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Hi all!

I'm cautiously venturing into the sound-to-film world, and have landed a non-paid role as boom operator/sound technician for a local community video project. Needless to say I am a little anxious due to this being my first experience of boom operation on a film production. Since I don't own my own rig yet, the director has got hold of a Sennheiser MKE 300 and Boom pole with a mic booster. I run Logic Pro on a macbook, and am just wondering if there's anyone who's got experience of operating this mic and have worked on set by hooking it up to a laptop (I believe it has a 3.5mm jack output) and any tips for a smooth days shooting? Or any tips at all?! One area of concern for me is if there's dialogue between two people in fairly close proximity to each other, do I need to switch the mic back and fourth between the two actors, or keep it central in between the actors? The reason I'm saying this is that upon looking at the script it tends to be very short dialogue between characters and I don't know if I'd be able to keep up! I was planning on using my Zoom H2 recorder to record background ambiences aswell - is this recommended?

Thanks in advance from a sound novice!

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2 Answers 2

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Without getting into the actual recording technicals. As a boom operator you will work depending on how things are shot. If the scene is being shot as a master (really wide normally), you cover it as best you can without getting into picture. Then normally the DOP will move in for mids and close ups. These are the ones to get spot on. When you are working with both actors on screen at once, you need to try moving the mic to cover both their performance as best you can. When the DOP move is for close up, then just cover the actor in shot and not worry about the other actor out of shot. This way you get good coverage for editing later. The other issue you might encounter is overlaps. This is when the actors talk over the top of each other. This will happen in masters and mid shots, but always try to make sure that the director/1st AD know that you need people to give each other room in close ups. The sound editor will love you for it (and in reality it's part of your job).

Now onto your recording format. This could be problematic if you are just sending your audio direct to the laptop without a mixer in between. You will not have any control over levels and will need to make sure that you have headphones (do this anyway) on to listen to the audio for clipping, etc. The situation is far from optimum, but if that is all you have, then get the gear together and practice with it before the shoot.

Also, keep a log of your recordings with scene numbers, takes, etc.

One more thing is to make sure you get recordings of room tone. This is when everyone is quite and you get 1-2 minutes of just the sound of the room. This is used in editing to smooth over dialogue transitions and other things.

Lastly, if you are recording directly to your computer, make sure you backup before leaving for the day incase something happens to the machine. Nothing worst that having to explain to everyone why they need to reshoot a whole day.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

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Thanks for the info - very much appreciated! I'll be picking up the equipment a few days before shooting to give me a chance to play around with it. I just have one more query (forgive me!!) with regards to small scale production sound (since I have never been on a production shoot before); does the director receive an audio file with the cameraman in order to edit the picture easily (to know what's going on in picture), or is that something I must supply? If I must supply, do I supply all out-takes etc? I have only ever added audio elements to film once the editing is done! Many thanks –  El Capiton Fonze Feb 23 '11 at 11:01
    
You need to give all your audio with your log to the post-production house. This normally ends up with the editing dept first. In bigger productions the assistant editor syncs your audio to vision and then post-sound will get the audio from them nearer to the locked edit. Talk to your producer, they should know where you are to deliver your audio to. Most shoots want the audio at the end of the day to have with dailies (especially when working without laying sound onto the camera directly). Talk to your producer and post production house. –  Bruce Feb 23 '11 at 12:22
    
Ok thanks a lot Bruce - you've been very helpful –  El Capiton Fonze Feb 23 '11 at 12:51

forget the laptop unless you are shooting video with a dslr, other than that do what you can to get audio into the camera, this will drastically reduce editing time AND streamline the workflow, if your importing files form logic, either you are syncing by hand/ear/eyes or you used SMPTE time code to sync them(and if your camera has smpte it will most probably have audio ins and will be more reliable as an audio recorder than any laptop in the field) also recording to the camera cuts out the whole logging time codes, scenes names ect... your a sound guy and what you do is capture, manipulate and reproduce audio, not scribble down timecodes.

treat mcu and wide shots the same, never compromise your sound, listen to what your doing and try to save the editor(s) as much time as possible, if a problem can be fixed or prevented in the field then fix or prevent it, dont let the "we´ll fix it in post" mentality get to you. listen carefully with your trusted headphones, which after your ears and your mic, is your most valuable peice of kit. try to acheive a homogenous sound in all situations, nothing teaches you more about mics than booming, you will find out for yourself the best ways to mix sound sources, move quietly and deliberatlely, form a strong bond with the camera op, he will help you stay covert in the shot and in the long run will probably be the only person in the production who goes through what you go through(they have it worse, although, cameras are getting lighter and lighter...)

in the end its not what the books, magazines and random guys on the internet say that count, its what your ears tell you upon review.

have fun!

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@Miguel Thanks for the tips very much appreciated! –  El Capiton Fonze Mar 17 '11 at 23:37

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