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Someone gave me a boom pole to test out the other day and while testing it out I noticed:

A) It didn't have a cloth-covered-cable inside it so the cable slapped the inside of the pole and made noise,

and

B) It had excessive handling noise from just touching it and moving it around. I had to be extremely gentle.

This got me to thinking if you guys have any tricks like this one I made up yesterday. Tell me what you think. I think it would be awesome to invent:

I put on a hoodie sweatshirt and so with the hood off, I had a padding on the upper part of my back where I let the boom pole rest on my shoulders and it worked perfectly. I could stand there for hours and not get tired. Only problem was this:

When you have 2 actors talking to each other, face to face, I found that I wanted to put the mic directly in the middle of them and tilt the mic back and forth towards the person who was talking at that instant while they were having a conversation. While I was on the shoulders, this caused a bit of noise between their lines as I swiveled the mic.

Has anyone invented a shoulder thing which silently lets you tilt and swivel the boom without much noise?

Or was the boom pole just low-grade and cheap because it made handling noise to begin with? I guess there could be better poles which isolate the cable better so it doesn't let noise into the mic...

Just a thought I had yesterday. Could be the next craze in boom oping - a pad for your upper neck to rest the pole on so it doesn't tire you out!

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4 Answers 4

Typically if you get a lot of handling noise its caused by 2 things..

A) the cable (needs to be taped/velcro down in place. B) The shock mount twisted too tight to the boom pole. - when this happens, all the vibrations go straight through the shock mount to the mic.

I recommend using cotton 3/4 gloves. This allows you to articulate the boom smoothly in your palm, but use your fingers for grip.

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A) I have a 12' PSC Elite coiled cable boom, it doesn't have a cloth cable, rather the glossy hard plastic finished kind, and I rarely experience handling noise with it. The only time I experienced handling noise is when it is fully collapsed and I am moving very quickly at which point I have learned that a smaller boom with an external cable works better.

B) The main causes of handling noise are microphone choice, experience of the boom-op, quality of shockmount, quality of boom, and proper use of a low-pass filter. Some say not using gloves causes handling noise. I don't use gloves and I don't experience any problems with handling noise but I have nothing against wearing gloves if it works for you.

I am not the most experienced boom-op in the world but I've worked on over a dozen shorts and one feature and have some tips in no particular order that might help.

  1. I don't know about the boom shoulder pad idea. It is definitely considered bad form for a boom-op to rest the boom on his shoulders during shooting unless it is a steady close-up which doesn't require the boom-op to move and even then you might get some looks. Resting on your shoulders between takes is okay as long as you mind your surroundings and stay out of peoples way. There is no way to avoid transmitting clothing rustle to the mic if you are rotating on your shoulder. Instead rotate it gently with your back hand while holding it your front hand fingertips. Often I like to press my thumb to my index finger and rest the boom there if there is not much motion in a shot. Less surface area means less chance of vibrations being transmitted through the boom pole when you move and makes me feel like I have more precision sometimes.

  2. If there is a long interval between takes, shorten your pole to stay out of the way of everyone on set. You avoid getting your mic knocked around and bonking people.

  3. Try extending your arms all of the way with a slight bend in your elbows when booming. You can almost lock your elbows (dont' really lock them this could hurt you). It is much easier to hold a pole for long durations like this. If you get tired slightly changing your position helps. You can almost hold the pole indefinitely like this. Especially when combined with the next tip.

  4. If the 'H' position gets tiring, angle the mic downwards more and put your back arm lower towards your hip for rest. If you get tired during a take, move your back arm between the fully extended up position, and close by your hip position for relief, while minding to keep the mic on axis. Try different variations of front and back arms in various positions and find something that is comfortable.

  5. A good shockmount is really important. I use the Rycote Invision shockmount indoors - which works very well. They make it with different lyres for most production microphones. If I had the money to blow I'd get a Cinela mount but they are about $300 a pop vs. $60. Cinela makes mounts that are designed for specific models of microphones and they truly eliminate handling noise. What I like about the Invision is that the design inherently reduces handling noise through it's high tech use of flexible plastic material and shape that absorbs lower frequencies. Be sure to use the clip on the back of the shockmount to stop any vibrations from traveling up the cable to the microphone. There should not be pressure on the cable between the clip and the microphone rather it should be somewhat slack. A Rycote conn-box can help isolate the cable if you have lots of handling noise problems.

  6. If you hear cable slap inside of a coiled cable boom, the cable may just need to be replaced having been stretched out past it's original specs, it may need to be extended a bit more, or it may be a cheap boom. People seem to have success with many different brands though. Some prefer to externally cable the boom and hold it with their hand to avoid the problem. External cables are required on extremely long booms.

  7. Microphone choice is a huge factor in handling noise. For instance the Sennhesier MKH8000 series of mics tends to suffer from handling noise. The older MKH40, MKH50, etc, do not.

  8. If you are outdoors most people use a Rycote Windjammer setup, Rode and others make decent alternatives for the price. If you want to go top of the line, Cinela makes fully suspended blimps that are ridiculous, but most sound mixers are using Rycote.

Hope I don't sound preachy just trying to help! There's a million other things that I can't think of right now too... Maybe I'll add some later.

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@bpert, great contribution. I'd like to ask you the same question as I did @Edwardo. As far as booming angles go -- let alone the pickup pattern of the mic -- what is your experience with capturing a full voice and dealing with background shifts from the rotation of the mic? –  Justin Huss Apr 9 '11 at 9:32

Unfortunately booming is the part of film sound that is always in the process of movement.

I've been booming professionally on features and television for 6 years and each time I hold the pole over a scene I'm on the ready for quick movements and changes. You never know when an actor decides to change his or her blocking; you have to be ready for the unexpected because that may be the last take before the director decides to move on. For handling noise I wear soft jersey gloves and handle the pole carefully. The gloves allow me to slide the pole in various directions in my guiding hand effortlessly and quietly. The guiding hand changes depending on where I am positioned near camera. I always try to face camera so I can keep an eye on the camera moves and the operator (who might be trying to get my attention for some reason). Make friends with camera and your life as a boom operator will be pleasant.

I carry a 20 foot and a 10 foot pole with quick release systems in my boom stand every day. It's good to have a long and short pole for different sized sets, and having the ability to vary the size of your boom helps to avoid discomfort when you need to hold the pole for long periods of time. You also avoid handling noise by optimizing pole length because your body has more comfort, thus reducing muscle tension and shaking, etc. My 20 foot pole has a straight cable and the 10 foot pole has a coiled cable. They both have the tendency to be either noisy or quiet, depending on how I handle them. I don't think either pole is noisier than the other. I've learned that it's all about comfort. If you can find a comfortable pole length for the position you have to operate it in, then you're most likely to avoid a lot of handling noise no matter how much movement is in the scene.

In regards to getting tired out. It's something you just have to get used to. My lower back is what hurts the most when I boom a full show (usually a few weeks long or more). My shoulders don't have as much fatigue because I've become one with my boom poles and my arms have adjusted to the weight of the poles in their various lengths. I'd say it would be good to stretch a lot and make sure to stretch your back often. And get massages when you can (they're expensive, but necessary).

Have fun making sound for movies,

E. Santiago

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@Edwardo, I'm drifting from the thread's subject slightly here, but I have another booming technique question. I can already tell it depends mostly on the pickup pattern of the mic you use, but my question concerns the angle of the mic: the rule of thumb is to aim the mic from above at a 40º angle (right?), but when two characters are facing each other and you have to rotate the mic back and forth, it'll create huge changes in background sound. What is your experience with this matter? –  Justin Huss Apr 9 '11 at 9:29
    
@Justin, If there are huge changes in background sound between characters there are different options. The first is that you can keep a more neutral position between the characters to keep the background more even. The other is that you can try getting the dialogue with more noise from a different angle. You don't always have to aim the boom straight towards an actor's chest. You can sometimes achieve good results by 'lobing' or moving the boom to one side or the other of an actor while still aiming towards the chest. Remember that sound radiates in every direction from the source at once. –  bpert Apr 9 '11 at 16:23

I own a very basic Beyerdynamic (K&M) 10' 4-sections aluminium boom pole. The grip is a velvet-like fabric covering the entire first section. When booming, my wrist closest to the mic will do all the tilting as my other wrist remains still. This means that the pole has to rotate in my still hand, the one the furthest away from the mic.

The issue I then run into is that the grip doesn't make for a smooth/quiet rotation at all, and the gripping of my palm on the rough fabric resonates in the pole. I now wear a leather glove on my still hand (lamb leather, maybe that makes all the difference...) and it doesn't make this rustling noise anymore when I rotate the pole.

I wonder if having the pole resting on your shoulder while booming is not something to be avoided. Anyway, you could probably wear some sort of leather shoulder pad to keep tilting but avoid noise making...

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