If I could live vicariously through another cartoon character, it would be Peter Griffin from Family Guy. The episodes where he talks about “what really grids his gears…” comes to mind.
Because of all the times people call out production sound when a “boom is in the shot”.
For those people this applies to, I hope that they read this blog and understand another departments’ side of things. It would help the general consensus of understanding derespecting more of the process instead of being a “Sound Troll”.
I guess if I am going to dive into this, we need to explain a few things… A Sound Troll is a person that takes it upon themselves to point out flaws in the production process that they weren’t physically present on. There are websites and groups that seem to applaud these findings and they just make me cringe.
Take a look at this article if you need an example. The video is all good fun, but the website just seems to point out a flaw, which I find silly.
Don’t get me wrong, random people online having fun finding little eggs is one thing, but there are others that take it a little bit to far, and all it does is mock hard workers that make the content we love!
The other issue is, it may not even be our fault that it happened…
In narrative, there are usually a few takes where the boom operator and camera operators can figure out their framing and ensure a quality track without being seen. Professional Boom operators are ninjas with extreme accuracy. When they “dip in” sometimes it can be as simple as a reframing of camera department that never got to the sound.
All it takes is a little communication between the boom operator and the camera operators to know what they are doing. We aren’t mind readers and having a heads up when something changes stops us from being reactionary and instead allows us to be proactive and compliment their shot.
Second Team Rehearsals
Another step that can do to increase synergy between camera and sound to eliminate these “boom in the shot” issues is to ensure that we have Second Team Rehearsals.
As a professional, we strive ourselves on doing our best and working hard on each take to ensure we get the most quality out of our tracks that we can. When we are forced day in and day out to do scenes with multiple cameras without second team rehearsals or even first team rehearsals, it leaves too much up for chance. In sound, without proper rehearsals, we cannot accurately hear what the room or talent will sounds like until the rest of the production crew gets quiet and buckles down till after the scene is finished. When people are talking onset, we cannot hear sound bogeys or nuances that truly affect our recordings and noise floors in those recordings.
What NOT to Do
The more inexperienced crews that I work on generally seem to more vocal about these issues, and in turn call out these booms in the shot like they are death or cancer.
When this happens, it is usually due to a rushed crew that is not as attentive because they are chasing their day.
There, I said it. Too many times have I rolled my eyes to an arrogant producer or director (or DP for that fact) that doesn’t understand that we aren’t attached to their camera operators every movement and require direction just the same in order to compliment each other’s product.
A story comes to mind from an old mentor of mine. He used to work on the Little House and the Prairie back in the day. I will go give everyone a moment to go look up the show. It is DEFINITELY an oldie…
So in this story, the production is working on a scene which has an actor at a table. In the scene, the actor has a few lines, and then stands up to deliver a few more lines and then leaves frame.
During take one, the camera operator yells, “Cut! Boom’s in the shot!” which is something that camera operators would do more in the past than nowadays. It came from a time where directors would not be back at a video village cart, but would instead be back there on the front line with their talent directing and being present. It creates a much greater synergy and end result when they are trusting their operators and instead focus on their job, which is delivering performances out of their talent to help tell the story.
Take 2 was different, because our boom operator in this story was very sure he wasn’t the problem, so after speed he refused to put the pole into position. The camera operator again tells, “boom in the shot!”
For anyone in production, their eyes should be going bug-eyed right now. This is what throwing someone under the bus is. Long story short, the camera operator was missing the tilt up and throwing the boom operator under the bus blaming it on us instead of just asking for another shot. That kind of mentality is wrong. I hope that type of crap in 2019 doesn’t happen anymore…
A Different Concept For Most
I truly believe there is a big issue present in most schools teaching production around the world. A lot of people are not getting a true sound education when they get into the industry. This does not mean I expect every writer, producer, director, and crew member to take 3 years of curriculum in a field you are not technically pursuing. Instead, A lot of people get anxious when we are “riding the line”.
Listen, our jobs as boom operators is to ride that line as best we can. To compliment the perspective of the camera requires us to potentially ride that line dangerously close. Having an operator that is scared of a boom is something that can cause tension on set when there doesn’t need to be. There have been jobs where I have someone say to me repeatedly 3-4 times, “man you are getting so close”
“I understand, have I dipped in ever?”
“Well no, but-”
“Then stop worrying and let me do my job.”
Harsh? Maybe. But, it’s true. The alternate is having a camera operator that continues to vocally show their insecurity in your ability, which is none of their business. They don’t sign your paychecks and because of it, their fear of you dipping is not of your concern.
Now on the other hand if you are dipping in like crazy, that’s a different story. You need to know your frames and understand what the shot is always.
Listen, all I am doing is opening up the scenario that it is NOT always the boom guys fault. There are so many parts to the filmmaking process… and even if it WAS the boom guys fault, there are so many other safety checks in place that it should never make it to broadcast.