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.