Often you’ll find that a boom mic setup is the most practical and efficient way to capture audio, whether it’s during a high production shoot, an interview, or a live event.
If you’re going for the boom, there are a few things you’ll need to know about putting together a boom setup, and how to use the mic properly.
In this tutorial, our very own audio wizard Ray Tsang walks you through both the assembly and operation process of a boom mic, with plenty of tips along the way for making the right choices.
How do I put this thing together?
You won’t get very far using a boom mic if you don’t assemble your boom kit correctly… duh! There are some choices to make when it comes time to select your pieces and put everything together, so we’ve got a list here of the things you’ll want to think about during that process.
These are the steps you’ll need to take to get your boom kit up and running:
1. Grab hold of a boom pole.
You have the option of using either a carbon fiber boom pole or an aluminum pole for your mic, and there is some difference between them. A carbon fiber boom pole is lighter, and therefore better for a one-man-band situation or a long shoot, but an aluminum pole is the more affordable option.
2. Telescoping length.
You’ll also need to decide on the telescoping length of your pole when you set it up. One thing to know is that the longer length range you choose (usually they range from about 2-20 feet), the heavier your pole will be.
3. To cable, or not to cable?
That is not really a question — go for the cabled pole! An internally cabled pole allows you to easily retract and adjust the length of the pole without having to worry about the cables getting in your way as you move around. Bonus: with a cabled pole you can easily attach your shotgun mic on one end of the pole, and your sound mixer or other audio device on the other end.
4. Isolate the shotgun mic.
Your shotgun mic is special, and you’ll want isolate it from the rest of your setup using a shotgun mount (we like the Rode SM3 Camera Shoe Shock Mount). It’s important to know that when you are putting the mic onto the mount, you avoid dragging the openings of the mic along the rubber bands of the shotgun mount — it can cause wear and tear! You can avoid this by sliding the mic in from its back end, or popping it in over the top.
5. Don’t forget about your windscreen.
If you’re going outside, you’ll want to put a windscreen over the mic to reduce some of those wind sounds from hitting the mic, and protect it from any unwanted particles. Now, when it comes to windscreens you have a few options:
Foam: The foam wind screen is going to protect your mic from wind without drastically altering any acoustics.
Blimp: The blimp is even better! The Rode Blimp Wind Shield and Shock Mount System is our windshield of choice, because of its 2-stage barrier. The outer barrier slows down the wind, while the inner dead space further cuts it down.
6. We’re into furries — furry windshields, that is!
For windier conditions you’re going to want a furry windshield to put over your foam or blimp windshield. Like a cozy winter jacket, the furry windshield will further protect your audio from harsh winds. However, know that the thicker your windshield, the more increased are the chances that your acoustics will be ruined.
How do I operate my boom mic?
Now that you have all the necessary parts of your boom kit assembled, you’re ready to get in there and use it. Here we’ve got 7 tips for using your boom mic setup correctly, while making sure it doesn’t disrupt your image onscreen.
1. Look for the light.
Avoid putting the boom between the key light and the subject, as this will most often result in a nasty shadow ruining your image. Reposition the boom to the opposite side of the key light to solve this problem.
2. Keep it close…
You want to keep the boom mic as close to your subject as possible, without allowing the mic to dip into the frame.
3. But not too close!
You’ll want to allow enough room for the talent to move freely, as they naturally would. Basically, you don’t want them to feel like there’s a giant metal structure hanging just above their head (even though there is). You will want to make sure, however, that when the subject moves forward they’re not moving past your boom.
4. Watch how your subject moves.
In order to adjust your mic to your subject’s natural movements, you’ll want to take note of the way they’re moving in the time you have with them before the shoot begins. Do they talk with their hands a lot? Do they move their head around, or flail their arms? Think about these things and be ready on the pole.
5. Boom toward the mouth.
Point the front of the boom mic angled directly toward the talent’s mouth, and try to keep it within about a foot and a half of the talent.
6. Communicate with the camera operator.
In other words — don’t let the boom get into the frame! Stay in communication with the camera operator about how much room they’ll be needing in the top of the frame, and if it’s a lot of room, you might consider booming from below the talent instead of above.
7. Hear anything weird?
Always take a minute to close your eyes and listen for any unwanted sound in the background. If it’s something you can’t control, like a noisy air conditioner, try moving your pole and adjusting the boom away from the source of noise so it doesn’t pick up the sound.
There you have it… all the necessary advice to get you started in both assembling and operating a boom kit.
If you’re not booming now, it’s time to start — you can utilize a boom in a number of different shoots, and it’s so much faster than running around trying to mic people up separately. It’s also going to capture much better audio than a shotgun mic mounted to your camera.
What’s not to love about the boom?
Got any helpful tips of your own for operating a boom mic?
Let us know!