Monday, 16 December 2013

TV Cameraman And The X Factor Fandango.

Greeting dear readers, and this week i would like to tell you about my brush with celebrity, the bright lights of a London theatre, streets paved with gold and a very weak, nay, tenuous link to the X Factor.

Rhydian Roberts... Making it on his own.

Having been booked by ITV a few days before, my briefing sheet contained the tantalising words "X Factor' along with 'Finalist' 'London recording studio' and 'Rhydian.' Hang on, i hear you say.... 'Who's Rhydian..?' Come on pop pickers, you remember the X Factor final of 2007 don't you..? Rhydian... platinum blonde hair... opera / show tunes singer extraordinaire... runner up...

So, it turned out that i was not to be sharing champagne cocktails and a sofa with Simon Cowell, nor had i been booked to film the latest in a long, long line of showbiz wannabe warblers at his Bond villain hideaway in the Caribbean whilst having my earlobe gently nibbled by Sinitta,* as she runs her fingers through my hair and... (Ahem, sorry... Did i type that out loud..?)

No... Instead, i was to head to a small unknown recording studio at the stage door entrance to the Palace Theatre, just off a wet and cold Greek Street, London, take a rickety Victorian era lift to the 4th floor, and try not to trip on the loose, frayed carpet. Oh the glamour of it all...

'So, where's all the under dressed, giggling blonde groupies..?' i thought to myself as i imagined a sordid, drug fuelled orgy of rock music inspired debauchery going on in the recording studio. Surely everyone who has ever entered the X Factor gets this treatment for the rest of their lives, courtesy of Mr Cowell's capacious bank accounts..? No..?

No... No they don't.

And anyway, Rhydian has been beavering away with his own management making his 5th studio album of rock opera style tunes with a voice that makes your chest vibrate in it's intensity. It was a real pleasure to see and hear him at work. His days in the bright but all too fleeting hot lights of the X Factor juggernaut are far, far behind him and he now finds himself as one of the very few who have made a career in good music that see thousands of others floundering in the intense pressure of modern manufactured pap... sorry, i mean pop.

Instead of a spotty limp haired youth in the grip of the ever expanding Cowell cack machine, i found myself with an assured 30ish man with the voice, charisma and friendliness of a genuinely good singer with his own niche and the ability to make his mark in the world of music. Not only that, the three hours we spent filming were made easy thanks to his relaxed and friendly manner. Whatever i asked of him, he obliged. I could even say we got along very well.

It may have been a small recording studio in a back street of London rather than a sun drenched exotic beach villa with the lovely Sinitta, but it was a good days filming non the less.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

*The author would like to reassure his Wife that the Sinitta ear nibbling thing was for comedic effect only...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Story Of A New Journalist On His First Day.

A well dressed man entered the new TV news station* and soon realised that he was lost. Having climbed yet another set of stairs he looked over a nearby balcony and saw a man walking below.

"Excuse me..?" Said the man, "Can you help me, i seem to be a little lost. I promised the senior news producer that i would meet him here today and i'm already late."

Little did he know, room 54B had other uses...

 The man below stopped, looked up and said, "You are on the second floor in the East wing, next to the edit suites. If you go to room 54B in the West wing, next to the coffee machine on the fourth floor, you will see him there."

"You must be a TV news cameraman." Said the man on the balcony.

"I am indeed, how did you know?" Said the man below.

"Well," He replied, "Everything you just told me is factually correct, concise and to the point. However i have no idea what to make of your information and the fact is, i am still lost. Frankly, you've not been of much help to me at all and you have delayed me even further from my meeting with the boss."

"Ahh," Replied the cameraman. "You must be the new TV news reporter?"

"I am the new reporter, how did you know that?" He said.

"Well," Said the cameraman, "You don't know where you are or where you are going. You have risen to what you think is a lofty position by walking around with no clue as to where to go. You have made a promise which you cannot keep and you expect people you see below you to help you out of your predicament. The fact is, you're lost, in trouble and with no idea what to do about it... But somehow, it is now the cameraman's fault."

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.  *This story may contain traces of bullshit.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

TV News Cameraman And A Fistful Of Nothing.

The business of TV news often means covering stories involving the misery of others. There is no sugar coating it, wrapping it in cotton wool or the touch of a velvet glove.

Take a deep breath... and knock.

Often, this means as a TV news cameraman I, along with a reporter, have to approach relatives, friends or colleagues in the aftermath of something awful in their lives or drag up memories they wish they could forget, and ask them a straight question at one of the most difficult times of their lives.

"Hello. We are the press. Would you like to invite us into your life and home and tell us about your dead wife..? Just between you, me and around half a million viewers..?"

OK... So we don't exactly put it that way. Tact, discretion and understanding are warranted in a situation like this, but it sure as hell feels like it when you are stood on a man's door step unannounced, asking him in a slightly kinder manner, to do just that. That's what I did yesterday.

I was grateful to him that we were indeed invited into his home, given a hot drink and spoken to with a respect for our jobs as journalists that in this day and age can be a limited experience, given what we had just asked of him. A quick "No..!" and a slammed door in the face is as likely to happen than a warm invite with tea and biscuits.

We talked for a good few hours. He knew what we wanted as journalists, the human angle to a difficult story involving the sad death of his wife of many, many years. Space to fill on the airwaves as a slot between crime and the football. He was no fool.

In the end though, with the kindness and grace of a gentleman still in mourning and wondering where to go next in his life, he declined the offer of tea time exposure on the nightly news. He even thanked us for coming to see him and with a genuinely warm handshake, we took our leave and left him to the rest of his life. I genuinely hope that we didn't upset him too much in the pursuit of our work, but i guess we left a little upset behind as much as we try and avoid it. There is after all, only one way to ask.

Sometimes, a heartbreaking story is to be told. And sometimes, it's just between them and us over a cup of tea. We got the whole story, we just couldn't tell it properly without him. Either way, as journalists, we don't always get what we want in the rush to deadline, but i was grateful for the tea and warm welcome.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 29 November 2013

TV News Cameraman And The Brazilian Burn Misunderstanding.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may think that we TV news cameramen don't get to eat during the day due to constant filming deadlines, travelling between news stories with too much to do and no time to do it in... And you would be right. But on occasion, we do get to stop for a while, much to the chagrin of your average news producer who thinks that by stopping to eat, we are killing his first born and wrecking his freelance budget for the next quarter.

Bolinha's to this...

For the first time in a while though, I got to stop for lunch... At lunchtime. I did however make the monumental mistake of listening to my reporter who 'knew a little place around the corner...'

'Fancy a Brazilian..?' He said.

'A man's personal hair removal regime is a private matter... And you're not going anywhere near my nether regions with an electrical clipper and a hot wax spatula you utter lunatic...' I thought.

'Ohh... You mean food...' I said.

'What did you think I meant..?' He replied.

'Nothing... Nothing at all... Yes, let's go for a Brazilian...' I said, burying any thoughts that my reporter had taken a fancy to me and wanted to shave me bald before whisking me away for a romantic weekend in the country...

You see how easy it is to get yourself into a mess with a reporter whilst on the road..? Too easy. Misunderstandings can arise from seemingly innocent conversations about Brazilian food. It's a minefield I tell you.

Anyway, my reporter took me to a hip looking building that is quite obviously the meeting place of local hipsters, world food enthusiasts and Brazilians. I looked at the menu and was shocked... Shocked I tell you, at the lack of anything recognisable.

'How do you like your rissoles..?' Said my reporter.

Do you see..? There he goes again. One misheard mention of a rissole and this cameraman is rolling on the floor laughing. I just can't help myself.

Dip comes in two varieties... Hot and Scorchio.

 I scanned the menu for bacon, sausages, lumps of beef or chicken. Nothing. Not even a bottle of brown sauce. But being the adventurous sort, I opted for a coxinha, a sort of chicken dumpling with a spicy dip. This was not to be your average Cameraman's lunch of something bland and rubbery from a petrol station forecourt.

My reporter on the other hand, a fit, rock climbing, surfing kind of dude relished his choice of Brazilian cuisine with the gusto of someone who has been here before and knows nothing of a TV news cameraman's normal day to day diet of fatty roadside food. It is nice though on occasion, to try something a little different, even if the dip does blow your head off and leaves your tongue burning like... Well, like a Brazilian wax to the nether regions.

Next time, I'm taking charge and we're off to sample the culinary delights of Fat Mike's roadside hotdog van on the A34... And I can ask my reporter how they like their sausage.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 15 November 2013

TV News Cameraman And Catharsis In A Council Corridor.

As I sit there, outside meeting room K, in the labyrinthine corridors of a large city council building, I got to pondering. I like to ponder, I ponder a lot. As a TV news cameraman we get lots of time on occasion to sit, have a coffee and partake in a little pondering. Let's face it, there was nothing much else to do.

Council corridors and coffee...

 Waiting for a meeting room full of councillors, officials and lawyers to debate the machinations of a certain politician and his alleged sexual preferences made my brain spin. I have written about his alleged predilection for Russians before, ( yes... him again...) but it is now also alleged that it extends to other, more vulnerable members of society, so I let the very big brain of my reporter take care of the finer legalities of reporting such stories.

So I sit outside meeting room K and let the legal and moral ambiguities of such a thing wash over me. I am only allowed to film what they let me, which in this case is not very much. Meetings such as this don't like to be put under the searching gaze of a clean TV lens attached to a muttering cameraman. No matter, the truth will out.

Looking around me I see signs for Union meetings, the office of the chairman to the committee of this or that and notices for every conceivable goings on that occur in any council building the world over. I read them and wait, noticing that the toilets on level one are out of order. Money is being spent in colossal quantities just the other side of the door. QC's, Lawyers and councillors don't come cheap, and it won't get the toilets fixed.

So what was I pondering..? Well, I wondered at this point just how many other TV news cameramen around the world were doing just the very same thing. Sitting in a nondescript corridor and waiting for something to happen. Poised like a coiled sponge. Quite a few I bet. Quite a few.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

TV News Cameraman And The Embarrassing Incident Of The Busted Knob And A Murderous Home Owner.

May the following story serve as a warning to all TV news cameramen and journalists...

We've all been there. You turn up at a news filming location with a bladder the size of a particularly large zeppelin, and ask the home owner if you can use the toilet facilities. You don't think about whether it is safe to do so, or if you are going to leave never to be seen again... I mean, you only want to have a pee. You shouldn't have to think about these things...

*Insert Knob jokes here...*

Well now you do. Yesterday, this very thing happened to me resulting in a very embarrassing phone call to my reporter in her car outside. Having asked permission to use the home owners toilet, i walked in, closed the door and got on with business, then washed my hands, turn the door knob to exit and 'clunk'...

The door knob remained in my hand as the spindle and outside knob slipped through the door hole in slow motion. I made a grab for the spindle... too late. There i stood, shiny knob in hand and a locked door. I looked through the hole... The spindle was gone. Not even my trusty Leatherman was going to help me now.

'This isn't happening to me,' i thought to myself. I tried my fingernails on the door for leverage, on the side and the gap underneath the door. I even tried the old burglars trick of a credit card on the metal lock mechanism. The door wasn't budging... Think man... Think.

"Hellooo..?" I cried, meekly through the spindle hole.

"Hellooo...? Are you there..? Can you hear me..?" I said, in the vain hope that the lady would hear me. There was no answer... It was then that i thought i had fallen into a hideous trap. My reporter was still outside in her car and i was trapped in a toilet inside the house. Then it struck me... Maybe the walls were filled with the rotting corpses of other BBC, ITN and Sky News cameramen who had fallen into this insane woman's diabolical cameraman toilet trap. She would send the reporter away saying that i hadn't turned up, and i would be left alone, trapped in her murderous scheme. I would be starved to death and bricked up in a wall next to Harry, a BBC news cameraman who disappeared in 2009.

Any story would do. Anything but the embarrassment of having to call my reporter for help. There was nothing for it... I got out my phone, praying for a signal to be present. There was. In my shame, i dialled my reporters number and told her the predicament i was in, fearing for my life...

I must say at this juncture, that i was not expecting the howls of laughter and derisive comment. This was serious... i could die in here.

Thirty seconds later, my grinning reporter and the thwarted home owner opened the door and released me. The shame. I could hear the news room jungle drums and rumour mill now... Burly cameraman rescued by petit lady reporter from toilet. I fear i can never show my face in the cameraman crew room again... Banished in shame and humiliation.

In my defence, i swear i caught a glimpse of menace in the home owners eye during our interview with her about subsidence in her home and surrounding areas. Subsidence my arse... I think it's the weight of all the dead cameramen corpses in the walls that caused the damage, and I do believe that i was the one that got away...

If there is a lesson here it is this... When using unknown toilet facilities, check your knob before locking the door. It may just save your life and the embarrassment of having to be rescued by a sniggering journalist.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Football, Strikes, Scotch Eggs, Cancer And Hedgehogs... Just Your Average TV News Day.

You may think that my last post sounded like I was out of a job, but as I said, the news ebbs and flows. Peaks and troughs, swings and roundabouts and from the sublime to the ridiculous, as you are about to hear...

Sickly baby hedgehog nearly gets mistaken for cameraman's scotch egg lunch...

 Last Thursday saw me drive a total of 168 news gathering miles in the pursuit of the following stories for the delight of Mrs Miggins watching the early evening news.

1. Wake up 06:00. Football press conference at 08:30. In which I drive for an hour to be told by security that I wasn't on the list, then listen to a coach who doesn't speak English, a disengaged footballer who speaks in cliches and the quick demolition by your author of two cold bacon rolls.

2. No break. Drive to university campus to film lecturers who are on strike, thereby teaching lazy students the art of playing kazoos, hanging around street corners, waving flags and shouting loudly about money and pensions whilst doing no work.

3. Deliver footage to studios, ingest, pick up next briefing sheet, burn lips on hot coffee whilst running to the truck... Spill coffee.

4. No lunch. Drive to 5 storey General Hospital, guess which level we were going to..? Interview with a cancer research doctor about how we are all going to die in a horrible manner. Coffee with time to feel depressed before receiving my next assignment.

4. Lunch of a scotch egg and packet of crisps whilst I drive for another hour to wildlife refuge. Film 1'30" package on rescued baby hedgehogs whilst gagging on the smell of 40 to 50 sickly hedgehogs in one room. Wait for satellite truck, take phone call cancelling the live spot. Drive home.

5. Arrive home after tea time following infuriatingly slow drive through rush hour traffic. Wife accuses me of smelling like sick baby hedgehogs... Shower. Burn clothes. Open bottle of a cheeky little Pinotage. Fall asleep on sofa. Dribble.

So, anybody reading this with a healthy interest in getting into TV news journalism or TV news camerawork, please do not dream of international jet setting assignments. Forget the glamour, celebs and the easy life. Think more along the lines of press conferences in a sweaty gym, scotch eggs for lunch, grumpy strikers, death and the sweet aroma of shitting sickly hedgehogs. For this will be your fate.

Next up: Filming bonfires in the rain and roadside news van tyre punctures, in which I cut myself and sob quietly into my steering wheel.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

TV News Cameraman And The Fickle Finger Of Freelancing Fate.

This TV cameraman freelancing lark can be a little hard to take sometimes. For the last 4 days I have sat on my arse doing nothing much in the way of newsgathering, assuming that I had finally been rumbled by the news desk who have struck me off the International Cameraman Rapid Action Practitioners list. ( Or iCRAP if you like acronyms. )

What I am trying to say is that sometimes, and for quite long periods of time, the phone just doesn't ring. The news can ebb and flow, so as a freelancer, you need a hobby...

"It was a dark and stormy night..." No, hang on... "ukcameraman's laser like blue eyes pierced into her naked, quivering body. They coupled like hungry animals as lust overtook them..." That's better...

I have often thought of becoming a pig farmer / pole dancing club entrepreneur, but can't afford the dancers. My underwater rat throttling league came to nothing, and I couldn't get to grips with rhythmic dancing due to an acute case of Cameraman's back.

So I sit here at my keyboard and write for you, dear reader(s). My prose may well be akin to a trained chimp. I may split my infinitives, annoy the apostrophe Nazis' and niggle with the nounage but it keeps me from being under the feet of Mrs ukcameraman.

As is typical, just as I am about to write my forthcoming roller coaster of a novel, featuring a lantern jawed, blue eyed, sophisticated, dinner jacketed cameraman, ( In no way is based on me...) who saves the world from terrorist armageddon with his trusty Leatherman tool and a roll of gaffers tape, my phone rings....

"Am I available for a little light filming this evening..? Oh, and Friday, we're going to need you on Friday. Have you got anything planned for the weekend..?"

Nope... I have nothing planned, for the news business does not allow for this in the fickle freelance world of feast or famine. I return my dusty manuscript to the shelf, check the batteries for the camera and load up. I'm on the road within 10 minutes. The phone rings again on route...

"When are you coming home..?" Asks Mrs ukcameraman...

Ahh, that's better... It's like the last four days never happened.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 18 October 2013

An Exhausting Day And A Lesson In Freelance TV News Cameraman Money Management.

Being a freelance TV news cameraman means that I am responsible for the fiscal matters of working for myself. Kit, cameras, vehicles, wages, VAT and dealing with the Inland Revenue. Amongst the day to day paperwork and balancing of books, there will come a time when something unexpected happens to mess up the tight, well oiled machine that is 'The Books.'

Ahh... Sir, i think i've found your missing kitten...

Take yesterday for example, there I was driving along at 50mph when my exhaust system decides to part company with my edit van with a loud bang and a trail of hot sparks and smoke. After changing my underwear, and driving home very, very slowly with all the audible grace of a Challenger Tank, the damage was inspected. It didn't look good.

The front end of the exhaust system was to blame, which held the very expensive catalytic converter. A broken pipe meaning the front end needed replacing... Or did it..?

The big flashy exhaust centre told me it couldn't be repaired, that the whole front end needed replacing, which unfortunately included the catalytic converter. "How much..?" I asked... Apparently the thick end of hundreds of pounds... Plus VAT. "It's the Cat mate, it's a Merc... Nuthin' I can do fella... And we can't fit you in until Monday"

I picked myself up from the floor and decided to look elsewhere. I ended up in a small shabby looking industrial estate in a small, shabby looking mechanics shed. He took a look at it... He sucked at his teeth. "Come back in an hour, I'll have it done for ya..."

I girded my loins for a kicking in the wallet and came back an hour later. "All done mate. I've joined the pipe with a little arc weld and replaced the section of pipe, but that's gonna cost ya..." Said the oily looking mechanic. I sighed... "How much..?" I said. "I've rounded it up to thirty quid... Including VAT."

Yet again, I picked myself up from the floor. "But the guys at big flashy exhaust centre said..." He cut me off. "Don't listen to them tossers, they only want to sell you an expensive exhaust, it was easily fixed... No bother."

I paid the £30 through the books, and gave the mechanic a tenner for a pint in the pub for himself. The next time something falls off the van, I know where I'm going. I also got to wondering if he could fix a motherboard in a TV camera with a little arc weld, a length of pipe and a hammer... I dismissed my last thought.

My point here is this... When the freelance life kicks you in the teeth, look for the oily man in a shed at the back end of town. He's going to save you a lot of bother... And money.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

TV News Cameraman And The Deadline Dash Of Doom.

TV news cameraman log: Friday 11 Oct 13. So, there i was, scratching my arse sat in a petrol station layby and not doing anything in particular when a phone call came through at 4:10pm asking if i could VJ a quick interview for the BBC News. There was no journalist nearby or available... i was it.

"No problem" I said... "Who, what, when and what's the questions..?"

"Maria Miller, Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport... 5pm... Royal Charter on Media Regulation... E-Mail is on it's way... Oh, and we would like it for the 6 O'Clock news..."

I was in no way speeding officer... not at all... no.

My brain whirred and clicked... "I'm sorry, you want it for when..?" I stuttered. "We would like it for the 6 if possible.." Said my calm, silky voiced TV news producer... It's now 4:15pm, Friday rush hour, it's busy, the minister is 40 minutes away and it's a big, big story that's leading the headlines. So i sank back into my seat, and put my feet up to finish my coffee and doughnut...

No, scratch that, what i did was to mildly panic as a sheen of sweat appeared on my brow and my heart started to beat a little faster. I can do this. The only thing to stop me was a traffic problem between me and my Minister of State. Or a breakdown, getting lost, a herd of cattle in the road or quite possibly an alien invasion.

After leaving rubber marks and a trail of smoke between Farnham and the far side of Basingstoke, and staying within the legal speed limit, i made it to the Minister with 5 minutes to spare. The camera and sound equipment plus a light were thrown up in mere minutes and the interview began with no fancy lighting or backdrop dressing. 5 questions later and we were done.

With 50 minutes to quickly cut with FCP in the van and upload 3 minutes of HD footage back to London, i swaggered out and nonchalantly fired up my phone, laptop and MiFi... No signal.

I'll say that again... NO SIGNAL..!

I was in the middle of rural Hampshire with absolutely no fucking signal whatsoever. Nothing... a big fat zilch. Basingstoke was about 6 or 7 miles away, my nearest chance of a signal. I leapt into the van and pulled serenely out of the Minister of States driveway. (I apologise Minister if i ruined your gravel driveway, or sent stones pinging into your windows...)

5:15... No signal.

5:18... No signal.

The footage was ingesting into the laptop behind me as i whizzed around the country lanes in pursuit of a signal.

5:23... No signal. Aaargh...!

5:25... Is that a signal..? 1 bar... 2... 3... "That'll do.." I said as i screeched to a halt in the nearest farmers gateway. (Sorry cows...) I plonked myself at the laptop, the footage was already loaded into FCP. The quickest of cuts to boil the footage down to the bare bones for ease of sending... Hit export... wait.

Ingesting... Gives you indegestion.

 5:31... Export to .mov done... open JFE, ( A BBC store and forward software system, )... drag and drop... import... set metadata... location...

5:33... Hit send... wait. The phone rings... Producer: " Hi, how are we getting on..?" she said. "Nearly there, just about to send now.." I replied.

5:40... Wait.

5:45... Wait. We are now at 36.5 percent. I'm not gonna make it.

5:52... Wait. 82.5 percent... 83... 84... 85... The green ingestion bar moves imperceptibly... The phone rings... Producer: "Hi, how are we getting on..?" She said. "Nearly there..!" I replied.

5:56... Wait. 96percent... 97... 98...

5:58... Ingestion complete... The story drops into the bottom window, indicating that it is on the servers in London. I ring the producer... "Hi, it's me, you should have it now, it's gonna make it yes..?" I asked.

"No... We've dropped that until the 10... Sorry. But thanks anyway, you did a great job, bye.."

I sit there, blinking. I then hit my head on the edit desk. I tried... really i did. I guess that with so little time left, it was impossible to squeeze the interview in with mere seconds to spare on what was the lead story. The script was written, the pictures and VT lined up, the anchor already broadcasting. Just five more minutes and we would have been fine.

And that dear readers, is how you miss a deadline with flair, panache and... hang on... i got the footage to London at 5:58pm precisely... She did say that they wanted it for the 6 right..? Right..? I therefore believe that this cameraman fulfilled his side of the bargain, and victory is mine.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Swivl. A Robot Cameraman... No Doughnuts Required.

Bloody hell, yet another technological invention that in years to come will threaten our livelihoods. Not only are we dealing with smaller, lighter and automated cameras that a well trained chimp can use, we now have the beginnings of an automated, lighter and altogether smaller cameraman. In fact... No cameraman at all.

Filming without a cameraman...

Ladies and Gentlemen of the camera fraternity I give you the Swivl... Your gateway to a cameraman free world. No griping, complaining about the hours worked or demanding coffee with sugary treats.

Anyone who works in the TV news industry will have seen the automated TV studio pedestal cameras, roaming around the studios like the Borg with no feelings or emotion, and no desire to eat doughnuts, drink coffee or demand a pay packet. Ever had a missing intern..? Look no further than the robots among us. Well now it would seem that there is a version that you can take with you on location, albeit, iPhone sized... For now anyway.

Watch the video to the end... And you too can film your very own thigh length booted, 3/4 length trousered, Mohican haired reporter very, very badly, with no composition, focus control and jerky pans and tilts. You will also note my dear friend, that they used a cameraman to film the YouTube video, (again badly,) Which says it all really.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter... And is apparently doomed to a life of servitude to our robot overlords.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

105 Vital Sources For Journalists In The New Media Landscape.

Well, it's only taken 4 years to get a small piece of blogging recognition. I normally tell stories on the lighter side of TV cameraman life, but the toil, sweat and gnashing of teeth over this very keyboard has resulted in the very fine U.S. website listing this very blog as one of the 105 vital sources for journalists in the new media landscape, for my posts on careers advice, under the category of Video and Photography.

Yes... You read that right... This blog is VITAL..!

Their website says...

"Anyone mourning the “death of journalism” based on the closure of a few newspapers hasn’t been paying attention. The exponential growth of Internet connection speed and accessibility has ushered in a journalistic renaissance, fusing art, reporting, and storytelling into a single pursuit. Multimedia and new media journalism are the new normal, and anyone hoping to thrive in the competitive journalism marketplace will have to work with not only the written word, but moving and still images, interactive web presentations, and a plethora of other tools that make rich, digital storytelling so powerful."

Well quite... It's been a long, hard road of in depth research in lunch hours, sleepless nights worrying about spelling mistakes and grammar, and 16 years of on the road experience of TV camerawork to bring you the golden nuggets of cameraman wisdom. I hope you are grateful... 

It appears i am in good company, not only that of my peers Christian Parkinson and Stuart Pittman, but that of some heavyweight journalistic websites from around the U.S. and elsewhere. On the more serious posts that i write, i shall try to uphold the principles of honesty, journalistic integrity and TV cameraman values...

So, with those values in mind, i'm off for coffee and a doughnut.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

TV Cameraman And A Compendium Of Calamity.

Making your living wielding a lump of glass and plastic forthe TV viewing public can take us to some wonderful places where people want to feed you, mean neighbourhoods where people want to kill you, and surprising situations where people want to... well, i will keep that for another blog post. Mostly though, we never find ourselves in front of the camera. That is, until something funny, stupid or bloody well dangerous gets captured by another lens wielding lunatic who then uploads it to YouTube for the world to laugh at. It also gives me another excuse to trot out my favourite TV cameraman meme

TV news locations... sometimes wet.

I did share an unfortunate moment with you a while back, and even a video of a stupendously stupid footballer, but here at the ukcameraman Institute of TV News Studies we like to keep an eye on the electronic interwebs for more of the same, in the vain hope that by sharing, the news gods will ensure that it will never happen to me...

1. The very lucky TV cameraman. In which a TV cameraman nearly gets flattened by a Porsche.

2. The horse whisperer. In which a horse gets overly amorous with a TV Cameraman's ear.

3. Wobbly leg syndrome. In which a TV cameraman finds an amusing lack of blood in his right leg. (We've all been there.)

Do you see just how hard our job can actually be..? It may seem to you that we enjoy a freewheeling lifestyle in glamourous places with famous people, or hanging around courtroom doors in the warm sunshine drinking coffee, but at any moment we may have our ears ripped off, our heads smashed in by flying cars or get a very nasty case of pins and needles that lasts all bloody night. The things we put up with...

I know, I know... Your heart bleeds.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

TV Cameraman Vs Stupid Footballer.

I came across this video today whilst browsing the electronic interwebs for TV cameraman related stories. Unfortunately, it's not a video that i can turn into a bit of fun for us all to laugh at and have a bit of a giggle.

Footballers... Notoriously thick.

Ezequiel Lavezzi is a highly paid footballer for Paris St Germain, paid approximately 4m Euro's a year. A honed, highly trained athlete... And a complete and utter dickhead. Following a match, he can be seen to play a so called 'joke' on a steadicam camera operator who was following another player, resulting in the cameraman being felled with all of his equipment. He then runs over to his footballing mates laughing all the way.

The kit that the cameraman has is expensive... like a footballer. It is prone to breaking when smashed on the ground... like a footballer. That's why we take care of our investments... like a club does with it's footballers.

The actions of Lavezzi is that of a spoiled child, a rich spoiled child with no thoughts of what his actions result in. The equipment could possibly have broken, as could the cameraman. Broken arms, dislocated shoulder, a wrenched back that could put him out of action for a long while. If he is freelance that means with no pay.

If it was his own equipment, he would have to claim on insurance, lose work whilst things are fixed.

The cameraman should expect to be able to work in a safe environment, free from the danger of serious injury and damage to kit caused by a multi millionaire twat like Lavezzi. I hope he sues not only the pillock of a so called gentleman footballer, but the club itself for failing to guarantee his safety in a working environment. I would.

And being me, he would be lucky if i didn't get up and deliver a career ending blow to a highly tuned footballing knee, thereby teaching the idiot a valuable lesson in leaving other people alone whilst they work. Being a footballer, and therefore as thick as two short planks nailed together, he would probably only get a job washing dishes in his local takeaway.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The TV News Cameraman And His Email Careers Advice Centre.

Now, I'm no seen it and done it all TV news cameraman. You may say that I am a suave, sophisticated and incredibly good looking sort, with an all pervasive charm and wit, and who am I to disagree..? But here at the ukcameraman Institute of TV News Studies we get a lot of emails asking about the route into TV news camera work.

Be a TV news cameraman, and get an eye piece surgically attached to your face. (Please read our terms and conditions.)

I have no problem with this. Putting myself out as a news cameraman blogger and interweb D-List celeb, I expect and get a lot of emails asking the very same question. So here is a reply to an email that I received yesterday...

"Thanks for taking the time to email me, and thanks for taking an interest in the blog, I'm glad that you enjoy it.

With regards to being a news cameraman, the best thing to do is to make contact with the local BBC / ITV newsrooms and tell them who you are. We don't really work with scanners here in the uk although social media is a good way of finding and following up on stories and making all important contacts where stories regularly occur. (Emergency services / Companies / Politicians etc.) a good, old fashioned contacts book is a big bonus.

Personally, I am hired by the local newsrooms as and when they require my services, on a story that they want to cover (breaking news) or a story that they have planned for that day. As a freelancer, I come in as second choice after the staff crews and other freelancers with contracts, but I have been on their freelancers call list for many years and I am very well known to them.

Should you film anything newsworthy I'm sure they will take a look, but it is difficult to sell stories to them on spec unless you are well known to them or have something spectacular or interesting for them to warrant broadcasting it. The best route into a newsroom is to become known to them as a freelancer with the right kit that they require, or being extremely lucky at being in the right place at the right time. Bare in mind that different broadcasters require different recording standards and kit.

For example BBC are now using XDCam/DVCam, ITN and ITV are still using just DVCam at the moment and SKY News use P2. Contact them, send in a CV and make a call or two, but don't become a pain. Give them time to reply as they have many other applications for different roles within a newsroom, see what they say depending on what kit you have.

Another outlet for news video is of course local, regional and even national newspapers who don't have such a rigid requirement when it comes to recording on a certain bit of kit. DSLR's and other cameras are commonplace for use on the web. Make a film or two in the style of the paper, (do some research) and contact them. You never know.

Good luck."

I know that the above is a short and somewhat pithy reply with very little in depth advice and my personal contacts list, (If you come for my contacts, I will have to kill you.) but I hope it gives the recipient a small pointer in the right direction with something to think about.

I do try and reply to everyone who takes the trouble to write to me. I remember very few did when I was first starting out, which I found incredibly frustrating at the time. I have however, written about this very subject in a little more depth on this blog before, and if you have any news gathering ability whatsoever, you should be able to find it...

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 7 October 2013

From Lenslinger To Phoneslinger.

As a TV news cameraman, i started blogging mainly because of reading another cameraman's blog called Viewfinder Blues. Based in the U.S. his name is Stewart Pittman, aka Lenslinger, who i first wrote about here, way back in the mists of 2010 before the Royal Charter which founded the ukcameraman Institute of TV News Studies that you know and love today.

"Stewart relates his tales with a dry wit and savage verbiage that puts into sharp focus the job of us lens luggers." 

That's what i wrote way back then and has remained so until recently. To cut a long story short, Stewart's circumstances changed somewhat, and today sees Stewart become a news operations manager, instead of the full time Lenslinger i so loved to read about. The derring do and the stories of poking his lens where it wasn't always wanted, the good, bad and ugly of TV news camerawork.

An undercover shot of an average 'News Operations Manager's Office.'

He promises that he will still occasionally lift his fancy-cam and regale his wit when he does so. I will miss the regular Lenslinger updates of his life on the road, but i also look forward to his tales of life in the newsroom as a news operations manager.

I have no doubt that the tales of warm leather office seats, free flowing coffee and doughnuts, minimal paperwork, reading the papers and lounging around in the executive washrooms all day like most newsroom wallahs, will still give us a laugh along the way and an insight into the working day of a newsroom that may raise a few eyebrows with the suits upstairs.

I'm sure though that the working 'Photog's' and journalists will thank their lucky stars that the man in charge of the news operations desk is a man with 16 years experience on the road. I'm convinced that they will be well taken care of.

So, good luck Stewart in your new role. Don't let the office chair shine your trousers too much and remember to get out and about. Oh... and when you answer the phone, remember to say "Hello, news operations desk, Stewart Pittman speaking, how may i help you..?" instead of the cameraman response of "Yeah... What the hell is it now..?"

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

18 Must Have Skills Required By A TV News Cameraman.

Not so long ago, i wrote the Top 10 tips to being a TV news cameraman. Well, they were the basics. You see, most TV news cameramen have an inbuilt ability to do things that a great deal of other people are unable to. I have noticed this over the years as i have mixed with lens luggers from a multitude of TV news broadcasters.

These skills are learned from the hard and sometimes bitter experiences we find ourselves in, along with the must have abilities that come from being in a job that requires tact, diplomacy and the ability to function on minimum sleep.

Hello my love... Hmm..? No it's not late, go back to sleep. ( See No 18.)

Years ago, before the manifestation of the ukcameraman you know and love, i was in the Army. The Army taught me much needed skills like the avoidance of authority figures, the making of a perfect egg banjo and the ability to knock one out in a sangar whilst facing the enemy at 3am on stag watch... and to drink heavily. Sadly the BBC won't give me a gun, so these skills are no longer required by a modern, forward thinking, suave and sophisticated metrosexual cameraman.

So here is a list, curated here at the ukcameraman institute of TV news studies during my lunch break, of those skills that are required of a modern day TV news cameraman....

1. The ability to wake up at 4:00am for a breakfast news shoot, get dressed in the dark and leave the house without waking the missus. (Bitter experience has taught us this skill.)

2. The ability to achieve skill No1 at 4:30am after you dozed off, without being late for the live shoot.

3. The well rehearsed skill of finding and getting spot on, the bubble level on the tripod... In the dark.

4. The ability to sense and feel the oncoming rain storm and fitting the camera rain slicker before it hits, and not to tell your reporter.

5. The ability to find the one and only place in a 5 mile radius where you can make a cup of tea.

6. The ability to get along with the one person in any given news room that everyone else hates.

7. The innate ability to flirt with a good looking interviewee / reporter / Minister of State, without being labeled a drooling letch.

8. The ability to convince anyone that it can be fixed with a roll of gaffers tape and a Leatherman tool... And then showing them how.

9. The skill of staying cool and calm when your camera is on and working, when the sat truck engineer screams... "We've lost the signal...!" No, No, No... YOU'VE lost the signal...

10. The zen like ability not to throttle your reporter on the 15th take.

11. The hard won ability, through years of being on your patch, of not needing to switch on your sat-nav.

12. The ability to 'look busy' whilst in the crew room with nothing more than a small length of flex, a pencil and a soldering iron.

13. The ability to know that shit rolls downhill, and not being at the bottom level, sitting next to the new intern.

14. The skill of driving at warp factor 9, eating a bacon sandwich with a cup of tea and not to spill or drop any.

15. The ability to sleep whilst leaning upright on a tripod / in a sat truck / in a hedge / court steps, without looking like the local tramp.

16. The skill of knowing who to avoid whilst recording vox-pops / political interviews.

17. The ability not to laugh at a newspaper reporter, (to his face,) who is filming his news piece with an iPad.

18. The ability to get undressed, have a shower in the dark and get back into bed at the end of a long day without waking the missus. (See No1...)

So there you have it. By no means a full and comprehensive list, and anyway, it's late and 18 skills were all i could think of. So if you have any more skills that the cameraman world needs to know about, please leave a comment... Thank you very much and don't wake the missus.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 27 September 2013

TV News Cameraman And Vascular Veracity.

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Filming news stories about the National Health Service usually entails stories of waste, overwork, too little money and not enough nurses who look like a young, giggly Barbara Windsor. Whilst those stories will remain a staple for local and national TV news, it is good to occasionally see the other side of the NHS.

NHS Surgery... complicated.

Not only did I get to witness the other side, I also witnessed the inside of an operating theatre at Reading General Hospital, and more specifically, the inside of a Gentleman's left kidney. Expecting a slice fest of cutting, stitching and the flow of warm blood I asked if I needed to 'gown up..' No need.


This was the cutting edge of modern operating techniques. No open torso's, throbbing sticky insides or blood flow, just a nick in the groin area and long thin wires inserted into the arteries, inside of which the pioneering surgery, the first of its kind on the NHS in the UK, was to be done. Not only that, the patient was awake and so, thank goodness, was the surgeon.

Inside a man's left kidney... fascinating yet ultimately icky.

I was surrounded by a top notch medical team, computer screens and machines that went 'ping.' To be asking questions of a man whilst the surgeon was playing around the inside of his arteries was a little disconcerting but hey, this is the modern age, and things like this happen. In fact, I do believe that they have the means to flick an amoeba from your duodenum in a trice, whilst you play angry birds on your iPhone.

After 90 minutes or so of tickling his insides it was over, job done. A man's life probably saved by a computer screen and a length of hot wire. I needed a coffee...

"Nurse... Surely something can be done..? Fetch the emergency snack cart. Get me 220 Milligrams of hot java. Stat."

"Get your own coffee..." Came the reply. "And don't call me Shirley."

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 23 September 2013

TV News Cameraman Meets Armed Robber.

OK... OK... So the title of today's blog post is somewhat misleading. I did in fact have a cup of tea with an EX armed robber, who has spent 33 or so years of his life's 53 years behind bars, banged up, doing porridge, and serving time at Her Majesties pleasure in a variety of salubrious penal establishments.

After formal greetings, he asked if i preferred Darjeeling or a honey and lemon with a hot lead 'infusion.'

 I was filming and interviewing him for a news piece for Channel 4 News about the proposed banning of smoking in all prison establishments. If anyone knew the in's and out's of jail life, it was my new friend. As i have said before, you get to meet all sorts in this job, not just the normal types, but former gun wielding blaggers of the East End variety as well. 

He was a nice bloke.

I will say that again... He was a nice bloke. The sort that i would happily have a pint in the pub with, if i hadn't known his past history. Well spoken and erudite, well built but gentle in his demeanor, with a wry sense of humour. If he hadn't told me of his past, i wouldn't have guessed it. I can imagine a cordial conversation at the bar, guessing his career path as if partaking in a boozy episode of 'What's my line...'

"Accountant..?"  "No."

"Perfume assistant at Marks and Spencer..?" Hard stare, no answer. 

"Nightclub bouncer..?" "No, but close... I do use a 'tool' whilst at work."

"Builder..?" "No."

"OK... Any chance of a small clue as to what you do for a living..?"

He stands up and pulls out a sawn-off shotgun from within his overcoat, jams it firmly inside my right nostril, and hands me a large burlap bag...


I sensed a frisson of an East London accent...

"Oh...Oh... You're in banking... Hedge fund manager..?"

The above of course, didn't happen. Thankfully not to me anyway. But looking at him i could well imagine him actually doing it, and the fact that he actually did just that on numerous occasions in real life, led me to believe that i wouldn't want to meet him in an angry frame of mind down a dark, damp alleyway on the business end of his unmarked shooter.

At one point, having placed a radio mike on his shirt, i joked with him about 'wearing a wire.' He looked at me, and I decided not to make a joke again. Following the interview i talked to him about his former life, which only came to an end two years ago, following his latest stint in pokey for relieving someone of their cash and 'investing' it wisely in wine, women and fast motors. The buzz, the power trip, the high octane adrenaline fueled life of stealing a shit load of someone's money, spending it and doing it all over again, followed by the creeping fear that the boys in blue are preparing to kick your door in at 4am to feel your collar.

I asked him if he would ever do it again...

"I don't think so.." He said. "There comes a time in a man's life when you've got to stop buggering about. Know what i mean..?"

I certainly do, my well built, hopefully ex armed blagger friend... I certainly do. Because i would hate for you to shout "Hi mate..!" as i am standing on the court steps, whilst the robbery squad parade you handcuffed, in prison fatigues to the waiting press before being sent down for another 20 stretch. That would be just embarrassing, for both of us.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter, and is in no way whatsoever, a 'grass,' 'nonce,' or 'snitch.'

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

TV News Cameraman Is The Bandwidth Bandit.

So there i was, sitting in the back of my van on the edit suite, picking apart the pictures i wanted to send back to the BBC in Southampton. Having butt-joined the pieces together, into three separate chunks of .MOVS, i hit the send button on my new bit of software called JFE, which the BBC had supplied to me for just such occasions in the new, digital, fast paced world of local news gathering.

Inside the Tardis... All was well.

To cut a long story short, the software squeezes and converts the HD pictures into an acceptable format and size to send over the public WiFi and 3G connections that i can find at my location, and sends them to the BBC for broadcast via various servers. Personally, i use a 3MiFi unit with high speed connection that works pretty well in most urban and most rural areas.

Today however, i found myself in Portsmouth, just outside the University on what appeared to be the first day of freshers week. That meant i was competing for public bandwidth with a few thousand new students who all seemed to be using a mobile phone as they walked past, using Twitter, Facebook, Emails, downloading music, uploading Instagrams... in fact, anything it seemed apart from useful study materials.

Denying bandwidth to students... Satisfying.

My pictures were making steady progress on my high speed connection. A little slower than usual, but progressing none the less. The first thing that made me giggle was a group of students sat on the steps to the induction hall...

"The 3G is crap around here innit..?" Said one baggy trousered youth to another in a beanie hat.

"Aaargh..! Why can't i log on here..?" said another pock marked, badly dressed individual.

I sat in my van and listened to the gripes, the moans and general bitching amongst the cream of our young, educated society. It appeared that my van was sucking up all the local bandwidth in my general area with it's high speed connection... and it wasn't about to give it up. My pictures made steady progress.

"I'm not gettin' nuffink..." Said another, well spoken student.

No you are not my friend, and with your badly mangled syntax, the dress sense of Johnny Rotten and street speak, you will more than likely be 'gettin' nuffink' in the high pressured job market in a few years time. I despair...

Anyway, following another 15 minutes or so, i had finished sending and released my Tardis like grip on the surrounding bandwidth, and Instagram breathed a sigh of relief as pictures of fresh faced students on their first day at University flowed again...

I may come back here on a regular basis and do it again, just for the laughs.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The TV Camera Of The Future Is Here..!

So here we are again news cameramen of the world. Another day, and yet another camera... But wait... What's this..? This one's different, and it's gonna turn your world upside down... As they say in the TV camera industry, "It's a game changer."

Throw away your old, out of date C300's and other small box like cameras that need scaffold poles and add on bits and bobs. VJ's... Lay down your iphones..! Some egg head at the camera design department over at Arri have designed a camera that... Wait for it... Sits on your shoulder in a sensationally ergonomic manner the likes of which have never (Ahem...) been seen before. It's the all new, documentary style camera..!

It works straight out of the box..!

Add a lens, a battery and bingo..! No more camera rigs..!

It's got buttons and everything..!

It's been a long time coming my fellow cameramen and women. It looks like it's been specially designed to film documentaries, TV magazine shows, corporates and everything in between. I for one am astounded at the very thought of actually designing and making a camera that sits on your shoulder... My mind is blown at the possibilities.

So all you docu-reality-news people who bought the smaller cameras and rigging must be kicking yourself right now... Those of you fiddling with your iphones feel daft i bet... 'Cos the future... The future of shoulder mounted, fast set up filming is here.

Disclaimer: I am not in any way being sarcastic... in any way whatsoever. Rejoice..!

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Monday Meme... No 8. Lights, Camera... Arm ache.

There's not a lot can be done when you forget your lighting stands, apart from getting arm ache i suppose. The guy holding the lights was also the cameraman who i guess was monitoring his pictures and sound via the art of osmosis...

it's just gonna be one of those days... for him anyway.

At a casual glance, these guys were hooked up to a Mac Pro and were streaming their stand up piece back to wherever. The trouble was, behind the reporter was the Houses of Parliament, lit up in all its glory by the power of the Summer sun. Let me tell you, he needs more than a couple of battery powered top lights, and a little more oomph to outsmart the sun in the wattage stakes...

So even with a pair of good solid light stands, he was doomed to failure.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 30 August 2013

TV News Cameraman And A Vote For War.

Many a happy day has been spent over the years in large gatherings of the worlds press, covering various events. Yesterday, whilst working for the BBC News, i again found myself surrounded by the finest members of the Fourth Estate from around the globe, reporting and waiting to see if we, the British, were to lend a hand in bombing the shit out of yet another Middle East country, namely Syria.

The worlds press...

In the House Of Parliament, our elected representatives gasbagged, chewed the fat, arm twisted and argued over whether we should intervene to send a warning note, glued to the pointy end of a Tomahawk Cruise Missile, to a dictator hell bent on gassing his own people. I could go on at length about my own views, but here is not the place.

Outside in the late Summer sunshine, about 100 or so reporters, correspondents, field producers, cameramen, soundmen and a phalanx of TV techies milled about, filed reports, issued live standups to their respective nations, scribbled in notebooks and generally broadcast supposition and hearsay about what was going to happen, whilst attempting to deplete the worlds supply of coffee to dangerous levels.

What would the Russians do..? Will Assad refrain from killing more..? Will the Jihadists from the world over pour in to fill the void..? Everybody knew and nobody knew. Only two things mattered. Will we make things worse, or will the Politicians pull one out of the hat and save the day..?

Politicians, Generals and Middle East experts poured views into our lenses and microphones that had set up shop on College Green. Peace activists gathered outside the corridors of power and the religious warned of a hell unleashed on Earth... Everyone had a point of view, a solution, warnings and ways forward.

Israel, Iran, Russia, Lebanon, Turkey, America and the UK were at the top of the news agenda. Memories of an Iraqi adventure gone wrong, false intelligence, dodgy dossiers and an ongoing Afghan war. Consequences, blame and finger pointing... Bomb him to hell, but think of the children.

English and American accents, Arabic, German and Italian. It seemed that most TV News broadcasters had sent a camera team and a corresponding hairdo with shiny teeth. Someone even sent an organic light stand to hold a set of lights... Now that was funny to watch.

What he didn't know, was that this report was lasting for 25 minutes.

Major news bulletins at 1 and 6. 24 hour news channels desperate for more guests and passing blowholes with opinions. Gravitas filled the air like a cheap perfume. Broadcasting greytemples and heavyweight news icons mixed with VJ's and pasty looking newsroom producers who blinked in the sunlight having escaped from Millbank studios for a few hours.

I sipped at my coffee and watched. Between my filming tasks i looked, listened and soaked in the atmosphere of the worlds press at work, squeezed into a tiny patch of central London, desperate for more. More information, more expertise, more... more... more... I loved every minute of it.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Convivial Conversations With A TV News Cameraman.

Standing around on street corners for most of your working day tends to attract passers by. Now, I must stress that I am in no way standing under flickering street lamps with a look that says 'hello sailor.' Nor am I furtively dealing quarter ounce wraps of Bolivian marching powder to bespectacled media types... No.

Any minute now, that lunatic behind me is going to ask me something stupid...

You see, standing next to a large tripod, TV camera and a light attracts the curious, the axe grinders and tin foil hat wearers like a moth to a flame. Most people just want to know why you are there, some want to give you their opinions on the news and some, well, some want to tell you their whole life history including hospital visits with swollen limbs, pustulating sores requiring drainage, collapsed vertebrae and the untimely death of their pet cat.

Me..? As you know, being an approachable sort of chap, I'll speak to anyone, especially if I think I can get a good blog post out of it. Tell me of your adventures, the ups and downs of your intrepid lifestyle. Orate at your leisure if you have something interesting to say, a tip to impart or a yarn of outstanding misadventure. Just please don't bore me.

Take the other day for example. There I was, minding my own business, as is my job as a TV news cameraman, when I was approached... Slowly at first as he sized me up from afar. I could see him circling... He looked at me then looked away, but he was creeping ever closer.

' Don't make eye contact... Don't make eye contact...' I thought to myself. I then made eye contact... Bugger.

He was upon me like a flash in a haze of alcoholic fumes and stumbles. I hadn't noticed the can of super strength lager in his hand or the redness of his eyes. I was then questioned, at length, on the state of the news business and why I was personally responsible for the news media being at the heart of government propaganda, of lying to the public about everything from global warming to unemployment figures and most of all... most of all... Why I was in personal cahoots with Rupert Murdoch. I was working for the BBC, but this didn't concern him.

Following 20 or so minutes of this he finally stopped. 'Anyway... I gotta go... For my (hic) for my (hic) for my dinner...' He mumbled as he stepped away. He turned towards me and as an afterthought he asked... 'Hey, mate, you couldn't lend me a tenner could ya..?'

So now he's my mate and he wants my money.

'Im skint, Rupert doesn't pay me enough... and he forgot my invite to his last soirée at his place in Manhattan..' I replied.

'Aye... The man's a bastard ain't he..?' He said. And with that, he was gone.

So you see, it's not all plain sailing out on the mean streets of North Hampshire. People can turn on you, blame you and harangue you. So whilst I await my newsworthy quarry, with nowhere else to go, I get to thinking... 'Why me..?' And, 'Yeah... Just where is my invite from Rupert?' And... 'Why haven't I been invited to a family lunch with the Director General of the BBC..?'

And come to think of it... 'Why haven't I got a tenner in my wallet..?'

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Steadicam Back Step Shuffle Ends In Disaster.

Here at the ukcameraman institute of TV News studies, we like to collect various examples of TV cameraman gold. Unfortunately, at the athletics world championships in Moscow, Russia, an example has come to light about how not to do things.

Personally, i don't blame the poor cameraman here. I could go on about where the hell was his partner who watches where the hell he is going, but i won't because it's clear that he doesn't have one.

As cameramen and women, we have all walked the back step shuffle... but on this occasion, the poor sap has had his mishap broadcast to the world for all to see. What's the betting that next time you see the steadicam operator, he has a partner to guide him, 'cos if it were my equipment he's just splashed all over the track, i wouldn't be best pleased. I bet the rushes looked ever so smooth though...

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Mick Deane: A Cameraman Lost.

Most of you will know the usual tone of this TV News cameraman blog. A sideways look at being a cameraman if you will. I did have a new post scheduled for yesterday, but it felt inappropriate to publish it on a day when as UK camera operators, we lost one of our own.

Photo: Sky News.

Mick Deane, a broadcast tv news cameraman, was shot and killed covering the serious unrest that is presently ongoing in Egypt, whilst working for Sky News.

Firstly, I didn't know Mick Deane, so i was unsure whether to write this at all but i believe it would be remiss of me, as a cameraman blogger, not to. Over the years of being on the road I guess our paths may have crossed here in the UK, but I doubt it. From what was being posted online yesterday, it would appear that Mick chiefly worked abroad at the various news bureaux's of major broadcasters around the world including ITN and Sky News, covering foreign stories of varying degrees of difficulty and danger.

Many of my online contacts via this blog and Twitter obviously knew him, worked with him and became lifelong friends of Mick. Reading various online tributes and posts, it was glaringly obvious that Mick was a respected cameraman, journalist and friend of the highest calibre. At 61 years old, he had been there and done that and was still at it when he died.

It is a testament to Mick that he was highly regarded and loved not only by colleagues, but by friends in what is a dangerous business. I'm sure that Mick knew the risks. Those that film and report on the world of war, conflict and social unrest on a regular basis always know that tragedy may be their end.

Yesterday, that tragedy occurred and Mick Deane was lost to the world of TV news broadcasting, friends and family.

This cameraman blog would like to extend its sympathy and condolences to those that knew and loved him.

I will leave it to Mick's friend and colleague Mark Austin from ITV News to tell you about the type of man he was and is very much worth a read.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The 15 Laws Of TV News Gathering.

Filming for the TV News has a certain inevitability to your working life. Being in the news business will guarantee that certain things in your working day will happen... As the old saying goes, 'If it can happen, it will happen.'

I only went for a coffee... the Loch Ness Monster appeared 30 seconds later...

 Not necessarily all the time, but if you hang around TV news people for long enough, you will start to recognise the laws of the game, as well as the dead, far away look in their eyes. The laws are many and multi faceted, but here are a few to get you going... Many of you will recognise some if not all of them.

1. Whilst waiting for many hours for something to happen, light a cigarette. Go for a coffee or a toilet break. What you are waiting for will then happen.

2. When you get your lighting kit out, the sun will appear. Conversely, when you put your lights away, the sun will go in. This is known in scientific circles as 'The lighting Cameraman's quantum theorem of light equation on a sliding Kelvin scale.'

3. Lunchtime will be around 3 in the afternoon when the local pub has finished serving lunch. You will make do with a day old service station sandwich. You will also be late home for your evening meal.

4. The best stories of the day will always be somewhere else, covered by the person least qualified to cover it.

5. Someone will always call in sick on your day off, making it necessary for you to set your alarm at 4:30 to cover their early shift.

6. The really big breaking news stories will be at 3am, in the dark and when raining in deep winter.

7. Just as you complete your voice over and edit on the in depth business story you have lovingly crafted, the boss will call to inform you that it has been bumped for a breaking sports story.

8. The 'just a quick story' line from producers is a false one. It will always turn into a bloody nightmare lasting most of the day.

9. Desk bound news producers will always think that you can just 'pop' between Southampton and Northampton in rush hour.

10. Your wife and kids will be asleep when you finally get home.

11. When filming in public, passers by will always ask... 'What's goin' on 'ere then... Anyone famous..?'

12. Never say... 'This is a great piece of kit, it has never let me down..' It will promptly let you down.

13. Cable runs will always find a pile of dog shit / sick / snot.

14. Traffic queues will always form when you are in a hurry with a deadline.

15. TV camera top lights are idiot magnets. Someone will always dance, pull faces and say 'hello Mum..!' as you are about to go live.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

TV News Cameraman And The Demonstration Dilemma.

As a TV News Cameraman, i sometimes find myself in a dilemma as to whether i agree or disagree with the situations i find people in. Some people deserve all they get. Some deserve sympathy, justice or community support. Some, shall i say, deserve a ferocious kick in the bollocks... I am meant to be impartial, but sometimes i find myself falling off the fence into one camp or the other despite my job of just recording the facts as i see them.

Let them eat cake... So said Marie Antionette as the peasants starved for lack of bread. She was quite possibly thinking of the local tv cameraman when she uttered those words, for there is nothing that makes a cameraman hungrier and happier, than a good old fashioned demonstration against the local bean counting government and their allegedly corrupt, insidious ways.

Having run out of red paint, one protester resorted to the less effective blue...

Hastily painted placards spouting bile, disgust and legally dubious moral indignity are thrust toward my camera. My microphone records the fact that there is no doubt the local council are planning to leave the good people of this parish to die horribly in a rat infested, sewage filled ditch, having ignored their protestations.

I'm inclined to agree. For whilst covering the vocal outpouring of the oppressed masses for the local TV news, we interviewed the council leader... A whole hour before the peasantry turned up, allowing him to scuttle inside the council buildings before things turned nasty and poetic.

I guess local councillors have thinner skin than they used to, for he avoided any face to face involvement with the great unwashed and sidestepped anything too serious put to him. I guess in the time honoured fashion of the British demonstrator, someone may have tutted at him, raised an eyebrow in contempt or, if things got really out of hand, throw a soft, tasty, cream infused confection at him. Either way, he was gone before they turned up to voice their opinion.

It turns out that the decision had already been made.

Being a demo against the demolition of a local arts building, poems were read, roll up cigarettes were smoked, colourful clothing fluttered in the light breeze and fuzzy beards were stroked in contemplation of losses to the world of local artistry. Arts buildings will be bulldozed to be replaced by luxury two bed apartments. Someone around here will make a lot of cash.

'Qu'ils mangent de la brioche' was the original French quote from a lady who had no idea of the suffering of the starving populace...

Food and bread are no longer an overwhelming problem to the vast majority of us Westerners, we have bread and cake. (At the moment) What we do need is culture, community and a sense of place, not just places to cram in more and more people. So we must find a new famous phrase to be uttered by an out of touch (Democratically elected) bean counter for the huddled, oppressed masses of the downtrodden local artisans, who have nowhere to go...

'Let them knit cardigans...' No, No, No... Hang on, Here you go...

'Can't they just buy a painting..?'

No, Mr Councilman, they can't, all the local artists have moved away, given up and no longer produce local goods, provide culture and teach the young for the benefit of the community they live and work in. Local kiddie theatre, music workshops and coffee mornings be damned... There's money to be made. On the upside though, there will soon be a lovely luxury apartment for sale, yours for £299.959.00. What a bargain.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.