Pro Video Tips
Illustration by John Hersey

Booming techniques


Pro Video Tips

with Anthony Q. Artis

Video: Booming techniques

This week on Pro-Video tips, I want to talk about a often ignored position on the film set. And that's a position of boom operator. Now, on the surface, the job might seem pretty simple. To just hold the boom. And because of that, people often, you know, your little cousin's visiting from out of town for the weekend ,and you give them the boom, so they can help out on the set. Well, that's okay, but it's not really something you want to do if you care about your production because while this job isn't rocket science, it does require a certain amount of knowledge and understanding of boom positions, audio technique, as well as what the cameras needs are and also microphone patterns.
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  1. 14m 2s
    1. Tips for recording audio at live events NEW
      1m 51s
    2. Plugging into a mixing board NEW
      5m 52s
    3. Mic'ing the instruments NEW
      1m 46s
    4. Mic'ing the speakers NEW
      1m 55s
    5. Using a shotgun mic NEW
      2m 38s
  2. 2m 8s
    1. Intro to Pro Video Tips
      2m 8s
  3. 17m 27s
    1. Controlling reflections in glass
      4m 7s
    2. Managing color with polarizers
      2m 32s
    3. Using a polarizer to adjust skin tones
      2m 0s
    4. Using polarizers when shooting landscapes
      4m 42s
    5. Ten polarizer tips
      4m 6s
  4. 14m 34s
    1. Supplies to get to hide lav mics
      2m 13s
    2. Hiding lavs in collars
      5m 16s
    3. Hiding mics in hair
      2m 17s
    4. Hiding mics in sheer tops
      2m 40s
    5. Hiding transmitter packs on talent
      2m 8s
  5. 34m 25s
    1. Canon C100 overview
      11m 33s
    2. Looking at the Atomos Ninja
      12m 20s
    3. Checking out the C100 menu options
      10m 32s
  6. 10m 28s
    1. Ten tips for set safety
      10m 28s
  7. 9m 18s
    1. Packing a truck
      9m 18s
  8. 19m 24s
    1. Putting together your lens kit
      1m 0s
    2. Normal lenses
      1m 54s
    3. Wide lenses
      3m 5s
    4. Ultra-wide and fish-eye lenses
      2m 53s
    5. Telephoto lenses
      4m 53s
    6. Super zooms
      2m 54s
    7. Macro lenses
      2m 45s
  9. 17m 22s
    1. The importance of exposure
      1m 31s
    2. Using waveforms
      5m 3s
    3. Using histograms
      6m 53s
    4. Using zebra stripes
      3m 55s
  10. 10m 20s
    1. Shutter speed overview
      3m 18s
    2. Different ways to use shutter speed
      7m 2s
  11. 10m 29s
    1. Tips for keeping your budget down
      10m 29s
  12. 10m 11s
    1. Working with batteries
      10m 11s
  13. 24m 39s
    1. External audio settings
      4m 2s
    2. Audio input menus
      9m 31s
    3. Audio output menus
      4m 6s
    4. Setting and monitoring your levels
      7m 0s
  14. 16m 33s
    1. Introduction to backlight
      1m 18s
    2. Types of backlight
      3m 51s
    3. Exposing for backlit shots
      5m 31s
    4. Backlighting translucent object
      1m 39s
    5. Avoiding lens flare and wash out
      4m 14s
  15. 13m 28s
    1. Booming techniques
      13m 28s
  16. 5m 42s
    1. Feeding your crew
      5m 42s
  17. 8m 36s
    1. Choosing between prime, servo, and manual zoom lenses
      5m 19s
    2. Running and gunning with prime lenses
      3m 17s
  18. 10m 55s
    1. Green screen lights and materials
      3m 47s
    2. Mounting the green screen
      1m 39s
    3. Lighting the green screen
      3m 8s
    4. Lighting your subject
      2m 21s
  19. 9m 28s
    1. What to look for when buying a tripod
      6m 13s
    2. Working with monopods
      3m 15s
  20. 23m 19s
    1. Choosing a camera
      3m 2s
    2. Preparation and supplies for a surf shoot
      2m 13s
    3. Dealing with lens fog
      1m 44s
    4. Mounting your POV camera
      3m 20s
    5. Tracking and shooting your surfer from the shore
      6m 56s
    6. Interview with Tony Cruz
      6m 4s
  21. 8m 37s
    1. Introduction to lens mounts
      1m 24s
    2. Canon mounts
      2m 0s
    3. PL mounts
      1m 59s
    4. Nikon mounts
      1m 24s
    5. Micro 4/3 mounts
      1m 50s
  22. 7m 30s
    1. Introduction to lighting ratios
      1m 19s
    2. Comparing ratios
      2m 52s
    3. Measuring light ratios
      3m 19s
  23. 10m 25s
    1. Ten Looks in Ten Minutes
      10m 25s
  24. 5m 36s
    1. Using camera height and POV to better tell your story
      5m 36s
  25. 9m 49s
    1. Tips for lighting an interview subject
      9m 49s
  26. 15m 5s
    1. Taking 10 pounds off your subject
      4m 1s
    2. Dealing with nose shadows
      3m 3s
    3. Lighting different skin tones
      2m 55s
    4. Putting makeup on your subject
      5m 6s
  27. 10m 4s
    1. Types of cookies
      4m 6s
    2. Making your own custom cookies
      2m 47s
    3. Controlling the look of a cookie
      3m 11s
  28. 18m 11s
    1. Introduction to shooting sports footage
      1m 15s
    2. Getting good coverage for your sport shoot
      5m 55s
    3. Camerawork for shooting sports videos
      5m 4s
    4. Gear to bring on your sports shoot
      4m 52s
    5. Wrapping up
      1m 5s
  29. 8m 34s
    1. Tips for using bounce light
      8m 34s
  30. 21m 43s
    1. Video portrait intro
      1m 51s
    2. Video portrait camera work
      13m 32s
    3. Considerations for a video portrait interview
      4m 11s
    4. Bonus: Finished video portrait
      2m 9s
  31. 9m 48s
    1. Shooting at 24p
      3m 2s
    2. Using depth of field
      1m 37s
    3. Lighting for a film look
      1m 18s
    4. Using filters
      2m 31s
    5. Getting a film look with software
      1m 20s
  32. 38m 57s
    1. Introduction to professional car rigs
      7m 41s
    2. Attaching a side mount rig
      12m 58s
    3. Mounting a speed rail rig
      10m 54s
    4. Hood suction mount
      4m 27s
    5. Car rig safety tips
      2m 57s
  33. 14m 3s
    1. Manipulating the size of people
      6m 12s
    2. Manipulating the size of buildings
      2m 59s
    3. Making crowds look more crowded
      4m 52s
  34. 12m 32s
    1. Introduction to lighting cars
      5m 13s
    2. Lighting the car from outside
      3m 10s
    3. Lighting the car from inside
      4m 9s
  35. 13m 46s
    1. Packing your gear for air travel
      6m 8s
    2. What to do at the airport
      4m 39s
    3. Getting on the plane
      2m 59s
  36. 15m 53s
    1. Why you should hire an editor
      1m 29s
    2. Working with editors during pre-production
      3m 33s
    3. Working with editors during shooting
      4m 3s
    4. Working with editors after your shoot
      4m 18s
    5. Final tips on working with editors
      2m 30s
  37. 7m 46s
    1. Tips on avoiding scam film festivals
      7m 46s
  38. 5m 22s
    1. 36. Four common budgeting mistakes
      5m 22s
  39. 12m 13s
    1. 10 Filmmaking Lessons...I Learned the Hard Way
      12m 13s
  40. 9m 38s
    1. Why you get moire and aliasing
      2m 52s
    2. Avoiding moire
      6m 46s
  41. 18m 56s
    1. Tips on boosting your production value
      1m 46s
    2. Shooting with a shallow depth of field
      1m 36s
    3. Great audio and sound design
      2m 44s
    4. Keep your shots steady
      2m 32s
    5. Keep your camera moving
      2m 29s
    6. Location, location, location
      2m 15s
    7. Adding appropriate titles and FX
      1m 56s
    8. Hiring a colorist
      3m 38s
  42. 11m 19s
    1. Positioning yourself for the interview
      2m 29s
    2. Settings for camera and audio
      5m 57s
    3. Using a second camera
      2m 53s
  43. 8m 5s
    1. Tips on shooting an interview with one camera
      4m 25s
    2. Faking reverse shots and cutaways
      3m 40s
  44. 8m 58s
    1. The trouble with shooting windows
      1m 6s
    2. Dealing with exposure issues
      2m 55s
    3. Managing mixed color temperatures
      2m 16s
    4. Tips and tricks for shooting window scenes
      2m 41s
  45. 4m 35s
    1. Adjusting SMPTE color bars
      4m 35s
  46. 11m 32s
    1. Introduction to shooting discreetly
      1m 1s
    2. Scouting locations for a stealth shoot
      1m 47s
    3. Traveling and shooting low profile
      1m 25s
    4. Recording audio discreetly
      1m 25s
    5. Using discreet cameras and camerawork
      2m 22s
    6. Running interference
      1m 24s
    7. Adding production value with local resources
      1m 13s
    8. Always have a plan B
  47. 5m 44s
    1. Five things you can do when your production stalls out
      5m 44s
  48. 10m 44s
    1. Why to use an Interrotron
      3m 50s
    2. Setting up an Interrotron the traditional way
      4m 4s
    3. Nontraditional Interrotron setups
      2m 50s
  49. 6m 3s
    1. Five ways to achieve shallow depth of field
      6m 3s
  50. 9m 41s
    1. Tips for managing your media
      9m 41s
  51. 16m 23s
    1. Tips for renting equipment
      1m 25s
    2. Do your homework
      2m 39s
    3. Test the gear out
      4m 13s
    4. Get the best rate on your rental
      1m 49s
    5. Getting all the manuals
    6. Stay covered, with insurance
      2m 48s
    7. Dealing with damaged, lost, or stolen gear
      2m 30s
  52. 4m 36s
    1. Using your hotel TV as an ad-hoc monitor
      4m 36s
  53. 3m 49s
    1. Shooting an overhead tabletop demo with a mirror
      3m 49s
  54. 3m 0s
    1. Creating a visual heat-wave effect
      3m 0s
  55. 14m 0s
    1. 10 Tips for Shooting Live Events
      14m 0s
  56. 15m 22s
    1. Understanding the challenges of shooting live events
      3m 21s
    2. Shooting for the cut
      5m 20s
    3. Getting neutral shots and cutaways
      3m 51s
    4. Bonus: Final edited video
      2m 50s

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Watch the Online Video Course Pro Video Tips
11h 31m Appropriate for all Apr 15, 2014 Updated May 05, 2015

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Pro Video Tips is designed for busy videographers like you. This series brings you a new tip every week, on everything from controlling reflections to hiding mics. Host Anthony Q. Artis covers shooting techniques for particular video challenges like portraits, tools to help you control light and judge exposure, and advice for the traveling videographer, such as putting together a great lens kit or packing a truck. Come back every Tuesday for a new round of tips.

Anthony Q. Artis

Booming techniques

This week on Pro-Video tips, I want to talk about a often ignored position on the film set. And that's a position of boom operator. Now, on the surface, the job might seem pretty simple. To just hold the boom. And because of that, people often, you know, your little cousin's visiting from out of town for the weekend ,and you give them the boom, so they can help out on the set. Well, that's okay, but it's not really something you want to do if you care about your production because while this job isn't rocket science, it does require a certain amount of knowledge and understanding of boom positions, audio technique, as well as what the cameras needs are and also microphone patterns.

So I'm just going to start off by just showing you a couple of different boom positions. Now, in my book and it's called The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide, by the way, but in my book there is no right or wrong way to hold the boom. There is only a position that will or won't work for the particular recording situation that you happen to be in. So these are all situational positions, but I feel like it is important that all film-makers have a deep tool belt of techniques and tricks up their sleeves, so let's start off with a traditional boom position right here. So this is a traditional boom position, overhead, nice and long, plenty of reach lots of advantages to this position.

So the big advantages of this, the pros I would say, are that it's up nice and high, very little danger of getting in the frame. You just gotta hold it up. You can move it very quickly. So if I need to get from one part of the set to another part of the set, no problem with this position right here. And it's got plenty of reach right there. And I can also pivot very easily from being in this position right here. However, this position has one big con. In fact, I would recommend you use this position all the time if you can. However, most of you, unless you're going to you know, Planet Fitness to work out all the time, this isn't something you're going to be able to hold for very long, because unfortunately the boom gets very heavy, very fast.

So even though I've been holding this boom up for only about 30 seconds, and the whole apparatus probably weighs maybe 10 pounds or so, it feels like it weighs 15 pounds right now. And for every minute that I hold it, it'll basically put on like another five pounds or so, so this gets very heavy, very quickly and if you pay attention when you see behind the scenes things, and you see people holding the boom, you usually see guys with big, muscular arms that are holding the boom because they are the people who have the stamina to do that, so this is a great position, but unfortunately, many of you aren't going to be able to hold this for a very long time.

So because of that, we have plenty of other positions. So from here, I'm starting to get a little tired, it's a long scene, well, I can make an easy transition right here, into the shoulder position. That's much better right there. Now the shoulder position has many of the same positions as the overhead position that I showed you before, but it does have a few drawbacks and limitations, so. Now that I've gone from here down to here, just to give it a little bit of rest right there. You can see that I'm sacrificing a little bit of height. It's going to be a problem if you're a shorter operator like me.

And by the way, if you are a shorter operator like me, if you don't have to move, a good strategy, and I have to do this all the time, and that's to stand on an apple box. So you might have to have an apple box or even a platform of apple boxes sometimes just to get up enough height. So if you're a little shorter, and your actors are standing, that could be problematic. So the shoulder position right here, we sacrifice some height. We also sacrifice mobility. So before in this position, I could move it around really quick, get exactly where I need to be. However, now that it's on my shoulder, I have to move my whole body. So a lot of times, I'm standing in a position kind of like this.

When I'm doing the shoulder mount position, right here, if somebody moving across the set, this isn't going to be an effective position to really follow them. So this is really something more for stationary subjects. Something else I have to worry about with this position, two things. One of them, a little bit smaller, and that is clothing noise, right here. If this starts rubbing against the back of my shirt, like this or anything like that, that's all going to be picked up on the audio soundtrack. Keep in mind that this entire boom pole is now a conductor of audio. So if I'm wearing rings or, you know, playing tiddlywinks or something like that on the boom pole, all of these things are going to be heard on the microphone and even this little grip.

Things like that, your hands are a little bit sweaty gripping this. When you ungrip it, it's going to make a noise, so you want to use a very gentle touch whenever we're handling the boom pole. And then the last con or drawback, potentially of this position, that you have to be careful of sometimes, and I've seen this happen on set, and I've done it on set a few times. And now as you get really comfortable holding the shoulder position and somebody calls your name. And they go, hey Anthony huh, I spin around. I just knocked over a light. Chipped an actress's tooth. Could have done, you know, any number of things on set. So you want to be very careful whenever you're holding this shoulder position of the three stooges effect, I like to call it.

So sometimes you forget it's there, and you forget that you have a 10 foot extension of your person. So remember that. So from there, we can go we have the overhead; we have the shoulder position, so that's a little more comfortable. Then another position we can use is this one right here. So down low. So this position right here from down low is good for one big thing, and that is that it's very easy to hold. So now that I'm working with gravity instead of against it. I'm not trying to hold this up; I'm holding it down. So it's very comfortable, and I can hold this for a long time. But a couple of drawbacks to being down in this position.

So the first one is that where the microphone is pointed. Now if I'm pointed at my subject's mouth, audiowise that's all going to be cool. It's pretty much going to sound the same as it does for the other positions. However, one big problem with this audiowise is from outdoors, might be airplanes passing by. And when you're using that shotgun mic, it's very directional. So if a plane is coming from the sky, it's going to be heard a little bit sooner when I'm pointing it up like this, then down like this in a extra, you know, few seconds might have been all I needed to get the last bit of the dialog that I was trying to capture before it went bad. So just something to think about.

Another thing when you are indoors in a studio environment like this, is that pointed up, sometimes lights when they are dim have a little bit of buzz. So that buzz that might not have been as noticeable as before, might be a little more prominent on your sound track, so just things you want to think about. Another more practical drawback of this position that you have to look out for is actors and blocking. So now that I'm holding this thing out on the set, I'm effectively holding the big limbo stick out in the middle of the set, and my actors are going to have to dance around it. The last thing I want to do is be a, a distraction to my actors in anyway so down low position has those cons, but it is something that you can hold for a very long time.

So you get really tired, you might need to switch up to this for a while for a stationary subject. Another positions I'll show is this one right here. I use this one a lot for documentary work when I'm doing longer interviews and man on the street interviews, and that's a pelvic position. So in this pelvic position right here, I pretty much have the pole just resting to either the left or right side here on your upper thigh, pretty much right about where your pocket is, and I'm using my hand here to hold it. Now what's great about this even though it might seem like it's similar to some of the other ones is that I can hold this for a very long time.

And I want to point out something here. I'm not really holding the boom pole here as much as I am balancing it. I would say at least 75% of the weight is now being distributed right here to my leg, and it's resting here. I can hold this with one finger, switch up hands because I'm not really holding the boom pole. I'm resting the boom pole and balancing it. And the big advantage of this particular position is that I can hold it for a long time. And the other advantage of this that no other position, at least that I know of shares for the most part and that is that this is a one-handed position, so I could do this with one hand.

What does that mean? It means that I'm freed up to do simple things like signal the camera operator, hey, you're standing on my cable, or something like that. I'm freed up to do something as simple and practical as scratch my back. That's the kind of thing that this position could allow you to do. Also, if I'm working solo, by myself, and I'm mixing, this is another position that I might have to resort to. So now I've got the mixer right here and, I might want to write and take a sound note. Anything like that, this position allows me to do. But more importantly, this is the position you can, and I have had to hold for 45 minutes straight, not a problem very good for stamina.

So this is another good position to take a rest and to still keep it kind of up there high. Now one of the cons you gotta worry about with this position is that you want to make sure that you stay on axis with the camera man. So wherever the lens is, that's the same axis I'm going to be on. Otherwise, I run the risk of potentially diagonally cutting off the frame, and that's particularly dangerous. If a boom pole dips in from the top, it tends to be much more noticed by the camera operator, but if something is just subtly creeping in from the corner, right there, it's a lot harder to catch, especially a black object, so every now and then you might get in post and see that.

The way to avoid it is to stay on axis. And so the last one I will show you isn't as much a position as a different type of technique. And that is the pistol grip. So I'm going to go ahead and just take my boom zeppelin that is off of here, and I don't actually have a microphone in here right now for purposes of this demo, but you'll get the point. I'm going to put the boom pole down. And I just put the back back on there. So now, I have a pistol grip position, so this is a position without the boom. So this position, the big plus of this position is that you obviously have a much lower profile, so if you're in a situation where waving around, you know, a giant, you know, the thing of the end of a pole might draw too much attention.

Well, this is a position where this isn't drawing nearly as much attention as before. So you can be a little bit more low profile. Granted, I still have this big mic, but not nearly as big as waving it on the end of a 10 foot pole right there. So a little bit lower profile. This is good for tight spaces and crowds; I'm shooting at a crowded rally, doing man on the street stuff. I'm not necessarily trying to make my way through a crowd with a boom pole too because it's probably just going to get knocked around anyway. So this is great for that, shooting in cars, tight spaces. I'm shooting a documentary in the catacombs; anything like that, I'm going to go with something like a pistol grip.

One thing you do want to be careful of, depending on the nature of your subject matter, you wouldn't want to be someplace very dangerous say in a war zone, going around doing this, because somebody can easily mistake this for a weapon, so be careful of little practical things like that you want to keep in mind. But pistol grip is the fifth and final position that I'm going to show you as far as using the boom, and the last thing I do want to show you guys because I didn't touch on that yet, just in case your not fully tuned in, and that is our booming technique. So I'm just going to leave my cable dangling down there and talk about two different techniques.

Only two things that we want to do when it comes to booming. There is only two things that running in my head over and over again, and here's what they are. If you keep these two things in mind, I think you're going to be great at the job of booming. And if you tell your little cousin, when you have them come in, to keep these in mind, they'll also do great. And I'm just going to let that dangle down there for a minute. And that is the first thing that we want to do is, keep our boom pole on axis. So we want to be on axis means at all times it should be pointed like a laser beam directly at our subject. So I want you to imagine a line going straight from the end of the mic, and the end of that line should be going straight to your subject's mouth.

So that's the first thing on axis. And the next thing is, as close as possible, without being in the shot. So that's the only two things we're doing with our boom pole. Keeping it laser beamed on axis and as close as possible without being in the shot. Stop and think about that for a minute. You guys have all seen independent films, maybe even some professional films where occasionally, a boom pole might have sneaked into the shot. You would think that Hollywood and other people could avoid that, but here's the thing. I think it is much worse to get bad audio by not being close enough with the boom, than it is to possibly, occasionally throughout your film, or maybe from one shot, a broom probably ended up creeping in there a little bit.

So you can always take steps sometimes in post to cut that out a little bit. But one thing you can't do in post is replace bad audio. That's going to require reshooting the entire scene. So we want to be on axis and as close as possible. And when you're booming two people, last technique I'll show you. And that is that we want to pivot the boom. So this person is talking here, now I've got them. Other person's talking over here, now I'm picking them up. If they start cross-talking, I"m going to play the middle. But as soon as it becomes apparent who's taking over the conversation, that's the person that I'm going to aim at.

The biggest thing with booming and this is with a lot of audio in particular. And that is anticipation. So the job of a boom op, it's not rocket science. But there's a lotta stuff that should be going on in your head, and you have to anticipate what your subject's going to do. When I'm shooting documentary, I don't know that that persons going to get up and walk over there. I don't know, know per se, but I know because of their body language. If they're sitting down and their legs are crossed, they're going to uncross their legs first. They're going to lean forward. They're going to look in that direction. So I'm going to get a second or two of mental notification as to where they're going.

And what's going to happen over time is you're going to kind of develop a second sense. You will learn to anticipate where people are going, and more importantly than anticipating their movement is anticipating their level of conversation. One big job the boom operator has that will make life easier on the sound mixer is to back off the boom a little bit when the conversation's getting, you know, a little bit, you know, wild or louder. So if a character's sitting there telling a joke, and I know a punch line's coming. I'm going to wisely back my boom up a little bit, because I can see this is a really funny joke.

The people are giggling while he is telling it. There is going to be a big burst of laughter. Well, what would help my sound mixer out? Well, if I back up the mic a little bit more, so it doesn't overmodulate. Same thing, if things are going to get a little softer. And I have the room, then I want to come in a little bit tighter. So hopefully, these tips will help you guys get better audio results. Remember, as I always say, I think your audio is more important than your video, and that's primarily because your audio is unforgiving. So hopefully those tips will help you guys outt and you'll have a little bit better luck out there with your booms.

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