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!
Your tutorials are the best. Thank you for putting this together with great examples. Clear, concise – perfect for someone learning the ropes (like me!). One thing – would you mind recommending some boom mic products that you have had success working with?
We tend to lean toward Rode products for our audio equipment, you should be able to find most of the stuff we mention in this post on their website. I updated the post to link to some more of the products mentioned as well.
You can find a carbon fiber boom pole here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=606236&Q=&is=REG&A=details
Hi Margaret, sorry to inform you, but the boom pole you suggest isn’t carbon fiber at all; it’s actually glass fiber (as seen on K&M’s official website: http://produkte.k-m.de/en/Mic-stands/Microphone-fishing-poles/23770-MICROPHONE-FISHING-POLE-black ). I to thought of buying this item from B&H, but after researching for it, as I always do with every item, I found out they were wrong and contacted them through e-mail, they acknowledged the mistake and told me it would be taken care off (apparently not).
When buying this kind of items, one should be extremely careful, or you’ll end up throwing money on the drain. The Rode products are nice for some stuff (the microphones are great for the price), but the other range of items are not that great (I’ve used a Rode branded windshield and windjammer that just weren’t doing their job, the sound was actually worse and I still had the wind blowing sound; Have I had my Rycote kit on that shoot, my job would have been much easier and the end result of much higher quality. I also used a Rode boom pole and, apart from being heavier than any other boom pole I had used, which can turn out a real pain on the neck, after two weeks of shooting the lock sections weren’t locking anymore.). This kind of things that happened to me are deal breakers, you end up spending less money, but will eventually respend it again when your equipment starts to fail you, or in a sound studio trying to clean your audio because you can’t deliver it like that to your client. For those who don’t really have the budget my suggestion is to get your hands dirty and save hundreds of dollars by making your own equipment; yes, it will suck mostly and it will break eventually, but at least you saved a lot of money to buy great equipment when you can that might last you 10 to 20 years if used with care.
Thanks for the helpful insight. That’s weird that the pole is listed as carbon fiber when it’s really fiberglass… I believe that one I linked to on B&H is a boom pole we have here at SM, and it’s certainly worked well and proved much lighter than aluminum — but yeah ultimately it’s no good that they have it listed as something that it isn’t. Your research is appreciated!
You’re welcome Margaret, glad I could add something =)
Thank you so much for the video! I have been working with booming a mic because the on camera mic picks up to much unwanted noise. This video gave me a lot of insight, you guys are so generous with your information! I hope to see you at the end of July, Thanks again!
If you’re a very low budget filmmaker just getting started (like myself) here’s a tip for you to re-purpose some other equipment to get a serviceable boom.
I have a Rode VideoMic Pro that I normally use mounted into my camera because I haven’t splurged on a legit audio recorder yet and using Magic Lantern, I can get clean audio that sounds really good (audiophiles and others might dislike this approach already, but it works and the audio sounds just fine). I also have the Manfrotto BHDV-1 Monopod, which I use for events, as well as a tripod. I also own a Cullman Mini Tripod with Ball Head, which will come into play in a moment.
If I’m setting up for a sit down interview and need a boom mic, what I do is take the head off the mini tripod (you can swap it between a camera screw and a shoe mount), and attach the shoe mount to a quick release plate. I can then mount my microphone on the plate, and slide the plate onto my monopod, which then becomes a poor man’s boom pole. With some cabling on the exterior you can run it right back to the camera and have yourself a boom pole in a pinch.
Might not be optimal because it’s not a proper pole, doesn’t have internal connections, etc, but it definitely works if you’re on a budget or perhaps even while traveling if you can’t be lugging around the additional equipment.
I second Desiree’s question, any recommendation to the shock mount? If we don’t planning on getting the blimp, well, at least not yet 🙂
If you have no current blimp plans in motion, we recommend the Rode SM3 Shock Mount: http://www.rodemic.com/accessories/sm3 🙂
Do you guys do a whole lot to your interview audio in post to clean it up or enhance it? If so, what do you usually do and what is your guiding philosophy for adjustments?
Generally, we do some light EQ / compression to enhance the audio. If need be, sometimes we use noise reduction if we cannot control the ambient noise of a room. We shoot to get the best sound on site, during production.
I’m not even making films (yet), but I love watching your technical tutorials! Just wanted to say thanks!
Where can I find the boomholder that is attached at the end of the stand?
Hi Stillmotion. these tutorials rock and are proving to be great resources. This has helped us decide that boom mic-ing is something we need to add to our skill set. But something you didn’t cover here is which mic provides the best flexibility vs. cost, especially for emerging filmmakers who are ready to invest in gear?
I’m looking at Rode products, but would love to know if you feel it is worth stepping up to a Sennheiser and if the extra quality is worth the extra $$.
I’ve already been sharing Stillmotion with all the filmmakers around me, thanks again for sharing your professionalism with us.
In terms of a mic that provides the best flexibility vs. cost, it’s going to depend on the kind of shooting you’re doing — outside or inside? But as a general suggestion, the Rode NTG-1 or NTG-2 is going to give you decent quality for your money if you’re not in super challenging environments.
The Sennheiser is a wise investment if you’ve got the budget for it and are looking for more advanced menu options. We love ours!
i have the same question as Sjoerd, where can we find the boom holder that is at the top of the mic stand? As a one-man crew i will need a stand for interviews (a complete equipment list would be really helpful). Thanks for the great videos Stillmotion!
Go for the Auray boom pole holder! http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=885688&is=REG&Q=&A=details
Would not a supercardioid condenser be recommended for these interior shots? I know that the Schoeps CMC6 w/ the MK41 supercardioid capsule is a popular one on film sets. Peluso makes a CEMC6 and a CK41 capsule for a small fraction of that price.
Thanks for the great tutorials! Now what do you record your audio into? What type of recorder and are you using any kind of stand alone preamp?
What type of boom are you guys using for the internal wiring?
We are using this boom pole: K-Tek K-152CCR