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.