February 25, 2014

The Definitive Guide to Operating a Boom Mic Like a Pro

Few jobs on set are as under-appreciated as the person (or people) operating the boom mic. Not only can it be physically strenuous over the course of a 14+ hour day, but operating a boom also takes a whole lot of technique and skill in order for production sound to be its very best. Luckily, the fine folks over at Videomaker have put together a video that demystifies the subtle art of operating a boom like a pro. Check it out.

This tutorial covers everything from how to set up, hold, and direct a boom pole to how to select the proper microphone for different acoustic environments. So sit back, put your learning hats on, and get ready for a crash course in boom operating:

The key takeaway from this video is that, just like the other technical aspects of filmmaking, operating a boom mic is a wildly varied skill that takes an intimate knowledge of both the proper technique and the available tools in order to get the best results on a consistent basis. Through practicing and perfecting your methods of mic selection/placement, cable management, and through having an innate sense of the cinematographer's frame, the boom operator can gather top-notch production sound in just about any situation.

Another thing to mention is that boom poles with internal cabling are the devil in this writer's humble opinion (although I've admittedly only used cheaper variations). While practical, the internal elements of these poles can create some truly baffling audio artifacts when the pole is moved around in the slightest. From what I've heard, the higher priced poles manage to avoid this mishap, but a solid, stripped down pole wrapped in cable will always do the job just as well.

What do you guys think of the boom information presented in this video? Do you have any boom pole tips or microphone preferences of your own? Let us know down in the comments!

Link: Operate a Boom Mic Like a Pro -- Videomaker

Your Comment

25 Comments

I'd have been slapped by my audio teacher for gripping the boom pole with my full hand. Also I was taught to avoid touching the pole anywhere but at the knuckles (The twisty parts where the pole is loosened or tightened to extend) as they carry less sound through the pole.The more contact you have with the pole the more likely your hand movements will create sounds through the pole.
The only problems I have ever had with internal coil poles is when people rest them on the end between takes and wind up damaging the XLR connectors or XLR cable.

February 25, 2014 at 8:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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James Swartz

Good article. Thanks. Potential malapropism alert: Not sure "having an inert sense of the cinematographer’s frame" is what the writer intended, bur rather, "having an innate sense of the cinematographer’s frame."

February 25, 2014 at 8:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Oh goodness... Thanks for pointing that one out.

February 25, 2014 at 8:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4285

Hey, I resemble that remark.
.
PS. Rode has come out with new lavs that are covered with silicon casing, allegedly making it far less susceptible to rubbing/scratching noises when placed under a shirt.

February 26, 2014 at 7:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

but, not bur

February 25, 2014 at 8:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I have found that when I mic from the bottom, I get mens voice muddy sounding.

February 25, 2014 at 10:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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just crap. what do you expect from video maker ? internal cables don't make for problems unless you have a junk shock mount which the seem to have. no surprise. I've used internal cables of years w/o problems swinging schoeps, sony and sanken mics. also note their use of basic cheap windscreen outside = useless. probably had more problems from that instead of having real zeppelin ( rycote S ) and suspension then their cheap mount and windscreen.... but of course thats too expensive... but it also works no matter what. not worth your time

February 25, 2014 at 10:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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If there is not much budget, you can also use the Rycote Softie windshields. They are a lot less expensive than a real zeppelin with fur, but they still work pretty well unless there are heavy winds.

The Softie is available in a lot of different sizes so you can pick the right one for every possible microphone.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=rycote+softie&N=0&InitialSearch...

February 27, 2014 at 4:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Heiko

Thanks for sharing this. Audio is admittedly one of my weakest areas. A nugget of new information I got out of this was that shotgun microphones are not ideal for indoor audio. To those with a stronger audio background, is this true? What microphones should be used instead (other than lavs)?

February 26, 2014 at 9:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Yes, shotgun mic's are more susceptible to coloration from reflections indoors. I think this has to do with the interference tube or something. For indoor use, a hypercardiod mic is best, but you can get away with using a shotgun on a low budget. The guys at juicedlink have incredible advice and videos on selecting mics and proper technique. You should check out their youtube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsJUt8ixLbc

February 26, 2014 at 10:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Matt Pritchard

This is really helpful. Thanks, Matt.

February 26, 2014 at 4:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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The shotgun mics record a lot of sound from directly behind the microphone - you can clearly see it in the diagrams, a cardioid does not record sound from behind, but everything more directional than that, it starts recording more and more sound from behind.
In a room, behind the microphone will always be some kind of wall, so the directional mics will "perfectly" record the reflection from these walls. The more directional your mic, the more it will record these reflections indoors.

February 27, 2014 at 4:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Heiko

muy bueno, muy útil gracias...

February 27, 2014 at 7:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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oscar

nice article !!! thanks buddy
now time to take sound files in post production,,,, how to clean sound , how to match ADR , how to make sound superior using best tools & plug-ins.????????
please make short movie on it
thanks

March 2, 2014 at 4:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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zameer

Holding the pole right will make sure your arms won't get tired after a while etc etc... man i can't stop laughing

March 5, 2014 at 4:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I've been a production sound mixer for 10 years. So please believe me when I say that almost every point made in this video is incorrect. Try booming for a reality show using a boom with an xlr wrapped around it. Ridiculous. Please ignore this video up-and-comers. Learn from a professional sound mixer. We're friendly and happy to help!

March 15, 2014 at 9:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Pro

Any suggestions from a pro such as yourself?

July 27, 2014 at 4:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ryan

As a boom operator for 19 years I'd say you have the tip of the iceberg of the basics. There are no hard and fast rules. If it works, it works. I've always used internally cabled 18' poles (VDB and Loon). Having to deal with a cable in your hand in addition to the dozen other things I have to do is not helpful to me. It seems to be geographical as well; here on the west coast most folks have internal cables. I've used shotgun mics indoors too; it does depend on the acoustics. Most of the old sitcoms used shotguns on Fisher booms indoors. Another skill not mentioned in the video is using lavs. You as a boom op must know how to mount them on talent with zero noise and utterly invisibility.

Since I don't mix I should mention another factor not mentioned at all, the preference of your boss, the production sound mixer. If he wants to use a particular mic then you will use it. I've heard dozens of mixers trash one brand of mic while another dozen loves it. A HUGE aspect of this job depends on your personality too. Do you work well with others? Do you get easily stressed? How do you deal with egotistical DPs and actors? Sadly sound folks have become less respected over the years. I could go on.... Any specific questions? Keep in mind you can still get awful sound from very expensive equipment.

July 29, 2014 at 9:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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TSJ

How do I get ahold of you? I'm new and want to learn. Been running studio sound for years, and recently got into film.

taicollinsrecording@gmail.com

September 24, 2016 at 9:55AM

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Tai Collins
Sound Recordist
1

How could I forget LIGHT. You need to be VERY aware of light; is it hard or soft, multiple little sources, practical sources, can you ask the DP or gaffer if light on some back wall can be removed to eliminate a boom shadow. I've been in the situation where the mic or pole is casting a shadow onto the set but since I didn't have to move the pole during the shot it was ok. Watch out for anything shiny on the set which might reflect you or the pole into the camera's view. Then there's the whole subject of plant mics (hiding a mic someplace on the set near the actors). And there's understanding lens sizes ( the width measured in millimeters, 24mm is kinda wide, 85mm is much tighter) and how that effects what you can or can't boom. You can't always see the monitor to see what the frame is like. I recently did a film that was all handheld cameras so the frame was kinda mysterious. etc etc etc

July 29, 2014 at 11:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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TSJ

"VIDEO NOT FOUND"

May 24, 2015 at 10:17PM

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Anthony
Writer/Director
70

"Video Not Found" unfortunately, I was not able to view the video for some reason.

May 25, 2015 at 2:13AM

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mlitty
88

video not found.

May 25, 2015 at 7:40AM

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Johan Salberg
Actor, Writer, Director, Editor
120

Going diirectly to videomaker.com and the link to the video is dead too.

May 26, 2015 at 2:55PM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1030

"You need Basic PLUS Membership to View This Video"

No cash, no video.

May 27, 2015 at 5:01PM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1030