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Tips for Working with Boom Microphone Equipment

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/29/2010

Learn the tools of the trade for the boom microphone operator.

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    Boom Microphone

    The boom microphone is the central component for sound on film and digital video sets. For an entire room of action the boom microphone is the most effective and reliable, which is why it is the primary sound source for most feature film shoots. Using a boom microphone is not as easy as others because it requires a special bit of equipment and a keen eye as to how to work with them. Here are some tips for working with boom microphone equipment so as to maximize its benefits and preserve the quality of sound.

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    More Than a Boom Pole

    When people look at the boom microphone they usually see the boom pole. The microphone at the end of the pole is the real star, and therefore that is where the money needs to be. What you are going to look for is a low noise microphone so that you do not interference. If there is low self noise then you can feel free to amplify the recorded sound later. To make sure you are getting what you want you are going to want a relatively high voltage condenser element.

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    Choosing a Boom Pole

    When choosing a boom pole you are also going to want to reduce internal noise. You can use internal chorded boom poles, which are a little easier to manage on set but also noisier. Try to find an internally wired boom pole that is well secured and does not allow internal rattling.

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    Microphone Type

    The boom microphone is supposed to get relatively general sound from an area. This means you want to get somewhere in the middle of a broad cardioid microphone and a very direction shotgun microphone. The success of this choice will really be a principle to testing your microphones ahead of time. Smaller supercardiod microphones are often good, as are shorter shotgun microphones. You can usually get a pretty good microphone choice for between $300 and $500.

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    Directional Microphone

    When operating the boom microphone you will have to note that you are going to have to apply a certain amount of directionality to it. You are not going to need to be pointing the microphone directly at your subjects necessarily, but in their general location. A proper tilt of the front tip of the microphone toward the speaking people may be the move that you need for the boom microphone. The microphone is, at its core, a directional microphone. Directional microphones always need to be attended to as directional microphones, and never treated as a more general mic.

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    The equipment that you need to use with the boom microphone extends beyond the pole and mic themselves. You are going to need cotton gloves that are relatively soft. This will allow you to slide the pole out and in without problem and let your hands move on the pole. Try to keep these on you whenever possible and keep them clean, otherwise they cannot do their job properly. They may even come in handy when trying to carefully work with other microphones, like wireless mics.

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    XLR and Field Recorders

    You are going to have to run the XLR chord from the boom microphone to the camera or external audio recorder. For this you will need the highest quality XLR cords that you can find as there is a lot of information being recorded from a boom microphone. Because this is true it is often a good idea to use the external recorder along with the assistance of an independent pre-amp. Run the XLR from the boom microphone to the pre-amp, and from the pre-amp to the digital recorder you are using. You are going to have to merge the audio and video clips during post-production, but it will be worth it for the high quality of sound you will end up with.