a creative solution
When looking back on the numerous technologies we have covered this semester, there was one that stood out to me as a surprisingly creative solution to a common problem. Being a music producer and music technology major, I care a lot about sound, recording technology, and the recording process, so I found boom microphones to be absolutely fascinating. It is a technology that is used in nearly every form of video recording today, and I am only now understanding that it is such a clever, unique, and much needed solution to a common problem many film studios were struggling with when sound was becoming more prevalent.
History of the Boom Mic
Before boom mics, microphones were hidden within the set in order for them to not be seen. This was a great struggle for film producers, as scenes had to be based around the microphone placement and movement was severely limited. Actors were forced to always act and speak in the direction of the microphone because if they moved their head while speaking, the sound waves would travel away, preventing them from being picked up. Many actors had a difficult time adjusting to this new technology, as it hindered and restricted their ability to be expressive with movement. The invention of the boom mic was in response to these issues during the filming of the 1929 film The Wild Party. One of the stars, Clara Bow, was nervous about the new technology and had difficulty adjusting to microphones. In order to fix this problem and to allow Bow to move around more freely, director Dorothy Arzner devised a plan to attach a microphone to a fishing rod to hang over the scene out of shot. This allowed for sound to continuously be recorded as characters move, since a boom mic operator can follow characters as they move across a scene.
A New Love for the boom
As I learned more about boom mics while preparing this blog post, I gained a newfound appreciation for the amount of effort that went into and still goes into the sound of film, television, and other video media. While watching a film, I normally don’t think about how the sound is captured during chase sequences, walking or running scenes, or other dynamic scenes involving movement. Due to boom mic technology, these types of scenes can have high-quality audio at a consistent volume throughout the course of the scene. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for both actors and sound engineers at the time to have to worry about microphone placement and speaking in the direction of a still microphone while also trying to act. I would have probably gone insane having to keep telling actors to speak into the microphone over and over again. People still don’t know how to properly talk into a mic even after the technology has been around for over a century, and it drives me crazy while running the sound for different events. The boom mic seems so obvious and practical today, but it is incredible to think there was a time when it was infinitely more frustrating to capture audio.
Barson, Michael. “Dorothy Arzner.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia
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“Boom Operator.” Media, http://www.media
“Boom Operator (Media).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Sept. 2019,
“Dorothy Arzner.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Oct. 2019,
“The Wild Party (1929 Film).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Aug. 2019,