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