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.