We have been featuring an excellent interactive guide to filmmaking called Project Volare which is a six-week program created by Joel Guelzo & Jonah Guelzo providing a valuable learning resource for up-and-coming filmmakers.
Each week as well as an episode from the film, the Project Volare team are also producing an Inside Volare series providing instruction on directing, writing, sound, and acting. 3 of the 6 tutorials are sound related and the second of these is entitled Navigating Location Sound.
When it comes to on-location sound, it’s critical you understand the fundamental gear involved as well as have a thorough understanding of how to take those tools and put them to proper use. It doesn’t matter if you have the nicest equipment if you don’t know how to wield the gear that you do have properly.
The Four main elements that make up the typical boom setup itself is the boompole, the shockmount, the microphone and the wind protection.
In terms of a boompole, I always advise the use of an internally coiled boompole. It’s cleaner, faster to use, faster to set up. I don’t know why anyone would pick otherwise. There are so many different types of flavours of poles… Primarily corresponding to the length of the pole, the material used whether it be aluminium, or graphite fibre and whether its internally cabled or not.
Graphite fibre you’ll see become prevalent as the pole length increases due to its flexibility and extreme lightweight.
A shockmount’s purpose is to secure the microphone to the pole while at the same time decoupling the microphone from the pole itself so no handling noise is introduced into your recording. There are all sorts of shockmounts out there but one of my favourites are ultimately Rycote Lyre mounts. I’ve never had anything but great results with their shockmounts.
When it comes to microphones its important you pick the right microphone for the job. In simplest terms… if you’re outside or in an extremely large interior space, always go for the very directional shotgun microphone, if you’re shooting indoors, then go with the hyper-cardioid microphone which is smaller, and lighter weight than a traditional shotgun mic while also offering a more forgiving pickup pattern, giving you a little more flexibility when working to keep the talent in the sweet spot of pickup. Different polar patterns also affect the way that reverberations translate in a recording. A hyper-cardioid pattern captures more evenly and naturally the acoustics of a space whereas a super-cardioid or traditional shotgun tends to pickup reverberations in the recording more prominently resulting in a less natural sound.
4. Wind Protection
Lastly, let’s talk about wind protection. Unless you’re in a sterile environment with no movement of air and a static microphone position, you’ll quickly find that proper wind protection is a necessity. Even indoors you’ll want protection because as a boom operator you will often be required to perform dynamic booming, that is to say, the quick positioning of the pole and microphone from one talent speaking shifting in space to capture the dialog from another talent in the same scene. These quick shifts will cause wind to pass over the diaphragm and distort the recording. Even with the often included foam windscreen you’ll still have issues. That’s why I utilise wind protection that creates a pocket of space around the capsule called a dead air zone where the outer mesh layer of a particular windscreen acts to slow down the initial speed of the air allowing the pocket of space around the actual diaphragm to allow the air to slow down even further before reaching the capsule.
Some products I especially like to use are Rycote’s BBG or Baby Ball Gag which is a single mesh layer, creating that dead air zone around the capsule or other products by Rycote like their Cyclone blimp for larger shotgun type microphones or their new 3D Tex wind protection models where the outer layer is a nice clean and dark black mesh fabric with a certain type of very airy and open foam type material that allows it to hug the microphone and stay rigid in form yet still creates that dead air zone we just talked about.
For higher wind scenarios depending upon the product, you will also have the option to purchase a dead cat or furry which allows you to cover your mesh windscreen layer with additional fur that acts to combat very very high wind scenarios. All in all, there are plenty of great options out there… just make sure you don’t skimp on proper wind protection.
Be sure to watch the video linked in this post to learn now how to take these crucial components to a boom setup and put them to real practice.