Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

You do have to question why the BBC let themselves down with shockingly bad white balances especially in a controlled environment like a live link. Tonight I watched the ever enfolding news coming out of Egypt when to my horror we were presented with two live feeds coming out of Egypt, one from George Alagiah on the left and the other from John Simpson on the right.

Time and time again we are regularly treated to exceptionally poor technical output especially WHITE BALANCES…”We can see John that’s all that matters”. Well in my opinion it’s sloppy, from the cameraman in front of John to the technicians taking the feed back in BBC London.

One small LED camera light would have lifted this shot, instead we are treated to what looks like orange sodium lighting thats impossible to WB with and a shot of John Simpson looking more like Homer Simpson. Why do you bother training cameramen and women if you are going to produce this type of shot.

I realise George is in a more controlled working environment I suspect a hotel room while John is in possibly a local car park but technically poor shots like John’s let the BBC down as an organisation and all for the use of one camera light.

There is no excuse for sloppiness in television, we now have colour LCDs and viewfinders, the BBC have just taken charge of 200 Sony PMW-350’s and 50 PMW-500 camcorders all with colour viewfinders…there is no excuse !


I was reminded by my friend Chris that John Simpson and crew were told to leave or their lives might be at risk which is why it was decided not to use a camera light which is fine but my issue is with London itself you are not telling me that they do not have the facility to tweak the colour balance before they send it to the transmitter !


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

12 thoughts on “BBC NEWS “Live News links”

  1. My understanding is that journalists came under attack from the mob and were advised to keep a low profile. This would explain the absence of a camera light, for even a small LED unit on a balcony would attract unwanted attention.

  2. Point taken , but as we both know television news in general needs no excuse for sloppy camerawork but it does highlight a general lack of care seeping into broadcasting in general.

  3. I think it is a little out of proportion to think the Beeb do not have the facility to tweak.

    The issue in colour degradation could be due to two reasons, one to remain discreet as mentioned above, two it could be all the paths the signal goes through before it gets to the viewer and being live, this is expected.

    Yes, the Beeb of course has the facility to fix such image, but this is not a prime-time program series as such that this type of detail is needed, but instead could cut costs and time by bypassing such extra process of colour correct / NR. Maybe I am not the type of viewer that is bothered by such quality shown, as I do know it was low, but not bad and so acceptable for live transmission from a potential war-zone.

  4. I think you will find the Six o clock news is very much a flagship BBC news program and don’t give me that cost cutting nonsense, staff are in the BBC 24/7 at least 2-3 technicians are available to take the live feeds which are set up at least one hour before TX so there is plenty of time and paid staff to rectify this bad colour balance, it’s just shoddy, badly trained producers who let such material hit our screens. The war zone makes no difference to the technician in London who has the technology to partly correct what is a shocking WB.

  5. I think you being harsh here – you can not colour correct sodium lit pictures – I think the original looks more real than your tweaked version.

    I think live news feeds from ‘war’ zones can be given leeway for picure quality

  6. Done it for years Matt, sodium pictures can be partly colour corrected especially in camera, Matt this is sloppy no matter what way you look at it. My version is not correct but is far more preferable to the original, you need your eyes checked. As yet I think you will find Egypt has not been declared a war zone.

  7. I’m all for freedom of speech, but this web site contains more than it’s fair share of whinging on behalf of the owner. I regularly follow the postings, but the general whining nature is getting a bit wearing. I might have to stop for a while just to get some positivity back.

  8. Oh I am sorry Jonathan for not being positive about the BBC, yet again, this is life at the coal face…good and bad so if you can’t stand the heat…!

  9. Not at all nonsense Mr HD Warrior. Flagship it may be, but not like a documentary prime-time or movie, as such where all that can be done in a controlled environment. The Beeb have done it for years too, and long before you or I probably have I’d imagine. But they make a choice and I do not feel the choice they made was bad enough for negative criticism, that’s my view. I personally was happy to have it exactly as it is, as even your corrected version was not 100%.

    I do not think it is fair to say Matts eyes need checking. I don’t think he meant original was perfect, just he sees it more acceptable than your corrected version and that a ‘war-zone’ feed can be given leeway. I agree, as I think it gave a more ambient feel of the environment there.

  10. Totally agree…. the BBC live shots from all over the world in the last few years have been getting worse and worse…. of course you can colour correct sodium lights…it will never look great but the skin tones will at least no look like the subject has been “tango-ed”….

    soft top light, iris fully open to take in all available light in background…. maybe 6 db of gain…. and a quick white balance…. not rocket science. takes a few mins to set up…

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