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director / Producers / Shooting AP's drooling over the newest of the new DSLR's and the Blackmagic stand, that will be out of date by Monday.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.