1439309913Behind the scenes of 'Far From The Madding Crowd', courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Boom Operator (film)

Industries:
Film
Personality type:
Engineer
Departments:
Sound

The lowdown 

  • Positioning microphones during filming
  • Making sure that microphones don’t get in the way of cameras or actors
  • Looking after sound equipment

Is this role right for me?

 To do this role you will need to:

  • Have a basic understanding of electronics
  • Have a good working knowledge of all sound recording equipment 
  • Understand microphones, lighting techniques and camera lens angles
  • Have an interest in acoustics and audio technology
  • Have excellent listening skills
  • Have good physical stamina, dexterity and agility
  • Have good timing and the ability to anticipate
  • Have a good memory
  • Be patient, flexible and reliable
  • Have good attention to detail
  • Be diplomatic and sensitive on set
  • Understand the relevant health and safety laws and procedures

What does a boom operator do?

Boom Operators assist the Production Sound Mixer and operate the boom microphone. This is either hand-held on a long arm or dolly mounted (on a moving platform). If radio or clip microphones are required, Boom Operators position them correctly around the set or location, or on actors’ clothing. 

Boom Operators are responsible for positioning microphones so that Sound Mixers can capture the best quality dialogue and sound effects. If this is done well, a great deal of money can be saved by not having to re-record (post-sync) the dialogue at a later stage.

Boom Operators are also responsible for all the sound equipment, ensuring that it is in good working order, and carrying out minor repairs where necessary.

Boom Operators begin work on the first day of principal photography. They have to read the script and familiarise themselves with the characters and their lines of dialogue. Members of the Sound Department arrive half-an-hour before call time, in order to unload and set up all the sound equipment.

Boom Operators are given “sides” (small booklets of pages from the script that are to be shot each day. They have to memorise all lines of dialogue and anticipate when to move the boom during filming. During rehearsals Boom Operators carefully note all planned camera movements and lighting requirements. They have to make sure that the microphone does not accidentally fall into shot or cast shadows.

Boom Operators are on set virtually all day. They work very closely with the Camera Crew. They are often asked to move slightly because of lights or camera angles and Boom Operators may also make similar requests. They finish work when the film wraps (is completed).

Boom Operators work on a freelance basis, and report directly to Production Sound Mixers in Production Sound Departments. They usually specialise in film or television, but may also work on commercials. The hours are long and the work often involves long periods working away from home.

Will I need a qualification?

You don’t need a formal qualification but there are many courses in sound production available at different levels. There are also some industry-led training schemes.

If you are considering taking a film production course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the film industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a career in film:

Film production courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

What’s the best route in?

You need to get experience, paid or voluntary, in film, television, community media, the music industry or even hospital radio. You might start your career in a Facilities House, learning about sound equipment. You can then progress to Sound Trainee and Sound Assistant. If you can work with a Production Sound Mixer, you might get the chance to operate a boom.

You could apply to be a trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all-important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

For more information on job roles in the creative industries, take a look at Hiive's job roles.  

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