Sound is one of the least appreciated, but most important parts of filmmaking. It's as much a part of telling your story as the cinematography, art direction, or acting. And if you screw it up, the audience will not forgive you. They will forgive a blurry shot, a boom mic in the frame, and they'll even let a weak performance slide, but no one will forgive bad sound. And it's very time-consuming and difficult, if not impossible, to fix most sound mistakes made on location.
1. Check your frame line with the cameraperson before shooting, then get the mic as close
as possible without getting it in the frame.
2. Keep the mic pointed directly at your subject’s mouth.
3. Wear over-the-ear headphones whenever possible.
4. Regularly check for visual cues and feedback from the mixer and cameraperson.
5. Allow enough xlr cable slack to move as freely as necessary, but not enough to trip. Try to get an assistant to wrangle cable if there will be a lot of unpredictable movement.
6. Anticipate your subject’s movement and be prepared to quickly follow. Keep your eyes on the cameraperson and mixer to avoid getting in the shot or yanking the xlr cable.
7. Spiral xlr cable around boompole and secure all loose cable to help avoid cable noise, handling noise, and trips.
8. Assume comfortable feet and arm positions. Relax.
Good Boom, Bad Boom
While it may not be rocket science, booming is a skill that can make the difference between professional quality sound and amateur radio hour. A good boom operator must have stamina, a good ear (and eye) for to detail, and should keep the following in mind:
Excerpted from The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide Focal Press/Elsevier, 2008.
Anthony Artis is a 15-year veteran of the Film and TV industry whose features and shows have been screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, the IFP Feature Market, Slamdance, and on MTV. He has worked professionally in positions as diverse as producer, gaffer, and cinematographer, and has survived more low-budget shoots than he cares to admit. Anthony is presently the manager of the Film and TV Production Center at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he coordinates the technical training and production equipment for all film and TV students. His website is www.DownandDirtyDV.com