Film Craft 107: The Location Sound Mixer - 8. Operating a Boom Mic

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operating the shotgun mic on a boom pole

is also very challenging not only

because it requires holding the pole

over your head for extended periods of

time while keeping absolutely still but

also because it requires intense

concentration and focus on the scene now

while it's true that a shotgun mic can

record sounds from a distance the

quality of the sound does diminish

significantly the farther away you are

so your first goal is still to get that

mic as close as possible to the subjects

mouth you'll be able to get a lot closer

during close-ups then during wide shots

and that's okay your editors likely

aware of that fact and so she's going to

try and use the audio from the close-ups

whenever possible however within a give

and take it's important that you keep

the mic a constant distance from the

subject otherwise the sound quality and

the volume are gonna vary over the

course of the shot which is undesirable

also remember that the mic is highly

directional you need to point the tip of

the mic towards the mouth of whoever

speaking not at the top of their head

not in their general direction but at

their mouth my sister she's moving what

oh my god that's such great news it

really matters a lot and you need to

have the mic in position before they

start talking otherwise we'll hear the

sound quality change as the mic comes

into place she's moving out oh my god

it's such great news and this is really

where things get tricky because in most

scenes more than one person is talking

which means you have to move the mic

from one person or the other during the

scene so - boom properly you need to

know exactly who's gonna say what when

and you need to get your mic into

position in time to hear what they're

gonna say so how do you know when to

beware from watching the rehearsal it's

essential for the boom op to be present

in the rehearsal and in fact the better

you know the exact rhythm of the scene

the better I have known boon ops who

studied the script as much as the actors

- moving the boom around silently and

with precision is an art unto itself as

well rubbing your fingers along the pole

can create audible noise

if the cable is swinging around and

banging against the pole that causes a

knit noise - and different boom

operators have different techniques and

yet again this is one more place where

the quality of your equipment does


using a high-quality lightweight boom

Pole with an internal cable it's

definitely going to make your job a lot

easier than working with a heavy clumsy

pole with an external cable every gram

of weight matters if you do have an

external cable you want to wrap your

fingers gently around it to keep it in

place while you record and one trick to

keep from making noise as you move the

pole is to rock it gently in the crook

of your thumb and forefinger that way by

rocking your hand back and forth you can

move it from one subject to another with

minimal noise and movement practice this

movement to get more comfortable with it

and be sure to wear headphones while you

do so you can hear when your movements

create unwanted noise there's also a

whole other thing that makes this job

super hard you've got to keep the mic

the boom pole its shadow and your own

body out of the view of the camera and

of course you usually can't see what the

camera is seeing which makes this goal

extremely challenging you're going to

need to work with the camera operator to

figure out how close you can position

the mic to the subjects mouth without

being seen in the frame boom in up up

and your clear frame thank you and again

this is another important reason to have

time to rehearse prior to shooting dip

the mic in as close as possible and then

back it out slowly until the camera

operator tells you that you're clear

then hold that position and then look at

the wall or background behind the mic

and draw an imaginary line where your

Mike appears against that wall that way

during the scene you can use that line

as a guide for where your mic should be

positioned this is also why it's almost

always necessary to hold the pole

parallel to the floor above your head as

opposed to on your in an angle from your

waist the ladder is of course more


but the angled pole is far more likely

to be seen in the shop it's also

important to think about where you

should stand the farther away you are

the longer you'll have to extend your

pole which means a heavier weight for

you to hold up sometimes you may want to

stand on an Apple box or a chair to help

you get higher for shots where there's a

lot of movement in the scene think about

where you can stand that's going to

allow you to move and follow the talent

as required you may occasionally be

tempted to boom from below the camera

line instead of above there are times

that that's okay but pay attention to

what's behind the subject and still in

the path of the microphones pickup

pattern pointing upwards towards the

ceiling with an air vent or towards the

sky is usually more likely to introduce

unwanted noise than pointing downwards

towards the ground and finally accept

that you're just not always going to be

able to get great sound on every angle

especially on wider shots where it's

just impossible to get close enough to

the subject as long as you can get good

sound on those closer angles all should

be okay just be sure to let the director

know and in some cases you may want to

record a wild take to give the editor

additional options