View Full Version : absolute beginner: how to use a boom pole with shotgun


Ernesto Llano
June 10th, 2006, 10:29 PM
i will be buying the Rode Videomic, with the rode boom pole very soon and I was wondering what are some basic instructions on how to use this equipment.

What I'm looking to do is to get an extension cable to be able to get sound from the mic into the mic input in my camera. Then, I would hold the boom pole with the mic as close to the actors/actresses as I can in order to get the best audio possible.

If there is a conversation between two people standing in front of each other, should I point the mic back and forth as they talk, or should i point it at a midpoint between them?

If I'm doing a wide angle shot, should I get the audio for it first with the microphone really close to the talent and then just voice that audio over the recording of the same scene without the boom pole in the scene?

Are there any other basic tips that you guys could give me?

Thanks a ton,

Ernesto.

David Ennis
June 11th, 2006, 08:38 AM
Ernesto,
There's a wealth of info on this subject if you seach this forum or even google for "boom pole technique" and similar search strings. Here's an example I got from google:

http://www.cyberfilmschool.com/learn/article_detail.aspx?id=77

If you're serious or even semi-serious about audio, check out the books available at dplay.com and tyford.com

Ernesto Llano
June 11th, 2006, 10:34 AM
thank you for your response, I read a few articles that I found there, however, one of my questions still remains.

When I'm shooting a conversation between two people, do I rotate the mic back and forth between them as they talk?

I imagine I would, since according to those articles the shotgun records in a straight line, and if I point it anywhere else than the mouth of the speaking actor, it won't get good audio.

Am I right on that?

Denis Danatzko
June 11th, 2006, 11:05 AM
My 2 cents:

If you were to leave the mic stationary, e.g. in a mic stand, and "spin" the boom slowly, the mic would travel in a circle, i.e. 360 degrees. Consider how many times you would have to move the boom within your hands to do that and run the risk of generating unwanted noise from the boom sliding through your hands.

If the distance between the 2 people is only about 90 to 120 degrees of that circle, you might be able to simply twist your wrists while holding the boom without actually moving the boom within your hands. The resulting noise from the friction of the boom moving against your hand, or even gloves, often gets picked up on the sound track, something you want to avoid. (I dont use gloves, but my skin gets very dry and rough and can easily generate noise, so I find twisting my wrists without moving the boom in my hands is effective for me. Your experience may be different).

I suspect you should try different methods while using headphones to listen to the result. Whatever method gives you the cleanest and best sound is what you ultimately want to use.

Paul R Johnson
June 11th, 2006, 11:43 AM
The mic you are using makes a huge difference to technique. If it is a full length mic such as an 816, then it is very, very directional, so yes - you will need to favour each person if the mic is close in. The trouble is that when you get close in, the wanted vs unwanted audio ratio is pretty high IF they are on-mic. Once they go off the side, the level and tone change quite a bit - hence why a sealed pair of cans is very useful. If the mic distance increases a bit then aiming for a point midway between them gives ok results if the ambient noise is low enough. It sounds a little more 'thin', but can usually be eq'd in the edit if troublesome. If the mic a little shorter - then the effect isn't quite so pronounced.

Rotating the mic on a boom (sorry, pole to you in the US) works fine if the mic is centre mounted - as with a zepplin style housing, pistol grip and hairy cover. If you use things like Rycote softies, the weight is all at the end, so rotating these isn't quite so simple, depending on the angle. They also tend to 'flop' a bit when they get older and the rubber softens.

Don't forget that you can boom over, or under - depending on the shot. You'll need to work well with the camera to find out when the things in shot and then learn to keep outside that distance, with an eye on the cameraman in case they do an unplanned zoom out. I like to have plenty of level in the cans so I can really hear what it's picking up - this is critical to save aborted takes, or worse, things that are heard for the first time in the edit.

On the cable subject - it is really worth getting a short curly xlr - even when extended by a normal one. Just gives a little slack for the camera. I'm quite a lover of booms and radio tx packs - getting rid of the cable is great - I use another receiver to power my cans - the set I bought came with two receivers

David Ennis
June 11th, 2006, 12:18 PM
...When I'm shooting a conversation between two people, do I rotate the mic back and forth between them as they talk?

I imagine I would, since according to those articles the shotgun records in a straight line, and if I point it anywhere else than the mouth of the speaking actor, it won't get good audio.

Am I right on that?Not exactlly. There three things that give you a little leeway. The first one is that the pickup pattern for shotguns is not a stragiht line, it's a cone of about 120° across. That's why the aim doesn't have to be perfect. The second one is that sound doesn't travel in a straight line, but in an expanding circle. That's why a boom operator can aim down from above although the person is speaking straight forward. The third (in the case of two people) is that since the shot is a bit wider the perception of the viewer won't be offended by slightly less intimate sound.

So if the people are close enough so that they can be captured well within that cone without pulling the mic too far away the sound will be good. If that's not the case you have to move the mic. How far is too far? It depends on the mic, the accoustics of the space, the voices and expertise of the talent, and how good you consider to be good enough. That's why you will need to experiment a bit.

I've recorded actors with the Rode VideoMic, but not on a boom pole. For my purposes, the audio quality I got from 10-12 feet away when they were about 6-8 feet apart was pretty good. Not studio quality by any means, because I was breaking a lot of rules. But good enough that average people were impressed with the result. Therefore my guess is that you are likely to find a boom position where you don't have to rotate the mic.

Ernesto Llano
June 11th, 2006, 05:29 PM
so if two actors were lets say sitting at accross from each other at a restaurant having a conversation and i had medium shots of each with wide shots once in a while, should i just put the boom pole pointing at the space between them a few feet above them?

or, should i have the boom pole just above the frame of the camera in the medium shots, rotating between the actors, and then just play that audio over the wide shots?

Ernesto.

Steve House
June 11th, 2006, 06:00 PM
so if two actors were lets say sitting at accross from each other at a restaurant having a conversation and i had medium shots of each with wide shots once in a while, should i just put the boom pole pointing at the space between them a few feet above them?

or, should i have the boom pole just above the frame of the camera in the medium shots, rotating between the actors, and then just play that audio over the wide shots?

Ernesto.

This is one of those scenarios where a hyper is probably better suited than is a shotgun. First you're likely to pickup reflections from the environment as the colouration of the shotgun might become apparent. Second, a hyper has a bit wider angle of acceptance than a shotgun and so it'll be much easier the find a mic location that works well for both characters.

This is a classic case of where the best solution might be a couple of lavs on each character or a mic planted on the table between them and hidden in the props.

Matthew de Jongh
June 18th, 2006, 05:42 PM
if you put a hyper like the oktava mk-012 directly centered between the two actors you should be all set.

one thing you are bound to run into is when you have two actors, one has done stage work in the past and knows how to "project" his/her voice and the other person won't speak loud enough.

so you will wind up having to rotate the mic to be favoring the quieter person in order to get it balanced so they are both at the same level.

you should get a good audio book...

the two best ones for someone just starting out with audio are the Jay Rose book "Producing great sound for digital video"

and the other is from Tomlinson Holman (the TX in THX) "sound for digital video"

both books are really good and both touch on the boom work specifically.

if you have to get just one book i would probably lean towards the tomlinson one.

matthew