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Old May 21st, 2008, 01:28 AM   #1
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BOOM poles.... a low level perspective

I am not a seasoned pro... FAR (far far) from. Yet I probably mirror the abiliity level of a lot of folks on here.... want better than amateur, cannot afford pro equipment as a rule... Yet want/wish I could produce pro results on a beer budget. (I'll give that up grudgingly... stay with me as I progress. More posts coming up on this journey.)

This weekend I had a chance to compare many things "pro" against some more "amateur" stuff.... All I can say about the difference is "WOW".

This post is about boom poles only.

I have a "home made" aluminum painters pole boom pole. I was rather proud of my cleverness and thought it was not too bad for under $50 - with mount. I used a Gizmo carbon fiber pole this weekend. The difference?

No comparison.

Lets' talk about it. The overall weight may have tipped towards the 2 piece aluminum. But the 6 section carbon fibre allowed me to distribute the weight towards the butt of the pole as I played out the needed length. Winner? Carbon Fiber.

Noise. Anything and everything I did, touched even thought about in the 2 piece aluminum pole translated into sound... and yes I was using a shock mount. For handling noise? Winner? Carbon Fiber.

There was a time or two I used a fish pole mount for a static boom. In that case, tie.

Overall.... I want a carbon fiber boom pole. It is worth it. If you shoot a single movie you can use a painter's pole.... but the poor sound guy is gonna have to wear gloves and be GOOD! Rent a carbon fiber pole. If you plan to shoot more than 1 film, buy a carbon fiber pole.

Next up...softies and blimps from a low end perspective.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 03:50 AM   #2
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Your observations are very astute Chris, and they mirror my own experience. While I have done my share of DIY and cross-purpose gear, it seems I usually come around to the realization of needing/wanting the best gear to do the job right. As others on the forum have observed, buy right and it hurts once, buy wrong and it hurts every time you use inadequate gear.

I have been through a similar experience with my audio interface for studio and location recording. I bought a cheap M-Audio interface, then a not-so-cheap but still mid grade MOTU. Finally I'm a happy owner of an incredible interface made by Prism Sound and there is simply no comparison.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 04:22 AM   #3
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Rode makes a 10 ft boom (about three feet collapsed) that can be had for $100, or $110 depending on where you shop. It's pretty sturdy, doesn't sag too much even when fully extended, and you can thread an XLR cable through it (you'll have to sever and re-attach one end, though, to get it through). I haven't used it like boom operator yet, only had it on C-stands, so I can't speak for handling noise, but it seems pretty decent on all other counts.

One thing is that it's somewhat heavier than other booms I've held. The thickest extension is also too thick for the fishpole holders that a lot of people use to hold the boom (they're $9 compared to the $65 Boom Mate or whatever the "official" piece is called), at least with the foam on, so I have to waste that one extension generally when mounting it on a C-stand, and use the second extension.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 08:44 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Chris Swanberg View Post
Noise. Anything and everything I did, touched even thought about in the 2 piece aluminum pole translated into sound... and yes I was using a shock mount. For handling noise? Winner? Carbon Fiber.
There are both carbon fiber and aluminum sectional boom poles. The weight is less on the carbon fiber, but for longer lengths, the aluminum poles work out better since they don't bend nearly as much. But while the pole is part of the handling noise solution, the biggest difference will be heard in the shockmount itself. Until Sennheiser released their shock mount for the 8000 series, I was very disappointed in the mic. The Ktek shockmount simply didn't provide enough isolation for me, but once a mount with more isolation was installed on my boom pole, most of the handling noise went away.

So, while you do get less handling noise with a carbon fiber boom pole vs. a painter's pole, the mounting system tends to make a bigger difference.

Wayne
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Old May 21st, 2008, 10:08 AM   #5
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I have fairly low end pro stuff and it works fine. Lightwave MiniMount (the old one, not the weird looking new one) and a Gitzo carbon fiber 11' boom, uncabled. Sometimes I wish that I had gone for the cabled pole but when I bought this many years ago, the cheapest cabled poles were in the $800.00 range and up and I couldn't afford it. The Gitzo has been great, have dragged it all over the world and it has never let me down.

Wayne's correct, buying a high quality mic mount is more important than debating aluminum vs. carbon. Either work well if you have a quality isolated mount.

Dan
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Old May 21st, 2008, 03:10 PM   #6
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I got a gitzo mount that was $65.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 01:09 AM   #7
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Thank you all for the replies, especially Wayne and Dan. For the record I was using the same elastic corded shock mount on both poles, so that does not account for the difference in handling noise I experienced (my clumsiness might), but the fact it was a painter's pole and not an aluminum boom pole could also explain it. I am confident aluminum boom poles are better engineered for sound than paint.... and vica versa. Still... my first good boom pole will be carbon fiber.

I hope a lowly amateur perspective is useful... and it is certainly more so when experts chime and and offer their perpectives from a "low level".

Again, thanks to all.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 05:49 AM   #8
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One other thing to remember about boom poles vs. painters poles. While there certainly are externally wired boom poles, a majority of boom ops/sound recordist in the US purchase internally wired poles. This means you don't have the cable possibly generating additional handling noise. For whatever reason, in Europe externally wired boom poles are still the preferred way of wiring a boom. But all of these things factor into handling noise:

- pole (you found that out)
- shock mount
- microphone (and how well internally the mic is isolated and mounted)

All three of these things determine how handling free your recording will be. Change any one of the three and your results will change. Although as I said earlier, the shock mount probably makes the biggest difference, followed closely by the microphone.

Wayne
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 05:38 PM   #9
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Man, this is rule one. Don't skimp on the pole. I agree with Wayne though. Sometimes aluminum is better than carbon fiber. It's not that much heavier, and can be way stiffer. As far as the K-Tek Avalon series goes, the aluminum has slightly higher handling noise, but to me, the extra stiffness is worth the tradeoff.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 06:33 PM   #10
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Is the rode considered skimping?
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 07:39 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne Brissette View Post
While there certainly are externally wired boom poles, a majority of boom ops/sound recordist in the US purchase internally wired poles.
Wayne
Hmm, I have been told "it's and east coast/west coast thing." not sure I believe that either.

I use a Carbon Fiber, 16 ft. K-tek with an external cable. No problem. It's a skill like anything else. I can extend or retract while booming hot to accommodate weird spaces I get crammed into, like Senator's offices on Capitol Hill where I'm forced to be 4 feet from one person and eight feet from another and my back is up against a literal wall.

The guys I know who use internal coiled cables say they can sproing closed on you unless they are tightened. I'd miss the ability to change length. The cords eventually lose their form and you can't close the pole down all the way and the coiled cables will kink. They also say you have to be careful of noise caused by the cable moving around inside the boom. None of that make any sense to you, Wayne?

Regards,

Ty
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 05:25 AM   #12
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A lot of that makes sense Ty. You do have to tighten the knuckles on the boom or they will collapse on you, but you don't have to get them so tight that you can't make adjustments onset. Wexler's boom op, Don is amazing at doing this. Me, not so. ;-)

You could be right on the internal/external being an east coast west coast thing. This poll shows US use internally wired poles more often:
http://www.trewaudio.com/poll/?poll=21
But I haven't worked on the east coast, only middle America and the west coast, so I don't know how things fare there.

I have one of my three boom poles that won't close all the way because the cable is stretched, but that pole is 10 years old, so I kind of expect that. I always teach people how to do maintenance on the boom poles, so the cables are less likely to not get stretched, but it does happen. Noise is probably the only thing on your list that I have rarely seen or heard be a problem. You have to shake the boom pretty good to get cable noise and if you're handling the boom that roughly, you're going to have a whole lot more issues first. ;-)

Wayne
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 08:10 AM   #13
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As useful as Trew Audio is to the audio industry, I'm hesitant to believe any Internet polls. They are too easy to finagle.

Good research is valuable, but like good audio, good research takes time and energy.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 10:44 AM   #14
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As useful as Trew Audio is to the audio industry, I'm hesitant to believe any Internet polls. They are too easy to finagle.
I agree. But this poll mirrors what I see in the west and mid sections of the country. Again not having worked on the east coast, I don't have a clue what is more popular there.

Wayne
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Old May 24th, 2008, 04:41 AM   #15
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i've got an avalon w/ internal coil. The internal is great for fast geurilla setups, but its true, the coiled cable inside *can* move around and make noise, especially if you are extended quite far. Knowing that its not much drama to handle it accordingly, but its pretty clear that would be a preference thing.
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