Saturday, 27 September 2014

TV news cameraman and an offer to be refused.

It only seemed like five minutes ago that i was stood outside Parliament as our leaders voted for the last war in our continuing 'War on terror.' (Syria Edition.) Yet here i am again... only this time it's for 'The war on terror... The revenge, Part 3. The Jihadists strike back.' (Iraq Edition.)

This time, we send everything we have... They don't like it up 'em...

 Yesterday, i spent my considerable TV news cameraman talents on wandering the streets asking various people's opinion on the chances of the UK re-engaging in the Middle East. By re-engaging, i mean in the form of dropping a metric shit load of bombs onto Jihadists of various hues, captured American hardware from the previous visit that were left lying around the desert and wedding parties.

It would seem that we are to spend lavishly on sending some highly expensive flying machinery to drop some eye-wateringly expensive bombs on a rag tag bunch of Jihadis driving left behind moderately expensive U.S. Humvees and artillery pieces that we left behind for them to use against us. What are we like eh..?

Anyway, i digress... Our esteemed leaders were recalled from their holiday board meetings at 'BombsULike Ltd' and 'ThinkOfTheChildren Inc,' to vote in Parliament on whether to send our entire Royal Air Force of 6 fighter jets and a mechanic back to Iraq, and to light up our entire stockpile of Tomahawk cruise missiles which are kept in a shed somewhere in Milton Keynes.

The Royal Navy declined the offer, citing a lack of aircraft carriers for their aircraft.

Somewhere in the Ministry of Defence, the stockroom boy had found the 'Fire Before' date stamped on the missiles, causing panic amongst the General Staff who ordered some extra large tupperware and informed the Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street, who wanted to avoid a repeat of the 'soggy bottomed' Trident missile mishap of some years previous, when they were left unused during the Summer months, costing an overspend on the yearly household nuclear budget.

So here we are again... Voting for war.

Many Voxes were popped. A brand new, not yet in place Bishop was questioned on the moral validity of our intent, and yet more popping of voxes in a different town. Impromptu, well meaning peace rallies sprung up around the area like Autumn mushroom clouds.

"We should have done it properly in the first place.." Said an ex soldier from our previous two excursions to the region.

"Leave 'em to it... Let their God sort 'em out" Said Mrs Housewife.

"Haven't we finished Afghanistan yet..?" Said Mr well intentioned.

News was happening fast. Top of the bulletin lives were planned. We planned ours outside two pubs on a Friday evening in the town centre with some hippies, and hoped for the best. As my Journo and i practiced our moves before going live, a quick witted jester of the local Al-Fresco drinking community breezed past, and loudly intoned some insightful reasoning for our country going to war...

"F**k her in the p**sy..!"

Oh dear... my first one, but at least we were not live, he missed out by a mere three minutes, the twat.

I fear this new jolly jape may become a 'thing' for us TV newsies, following widespread videos of similar happenings from the USA which have pervaded the internet in recent months. Not content with gurning in general at the back of a live shot, these talented, funny and socially aware fuckwits have taken to shouting this... I fear for the future of live TV news links.

Such as everything in life, whatever happens in the States will eventually happen here. You only have to look to the past... Chewing gum, pop socks, Rock 'n' Roll and the sport of precision bombing unlikeable people who are far, far away, whilst our own population still struggle as local facilities are closed down for the lack of cash and investment.

I heft my TV camera back onto my aching shoulder... Bombs away..!

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The freelance TV news cameraman guide to taking surveys.

Now many of you out there with 'normal' jobs, like digging road ditches, manual labouring in the steel factories of the grim North and social media PR in the sweatshops of London will no doubt be delighted at your days off from the daily grind of water pipes, steel RSJ's and a finely crafted marketing tweets for a new chocolate hob-nob derivative.

Polynesian cash money... Fishy.

Not us freelance TV news cameraman and women. We hate days off. For a start, it means we are not getting paid to craft telly pictures for the uninformed public, give voice to the bellicose politician or labour at the coal face of showing a footballers metatarsal calamity.

A day off means that we sit at home, twiddling our thumbs and wishing for unfortunate situations to arise. It also makes us deal with freelance business chores like invoicing, taxes, VAT, and other assorted freelancing business matters. Take just now for example. There i was, reading VAT notes whilst wondering exactly what it takes to make a nearby petrol refining station to explode, when i was called by the Federation of Wasting Peoples Time, who wondered whether i had the time to take a survey on the merits of small business banking.

Have i got time..? HAVE I GOT TIME..? As it happens, yes i do, i'm sick to the back teeth of trying to drum up some actual cash money. They came straight to the point...

"Who do you bank with?" Asked the charming foreign voiced lady from a pop up call centre in downtown Lagos, Nigeria, home of the venerable FoWPT (Inc)

"I'm actually offshore, with the Royal Bank of Tuvalu, ForEx transactions are via the Co-Op in Basingstoke."

"Tuva... Oh... Where is that please?"

"Too-Vah-Loo... Formerly known as the Ellice Islands, it's a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Basingstoke on the other hand is in Hampshire, but i get paid in Tuvaluan Dollars, did you know that Tuvaluan Dollars are accepted at Lidl discount stores here..?"

"I did not know that Sir... No. You don't have a bank in the UK then?"

"Yes, the Co-Op, but they only pay me in stamps."


"Yes, savings stamps. I save them up for Christmas, it's a lot less bother and saves quite a bit of money on the joint of meat and tinned foodstuffs, artichokes and the like."

"I see Sir, so... i... err... no transactions of cash in the UK then..?"

"No, just stamps."


You see? This is where having a day off gets you. Us TV camera people need hard news to keep us out of trouble with the good folks of telephone scammery. It's not too much to ask is it? No, it isn't. Back to the VAT notes then.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The daily grind of a TV news cameraman.

It's been a while since i last posted i know. We TV news camera operators can't spend all day tapping away on computer keyboards to bring you the delightful stories and behind the scenes insights into our world of very important news gathering operations, tight deadlines and the wearing of short trousers in inclement British weather.

Someone call Dr Greystubble-Dimplechin... We need the crashcart... STAT..!

No. You see, we have the day to day filming to do, lights to put up and take down, microphones to clip on, cables to coil and journalists to wrangle. We have miles and miles of driving to do, parking places to find without being fined and street corners to hang around on.

We have impenetrable, long winded and vague briefing sheets to read and decipher, phone calls to take from producers, lost guests to find, deadlines to beat, footage to file and WiFi coverage to swear at. We have tripods to carry, sound bags to hump and sore backs to nurse.

We've been given the wrong post code, address and name. Someone will be late whilst we turned up on time, It's our third filming job of the day but the first for our refreshed reporter, we haven't had any lunch and nobody has offered us a drink.

We got called out on a day off, our weekend ruined and dinners have been missed. We get fluff stories about deckchairs to film. We get stuck in traffic gridlock. We get another deadline and another producer on the phone, we get more footage to cut and file from the road side. Our WiFi is weak and our uploads look bleak. We do it with minutes to spare.

Our phones are constantly going beep... We rub a tired eye and read the text:

"Hi Paul, sorry for the late text. Just wanted to say that your deckchairs stuff was amazing, everybody said so. Sorry to hear how bad the traffic was and therefore how tight the turnaround was! Thanks, K."

We smile at little kind gestures and drive home. You see... It's been a busy time.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 21 July 2014

24 Hour News: "So, what's the latest..?"

Catching up with the internet today, many of you will be aware of the incident involving Sky News reporter, Colin Brazier, going through the personal belongings and luggage of a passenger who died on flight MH17 in Ukraine.

A mistake made under pressure..?

 My first reaction on watching it was, "What the hell was he thinking?" Many of you made your feelings known on social media channels. Outrage, disgust and questioning why the reporter made that decision to do what he did, live on air. It was most certainly a mistake in my view, speaking as a tv news cameraman.

I then got to thinking about why. Why did an award winning, respected and talented reporter think that this was an ok thing to do? I then remembered all the times i have stood at a major incident, linked up to a satellite feed point, partnered with a reporter and trying to keep up with the demands of the 24 hour news channels.

Watch any 24 hour news operation and the same news will be told every 15 minutes, with the major stories at the top of the hour and at 15 minute intervals which normally include a weather update and some sport. Unless anything happens, that news cycle will go on all day, every day with the occasional break for scheduled programmes run by the channel.

The biggest and most incessant question the reporter will be asked is: "What's the latest..?"

Every 15 minutes. "What's the latest..?"

9 times out of 10 throughout the day there will be no latest information. None. Nothing will change, but the 24 hour news channel will insist on asking: "What's the latest..?"

Remember that the really big stories, like the tragedy of flight MH17 will be broadcast for days or even weeks. Reporters, producers and camera operators will be dispatched to the scene to compete, compare and be different from one another in telling the story of what happened. Travelling, producing, filming and gathering of facts are of course the main job, but the 24 hour news will want a report, an update... The very latest news, of which there may be none or very little after the first few hours on the first day.

And they will want it every 15 minutes... Live.

Those of us who work this madness we call news know that finding those small snippets of information at a major scene is hard. More so i believe at the scene of an air crash in an uncontrolled war zone. You do your best, you report on what you see, you speak to those who will talk, you show and you tell.

And then after a while you start to run out of news and out of ideas for the next report in 15 minutes. You try to be creative, you try to be different, to put things into context for the news viewers.

Let me be straight with you. This show of internet outrage shouldn't be about Murdochs' Men rifling through innocent victims belongings. Its about a reporter who i think made an error of judgement in what is a tough, live and dangerous environment with the pressure to keep telling the news, to update, to "Give us the latest."

He has a job to do in telling us the news the best he can. He even realised his mistake live on air. I would be inclined to give him a break, because 15 minutes isn't long to come up with something new, refreshing, different, engaging and newsworthy.

Maybe it's time we took a look at the 15 minute cycle in 24 hour news, and the pressure we put the news crews through in order to 'Feed the news beast... Live.' That would be a good start.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Canine calamity causes cameraman consternation.

So, just how does your average TV news cameraman go out to work and four hours later have his work splashed across the internet in a frenzy of piss taking, LOL's and BBC baiting via Twitter, Facebook and internet news sites? The answer is very easy... Just add a well known and respected weather presenter, a live transmission and one dog with a weak bladder.

Before going live, doggy got in some squatting practice. Pic by @carolkirkwood
Before the morning was over, my cameraman endeavors were to end up on the likes of Buzzfeed, Huffington Post (Comedy Section), The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Metro and The Independent.  Hell, we even made the news in Brazil..! You are by now probably thinking that i am jinxed, and you might be right. Either things have a habit of happening to me, or it's just the way i look at things, finding the funny, if you will.

Guaranteed, should i be filming live news it will either rain, the local idiot will find me or i will step in the only dog turd in the surrounding three square miles, but hey, one gets used to the ups and downs of the broadcasting life and the awful things that i have witnessed courtesy of my sadistic news producers. (Politics, for instance.)

I thought yesterday however, that my luck had changed. I was to broadcast to the whole British nation on the most watched morning news show with the best known weather presenter in the form of Carol Kirkwood, Queen of the clouds and dispenser of short, sharp rainstorms. Not only that, i was to film from one of the nicest sandy beaches in the South of England on one of the hottest days of the year so far.

Things don't get much better. My star was in the ascendance, my flag was at full mast and my engine firing on all cylinders.

I may have spoken a little too soon. My flag pole soon drooped, my star fizzled out and my engine sputtered. All courtesy of a chocolate brown Labrador owned by my field producer for the day. I need not regale you of the intricacies of what it did, for due to the magical interwebs and a sprinkling of cameraman fairy dust you can watch what happened... In full.

I will admit that i saw what it was doing just a tad too late to make a difference. The damage was done. Live broadcasting is just that... Live, and there was bugger all i could do about it, until now. For the modern interwebs now allows me to get my own back by shaming the aforementioned canine in a manner that online Listicle readers will know and love... Dog shaming.

Dog shaming... Pic courtesy of owner @Gilly_Robinson

So if you will now excuse me, i'm off to prepare for another live news broadcast. News has just surfaced that the water quality of local beaches have taken a nosedive and the best sandy beach in the South of England has lost it's blue flag status. Hey, i'm a freelancer, and a job's a job...

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Attack of the TV drones.

We are currently in the midst of yet another passing fad in the TV news and photography industry. You will have read about them... Drones and drone journalism. They are bloody everywhere. In fact, so prevalent are they, i'm forever swatting them away and getting them tangled in my hair outside court.

1st delivery of the PeeInABottleDrone to Winchester Crown Court went disastrously wrong.

I jest... But a general internet search will reveal that drones and drones for use in journalism are in the forefront of peoples minds when it comes to pretty much anything creative these days. There are of course, some notable exceptions where some brilliant photography work is being done, the most excellent Lewis Whyld being a case in point.

I have however read some quite awful bollocks about just what a drone could be used for. Amazon told us that it could deliver all manner of expensive tat via a drone landing in your garden, forgetting of course, those that live in high rise apartments. And then of course there is this, an article from Gizmodo, telling us that we can now do away with lighting assistants in the photography industry. Just open up a box and hey presto, 10 lighting drones with power to fly, light and examine the scene before them. (Don't worry about where the power comes from, they didn't.)

In light of this new information, i think that if we are to go down this route of using drones for news gathering, then we should do it bloody well properly. As such, i have retired to my shed with a pad, pencil and a few pieces of wood, batteries and some left over child's Meccano. I have come up with a few blueprints for other drones that we could use in the news industry apart from taking video etc...

1. BaconBapDrone. Delivers piping hot bacon baps to news cameramen wherever they may be.

2. CoffeeDrone. As above, but coffee, obviously.

3. CakeDrone. As above, but cake... now you're getting the idea.

4. PeeInABottleDrone. (This one's a real go'er.) For emergency toilet facilities. It flies in, you pee in the attached bottle and it flies back to the news producer who will gladly empty it into the toilet for you.

5. UmbrellaDrone. Follows the cameraman around about 3 Ft above the head, keeping the camera and it's operator dry in inclement weather. (Not suitable for hurricanes.)

This is as yet, as far as i have got in the building of suitable drones for use in the news industry. I am currently in negotiation with the Civil Aviation Authority here in the UK for licences to fly. Having written to them on various occasions, i have yet to receive a reply other than "Are you joking?"

No SireeBob, i most certainly am not. This time next year Rodney...

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 11 July 2014

BBC New Broadcasting House and the riddle of the 8th floor.

Yesterday found me traversing our capital city on my way to collect my network news ID card that allows unfettered access to the largest newsroom in Europe. Having been offered the chance of freelance shifts, i had to go to BBC New Broadcasting House in London...

BBC New Broadcasting House...

 I could now walk the corridors and meeting rooms of the BBC. I could watch John Humphrys eat a doughnut, see Huw Edwards on his cigarette break behind the bike shed, or look longingly into the eyes of Sophie Raworth over a hot frothy latte in the canteen as she flicks her golden locks over her shoulder, coyly smiles at me and pats the seat next to her with her ruby red polished fingernails glinting under the lights, before she... ahem...

Sorry, i was typing out loud again...

Anyway, having picked up my sparkly new ID, showing your author in a smart pose with a coquettish smile and chiselled, lantern jawed features, i followed on to the BBC New Broadcasting House induction lecture. The induction lecture, i was told, would teach us where all the good parties are, followed by a free champagne lunch, a chat with the Director General and AAA passes to the next Glastonbury festival.

Someone obviously had a sense of humour...

I did in fact, learn what to do in the event of fire or other unforseen disasters, where the toilets were, how to open and close the doors without giving yourself a severe injury and basically not to act like a dick in front of the studios where you could be captured on camera behind the newsreaders.

They also told us what departments were on which floor. Reception and production areas on the ground floor, newsroom and studios on -1 and -2 and the cameramen on -3 next to the bins. Floors 1 to 7 contained various news departments and show production areas for TV, Radio and online and on floor 8, the cool and hip Radio 1.

We had access to anywhere... Except floor 8, where a 'special' pass is required. I have no idea why, but my imagination was piqued and started to wander from the explanation of how to use the spiral staircase without going dizzy and killing yourself.

My guess is that it's because Radio 1 plays host to super hot rock and pop stars who don't want to be bothered by the ungodly proles that inhabit the lesser levels. That and the free flow of champagne and expensive brandy, along with a phallanx of lovely looking rock chicks and hipsters, a jar of nutella and a warm spoon. But that's just a guess mind you... Or 'speculation' as we in the news industry call it. So i decided to try and find out, there and then...

8th Floor reception, BBC NBH, Thursday, about tea time:

Me: "Hello, i'm new here... Is this where i can find the BBC Sartorial Elegance Department..?"

Receptionist: "Maybe... Did Robert Peston send you..?"

Me: "Err... No. It's just that i would..."

Receptionist: "Have you got your 'special' pass..?"

Me: (Reveals jar of Nutella and a spoon) "I was given these, and..."

Receptionist: "Get out... Or i'll call security."

Well i tried... So in the interests of you, my faithful readers, i shall over the coming months endeavor to find out the truth of the 8th floor and the goings on that necessitate the requirement of a 'special' pass. As you know, here at the ukcameraman Institute of TV News Studies i never give up on rooting out the truth wherever it hides, and if the truth eludes me then i could always speculate further.

So if you should see me hovering around the lifts on Floor 7 with a jar of Nutella and a large serving spoon, keep schtum... I'll get back to you.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Charles: A Prince among TV news cameramen.

OK, I now believe things are getting wildly out of control on the TV news cameraman front.

Not only do we have to deal with the up and coming boy band haired, spotty youth of today with their lightweight, nimble and agile cameras that can shoot in 4K and are the size of a particularly small chihuahua, but we now have Royalty trying to muscle in on our turf...

"£2000 per hour you say..? Is that with the lens cap on or off..?"

HRH Prince Charles was seen today at a Sony centre, trying out the latest model of TV news camera, and is apparently intent on setting up his own news crews business. ( Pic courtesy of @loic415 ) Oh Charles... What have you gone and done...

Well, at least I know what a TV camera is supposed to have attached to it in order to make it work and that you can actually see what it is that you are filming.

Look, I know that this is a set up shot of the Prince getting down and giggly with the press pack that he (Ahem) gets along well with, but at the very least someone should have attached a viewfinder, camera mic, top light etc, and for the love of all that is holy will his footman please, PLEASE remove the lens cap.

I also got to wondering... I bet he never gets startled out of bed on a wintry morning with a news desk call at 4am to go and film a crack house fire. You can imagine it can't you... I know I can...

4am: Clarence House, South Wing above the orangery...

Ring Ring... Ring Ring...

Charles: "Can one wait a sec..? (Cough, splutter... Scratch.) Charlie's News Crews, Can one help one..?"

Newsdesk: "Yeah... BBC 'ere... Get yer arse down to Brighton. Crack house fire. Two dead. Call me when you get there..." Click...brrrrr...

Charles: (Sniff... Scratch.) "Camilla..? One has to...."

Camilla: "zzzzz... (Adjusts hair rollers.) Eh..? Wha..? Wake one up and one will die... Zzzzzz"

Charles: (Lights a cigarette.) "Footman..! Footman..! One has to earn one's crust, get one's camera kit ready would one..?"

Footman: "Yes Your Royal Majestyness, right away Sir..."

Charles: "And get one's Royal carriage warmed up... The one with the four horses and two footmen attached should do it... Pronto..."

Charles fumbles in the dark to find his cargo shorts, flip flops and Hawaian shirt. Whilst in the hallway he trips over Prince George's sticklebricks and Lego set.

Charles: "Yeaaargh..! YahamuthaFuckinBastard..! Ow..! Ow..! Ow..!"

Camilla: "CHARLES..! Will one kindly shut one's big flappy cake hole... You'll wake William and Kate... They are asleep in the front room on the pull out spare air bed... So BE QUIET..!"

Charles quietly slips down the stairs and into the kitchen. A rumble of horses hooves breaks the night air and the sound of baby Prince George's cries fill the dark void. The lights come on, blinding Charles...

Kate: "Well, thank one so much... One is up now isn't one... Might as well make a brew. Darjeeling or builders tea..? Oh, and i've put some biscuits in your run bag... Duchy Originals..."

Charles: "WHAT..? Christ on a bike woman, we can't afford those..! I'm on a freelancer's wages now y'know. Anyway, one knows one only drinks Earl Grey... One will take it in one's thermos."

Kate: "Well, one can't be too choosy this time of the effin' morning can one..? And don't be late home for ones state banquet this evening... The Prime Minister's coming round..."

Charles: (picks up camera and run bag.) "Oh for the love of... (Sigh) One will try my dear... One will try..."

Charles steps out into the cold wet air, the crunch of snow beneath his feet echoing around the South Wing of Clarence House. As he settles into the state coach, his driver whips the horses and they make off into the early morning darkness at a steady lick towards Brighton.

Charles: "Footman..? Can one hurry, one has to be back early, the last state banquet ended up in the dogs and Camilla's only just started talking to me again."

Footman: "Yes Sir... Oh, and Sir..? Should I call the BBC to see what happened to your last invoice for work last week..? Remember Sir..? The court story when you were threatened by a particularly large gentleman from the travelling community..? The one your bodyguard killed... I do believe Sir... That you are owed Royalties"

Charles: "Cushty..."

And with that dear readers, I shall leave you. Please try the chicken in a basket... I'm here all week.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

TV news cameraman tries wildlife filming... Or... New shorts please.

Ordinarily, as a TV news cameraman, there are not many chances to use the Macro ring on the lens. Most days find you performing the back step shuffle on a public road, mid shots and close ups on interviewees, or expansive wide shots of a business park in Basingstoke.

Your TV news cameraman bravely fights off the wildlife and rescues his journalist at the same time.

If you're lucky, a pull focus whilst panning to the journo is enough to excite the news producer out of a caffeine induced haze back at base, a reminder of what a cameraman is for, and a timely reminder that sometimes it takes two to film the news.

What I mean is, nobody wants to see the nose hairs of your local politician, the sweat stains on the running criminals shirt or the screw holding in a window frame. Wide shots, mid shots and close ups are the staple diet of your average news cameraman.

Today however, I was in the wilds of the Hampshire and Surrey borders filming a piece on the ever diminishing pockets of Heathland, and the wildlife that lives there.

Smooth snakes, sand lizards and the rare natterjack toad are in as much danger as the heathland itself, but were easy enough to film in the hands of a registered wildlife ranger using normal zoom and focus tactics.

Heathland also supports a wide variety of insect life, and so it was that I found myself filming a small ball of spiderlings neatly wrapped up in a silk web the size of a golf ball. The parent spider sat atop the ball no more than 1cm long so remembering that I actually have a macro ring, I sidled gently up to the ball and focussed in tight... Really tight.

I could actually see the joints on the legs, the hairs on the body and the sparkle in its eye. In the HD colour viewfinder, it filled the screen in terrifying glory. For 20 seconds or so I lost myself and was in its world. Tiny spiderlings played youthfully within the silk ball beneath, the parent sat there for a long time, quietly, unmoving, and very still...

Then it jumped...

So did your brave news cameraman...

In fact, it's fair to say that I almost shat myself there and then. So engrossed was your author in the viewfinder, displaying what to me looked like a 20 foot tall beast, that when it jumped towards the lens, I reacted like a small girly girl with big arachnophobic tendencies. So much so, that you could hear the squeal of yours truly when we played it back in the edit van. It was all a tad embarrassing if i'm honest.

You see, the threat of violence towards a TV news cameraman is never far from the surface in many jobs that we film but usually you can see it coming and prepare for it. But just for a moment, a small tiny spider no bigger than a penny, made my heart leap more than any confrontation on the court steps ever has.

From now on, I'm sticking to the news and leaving the Macro ring to the wildlife cameramen... They must be bloody nutters. Oh, and the footage will be safely buried... I have a reputation to uphold y'know.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter, and is off to change his shorts.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Book review: The News, a user's manual. By Alain De Botton.

It's not often that during the whirlwind that is our news gathering lives, involving the day to day dissemination of death, destruction, politicking, unfaithfulness, health and invention of our fellow man, do we think about what it is that we, as news organisations, are actually peddling to the news watching public as they push fish fingers into their offsprings little faces during the tea time bulletin.

The News. A user's manual.

We should be thinking about this a little more.

I came accross Alain De Botton's book online whilst searching for comic references to the news, for as regular readers of this blog will attest, my mind works in mysterious ways when it comes to telling you how i go about my day as a tv news cameraman. A work more about the philosophy of our industry, it delves deep into the psyche of those that gather, report and consume the news.

( You see, even though most of this blog has the gravitas of Spongebob Squarepants, i can sometimes deliver serious material. This post is one. )

I'm glad i found the book. Having read it within 24 hours, i recognised nearly every single sentence it contained. A philosophical book containing references to Greek culture, Shakespeare and Catholic religion is not a book i would ordinarily read, but tie them up with the modern language of the news industry of today and you have a book that will make you think a little differently about how to go about your daily news producing life.

It isn't light reading. I had to stop and think on a page by page basis about what it is that the news industry is about and why we do what it is that we do. Is the news a constant stream of failure, death and destruction? Are we obsessed by health, disaster and celebrity titillation?

Yes, yes it is and yes, yes we are. It's the modern world of news overload.

Why is this and what can we, as news people do about it? This book will make you think about it. Not just as a news professional, but as a person in a wider world where differing culture, expectations and meaning are almost limitless.

The book has resonance for me. Alain writes of an incident in Hampshire where a Father killed his two children and then himself. I was one of the tv news crews that filmed the scene. The deeper meaning and consequences of such an act and the subsequent news coverage is explained by Alain in the book.

I on the other hand, had a different outlook on the scene before me. Desperate not to think too much about what had occurred on the very ground beneath my feet, i turned my attention inward, to something much more mundane.

If reading a book doesn't do it for you in the modern digital world, you can at least watch the video above, a kind of condensed version. Whatever your interest in the news though, be it a reporter, editor, photographer or news junkie, find a way to read the book. I recommend it.

You can get the book HERE.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

TV News Cameraman And The Diminishing Of The Tangibles.

Many of you older TV news cameramen and women out there will remember such phrases as, "Can you hear the whir of the camera on audio track 2...?" Or, "Bugger, the tape door mechanism's jammed..." And my all time favourite, "Touch my camera again and I will kill you... To death."

As he pulled out the Pulitzer Prize winning footage from the camera, he dropped it down a drain cover...

The most oft spoken phrase in TV news gathering however, used to be, "Pass me the tape will you...?" and upon hearing said phrase, your journalist would pass you a Beta Sp tape which would make a satisfying, tangible 'whump' when placed in your sweaty grasp.

Those of you who remember film and film canisters can shut up now, I can hear you muttering from here. This post does not delve that far into the past, but even so, you will remember the feel of something solid and dependable in the palm of your hand. (Don't even think about going there...)

To those with boy band hair, spots and a penchant for all things Blackmagic Design, yes you... You, typing 'Tape' and 'Film' into Google on your iPhone in between filming with it and scratching your head, may not know of such pre-historic artifacts from a bygone generation, but they existed... And not that long ago.

I still find myself asking my Journo, "Have you got any tapes...?" Only for them to fish around in their pockets, check handbags, jackets and small dark holes to produce a tiny, thin piece of plastic with a metallic strip. Carefully, and making sure we are not standing over a storm drain or crack in the ground into which the card can disappear, we pass the precious object between hands as steady as any brain surgeon.

I slide the card into its tiny slot on the camera.

There is no push of a button followed by a 'Whirr, click, thud as the tape goes in, click and whirr' Nothing is opened and it's insides extracted by mechanical wizardry and stretched across drums with optical thingamibobs.

Nothing happens any more.

Once the filming of the days news is done, then the preciousness of that small, thin piece of plastic with metallic strip must become an even more dangerous and fear provoking work of calm. Imagine, if you will, handling a vial of Ebola virus in a maternity ward.

Dropping a tape was no bother, as long as you didn't drop it into the sea or out of a helicopter door. Things are now a little different. Drop a card from any higher that 2mm and it will ping off into the middle distance of the nearby road and blend in with the surrounding asphalt, from where it will taunt and laugh at your butter fingered buffoonery.

Passers by will look at you in a strange manner as you crawl around on all fours in search of your afternoons work. Office workers will gawp at you as you forensically examine the flower bed under their window like a scene from CSI, (Vegas... Not Miami, which was shit.)

Your Journo will be laughing at you, but secretly aghast at the notion that the work may be lost, and they begin to get nervous. Producers back at the ranch will spit blue murder if they find out their plans for tonight's bulletin are lying on the A325, just South of Aldershot, a mere foot away from his Cameraman's desperate fingers.

All the while, the small thin piece of plastic with the metallic strip, containing the wise words of vox popped citizenry will be lying there, just next to your left foot where you see it as you crouch into a ball whilst holding your head and pulling at what's left of your hair.

The ball of fear knotted in your stomach dissipates, not just because of a 'mislaid' SD card, but because of those vox-pops, the sage like knowledge, and their importance in the well being of the very nation known only to news producers. (And the fact that the producer would make you do them all again.) Cue a huge sigh of relief.

So let this be a lesson to us all because apparently, this is what happened to a friend of mine and in no way whatsoever involves the author of this blog post. Just to make that perfectly clear. Here at the ukcameraman institute of TV news studies, we are a bit more careful.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter, and is hugely relieved for his 'Friend.'

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Filming the news in the Peoples Republic of Royal Berkshire.

I admit that a day ago I got a little over excited at the prospect of a news job that came my way. You see David Cameron, our esteemed Prime Minister was coming to town and I had been tasked to film him as he visited a large transport construction site in Reading.

At the crucial moment during our interview, the Prime Minister felt an embarrassing itch...

What's the big deal..? I hear you ask..

Well, as a mostly regional news cameraman with occasional forays into network news, I don't get to meet our glorious leader in the flesh all that often and when he is on our patch, it's about a 1 in 10 chance that it will be me that goes to film him. My time however, had arrived.

As it was a construction site nobody, including our dear leader, could move without being dressed up like a glow stick at Glastonbury. Also, there was a pool camera system in operation so an interview and cutaway shots were all that were required from me.

Some shots of the construction site were in order, to build up a good solid sequence of where we were, so I headed for the entrance to film signage and wide shots etc.

"You're not going to film the Prime Minister arriving are you..?" Queried a small dark haired PR wonk. "It's just that you're only here for the interview, nothing else.."

I advised PR wonk of my intentions knowing that a pool camera was covering the Prime Minister's visit itself, and went about my business. I was then watched for the next five minutes.

People with clipboards milled around. As everyone was dressed in eye burning orange outfits, nobody could tell who was who. The only people not dressed as Coco the clown were the PM's dark suited protection detail, for as we all know from the films, a reflective jacket hinders the drawing of weapons and the killing of people who look remotely 'terrorist-ish.' I digress, his security detail remained practically invisible and were of no bother to the press.

His highly trained PR wonk detail however, had other ideas.

I made my way back up to the press interview position. It was then I was approached by the small dark haired PR wonk lady...

"Can I ask you not to film the Prime Minister as he walks towards the press area..?" She said, face like concrete.

"All interviews are to be conducted facing this way..." She pointed.

There were only two cameras waiting to interview the Prime Minister. We were instructed that the PM would move from my camera to the next one in an orderly fashion. A quip was muttered about Mr Cameron only being able to move to the right, but was hushed.

My Journalist questioned him with rapier like finesse and in reply got answers that in no way reflected his questions. Standard stuff from politicians. Once finished, the PM deftly moved, or should I say in tabloid speak, 'lurched' to the right and repeated the process with the next news crew. I turned my lens for a sneaky cutaway of the PM with the camera crew.

PR wonks slowly, quietly and unobtrusively placed themselves between my camera and the PM, blocking my shot.

"Could you not film the Prime Minister, this isn't your interview.." Whispered dark haired PR wonk. This was getting sinister... and annoying.

I picked up my camera on the tripod and moved 20 yards or so away. A nice wide of proceedings would do just as well.

PR wonk followed. Standing in front of my lens, she said "You're not going to actually film the Prime Minister are you..? This isn't part of the press interview section of the visit.."

Now, those of you that know me will be right... My blood pressure was beginning to rise, and my mouth was about to open. I bit my tongue and stopped myself descending into full on gobshite.

Many of you will be wondering why I didn't say anything. You see as a freelancer, hired by a broadcaster and standing within touching distance of the Prime Minister was not the time or the place to tell a PR wonk to go and... well, you get the idea. Becoming the story is not the cameraman way.

You would think that filming, meeting and interviewing the leader of your nation would be an honourable, enjoyable and memorable thing to do, and so it should be. Something for the scrap book as they say.

It's just a real shame that the experience was ruined by overbearing, soulless, pinch faced PR goons with an over inflated sense of self importance, who have nothing better to do than get in the way of the working press.

PR platitudes aside, we all know this is in order to minimise the coverage and picture taking at all costs, just in case a mistake is made by the Prime Minister. The less filming and pictures, the less of a chance that the PM will be captured on film, looking like a fool.

Like everything in politics however... We only have to wait.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

TV Cameraman Required: Must be able to AP, DP and Series Direct A Fact Ent Ob Doc ASAP.

Before I start, I have nothing whatsoever against @mediaparents a fine organisation posting jobs and discussion for working media parents, and we all want jobs don't we..? Why yes, yes we do.

Confused as to whether he should AP, DP or Series Direct, ukcameraman went to the pub...

I am however getting more and more confused and befuddled about what it is I should call myself and if I have the requisite qualifications to apply. Having perused the interwebs and Twitter this morning, I came across the following three job postings in quick succession...

TWEET: @mediaparents: Several shooting PDs needed ASAP till september! Location shooting through summer in gardens!

Shooting PD. Hmm, I can shoot, but can i P..? Or indeed do I have the relevant experience to D..? I dunno. Do you..? What I do know is that if you are shooting and PD'ing through the Summer in a garden in the UK you are going to get piss wet through... Get some good waterproofs. Also, several PD's..? That's going to cause a lot of friction in the P'ing department and serious creative differences in the D'ing, and they want it ASAP.

Here's another...

TWEET: @mediaparents: experienced Series Directors who can shoot on 305 with fact ent experience please check this out!

Again, I can shoot, but on a 305..? There are so many camera variables out there, but I think I could work it out given an hour or two's practice and read through the 6 books of camera internal menu instructions. I don't think I would have time however, as they want me to shoot AND series direct at the same time. No PD'ing required. Also, as a news cameraman, 'fact' I can do standing on my head, but 'fact' is generally not 'Ent,' and 'Ent' is generally not 'fact.' See Channel 5.

Then came this...

TWEET: @mediaparents: Any APs possibly who can shoot able to work out of Brighton starting next week? Ob Doc experience please

Wow..! Yes, I can (possibly) shoot. But now they want me to AP all over the place as well as shoot the bloody thing. Can I not PD it..? Or series direct it..? Surely the AP'ing is similar to the PD'ing and series directing..? And who's going for the coffee and sandwiches..? I also like to Ob, but Ob'ing generally gets in the way of good Doc'ing and vice-versa. The working 'out of Brighton' bit also appeals, as everyone likes to work out of Brighton because the parking is a bitch.

If I were to ever get one of these jobs, what would happen if I lapsed into my old AP'ing habits when I should be PD'ing..? God forbid I should start to PD when I should be series directing, because as the series director, I would have to sack myself for PD'ing. Maybe the AP would get the blame when it all goes tits up... hang on, that's me too... but then who the hell would shoot..? Heaven help me if i should ever get ideas of grandeur and begin to DoP.

As a result of the above, I am now advertising myself as follows:

WORK WANTED: Shooting APPD Series Director. (Non DoP) Fact Ent Ob Doc preferred. Likes to work in Gardens out of Brighton on a 305. (Summer only) Can start next week. Waterproofs owner / Operator. Possibly.

That should get the work pouring in... Until then, i am still available as a cameraman.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Losing your soul to the news beast... Bit by tiny bit.

You may remember a while ago I wrote a post about the untimely death of two men whilst riding their bikes and the subsequent meeting with a grieving family at the roadside. Called 'Death in a valentines rainstorm' you may remember my decision not to film the family in their raw, emotional state and my reasons for not doing so. I stand by those reasons.

So... I'll just stand next to the court entrance... Feeling like an utter shit.

Yesterday, I came across an article on the AFP website entitled 'The pain of others: Photographing despair.' by Michel Sailhan, which details the filming and photographing of victims and relatives of victims, at the very moment of the worst time in their lives.

It made for powerful reading and an interesting quandary for those of us at the front line of reporting the news both internationally and more importantly locally, in our own back yard, with people we may just meet again in the course of our job as a journalist or photographer.

Should you be just starting out as a journalist, you may think that tragedy and despair is a rare, big time event in a far away land. International news for the big time bulletins. You couldn't be more wrong. There will often come a time when you will have to make this decision. Approach, ask questions and film, or leave well alone. Being a journalist or cameraman though, means that you will very rarely leave well alone. Tragedy is often the reason why you are there in the first place, and the news is an impatient mistress.

This will of course, be entirely dependent on your story. Few of us will experience serious social upheaval in the form of major natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis resulting in hundreds, if not thousands of deaths. Few of us will be at the airport when news of a missing plane is confirmed to waiting loved ones.

What the vast majority of us do experience is the day to day tragedy of life as lived in our local and national communities. The missing child, the untimely violent death or the accident on the roadside. Here is where most decisions will be made on a daily basis by reporters, photographers and news cameramen and women around the world.

I had a job today where the parents of an 11 month old boy arrived to live through the trauma of losing their child once more, at a coroners court to decide on the cause of his death. Not only had they lived through the ordeal of losing him, they must hear evidence of his death whilst sat in court.

Court stories being notoriously light on pictures, the decision was made that pictures of the parents entering and leaving court were required in order to tell the story. Luckily for me and my reporter Ben, the parents were approachable and eager to tell the story of their son's short life and the reasons for his death.

It is not always this easy. Sometimes you will be made most unwelcome. It certainly made my life a little more bearable whilst pointing my camera at them when what I really wanted to do was give them a hug and leave them to the necessity of getting this over with.

When your producer or editor decides that news is news, you have a conscious decision to make. Whether you are right or wrong, these types of jobs just tug at your humanity and impinge on the feelings of others, whilst at the same time making you feel like a heartless shit.

In this game you just have to live with it and get used to the feeling that this is what a proportion of the general public will think of you as you go about the business of news gathering, whilst losing a thin sliver of your soul, bit by tiny bit... Just hoping that your conscience lets you get away with it.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 21 March 2014

A TV News Cameraman, A Duck, And An Unknown Suspect.

It's a rare occurrence when you are asked to film a court case and nobody knows who we are looking out for. Mostly we have a fair description or even a newspaper picture of our errant quarry for reference, before stalking the court steps in search of an arrival sequence for the evening news.

Failing that, look out for a slack jaw, dribble on the chin and a general Neanderthal looking bloke in a pair of Nike running bottoms, trainers and a hoodie with disturbing looking stains on the front. If you are new to the news business don't worry... They will generally find you.

Today however, my description of our suspect was thus: 'A Man.' Detailed i think you would agree.

Film anything that moves they said... Anything...

 And so it was that i found myself filming every man who walked towards the general direction of Winchester Crown Court... every... single... one... for the next two hours or so until 10:30, when he was due in the dock for sentencing.

Having phoned my news producer i asked the questions any tv news cameraman would ask. "Any idea on age..?"

"No." came the reply.

"Black guy or white guy..?"


"Does anyone know anything about this guy..?"


"Ahh... OK..."

It shouldn't be too difficult i told myself as i filmed the first man who walked into view. He was a casually dressed middle aged man, greying hair, small goatee beard, red checked shirt and dark glasses. Never mind i told myself, only a couple of hours to go. Obviously i hadn't taken into consideration that Winchester was holding the annual look like a suspect day, nor that every person entering court today had a male entourage of Lady Ga Ga proportions. Quite obviously, courts 1 to 10 were in full swing.

I thought at one point that my luck had turned when a man with a black beard and an eye patch walked into court. ( No really... I shit you not. ) An in depth criminal profile worthy of Cracker led me to believe that this was obviously my man and that i could now go for an early lunch. It was the Pirate who did it... Wrong. I now have it on good authority that he was a lawyer of some repute.

On turning the camera left, the lens settled on a bunch of hard looking geezers walking into court who wouldn't have looked out of place at a heavily tattooed, armed robber convention at the Blind Pugh pub, having a memorial drink to the Kray twins and were looking for a fight. This, i decided was not going to be my day.

I resolved that nothing, nothing was going to get past me today. I shall get my man... as the Mounties are fond of saying. He shall not pass without the withering gaze of my lens settling upon his features for the news watching public to gawp at on the 6:30 bulletin.

I was now hitting upwards of 60 clips of randomly wandering men. Short ones, tall ones, old ones, young ones, slim ones, fat ones, hairy ones and bald ones. If it moved it was rendered to a digital HD stream.

My filming frenzy was interrupted when my reporter phoned to say that he was in the building talking to his lawyer before his sentence was passed. She gave me a good description of my suspect and hoped that i had indeed captured him on the camera.

Indeed i had. After two solid hours of filming every man in the Winchester area, i found him where he appeared at the very beginning of my thumbnail clips... He was a casually dressed middle aged man, greying hair, small goatee beard, red checked shirt and dark glasses.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Your TV News Cameraman... Almost Live From BVE 2014.

Every TV news cameraman I know is a gadget freak on some sort of level. The level of geekery also depends entirely on how deep and full your pockets are. Many of us freelancers however, depend on a certain level of work and income to remain up to date and able function to the degree that our erstwhile news broadcasting clients demand.

The LiveU... Small, light, agile... Too expensive for freelancers.

In an effort to keep up to date with today's broadcasting gadgetry, I visited the Broadcast Video Expo at the ExCel Centre, London. I say visited, what I mean is I endured the hellish journey to the arse end of London via train, underground and DLR with all the stops and walking that the journey entails, so I was knackered before I arrived.

Freelancer Tip: Don't buy food or drink at the ExCel Centre unless you wish to go bankrupt. (Inform the Inland Revenue, and issue a profits warning.)

On entering the venue, there is all the gadgety and geeky wonderfulness that is to be expected. Massive camera cranes, big lenses, small cameras, big cameras, drone cameras, lights, mic's and lots and lots of drainpipe trousered, boy band haired super director / Producers / Shooting AP's drooling over the newest of the new DSLR's and the Blackmagic stand, that will be out of date by Monday.

The DejeroLIVE... Small, light, agile... Just as expensive for freelancers.

I twisted knobs, opened apertures, flicked switches and pushed buttons. I wondered what would happen to my press pass and personal liberty if I flew a drone camera into Downing Street unexpectedly without permission. I also wondered just what all the people here actually did for a living, besides declaring that they worked in 'The Meeja.'

Working as a freelance news cameraman though, I found that most of the flashing things and shiny stuff were of no use to me, but were nice to fiddle with none the less. I thought that the BVE people had missed a trick by not having a separate news cameraman area, sort of like a fake roadside corner, (with an open door to let in the cold) a burger van selling weak tea and grease, oh, and a light drizzle from the fire sprinklers... We would have felt right at home.

What I was interested in, the ability to transmit live pictures, was unfortunately still too expensive to consider. I have my cameras, sound kit, lighting and edit van. I am completely self contained and mobile and I am very unlikely to change my kit any time within the next 10 years. I can send pictures via FTP or the like, but what I can't do, reliably, is to go live.

The technology is there, and yes, it's getting better and cheaper all of the time. I saw it and played with it today. (LiveU and DejeroLIVE.) But at the prices quoted, I still cannot justify the hit to my wallet that it entails. I have no contract with a broadcaster, so my income is good, but erratic. The broadcasters won't pay me any more whether I have the ability to go live or not.

What irks me is the fact that the people and companies who make and manufacture the kit seem to aim the price and the kit they make at the broadcasters pocket, not that of the freelancer who does a lot of the news gathering for them. There are lots of us... with money to spend... Just not the amount they're asking.

I would love to be able to go live. I just can't afford to, not without selling a kidney anyway. And besides, my red wine habit has ruined its value. On top of that, we just know that the kit will be smaller, faster and cheaper this time next year... Roll on 2015.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

News Readers: 'Pussy Riot' Or 'Conflagration Of The Mimsy?'

Sometimes, news readers have great difficulty in pronouncing certain names or places, such as the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull that so tongue tied many a mouth piece. So, here's a question for all you coiffered, shiny toothed and strangely tanned news readers out there...

The very mention of the words may cause confusion.

I had an online chat with a fellow TV news cameraman from the US of A called Rick Portier, discussing the very pressing problem of news readers and the Russian punk / pop group called 'Pussy Riot.'

In our humble opinion, people should be called by their given or chosen name, just because the word 'Pussy' makes a cameraman / schoolboy giggle and news readers to blush, doesn't mean that news readers should avoid the word for the sake of public decency.


Here at the ukcameraman institute of news studies, we have come up with a short list of alternatives for the bashful news reader should he or she fumble with the 'Pussy.' ( Ahem... Sorry.) Over here in the UK we are obviously very careful with our use of words and the offence they may cause, and in the Bible belt of the USA, the word 'Pussy' could be changed to more acceptable colloquialisms more in tune with their news watching public.

So here goes:

1. Conflagration of the mimsy.
2. Anarchic pudenda.
3. Feline free for all
4. Vagina melee. ( Medical term.)
5. Cat commotion.
6. Tabby tumult.
7. Kitten commotion.
8. Ocelot uproar.

Yes, i know there is only eight, but unlike Buzzfeed, i haven't got all bloody day to sit around making up a listicle for your pleasure and amusement, i've got work to do...

And please, please, if any of the delectable female BBC news readers are reading this, don't ever change the word 'Pussy,' it's what gets me to sleep at night.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Death In A Valentines Rainstorm.

It's not much of a final epitaph to two men is it? Family men, mown down on their cycles and killed by the driver of a BMW in the throes of evading the local constabulary on a dark and stormy evening.

The lamp post... torn down and snapped with the force of impact.

A few days ago, as the latest in a long line of storms passed overhead, i had trouble standing up and more importantly, keeping my tv camera dry as the countdown to an afternoon live ticked away. My reporter and i stood close to where the two men had lost their lives, rehearsing the moves and script, when my eye caught sight of a small gaggle of rain lashed people walking towards us...

We went live. 1'30" of explainer, police appeal and grisly details.

As we finished, i noticed one of the group silently picking up pieces of the remaining cycle. A cycle seat, pieces of plastic and a small torn piece of clothing. The three remaining women of the group huddled near the impact spot, shaking. I couldn't tell if they were shaking from the cold wet rain or...

Eye contact was made between us and we drifted towards the group. A short question revealed a wife, a daughter, a friend and i think, a Brother. A small bunch of flowers were clasped in a hand. The shaking not only from the cold but from the shock of being told only a few hours before that her Husband was dead... On Valentines Day.

My camera stayed by my side. I did not have the guts nor the will to raise it.

In a turnaround of events, they were the ones asking the questions. Do we know any more information? Did we know what exactly happened? We talked and gave any information that we had. We asked if they would like to speak on camera about their tragic loss. They politely declined and we understood.

I didn't want to film a sobbing family at the scene of their loved ones demise. The shaking and the tears were all too plain to see on a cold, wet and windswept suburban street. I make no apologies for leaving them to their grief and keeping my camera at my side. We could tell the story without pictures of the very sad scene before us. Some may disagree, but i really don't care.

As i walked away, they disappeared in the greyness of the thunderstorm and the rain. I got into my news van and stared at the bag of chocolate, wine and valentines card in the footwell for my wife, safe in the knowledge that she was at home, cooking dinner for a husband who will soon be home.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 17 February 2014

The Show Must Go On.

So far, it's been a year of being up to my family jewels in rainwater, whilst standing on many a high street in the South of England, watching other peoples possessions floating away never to be seen again. Local communities devastated and families lives reduced to zero by the weather.

Although a major news story here in the UK, the storms haven't stopped the grind of everyday life from catching the news producers eye and anyway, something's got to be done about my reporters bad case of trench foot and crotch rot.

I thought my day would get a little brighter by filming a fundraising party, held by a local community and family in aid of a dying mothers wish for her kids to go to Disneyland when the inevitable came. There would be cake, tea, a petting zoo and bouncy castles... Every TV news cameraman loves a bouncy castle... And cake... And a chance to dry out his socks.

Although a sad tale lay underneath this fundraising party, a bunch of kids with smiley faces would cheer me up no end after the misery of the floods, so we turned up, with shiny lens and fluffy mic, only to be told that the mother had died only 4 or 5 hours before, but you wouldn't have thought so.

The smiles and the laughter of the local kids were genuine, the cake just as sweet and the castles just as bouncy, but there was something lurking just underneath the grown up eyes of the grieving husband that betrayed the coming grief that would surely soon take over from the shock... Something was going to give, just not now, not here.

A lot of work had gone into the fundraising by the family and local community, the organising, the cooking, the booking of entertainment and the venue. Too much to just abandon even with the biggest of reasons to just go home and curl up into a ball.

The show must go on, as they said. So we filmed and we chatted and we told a story of a dying wish that was only a few hours old.

I felt uneasy filming the fun before me. I couldn't believe that any fun was actually being had by anyone. The husband talked of his courageous wife, the kids played and ate cake. The community rallied to the call and money was indeed being raised by the bucketful.

You see sometimes, what you may expect as you turn up with a TV camera, may not be quite what you get, and that people, at the worst time of their lives, can really surprise you. And it was wonderful to witness.

You can donate to Cancer research uk HERE.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Call Noah... We Have A Problem.

SEVERE WEATHER ALERT..!! The Environment Agency have issued the following:

***14.2.2014 0800Hrs GMT.***

A severe front of visiting politicians is heading South West. Accompanying photo op's may sweep South across your area leaving broken promises in their wake. Unusually, a blast of hot air may cause damage to local areas, followed by flooding caused by the tears of local residents.

***Alert Ends***

Politicians... Don't you just love 'em..? But seriously now, after all these years as a TV news cameraman, I am still amazed at the kindness and generosity of people who have the nations press etc, descend upon them at possibly the worst time of their lives.

One after the other, fierce storms have again lashed the UK, causing floods, wind damage and misery across much of my patch in the South and yet still, I find myself invited into the homes of people who have lost pretty much everything and offered a cup of tea.

Finding your house has become part of the local rivers and sewage system is not a pleasant experience, but the series of storms here have left some dealing with their second or even the third flood this year. It's heartbreaking to witness, yet at the same time, heartwarming to see the kindness of people not just to us as the press, but to their local community, neighbours and strangers.

The next few weeks and months will see me filming not just the floods and damage now, but the repairs and clean up that is to come. I think we all have a long journey ahead if the weather ever gives up and the heavy rain stops. My guess is that we will be seeing more of this, year on year...

So... Cameraman and women of the UK and beyond, put your eyes to the glass and wade forward, record the blowhards and mouthpieces of officialdom and government. Hold them to account on behalf of the wet nation...

Just watch that turd doesn't float into the top of your wellies...

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Betwixt Madness And The TV Newsroom.

I had a chilling feeling when I accepted the job from my news producer to film at Broadmoor. For those readers who don't know or have not heard the name, follow this link.

Secure Broadmoor... Welcoming.

Basically, Broadmoor is a Category 1 secure prison hospital for the criminally insane, to use layman's terms, and very few people like me, much less a member of the press, get to wander around inside the high walls... With the inmates, sorry... 'patients' still inside.

"Would you like to film inside..?" Asked my producer...

"Can I take a shotgun, knife and my favourite chain mail outfit..?" I replied. "Oh, and an industrial strength military tazer..?"

Sorry to be so glib, I understand there are many levels of mental illness and criminality within Broadmoor, but a lot of the patients within these walls are mostly free to go about their business as instructed and supervised by the staff, so there was a distinct possibility of either bumping into a gentleman thief with treatable mental health issues, or on the other hand, someone of 'unsavoury' provenance, with a well documented history of ripping innocent victims to pieces on the direct orders of Satan himself, using only a blunt butter knife and a piece of string. I wanted to be on my guard... In fact, I wanted a guard. A big one.

So it was that my reporter and I found ourselves and my TV kit being examined, x-rayed and searched before being photographed and fingerprinted by the watchful security team.

I wondered just how tight the security here is... I had visions of being quietly taken aside and internally examined by a grey haired old Doctor, only for him to be the recently escaped Mad Pete 'The Puppeteer' McGhinty, a man sentenced in 1978 to 10 life terms for wearing his victims as organic glove puppets during a gruesome one man rendition of a Punch and Judy show, in his bedsit in Wathamstow.

You see, I had researched who was in there and why they were there. There were going to be some seriously infamous, yet unstable men occupying the same space as me. There was also a lot of history within the old Victorian buildings, treatment rooms and small locked cells that were soon to be demolished.

Whilst filming the old buildings, which will be replaced with modern, up to date and more suitable hospital wards, I got to looking into the old cells and dark corridors. The staff panic buttons, heavy double door locks and a wall poster proclaiming that shaving razors are strictly issued and monitored at all times... A wise move I thought. I imagined the now infamous men of the past and present who may have sat on the very benches I was sitting on. It was seriously unsettling.

Growing up, I watched the news and read the papers about the serial killers, rapists and murderers of the 60's 70's and 80's, the delusional rippers and slashers and body mutilators of the 90's and the present day. It made my blood run cold that many of them occupied this very building I was now in... A fair few of whom are still here...

I thought about this fact. They could be just upstairs, or around the next corner in the courtyard, or waiting... waiting for their chance to... (Stop it, stop it now.)

The truth was that it was a fascinating and informative days filming, one of those days where you get to go where very few others do and learn a little into the bargain. I am grateful to the staff who were with us.

When the old buildings go, and with them the history and memories of those within them, both patients and staff, I will at least be able to tell others that I had been here, where the fine line between so called 'normal' and the many levels of 'madness' meet. The unseen world of the unstable mind...

On the other hand, just walk into any TV news room around the world... You will see what I mean.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

TV News Cameraman And A Tale Of Woe.

Being a freelance TV cameraman in the news industry can be a precarious affair at the best of times. Long days without a phone call, a nibble of a news story or the promise of jam tomorrow, but I have got used to that, it's normal.

Having met the cameraman, the interviewee did the only rational thing...

Having decided to take a long break over Christmas and new year, I threw myself back into to swing of things with four straight days of news gathering. On the fifth day, I could feel that something was not quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it, and anyway experience, (and my wife,) tells me that putting your finger on things can get you into an awful lot of trouble so I ignored the warning signs.

The tiredness, that little niggling ache at the base of your skull that doesn't go away... I put it down to having worked long hours and driving a stupid amount of mileage in the pursuit of newsy knowledge and the public sharing thereof...

Pop a headache pill and drive on. Stand in the Winters cold and rain... Everything's gonna be ok. Nothing to see here, stop being such a wuss.

A break after day five reassured me that all was fine, I'll just blow my nose a little and accept the job that my producer has allocated me for tomorrow. A quick interview with a sportsman at a location not too far from the top of the M3 and then tootle along to the next job. A full day beckoned and things were looking rosy.

The morning started with traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. In fact it was safe to say that the whole of the South of England was on the road between home and the M3, which was itself going at the speed of an asthmatic snail that was carrying a particularly heavy load.

My indicator in the van was giving me an ice warning, the temperature was 1 Degree Celcius... But...  is it me or is it hot in here..? I opened the window and turned down the heating. My face got wet but, no, it wasn't raining. I wiped my brow with a leftover Starbucks paper towel and closed the window. My temperature indicator was right about the 1 Degree Celcius because I was now shivering. I shivered so much that my teeth started to chatter and I began to sweat like a cornered bodybuilder holding a bag of steroids.

This, I decided, was not good.

From a reasonably ok man an hour ago I had descended into a shivering sweaty wreck... In a traffic jam. I adjusted my van seat to get a little more comfortable. The back and neck ache presented themselves with the subtlety of a large elephant dressed in a tutu and the dull ache at the base of my skull decided to have a party. Pow..! Instant viral shittyness.

I made the call to my producer. It's a call that any freelancer in this industry hates to make. Derailing his carefully laid plans, i knew he would have some reshuffling to do and calls to make. I was about to disrupt his schedule for the day... And news producers don't like that. Not at all... Oh no, especially from expendable freelancers...

I actually thought of Skyping him so he could witness the melting face, the shakes and the dribble, but decided not to inflict that upon him as he sipped his cappuccino and nibbled his hobnob. I made my excuses and cancelled the rest of the day. I would film the interview of course, or the job would be lost because international sports stars don't give a flying poke at a rolling doughnut about my predicament, and we were booked in for half an hours time with no other cameraman available... I couldn't let them down, but I knew I couldn't keep it up.

I spent the rest of the morning being asked by people if I was ok. According to my sports reporter, I did not look a well man. To top it all, and as is typical, the sportsman was an hour late for the interview by which time he was genuinely worried about coming anywhere near me. I looked and felt like a mess.

I wrapped the job up in double quick time and steered clear of actually holding the camera or the tripod for fear of making the interview look like it was filmed during an earth quake. The sweaty shakes were out of my control. I threw the kit into the van and made for home.

"What are you doing home.." Asked my Missus. "Ooh... You look like shit."

It's good to be home in the loving embrace of my family.

"Don't you come anywhere near me." She added, as I sank into the couch whilst taking medication with an industrial ladle, and popping pills until things went fuzzy... If I don't pull through troops, please tell others of me... Tell them I was a good man.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter. And Woe... Woe is me.