What is a Boom Operator and What is Their Role on set?
The Boom Operator is responsible for appropriate microphone placement on the set despite potentially impeding conditions that would otherwise limit the ability to capture adequate sound. Boom Operators ensure that microphones are placed in a way that they do not impede the actor’s ability to function on the set and they also ensure placement out of the way of the camera crew. Boom Operators are expected to capture clear dialogue throughout the production regardless of the physical demands or skills required to position microphones in otherwise difficult zones.
Most of the time, Boom Operators work freelance under the Production Sound Mixers on the set. They are hired by the Production Sound Department and often specialize in either television or film but may also be found in a commercial setting. Work hours are long, so Boom Operators must be agile and flexible with working extensive hours away from home.
Boom Operator Job Requirements
The Boom Operator will assist the Production Sound Mixer with operating the boom microphone to ensure quality audio recording. The boom microphone may be handheld or it could function from the end of a long-arm or dolly that is mounted on a moving platform. When special clip microphones or radio microphones are necessary, the boom operator will be responsible for appropriately positioning them throughout the location or film set to ensure proper dialogue recording and sound effects.
Boom Operators can save the production a lot of money if they are able to appropriate place recording devices to ensure there is not a need for later re-recording or post-syncing of the audio for the production. As such, Boom Operators must be highly skilled and have a strong working knowledge of the way sound is produced and recorded on the film set.
Boom Operator On-The-Job
They begin their work the first day the principal photography production takes place and remain on the set or on location until the filming is complete. They read the script several times in order to fully understand the characters and their lines so as to be prepared to capture dialogue.
Boom Operators must memorize the script so before filming they are provided with sides that represent small booklets of pages from the script that are to be shot each film day. This allows them to review and memorize the lines of script dialogue so that they can anticipate where the boom microphones are needed during filming. As such, Boom operators must have great memorization skills and the ability to read and anticipate upcoming needs quickly.
At morning rehearsal, the Boom Operator will work with the Director, the Director of Photography, and the set actors to be part of the planning of camera movements and lighting requirements. This way, they are able to ensure microphone placement does not interrupt the shoot or cast shadows on any of the set or actors during production.
Boom operators remain on the set throughout the entire day to ensure proper microphone positioning alongside the Camera Crew. They are responsible for having a sound working relationship with members of the Camera Crew as they work with one another throughout the duration of the production. Often times, Camera Crew or Lighting Crew will ask boom operators to move slightly so as to allow for production without error. The remain on set until the film wraps.
Boom Operators Skills
Essential skills of the Boom Operator generally include a working knowledge of electronic equipment and the ability to understand sound characteristics. Boom operators have knowledge of sound recording and microphones as well as lighting and camera techniques. Additional skills may include:
- Aural skills.
- Communication skills.
- Agility and flexibility.
- Timing and ability to anticipate upcoming needs.
- Attention to detail.
- Knowledge of health and safety requirements.
Deity Microphones made a video highlighting how to be a boom operator and what it’s like: