick outhouse, lantern jawed, with a duelling scar on the left cheek and blazing blue eyes, topped off with a rugged, slightly battered TV Camera slung all nonchalantly over his shoulder, and an undercurrent of danger when he walks into a bar... But hey, we can't both look like that.

Stay behind the men with weapons... Good advice. From

Anyway... The reason i am writing is that Chris has squeezed all that knowledge of lugging lenses around hot spots into a new E-book. Having read it, i feel like packing my camera kit and a rucksack and heading off to the desert in search of dangerous encounters with militia men and mad dictators. But Chris does that... hence the E-book, which i heartily recommend to any aspiring journalist or cameraman who wants to work in the world of news gathering. Should you wish to travel to dodgy places for whatever reason, such as a gap year, then read this E-book, because the checklists, advice and knowledge contained therein will stand you in good stead for the trip ahead... you don't have to be in the news business to realise that Chris's book is a good starting reference point for anyone travelling in remote areas where danger can lurk unseen, ready to leap up, point an AK47 at you and rob you of your valuables... or worse.

As you read this, Chris is probably up to his neck in Jungle or sand, eating bush meat and getting bitten on his unmentionables by small flies, Whilst i go home tonight and prepare for my next filming trip to London.... Any bit as dangerous in some places at the moment. 

If you wish to download the FREE E-book, please follow this link:  FREE CAMERAMAN EBOOK

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Monday, 25 July 2011

Going Underground.

It's just bloody typical. I've been hauling my pasty looking skin around in the search for news for the past few weeks in the usual English Summer of rain and damp. So what happens when the temperature rises and the glowing yellow orb makes a welcome appearance...? Yep, you guessed it. The BBC in it's wisdom sends me on a filming trip into a 1.2 mile tunnel under the Hampshire countryside.

The warmth of the sun and it's lighting properties are replaced with a cool breeze and builders dust, not to mention the orange glow of sodium lights just to ruin any cameraman's day.

But seeing as the department of transport is just about to open one of the longest road tunnels in Europe, bypassing what was the biggest bottleneck in southern England, I suppose I had better be grateful for the chance to be one of the very first people to drive through it.

I must admit to being impressed at the marvel of engineering that has taken place here, allowing more vehicles to speed through the countryside and quickly arrive at the automotive hell that is London. You know, that place of freeflowing traffic and clean air...

So instead of a story chasing ice cream sales figures at the beach, or chatting with picnickers on the South Downs, I dutifully captured the mixed lighting of the underground tunnel in all it's orange glory whilst simultaneously wiping road dust from my lens. But at least I suppose, I won't burn my delicate skin like a Scotsman south of Glasgow. No... I shall return from this job looking like Gollum, fiddling with my ring. My focus ring, that is clogged with dust...

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Flabtastic News..!

You know what? it's a wonder that when the sun does finally come out here in the UK, that i don't melt... literally. Most travelling news cameramen must be made of a substance closely akin to playdough... Being on the road and eating the crap that passes for roadside cuisine makes for a wobble around the middle that would put a Turkish belly dancer to shame. When you realise, that as you type into your laptop that is perched on top of a mound of flesh protruding from where a finely tuned six pack once resided, it's time to rethink the way in which i feed this temple of mine.

Roadside dining at its very worst...
Sometimes, it's unavoidable. whilst racing from the scene of one local catastrophic event to another,     ( For that, read minor union squabbles or courtroom steps rumpus) i may not have time to visit the nearest fine dining restaurant or purveyor of mung bean soup with which to sate my bodies desire for fresh, wholesome sustainance. No. In any case, at those prices the bean counters back at the ranch would ruin their computer keyboards with all the spraying of coffee as they read my expenses account...

My usual encounter with food is that of unwrapping tightly bound foodstuffs from a petrol station and throwing it down my neck without much thought to chewing. And anyway, chewing it may release the flavour of the said foodstuff, and you really don't want to do that. Usually a sandwich with indeterminate fillings with a few wilted leaves of green stuff that has not seen sunlight since being ripped from the earth god knows how long ago.

It's either that, or something swimming in grease in a bread roll, a slice of processed something or other and a splat of tomato sauce... Hmm, yummy. Try eating something that has the ambient temperature of the surface of the sun, with gooey shlop leaking over your finest white T-Shirt as you drive to your next location to make another deadline. I once did just that... and during a rather rash braking incident, the inside of my newsmobile resembled the carnage of a murder scene... Burger bits, Goo and red sauce spattered on the inside of my windscreen made a passer by scream in terror... But i digress.

I do try and eat sensibly, honest i do. Mrs ukcameraman makes a delightful pasta bake, with salad bowl and rustic brown bread. It makes a lovely meal for the elderly guy next door as i fail yet again to turn up on time for our evening meal... Sorry dear, they want me on the lives tonight.

So i guess that i will resume trying to find the best that i can at roadside diners, burger vans and petrol stations, and continue to sweat Piri Piri sauce from the meatball sub that has become a particular favourite of mine.

Now if you will excuse me, it's lunchtime. And in the news business that's about 3.30pm... just in time to ruin your evening meal.  

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

It's OK... My Skin Is Waterproof.

You all know the drill. You get booked to film one of the UK's top sporting Summer events, and you know, you just know, that as you and the team set up for outside broadcasting, the heavens will open and dump a shitload of water on you and your equipment. It's bloody typical. But hey... the big guy up there gave us waterproof skin so that the rain doesn't soak up inside you like a sponge, and he gave our muscles the power to shiver so as to keep us warm.

Unfortunately, Mr Sony invented electrical filming equipment with no such protection, only with the power to fritz out at the merest hint of H2O. Not only that, when outside broadcasting means just that... outside, you and your equipment are at the mercy of the British Summer, where the wind is slightly gentler and the rain slightly warmer. Still, we had great fun as we watched the Royal Ascot race going public getting drenched in their finery, and outrageously large hats go flying or limp in the rain.

Bloody miserable Englishman in bloody miserable English weather.

Me...? I was prepared, like the over confident boy scout, i had turned up with my wet weather gear to keep me dry, and a fleece jacket to keep me cozy warm. My camera got the same treatment, so together, we flounced about the racecourse without a care in the world whilst the unprepared got drenched. That, however, did not stop me moaning like a typical Englishman at the unpredictable British weather and having to work in it at the same time. Still, i got to watch plenty of top class Fillies as they pranced about the race course... Oh... and some horses.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Monday, 16 May 2011

I've been busy with my iphone...

I got around to thinking that this blog is primarily a behind the scenes type of blog for the life of a broadcast news cameraman. I have been doing very little of that lately, what with me wittering on about things that are not really from behind the scenes. I can wax lyrical on a wide variety of subjects as you well know, mostly bullshitting my way through random thoughts and issues that occur to me whilst travelling the highways of news broadcasting and burger outlet car parks. So here, for your delectation, are a few videos that i have filmed on my iphone over the last few weeks or so. They appear elsewhere on my various online places, but this being my main blog, they should also be here... So i hope you don't mind me repeating myself.

The first video is from behind the scenes at Bucklebury, where the press were gathered to film the celebrations during the recent Royal Wedding. Bucklebury being the place where Kate Middleton and her family currently reside.

The next video shows the not so glam side of TV Broadcasting, namely cable bashing. Anyone who has the remotest interest in the cameraman side of life will do this on a regular basis. Cable bashing is part and parcel of life as a cameraman or broadcast engineer... so get used to it, come rain or shine.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Connectivity In The Modern Age....

Today is a day when i feel that my side of the news industry is a dinosaur, lumbering behind a sprightly pack of smaller, lightweight creatures and sharper teeth. As a TV News Cameraman, i am still lumbered with a camera the size of a truck battery, and just as heavy. Whilst my counterparts in the print and web news skip around me with lightweight digital cameras, i unlock the tripod legs and snap my camera into place, giving my shoulder a well earned rest.

The lumbering beast...

By the time i have my pictures on tape, neatly boxed and ready to be shipped out to the studio, the photographers have snapped their pictures, loaded them into their Macs, edited them and filed them to their respective papers. Pictures start to appear on news websites within minutes of them being taken. By this time, i have boxed up my tape and marked it accordingly, my pictures stuck to tape with nobody to take them to where they need to be.

Sometimes, TV News can be a frustrating business. Yes, i can go live into a bulletin, but not without the help of a satellite truck or at the very least a Bgan unit. Without them, i rely on taking my pictures to the studio myself, thereby leaving the place i need to be, or get someone to pick the tape up from me and take it to the studio. It's frustrating because whilst the news is speeding around the world via the web courtesy of the photographers, my news is still stuck in my sweaty little palms until i can offload it to the studio.

News on it's way...

Upload it to my laptop and 3G it to the studio i hear you say. Well, i would, but where i am today, the 3G signal is weak to non existent. Even the photographers are on the edge of being able to send a single JPeg let alone 30 to 40 seconds of Broadcast quality video. So i wait. And i suspect i will still be waiting in a few years time until this country wakes up and sorts out good 3G internet connections for the rural parts of this country, at a speed that can cope with the modern digital data that is in every day usage right now.  Until then, the TV News has to wait for a courier.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Broadcasting, Bitrates and Bollocks.

So now the updated BBC Approved HD Camera list for 2011 is out, i find myself looking at comments, articles and tweets about the merits of having a broadcasters 'elitist' approval list for cameras. Surely, with the plethora of cameras filming in perfectly good HD out on the market, who gives a shit...?

Kraft cheese slices fit perfectly if folded... Panasonic P2.

Well, if you are a freelance TV News Cameraman like me, you will come to realise that if you want to get hired, both you and your camera, you will have to conform to what your client wants. That's right, your client. That is what the BBC News and other broadcasters are to me, my clients. Valuable, fee paying clients. Time was, not so very long ago, all news broadcasters were filming on Betacam SP. ITV, BBC, you name them, they all went with the same format. And believe me, it was the best of days as a freelancer because we all knew what was required of us, no matter what channel you worked for. But look at the broadcast TV Camera market today and you will find a multitude of cameras, DSLR'S, Handheld cameras, shoulder mounted cameras, formats, recording bitrates, hard disks and other bollocks that have flooded the market. And the updates and changes are coming thick and fast for many of us to wonder whether it is worth buying a camera before it goes out of date.

Personally, i welcome the approved list. It lets me know what is required of me when working for the likes of the BBC, but the BBC only. Sky for example went with the Panasonic P2 Format quite a while back, it looks likely that at the BBC, Newsgathering are going with the Sony PMW 350. So which camera does a freelancer buy...? I can't afford both, but the BBC, which is my biggest and most regular client will likely win me over. So, i have read other articles, asking what is the point of the approved list.

'My camera records stunning pictures but it isn't on the approved list...'

My DSLR is the dogs bollocks...' etc, etc.

They all have a point. Many small HD Cameras out there today are taking stunning pictures, better even than my DVCam unit that i film with today, or my Digibeta for that matter. But it matters bugger all to me because the people at the end of the phone, my client, wants it filmed in DVCam. So DVCam it is until they tell me that they want it in HD from a particular camera, and in a particular format, with a particular bitrate.

Digibeta... rapidly going out of date. If not already.

In newsgathering at least, if you film something that is news worthy and the broadcasters want to broadcast it, it won't matter what you filmed it on. It never has. Film it on an old Hi8 for all i care, it will get broadcast if the story warrants it. But if, like me, you rely on a steady, daily stream of freelance work from a broadcaster, then you had better get to grips with what they require. I could shout all day about having a particular camera, but if my local BBC Region require me to film in a particular format then that is what i will supply. It's either that, or watch them hire someone else....

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Friday, 15 April 2011

A problem solved.

Today started out like any other news day, a sports job at Newbury racecourse. The Queen was in attendance, and I couldn't be late. My reporter had travelled from London after a breakfast news shift, he had been on the go for about 7 hours already. Time to film the news. Except I couldn't. My camera, with brand new PAG batteries, decided that this was the day to go gaga, and not respond to my on switch and pathetic pleadings. I begged, I caressed, I gently spoke to my camera to no avail. It was dead.

So there I was, sweating and swearing a lot. I could see the Queen tapping her toes and looking at her watch, thinking "is that twat ready or not?" alas, your Majesty, I was not. So, the Queen decided that enough was enough, and got on with the day. Me..? I phoned in to the news desk to report my embarrassing foibles. Another cameraman was now on his way.

I, on the other hand, trudged back to my truck, wondering what the hell was going on. Anyhoo... To cut a long story short, the replacement cameraman tested my new batteries on his camera. No problem. I tested his batteries on my camera. No problem. My camera at least was not the problem. Seems that my new batteries were not at one with my old camera. A few phone calls later and I found myself off to PAG UK, with a lot of questions and a burning desire to find out why I had just lost a good payday as a freelancer.

On turning up at PAG UK, I was pleasantly surprised to see not only a company rep, who was as miffed as I was that his product was causing problems, but the battery designer himself, a man who I suspect spends a lot of time on an electrical workbench, poring over technical drawings and scratching his head a lot. They disappeared into the workshop. I was made a cup of tea by the delightful receptionist, and left to ponder my failings.

No sooner had I supped my first gobfull of hot and wet, the boffins from the workshop returned. Turns out that their new batteries think that my camera has shorted, due to it drawing fifty Amps on firing up, and settling down to a lower amperage at working speed. The batteries however, are designed with a little doodah that thinks fifty Amps is too much, and cuts out after forty Amps, in two or three milliseconds. Hence, a refusal to let go of it's life giving juice to fire up my camera.

So there you have it. Everything works fine, but for a tiny little doodah, that decided that I would not work today, due to my camera start up amperage. And the Queen..? Well, she sent a footman over to tell me that since I had kept her Majesty waiting, I would not be hired to film the upcoming wedding video for her Grandson. Ahh well, such is life.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Thursday, 7 April 2011

What does a cameraman do when reporters have gone into court..?

You know, there are occasions when boredom does things to a cameraman. You find yourself loitering the streets in search of a few seconds of news and the wait goes on... and on... and on. Court cases are the prime example of when boredom sets in and you find yourself doing stupid things with your iphone and an editing app. I got some funny looks too. Not because i was hanging around street corners with a large broadcast camera... Oh no. I was the wierdo gabbling into a phone, held at arms length whilst trying to drink a cup of tea. The things i do for your online entertainment...

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A little bit of solitude.

Sometimes a man can have too much on his mind. And sometimes a cameraman can have too much on one shoulder. Either way, the burden can sometimes weigh you down. I occasionally get to a point where my brain is so full of various imagery, thoughts and wild ideas that I have to take a break. Even only a few quiet hours sat in the middle of nowhere, with a flask of coffee is enough to unburden the brain and give my right shoulder a rest.

The trouble with being a freelance news cameraman is the fact that when we have a quiet few days, our thoughts sometimes turn to other things. I could become a Pig farmer for example. I could turn my hand to converting barns into houses, or write a novel whilst growing my own vegetables in my garden, or open a new lap dancing club next to my local religious establishment. Living other peoples lives through a viewfinder does that to a man. I've thought many times what I would do in the event of broadcasters not requiring the services of dedicated local freelancers anymore. Would the Army welcome me back with open arms? I doubt that the uniform would fit, and age has crept up on me like a thief in the night and robbed me of my washboard stomach and yes Sir attitude.

Nope, what I need is a quiet few hours in the company of my own thoughts to chase away the unrealistic, the unacceptable and the downright stupid ideas that clog my cerebellum and just stare out of the window for a while. No radio, no chatter, just the warm sun on my face and pleasant countryside surroundings normally does the trick of re-establishing the cameraman psyche. The trouble is, I have a reoccurring idea that I could become a novel writing Pig farmer, living in a barn with lap dancing club attached, eating home grown spinach soup. I would probably love every minute...

If only I could teach the Missus to Pole dance....

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Invisible (Camera)Man...

It's inevitable that as a news cameraman, you will find yourself standing on the steps to a local courthouse. There's no getting away from the fact that most news stories will either start as a court story, or end up as one. Accepting that fact, I again found myself standing in the pouring rain, waiting for the defendant, the aggrieved, and the law.

Now as any person of the lens lugging persuasion will tell you, if you can get the shots required without a fuss, all the better. Make yourself as inconspicuous as possible, avoid the in yer face confrontation and things should go just dandy. However, court stories can throw curveballs at you that are not expected, such as defendants who would very much like to shove your camera where the sun don't shine. Families who are grieving for lost loved ones and see me as a big intrusion into their private lives, and even mean looking drug dealers who come over to you and ask if they looked good as you filmed them. Yep, strange things happen on court steps. I've been shouted at and threatened by thugs, businessmen, conmen and even grannies, I've stood for hours at a time waiting for the perp to leave the building and find that he left hours ago through the back door. All manner of things have been tried to avoid the public glare of the lens, many to no avail, some to spectacular success.

So it was a relief this morning to turn up at court at 9am sharp, and the defendant to walk up 30 seconds later and ask you if you would like a walking in shot. Music to my ears I tell ya. No shouts, no argy bargy, no thuggery. It doesn't happen this way very often, but when it does, it makes your day knowing that you won't have to chase after him, risk a thumping or fall over your own size 11's in the rush for a 3 or 4 second wobble shot. Today was a good day, all things considered. Except for the bloody rain...

Paul Martin.
Media Attention Ltd.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A fit of the jiggles..

An American friend of mine, Lenslinger recently wrote about filming ladies of a certain age... Exercising. And I agree, filming women trying to improve their image whilst jiggling about to 70's and 80's pseudo rock, dressed in loose fitting, sweaty jumpsuits makes a cameraman nervous. Trying to film a four shot sequence of a 40 something housewife with a 4lb weight in both hands, marching on the spot to The Eye Of The Tiger makes for a volatile mix. She had the eye of the tiger alright, and I was the doe eyed newborn deer about to have it's jugular lacerated if I did not remove my lens from beneath her ample, dare I say it, voluptuous frontage.

Filming from behind... Advisable.

This was a delicate situation, that needed a delicate response. Should I move in to film as they slowly gyrated their hips whilst sat on a giant rubber ball, or should I just zoom in and capture the pelvic floor tightening exercise from afar..? I think you know which one I chose.

There was a chink of light in this darkness of male indecision. I saw it out of the corner of my squinty left eye.. One of the ladies smiled at me. It could however have been a painful wince as her sports bra pinged open, or a response to a muscle spasm from the pelvic area, following over tightening, but I took it as an invitation to sidle over, get up close, and film the jiggles.

You see, in this game, you take a chance on what you perceive to be an open invitation. I could have missed that small but telling smile. But having seen it, out of all the other looks that said "Please take that lens away, or I will perform an impromptu colonoscopy upon you" I took the chance and came away with the sequence required. And thank the Lord Almighty for that, as next up was the boxercise routine. And I'm sure one of those ladies was looking at me as her sparring partner...

Paul Martin

Monday, 7 March 2011

Canadian With A Camera.

I've written about other photographers and Cameramen before... So i'll do it again. Especially when i come across a website that is both rich in content for those of us in this industry, and entertaining in the fact that the cameraman who writes it was in the Canadian Navy. Glen Canning Is a VJ from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, who writes, blogs and takes pictures from his part of the cameraman and broadcasting world. I would imagine that world to be mainly frozen, but he manages to thaw my rock hard brain with intelligent articles, good pictures and information from the VJ world.

Glen has actually replaced his right eye with a lens...

Now i don't really do the VJ thing... Y'know, filming, writing, editing, journalism, producing and mopping the floor on your way out, but if you are heading down this route into the media industry, there can be no better place to start your journey than reading through this website, and hoovering up all the information that is freely given by Glen, who i assume only carries cameras this small and light to avoid falling through ice sheets in the Canadian wilderness.

Being formally of Her Majesties British Army, i shall try to heft my large, heavy and unwieldy camera until my back snaps, stoic in the knowledge that a former member of Her Majesties Royal Canadian Navy is running around the colonies with a camera so small and light, he could outrun a Polar Bear in a hundred yard dash... and write and edit a story on the way....

You can visit Glens website here:

Paul Martin

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A Cautionary Tale.....

Surfing the web today, i came across this video. I often talk about the life of a news cameraman, and how it feels to be behind the lens, looking in on someone's misfortune and being able to cope with it. This video, narrated by Ira Glass of This American Life, tells the animated tale of school kids who decided one day to make their own camera....

The point becomes clear towards the middle of the film, so do please watch it all. It may be a salutory lesson to us all.

Paul Martin

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Bowels Of London.

I had occasion to travel to this countries fine, noble and ancient capital the other day. Anyone who works in the TV industry tries to go for one of the three days that is the Broadcast Video Expo at Earls Court, London. Not everyone can make it, but on this day, i was able to take my wallet out on a cameraman's day trip to the big smoke. But first i had to get there.

I didn't want to drive into London. Excuse me, what i mean is, i mean i didn't want to pay the petrol, the extortionate parking charges or congestion charge, nor did i want to get stuck in the London traffic jams caused by two miles of traffic cones with one man on a tea break behind them. So, i decided to go by train. Now any freelance cameraman will tell you, we rarely travel by public transport, such is the amount of kit, lights, sound and batteries we normally lug around with us. No...  A large, petrol swigging, earth destroying, four wheel leviathan is my mode of transport in my day to day working life, so its rare that i step foot into the world of commuters, day trippers, pick pockets, drunks and other assorted scary people.

Trains... Multi coloured.
Public transport has indeed come a long way, but i still don't like to use trains. Or planes for that matter. Long steel tubes of sweaty people with no control over where they go, or at what speed. And no control of who sits next to you. It could be that a kindly old Army Colonel with a handlebar moustache sits next to you, with a pleasing waft of pipe smoke lingering in his tweed jacket. Or it could be the student, all gangly legs, boyband hairdo and pus. Or, as is likely in my case, the stoned gangsta wannabe with a blade in his pocket and his eye on my valuables. So i avoid it if i can.

The London underground therefore, makes my heart pound and causes beads of sweat on my forehead to rise. If anything should happen to this intrepid cameraman, there would be nowhere to go and everyone in your carriage would ignore you. It was packed with the what seemed like the entire human race. Every conceivable type of person wanted to stand next to me and make me smell their armpit, every language could be overheard, including a rather irate woman who swore someone tried to steal her mangoes. Bloody cheek, i never touched her....

However, my nosey journalistic instincts surfaced and i began to take in the seething mass of humanity that surrounded me, reminding me that us humans have always sought out the big crowds, the city life and the interaction between others. Not me though...

It wasn't the boots that gave it away...
You see, i was nearing my destination within the great metropolis, when out of nowhere she came. I say she because she was dressed as a woman, but no woman that i have ever met. ( Except that time in Hong Kong... but i digress. ) Head to toe in shiny black leather, long blonde hair and kinky boots. She stood directly in front of me although there was plenty of room by this stage as many passengers had left at Westminster. She stared directly at me... and winked.  I looked left and right to see who she was winking at. I was alone.

The tannoy announced: next stop... Earls Court.

I had about thirty seconds before i could run, sorry... walk at speed to my final destination, so i smiled weakly and stammered something totally British like... " Hello.. Lovely day isn't it?"

She arched her eyebrow, and laughed in a deep masculine throaty way and said... " You're not from London are you?" At which point i came over all Hugh Grant and stammered that i was not. Too bloody right i wasn't. I'm a local news cameraman on a day trip to the capital city. I forced myself to suffer the cloying crowds, the smell and the niggling feeling that i was so very insignificant in the great scheme of things. It was then i realised just how detached i had become from everyday life. I normally eavesdrop and turn my lens on other unfortunates who succumbed to the advances of a mad, leather clad transvestite. Normally, some politician or other branch of the British nobility.

I can see the headlines now... "Local news lensman caught in Transvestite kerfuffle..." But to have it... Ahem... thrust in your face without the protection of seeing it through a lens, with a heavy density filter, shook me up a little.

I filtered what had happened via a large frothy latte when i arrived at the Expo. And you know what?... i'm a middle aged, unshaven news cameraman with a lifestyle to match, and she walked up to and winked at me... Yep.. Me.

I winked at myself in the reflection of a nearby window. Yep my man, you've still got it.....

Paul Martin

Saturday, 12 February 2011

You Know It Makes Sense... Stay Local.

The worlds news outlets this week have been slathering all over the international scene, what with Egypt and Tunisia getting themselves into a collective of outraged mobbery and overthrowing their respective governments. Most middle eastern despots and military juntas must now fear the implosion of their grip on power and their Swiss accounts.

The local news... coming from a side street near you.

However, most of us news gatherers trudge on with the daily grind of finding more down to earth, local and gritty stories, the kind of which fascinate and tittilate the local news watching masses who have no intention of throwing their cocoa and biscuits to the floor in a rage of revolutionary fervour. Not for us the international bright lights, the travel to exotic locales with bright toothed, famous correspondents, dodging danger and a good kicking from the secret police. No, i thought to myself. I will stand at the side of the road in the drizzle, waiting to go live on a story of local significance, not international glory.

So, as the directors silken voice flowed into my earpiece, telling us that our report was lead story, and that they would be with us in ten.. nine.. eight.. seven.. i felt a smug warm feeling that at least on this day, our hard work and days labour would not be bumped down to the lower reaches of the bulletin, or dropped all together in favour of some higher being with bright eyes, in a distant land, telling us that we are now witnessing history.

Six.. five.. four.. three.. Roll titles.. Hello, and welcome to BBC South Today........ In the local news tonight.....

Paul Martin

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Sticks And Spittle... With Frothy Latte.

It's enough to get the heart pumping and the adrenaline rushing through my furred up veins. I could almost feel my iris widen when my producer, safe in her plumped up seat back at the studio, coffee in hand, hair neatly sprayed, said the word...  'Protest' followed by 'Demonstration.'

The People are revolting.....

Now any news junkie, or colleague of the news gathering persuasion will know that these days, the word protest can mean a lead story, a day of frantic filming and reporting as the gathered masses of the Proletariat vent their spleens in the general direction of the ruling Bourgeoisie. Various objects hurled towards batton wielding law enforcement officers, eager to try out their new training technique of stamping down the great unwashed, without leaving marks.

Ever since the last general election, students, workers and various pressure groups have protested their various grievances sometimes with alarming ferocity, trashing buildings, running amok through city streets, and generally poking Royalty with sticks, enjoying their new found reasons to demonstrate.

So it was that i found myself scrabbling through my truck, looking for my shin pads and helmet, and the protective lens cover, in case things turned really nasty. So i pumped myself up for the fun ahead. The thing is, today i was working for the local news. In my heightened state of expectation of a good old British punch up, i forgot that this wasn't London, but Portsmouth. The protesters may be in their hundreds, not thousands, and that the student population of this fair city have been rather benign of late.

Placards... Food for thought.

So i found myself in a sunny city square, surrounded by about 100 or so assorted union members, socialist party members and the generally disgruntled. They chanted a few well worn slogans starting with the words 'No if's... No but's... etc etc. They waved their placards with an alarming lack of zeal or passion, and were spoken to by a short list of speakers who preached to the already converted and said thank you as they left.

I agreed with much of what was said. I heard what was said because i could hear every word over the silent crowd, who clapped in the right places and generally nodded their agreement with the words 'He's right y'know...' There was to be no raised fists in angry defiance, no rushing and trashing of the nearby council offices who were by now, already plotting the cutbacks to the very peoples jobs and futures who were gathered before me. Although at one point, i thought things were going to kick off when a passing man muttered the words 'Left wing wankers' before scuttling off towards the train station. He was met with a very stern response of 'Excuse me...?' but things went rather downhill after that.

It was only when my reporter, a rather charming journo by the name of Alex, asked if she could buy me a frothy latte from the kiosk not thirty feet away from the seething masses, doing a roaring trade in coffee and assorted cakes. By now the placards were drooping and the banners were being folded away, and in a few short minutes the small crowd had dispersed. Mainly to get a frothy latte from the coffee vendor who charged a small workers fortune to taste the sweet flavour of his Arabica blend and a slice of lemon drizzle. Capitalist bastard.

Oh well... Let them eat cake.

Paul Martin

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Regional ITV News... A Race To The Bottom.

My heart feels heavy for the future of the regional ITV News Networks. Time was, not so very long ago, i would turn up to a breaking news story to film some court case / Death / Accident / Corporate shenanigans and such like, and would be shoulder to shoulder with my opposite number from ITV Regional news, filming the same thing and generally getting in each others way. Basically we would compete for the best angles, best sequences, and race for the prize of being there first, and telling the story better than the other side.

The other side... complete with natty hat and sharp elbows.
That said, i became firm frienemies with many of my fellow cameramen and journalists who stalked my patch in search of kicking our ass with a better story. It was their job, and they did it well. Competition thrived, and local stories were told from all over our part of the UK. However, ITV's heart was never really in the regional news game, but had to deliver it as part of their regional TV Broadcasting licence, with a budget that only just does the job. This licence expires in the next few years, and having read many articles on the subject i now believe regional news broadcasting, from ITV anyway, will never be the same again.

I have already witnessed the demise of regional ITV news offices here in the south, with many people either losing their jobs or having to re apply for their own job, with radically altered terms and conditions. Starved of cash, they just couldn't go on as they were.

The result of this, for me anyway, is that i rarely get to see any of the cameramen and reporters that i used to see on a daily basis. I can sometimes go for months without seeing a guy i used to see 2 or 3 times a week. I know they are out there, they just don't cover as much as they once did, because they don't have the resources or the money to do so anymore.

It would seem that our current Government has a plan. Deregulate the market, slash the funding to wafer thin and see what the market comes up with. Let the people decide who broadcasts the local news and let market forces decide it's fate. Yep, that'll sort it.

Deregulation of local news broadcasting, in my opinion, will not safeguard the future of quality regional news. People need to be informed of what is happening in their local areas by independent, unbiased journalism and the best quality pictures from good quality camera operators. Unfortunately, i think that market forces will drive local ITV regional news into the arms of someone with an eye on the bottom line and to hell with the quality and independence. They will make as much as they can for as little money as possible and as few people as they think they can get away with. You may say that this is what is happening now, and i would agree. But wait until deregulation kicks in, the money gets slashed and your local station is taken over by a corporation with a padlocked wallet and their own idea of what you should be watching, what politics you should be thinking and just how independently informed you should be.

Think about that for a while.....