Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Boom Operator

Three minute take. Major-league pain in the tuchus.

Notice that the boom operator doesn't wear headphones. This is a very European way to boom. We in the Americas don't agree with that methodology but the Europeans think that it's the mixer who's responsible for hearing any problems. The fact is that you can learn to "see" a microphone's polar pattern on set.

Also note that like a good boom operator this dude has the scene memorized. This is why I'm such a crappity boom op. I never remember what's happening next.


Kangas said...

In this case Europeans are idiots. The mixer's responsible for hearing problems in a take and what? Stopping the take?

The boom guy can adjust(get closer) if he hears he's not getting enough. The mixer can up levels(and thus, up background noise also).

And holding a boom mic for 3 minutes is tiring...

Andrew Bellware said...

This argument rages up out of the Internets every once in a while between European and American sound people. And the fact is that Americans consistently get better production sound than the Europeans (although the Europeans are catching up.)

For the average dialog scene you can in fact boom it "deaf". There's not much the boom op will do if the wireless futzes out or humidity gets in the capsule during the scene anyway so it doesn't matter which of them (the mixer or the boom op) recognizes that there's a problem.

But in about 2% of the scenes the boom operator has an opportunity to, say, turn the mic slightly off the camera to lessen the sound of the camera but still get the dialog. Sometimes (especially in bathrooms) the sound bounces around and phases in weird ways and you just have to find that null point where the "purr" of the camera is less of a roar. And finding THAT place is, I'd argue, simply impossible without headphones.

But yeah, 98% of the time you can do it without headphones. Heck, as DP I can look up and see where the mic is and tell you if the sound is good or bad. ;-)

Lindsay Stewart said...

using cans or not that is one long, dynamic take and the boom op really danced a beauty there. one of the most thankless jobs on set.

Andrew Bellware said...

Yeah and he has to keep the mic out of camera -- which is on a freakin' dolly.

Notice though that the dude with the most pressure on him is the focus puller. If the boom op messes up it's just a little ADR. If the focus puller misses it's a re-shoot.