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.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Local News Videos Blaze Internet Trail.

Here, deep in the bowels of the ukcameraman institute of TV news studies, we are always on the lookout for evidence that video news from the Internet is about to ruin the careers of us TV news cameramen and broadcast TV journalism. That, and good locations for a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea... And cake.

Newspaper video news... produced on a shoestring... and elbows.

Time and again, we are told that video news will migrate to the Internet and that local TV news is doomed on the telly box, to be replaced by the jack of all trades, the internet Video Journalist, IPhones and news websites.

Now don't get me wrong, there are a lot of good quality VJ's out there for the nationals doing some good quality work, and is worth watching. They are however, few and far between and are being horribly let down by the dross that passes for video news in many newspapers around the country, local and national. I know that video is produced on a shoestring budget, and is still an afterthought for many newspaper publishers, but it doesn't take a lot to improve the quality ten fold.

What i'm saying is, if you are going to do it... Do it properly, ramp up the quality and produce video that we want to watch.

I really don't think that we, as TV news cameramen and women in broadcast news have much to worry about. For example, I came across the scene above a few days ago. Having filmed my tv news piece using camera, tripod, mic's and making good use of natural light and a sweeping backdrop of a top class venue, the local paper took over...

I wanted to say something as I watched. This wasn't a fast moving, breaking story. They had time to set up... Where's your tripod and microphone..? Did you get any useful cutaways of what happened as you were waiting your turn? If you turn your interviewee around there is a wonderful backdrop to your interview... and to help you, the sun won't be behind him. I bit my lip...

No, what I actually did was giggle and let him get on with it. Nothing to do with me Guv'nor... So I checked it out online a few days later, to see if the Internet competition is blazing a trail on the video news front.

Judging by the (cough) millions of views on their YouTube channel, it looks like its got nothing to do with their readership either. 4:3 aspect ratio and cutaways of wall posters..? As for the crisp clear sound, I was hooked on every word that I didn't hear.

Ahh well... I think we TV news bods have a few more years on the road yet, before us cameramen are sucked into a world of page rankings, video hits and buffering. At least it hasn't got my name written all over it. Oh, and whatever you do, don't search the Internet for 'Cameraman' 'Sucked' and 'Ranking'... The results will not be news related. I tried... And now the Missus thinks i'm a pervert and won't talk to me.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

TV News Cameraman Encourages The Rise Of The Proletariat.

"Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains... And you can be on the TV news at 6." Karl Marx... Possibly.

"Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you're probably watching the wrong channel." Groucho Marx... Definitely.

Anyway, I've said this before and I will say it again. News viewers don't like stuffed suits, professional blowholes and CEO's who want to sell you stuff. They like to watch stories about other, normal people like themselves. Workers, mums, truck drivers and the like, who sweat at a days manual labour for a living wage, instead of shuffling paper clips, perusing spreadsheets or raising their taxes.

The Working Man... smiling, sweaty and hairy with a sense of humour.

Many a time I have interviewed the bosses and politicians, who have been heavily media trained to give sound bites that avoid the question, tow the company line and give nothing away. Sod that.

Give me an oil stained, sweaty, safety helmeted hairy bloke who works at the coal face, who earns his money from hard graft, instead of the stuffed shirt and tie mannequins on auto speak any day. I promise you, TV news viewers will thank you for it.

Trust me, show a talking head spouting figures, time spans or excuses, and Mrs Miggins will mentally switch off and go cook the dinner. Show a working grafter with something to say and the interest in your story will rise. News viewers like normal everyday people with whom they can connect and empathise with.

Only politicians and policy wonks are interested in what another politician has to say. Only a CEO can empathise with another business suit with his views on modern working practices and pay scales. I bet that 98 percent of our viewers are other working drones, just like you and me, who work hard to feed the family, who would rather see the view from the bottom rung of the greasy ladder, than the bottom line of a government or corporate spreadsheet.

So here's to the working class of this fine nation. We should see and hear more of them.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Original Is Always Best.

Here at the ukcameraman institute of TV news studies, we know that when someone spends nearly £1000.000 on a few scribbled notebooks, it's going to make the news. And when those notebooks are the scribblings, writings and doodles of Samuel Beckett, including his first novel 'Murphy' then the story takes a different turn.

The original ukcameraman with Dr. Mark Nixon and Beckett original manuscripts.

Bought by the University of Reading the manuscripts will give a great insight into the workings of one of the greatest writers of modern times, who wrote plays, novels, film, TV and radio scripts. So it was with pleasure that I got to go along and peruse at my leisure some of the many original manuscripts in the Beckett collection.

I guess it's another one of the rare times that as a TV news cameraman I get to do something that very few others will get to do. To look, to read and to handle the original article. I did this once many years ago with the original manuscript of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, but have no photographic proof that I did, which I regret to this day. (It was before i had discovered blogs and social media.)

Covering the day to day news is covering history as it unfolds for good or bad, big or small, but to actually feel and touch these small parts of literary history is a pleasure that few will relish. Now, if you will excuse me, I have another assignment and must wait for someone to film an interview. I hope his name is not Godot... or it may be a long wait.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 8 July 2013

UK's Strongest Man Not A Match For A TV News Cameraman.

When the mercury tops out in the mid 80's, your filming job is in a baking car park and there is nowhere to hide, it's a blessing that the job entails a few other blokes doing all the hard work.

I told him that i eat 3... yes 3, shredded wheat for breakfast. he was not impressed, as he eats cameramen for breakfast.

I found myself filming for the Challenge Channel, covering the qualifiers for the UK's Strongest Man, this being the day we find England's strongest man. Let me tell you, at just about 6ft tall and of reasonable appearance in the bulk stakes, I found myself feeling rather inadequate at the sight of some of these men, and anyway, rather than bulking out on weights and mass powder drinks, I bulk out on steak, beer and ice creams, which I think you will find is a more pleasurable way of getting larger than nature intended.

Testosterone was thick in the air. Muscles strained, veins bulged and eyes almost popped, but that was just me as I picked up my tripod and camera to shift a few yards to the weightlifting area. The weights actually being lifted, moved and manipulated by the strong man competitors put my moaning about TV gear to shame. I shall never moan again. (Yeah, right.)

It was a great time away from the day to day gripes of news gathering, no politics, perps or prosthelytising on industrial scales. Instead just the grunts, grapples and guts of some seriously big men doing some seriously big physical feats with an animalistic instinct to win. It was some tough, raw stuff from men who eat tough, raw meat for breakfast.

Anyway, after a day like that, I'm off home to soothe my aching back after 6 hours of on the shoulder camera work. I thought of telling them that pushing trucks, lifting weights and grappling stones for a day of competition, is nothing compared to the long hard years of tripod carrying, sound bag shifting and upper body camera workouts on the roadside news circuit.

I thought of telling them of my aches, my pains and my long hours. Of my serious jaw workouts on the court steps and my prowess in the standing up stakes. I didn't say that to their faces though, do you think I'm stupid or what..?

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 5 July 2013

TV Cameraman Vs Central Nervous System.

Now as any TV news cameraman and Journalist will tell you, placing an expensive lump of plastic and glass in front of your average member of the public can sometimes make them go wobbly of knee and loose of bowel. The big glass eye can also turn an otherwise normal person, eloquent of prose, into a gibbering fool the moment you press the record button.

So it was with trepidation that I found myself alone, as both cameraman and interviewer with an interviewee who, although educated and gifted of verbal dexterity in normal conversation, failed to string a coherent sentence together when confronted by a TV camera and a set of questions.

The problem was that my interviewee had prepared her lines and had written them down, and she was not going to divert from her script. Also, my questions didn't match her pre-prepared answers that she wanted to give. A stumbling halt to proceedings was inevitable.

"Tell you what," I say. "Why don't I just leave the camera, and we can talk this over... Then we can try again."

I kept the camera running.

"Listen, just relax and we can go over the questions. No pressure. You let me know what you think... Tell me what it is that you want to say."

I then talked over the questions, we conversed as if in a coffee shop lounge. I could see her forgetting about the camera and she gave good, sharp and unrehearsed answers. The conversation flowed and she relaxed, thinking that she was under no pressure to 'perform' for the camera. What followed was one of the easiest interviews I have ever done. I asked the questions that were required and she answered them truthfully... No script. She had totally forgotten about the camera.

"Ok, I think I'm ready...I feel a bit better now that we talked it through." She said.

"No need." I replied, "I've got everything we need and more..."

I offered her the chance to review the tape and her answers, as I knew I had played the 'old one two' trick. Cameraman skulduggery at its finest.

They say that the greatest trick ever pulled off by the Devil, was convincing people that he doesn't exist... It's sometimes the same for us cameramen. Job done.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.