July 19, 2016

These Are the Things You Should Look out for when Operating a Boom Mic

How do you avoid the pitfalls of being "that boom operator?"

Operating a boom isn't as simple as it looks; it actually requires a lot of expertise, finesse and physical strength. Not only do you have to know where to place the boom in order to get the best possible sound, but you also have to ensure that it doesn't ruin the shot by bobbing into the frame. Luckily in this video from Aputure, boom operator Stephen Harrod serves up six tips that will help you take your boom game to the next level.

So here are six things to keep in mind the next time you operate a boom:

1. Make sure you are out of the way

You, not just your boom, need to keep as low a profile as possible. Sets are busy and people are usually packed like sardines in the small space around the camera, so make sure that you don't get in the way of others trying to do their job. Be mindful of where you are and whose sight you might be obstructing. Harrod even suggests wearing clothes that minimize distraction, like black stuff that doesn't have big prints, text, or graphics.

2. Go to rehearsals and understand the blocking

Being aware of how the day's shots are going to unfold as far as blocking goes will help you not only put your boom in the right place at the right time, but it'll help you avoid sticking it where it shouldn't go. This is especially important if there is a lot of camera/character movement, as well as dialog in the shot, because not only will you have to move with the camera/characters, but you'll have to know who is delivering their lines and when in order to point your boom at the right person.

3. Be aware of lighting

You've done a good job of keeping your boom out of the camera's view, but what about shadows? If you put your boom in front of a light, it's going to cast a shadow and potentially ruin the shot, so take note of where lights are placed and where the light is in the scene—this goes for windows and mirrors as well. If you're finding it difficult to avoid casting a harsh shadow, talk to someone in the camera or light department (the DP, 1st AC, or gaffer) to try to work out a solution.

4. Pay attention to the camera

Cameras move a lot these days, especially thanks to the ubiquity of handheld gimbals. This means that you have to be more aware of where the camera is going to be throughout the duration of the shot. And wherever the camera is, that is precisely where you should not be. As the shot changes, so should your position. And again, being there for rehearsals will help you plan your path more effectively, but Harrod suggest always positioning yourself facing the camera in case it moves somewhere you didn't anticipate.

5. Know which lens is being used

Even though you're working in the sound department, knowing which lenses are being used for the shot, as well as what those lenses do, will help you put your boom in the right place. Because wide lens will capture more of the scene than a telephoto lens, you'll have to change where you stand based on which lens is being used. The rule of thumb: the shorter the lens, the further away you need to boom; the longer the lens the closer you can boom.

6. Make sure you and other departments are on the same page

Cohesion is crucial in filmmaking, so make sure you're working together with everyone on set to get the job done the right way. Harrod explains that his work is more than simply getting good audio, it's also about quality control. So, make sure you're communicating clearly with other departments to ensure that obtaining that quality is possible. If your boom is obstructing the lighting, if a costume has noisy fabric, or if props are in the way, talk to their respective departments.

Do you have any good tips for boom operators? Let us know in the comments below!     

Your Comment

10 Comments

YES. FINALLY

July 20, 2016 at 1:21AM, Edited July 20, 1:21AM

0
Reply

I'm not sure If there is a term for recording 1 input at 2 different levels, so I'll refer to it as dual audio.

Recording dual audio has saved me countless times. Not just as a backup(if it's on another device) but for capturing one input higher and one lower. Depending on the dialogue if you have someone going from quiet to loud quickly, sometimes you can still clip the audio while riding the gain. So on a dual setup keep one line at operating level(what you're monitoring) and one at maybe -5dB. With both recording from the same source.
This way even if you blow it on the main input you have a backup that's slightly lower and hopefully didn't clip.

July 20, 2016 at 2:57AM

0
Reply

That's an excellent tip!

July 20, 2016 at 4:40AM, Edited July 20, 4:40AM

0
Reply
avatar
Guido Gautsch
Education Person
338

That's audio bracketing.

July 20, 2016 at 10:25AM

0
Reply
Dan Hoene
261

Very good tips, might seem obvious but we often skip some and blow it! I would add one more: warm up! Exercise your body before it starts, sometimes the takes are long, and the shooting lasts for the hole day!Staying in shape is very importante both for the shot and tour health in longterm!

July 20, 2016 at 6:44AM

2
Reply
avatar
Pedro Cruz
Sound director
81

V Renee you always are posting great stuff. Thanks.

July 20, 2016 at 8:36AM

8
Reply
David Robillard
Photographer/Videographer
101

Tip, watch your tail. Especially on smaller sets or lower budget productions make sure your cables aren't dragging across set pieces, stands etc. Ever seen a cable pull a prop or stand down and ruin a shot?

July 20, 2016 at 12:55PM

0
Reply
avatar
Liam Tain
Head of Creative
168

Thanks for the Video Mate.

I would like to add another point to the list => Mobile Phones - Audio Interference. Mobile phones even in silent mode can cause interference during an incoming call.

And days are such where People may forget their pants but not their mobile phones. Yeah, Pokemon Go reinforced this thought of mine. #Worldgettingcrazier :)

July 21, 2016 at 9:42AM, Edited July 21, 9:42AM

1
Reply
avatar
Arun Meegada
Moviemaker in the Making
365

Great point, Arun!

July 21, 2016 at 11:25AM

0
Reply
avatar
Liz Nord
Documentary Filmmaker/Multi-platform Producer

Use deodorant

July 23, 2016 at 1:47PM

16
Reply
pam
8