The boom pole is a extendable pole used to position a microphone in the proper proximity above the actors on set.
Components of the Boom Pole
The Boom Pole
There are a variety of boom poles available in different price ranges. Each boom pole is ideal for use in different situations:
• Aluminum vs. Carbon Fiber - Aluminum booms are cheaper than carbon fiber, but tend to be heavier and conduct heat and cold much more effectively. If you're booming a long project or working in extreme temperature conditions, it may be worth the extra money to invest in a carbon fiber pole.
• Long vs. Short Pole - Boom poles are available in lengths from only a few feet, which are ideal when shooting interiors or in close, cramped spaces. Longer boom poles are used for wide shots, long walk-n-talks and elaborate blocking where the boom operator must stay clear of the frame. Professional production sound mixers often have a variety of boom poles from which to choose for each set-up.
• Internal or External Cable - Higher-end boom poles feature an internal XLR that allows the operator to plug the microphone in on one end, and terminates in a female XLR connector on the other end. Cheaper boom poles do not feature an internal cable, requiring the boom operator to wrap an XLR cable around the boom pole itself.
• End or Side XLR - The female XLR receiver of an internally-wired boom pole can terminate either on the end or to the side. Be careful when using an end-terminating pole as you cannot rest the boom on end between takes as it will damage the XLR cable. A boom pole with a side-exiting female XLR receiver can be stood on end.
Shock mounts are screwed on to the end of the boom pole and are designed to hold a microphone, while reducing handling noise. There are a variety of shock mounts available, from the standard rubber-band mount to a pistol-grip shock mounts. When working with a shotgun or hypercardioid mic, a standard rubber band shock mount works most of the time.
Controlling Wind Noise
When recording audio outdoors, the movement of air and wind blowing across the microphone will create broad-spectral noise that is nearly impossible to remove in post production. This wind noise can be reduced or eliminated through the use of a wind screen placed over the microphone.
There are several types of windscreens available depending on the severity of the wind and environmental conditions.
• Foam wind screen - Many shotgun microphones come with a foam windscreen that slips over the microphone and requires no mounting equipment. Ideal for use indoors, the foam wind screen provides virtually no protection against wind.
• Fuzzy Wind Screen - When shooting outdoors in light to mild wind, use a fuzzy windscreen. This furry attachment slips over the microphone and does not require any additional mounting hardware. Always fluff up the fur on the windscreen before use to maximize the wind-protecting area.
• Zeppelin and dead cat - When shooting in mild to heavy winds, a Zeppelin is ideal as it encloses the microphone inside a wind-filtering capsule, over which a fuzzy - also known as a dead cat - can be wrapped. A Zeppelin require a specialty mount, so always allow sufficient time on set to build this rig if needed.
Choosing the Microphone
The goal of booming the actors is to isolate the dialogue from the ambient noise of the shooting environment. This can be achieved with highly directional microphones such as shotgun or hypercardioid mics. Do not use an omnidirectional microphone on a boom pole as it will pick-up too much ambience, rendering the on-location audio recording unusable.
Monitoring the Audio
The boom operator should always wear a pair of headphones to determine the ideal placement of the boom mic on set. Especially when using highly directional microphones such as hypercardioid or shotgun mics, placement variations of as little as a few inches can have a significant impact on the quality of the audio being recorded. For this reason, many production sound mixers will provide a headphone box worn on the boom operator's belt, enabling him to control the volume of the headphone input. Additionally, the sound mixer can also communicate to the boom operator through the headphones from a small mic on the mixing console.
• Always wear close-back headphones to block out the ambient sound on set
• Avoid using noise-cancelling headphones as the sound heard over the headphones will not accurately represent what is being recorded
• Avoid bass-enhancing or other EQ-altering headphones. The objective is to hear the sound as raw and as real as possible.
The headphones should always be plugged in to the audio chain so the boom operator can hear what is actually being recorded - into the camera or recording device.