Ok Boom(er) Mic

I think one of the most important advancements that has been made in film tech is the development of sound recording; specifically, more modern-day equipment like the boom mic. All the sound films we’ve watched in this class – Bringing Up Baby, Laura, The Girl from Missouri, etc. – have used some variant of this technology, as evidenced by the quality of the sound. When sound was first added to film, mics were either attached directly to the actors – in which case some sounds were way too loud, and if the actor turned away the sound would be almost nonexistent – or statically placed in a stationary object – in which case the actors would have to talk directly into the mic to be heard. In both cases, filming was rough and inefficient, and left very little room for the actors to, well, act – since their movements had to be so controlled and rigid. Obviously, in the films we watched, this is not the case. This is largely due to the advancement of microphone technology, specifically with the boom mic, which was an overhead microphone that an operator would move along with the actors in order to pick up their lines (“Boom Microphone”) .

(Boom Operator (Media)

The boom mic was first used in 1928 on the set of Beggars of Life, when the director told the sound man to just put the microphone on a broom handle and walk alongside the actors. Thus, the concept of the boom mic was born, and movies have become all the better for it. Interestingly enough, director Dorothy Arzner once had her sound techs hook up a microphone to a fishing rod – a mental image I find extremely funny. I also learned that the term “dead cat” refers to a windmuff, and a “dead cat on a stick” is just a boom mic with a windmuff covering it (and not at all what it sounds like) (“Boom Operator (Media)”).

Learning about this technology really made me rethink a lot about what we take for granted when we watch movies: due to the immersive nature of films, it can be easy to forget that we’re not actually there listening to the actors speak; it’s a recording, and various techniques needed to be used to capture that audio in an effective manner. This can apply to many other situations too, and opens up a great many questions about what kinds of tech go into filmmaking. For example, how does the the camera not show up in mirror scenes? When you do over-the-shoulder scenes, how does the camera guy recording the other person not show up?

Sound recording technology has more connections with computer science in the modern era, when the recordings are transduced into electronic signals, sent to a computer, and stored there so that they can be manipulated, edited, and then overlaid onto the final footage. In addition, boom mics can now be wireless, and the technology needed to accomplish that is totally in the realm of computer science, and something I could potentially even work on in the future (via networking classes).


Works Cited

“Boom Microphone.” How to Use a Boom Microphone, www.mediacollege.com/audio/microphones/boom.html.

“Boom Operator (Media).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boom_operator_(media).

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