Boom operator video production 101
A boom operator is a member of the production team that works in the sound department. Their job is to capture and record sound for a film. An operator uses a boom microphone that is suspended above the actors head in order to reach clear, good quality audio. One of their main responsibilities is to make sure they hold the mic high enough to be out of shot and not create a black shadow.
A job as a boom operator in video production London, can very depending on what type of job they are working on. For example, a cinematic film with a significant amount of action will require an active hands on boom operator to keep up with the action going on. A job that doesn’t have quite as much movement may be able to be filmed stationary. An operator also has the responsibility of attaching clip mics to an actors clothing to pick up their voice better.
A boom operator in video production uses several pieces of equipment on set including:
- Boom pole – this pole holds the microphone in place and is extendable to reach the actors mouth
- Boom mic – there are two types of boom microphones that are commonly used. Small diaphragm hyper-cardioid microphones that are great for indoor and quieter spaces. Shotgun microphones that are great for outside filming.
- Mic blimp – is the grey, fluffy foam coating for a microphone that cancels out background noise such as traffic from the environment
- Shock mount – is a little bit like a cage that holds the mic in place on the boom pole. This is a handy piece of equipment as it helps absorb any vibrations picked up by the mic.
- Headphones – a boom operator requires headphones to isolate the sound. Operating on set can be a challenge for a sound operator as background noise can effect how they hear sound.
- Boom caddy – a boom caddy is really handy. They are great for holding different boom microphones, face shelids, headphones etc.
- Robo cup holder – this is very convenient for people who work on set. This is a cup holder that can clip into a pole or a chair leg.
For microphone placement before shooting begins, the set needs to be blocked in order to find the right place for good quality sound.
Working on set- boom operator video production
My experience working as a boom operator in video production on set, was an amazing experience. It was the first time I had ever worked on a professional set. As this was my first time, I had to practice getting used to working with the different sound equipment. I used a super hyper-cardioid microphone which was lighter than I expected however the boom pole added to its weight once assembled. The recording box I used was pretty straight forward. The main buttons I used were record, stop, play, fast forward and rewind.
On the day of shooting, I was able to set up my equipment pretty quickly. I had done some blocking before we started in order to locate the best placement for the microphone. I worked on some dialogue with one of our actors Rufiat Awolope. I asked her to read the script in character so that I could hear all of the pauses, breaths, coughs etc. This is essential because if I hadn’t done blocking before hand, positioning the microphone and testing the sound quality during filming would have wasted time.
I learnt very quickly that in order to be a good sound operator, you have to have a good ear for sound. Microphones are very sensitive to the slightest movement. The lead that connects the microphone to the recorder box was quite long so I wrapped the wire around the boom pole. This wasn’t a good idea because I found that the wire rubbing against the pole drastically altered the sound quality.
Another important factor is that you have to have good stamina and arm strength. I was stationary for the most part however you do stand for hours on end. The boom mic has to be held up in the correct position until the director shouts cut. This was the hardest part of the job. The weight wasn’t exactly evenly distributed because the super hyper-cardioid microphone didn’t weight that much. All the weight was at the end on the boom pole which can get tiring. A boom operator in video production London is a hands on job and I really enjoy that aspect.
Common positions for boom operators on set
Here are the six positions that boom operators may use on set:
- The H position – this position resembles the letter H. It’s a good idea to be quite loose and keep your hands and fingers placed lightly on the pole. This will enable you to manipulate the pole more easily when you’re ready to cue and point the mic where required.
- The bench press position – this position is similar to the H position. The difference is that your elbows should be pressed up against your chest so that the boom pole is at chest level. You still have the freedom to navigate your boom pole easily. You will save your arms a lot of strain and is one of my favourites.
- Scooping position – this position reminds me of a hockey stick because you position the boom pole under your arm instead of over. This is great for when you want to avoid shadows, particularly when there’s two cameras shooting.
- The shoulder rest – great for getting the weight off your arms on a long day of shooting.
- The vertical rest – some boom poles may have wires coming out of the bottom or on the side. So, this position is basically resting the boom pole lightly on your shoe in a vertical position to take that weight off for a minute or two.
- The boom box – this is kind of like a little caddy for the boom pole to rest in. this is great because it keeps the boom pole safe as well as out of the way for others on set.
Things boom operators need to consider
- Are they in the way? – the best way to handle being on set for a boom operator, is to keep a low profile. It becomes very easy for them to be in the way because they are constantly working in close proximity with actors.
- Observing scenes – it’s a good idea for boom operators to know when and where the actors are going move to. It’s important for them to know who says what line. For example, when an actor says a cue line, it makes it easier for a boom operator to know which position they need to consider for the best possible audio quality.
- Lighting – it is easy for boom operators to get in the way on set without meaning to. It’s their responsibility to make sure they don’t create black shadows as it can ruin the entire shot. Boom operators observe where the lighting operators set up so that they can choose a suitable place to stand.
- Camera placement – the placement of the camera also determines where they stand. Nowadays using handheld cameras and gimbals in cinema has become popular. A boom operator has the task of being aware of the camera movements and thinking on their feet.
- Camera lens –boom operators often have knowledge about the different types of camera lenses being used in a shot. The constant change of focal length can affect the placement of a boom operator. The lens may change quite often so they may communicate with the camera operator and act accordingly.
- Relationships with other departments – it’s important for all departments to constantly communicate with each other. All departments effect each other so communication is an important element of the filmmaking process.