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If you’ve ever wondered how movies and TV shows manage to get such clear and high-quality audio, the answer lies in the hands of the modest boom mic. Even though there are many other types of microphones, boom mics are the standard for recording dialogue in the film industry, and are also commonly used as overhead microphones for recording instruments like drums.
In this article, we’ll define a boom mic, discuss its function, and explore the many situations in which it can be used. So keep reading to find out more about boom mics.
What is a Boom Mic?
A boom mic, often called a shotgun mic, is a highly directional microphone that is installed on a long pole known as a boom pole. It allows you to record sound from a specific source with minimal background noise. It is widely used in the film industry to record high-quality audio.
If you’ve ever watched behind-the-scenes footage of a movie or a TV show and noticed a person holding a long stick up in the air with a microphone attached to the end of it, that is a boom mic.
The film and music industries rely on the versatile boom microphone to record high-quality audio. Essentially, a boom mic is a directional shotgun microphone on a boom pole or “boom arm” that lets the operator get the mic near the sound source while staying out of frame.
You can extend or retract the pole to change the distance between the mic and the sound source and record from a variety of angles and distances.
A boom mic’s highly directional (or lobar) pickup pattern is one of its defining characteristics since it focuses on picking up sound originating from a single direction while rejecting or dampening sound from all others.
To do this, the microphone employs a capsule that is more responsive to incoming sound from the front and less so from the sides and back. The ability to precisely locate the origin of the sound makes it a useful tool for recording speech and other sound effects in film and television productions, among other things.
Let’s take a look at the scenarios in which a boom microphone might be needed.
Boom Microphone Applications
As we just mentioned, a boom microphone is widely used in film and TV productions. However, it can be used on a number of different occasions. Let’s check them out.
Film and TV
Film and television productions are two of the most common applications for a boom microphone. The microphone is used to record sounds such as speech/dialogue and ambient noise.
A boom operator would hold the microphone on a long pole and get it as near to the actors or other sound sources as possible while staying out of frame.
To get the best audio from the actors, the mic is typically used with a lavalier (lav) mic that is attached to the actor’s clothes. When used in tandem, these two mics capture an audio track in its entirety, ready for post-production editing and mixing.
Live Events and Performances
You can also use boom microphones live on stage to capture audio from performers such as singers, musicians, and actors. Together with a lavalier mic, you can record different parts of the performance by either positioning the boom mic on a stand or suspending it from a boom arm above the stage.
Additionally, a boom mic is used to record instruments such as pianos, guitars, and drums during live performances.
To capture each instrument’s unique sound, a boom microphone is positioned near the instrument or amplifier. Usually, the microphone is placed on a stand or dangled from a boom arm above the instrument or amplifier, and then experiment with different placements and angles with a qualified sound engineer to get the optimal sound.
While recording an instrument, it’s common to use several boom microphones to pick up every nuance of the sound. In a live performance, for instance, the sound of a drum set may be captured by multiple mics, one put on each drum and another positioned above the kit to record an ambient sound.
Theater performances can also benefit from using boom microphones to record dialogue. In order to pick up the actors’ voices without being annoying or distracting, a trained boom operator will move the boom microphone around above the actors smoothly and silently.
Boom mics are simply shotgun microphones mounted on a boom pole. Shotgun microphones are highly directional, making them excellent at picking up sound from a single source while rejecting sound from other sources and eliminating any background noise.
This allows you to capture instruments in a recording studio with great clarity and accuracy. For instance, you can use a boom mic to record the sound of an electric guitar or a drum set if you know where exactly to place it.
Thanks to its narrow polar pattern, you can also use a boom mic to record vocalists and voice-overs.
However, it’s important to remember that boom mics aren’t normally the go-to mic when it comes to studio music recordings. A dynamic or condenser microphone, for example, is far more suited to picking up the nuances and dynamics of musical instruments and vocals than a boom microphone.
Because of their lobar pickup pattern, boom microphones are more frequently used in broadcast and film production, where they are particularly well-suited for recording dialogue and other sound effects.
When placed correctly, boom microphones can record high-quality drum sounds. Here are some suggestions for positioning boom mics while recording drums:
Kick drum: You can place a microphone inside the kick drum, pointing towards the beater, or outside the drum, near the resonant head, pointing towards the center of the drum. You can experiment with different positions to find the sweet spot that captures your desired sound.
Snare drum: Install a microphone on a stand over the snare, place it around two to three inches above the drumhead, and point it directly at the drum’s center.
Hi-hat: when it comes to recording hi-hats, it’s important to experiment with different mic positions. You can place the mic 4”-5” above the top cymbal, or a few feet away from the drum kit, aimed towards the hi-hat. Each position results in a different sound, so feel free to experiment until you find your ideal mic setup.
Toms: Position the microphone slightly above the tom about two to four inches from the drumhead and point it down toward its center. By placing the microphone in this spot, you’ll be able to pick up the tom’s authentic tone and resonance while cutting down on background noise.
You can also place the microphone slightly away from the tom and point it at the center of the drumhead. This setup has the potential to record a wider spectrum of frequencies, leading to a more complete and natural sound.
Overhead: The best results will be achieved by positioning two microphones overhead, one on each side of the drum set, at equal distances from the center of the kit, and placed around 3-4 feet above the drum kit. There are different approaches to this, but this is the most common way.
Room: Place two microphones in the corners of the room about 2-3 feet above the floor, facing away from the drum kit to capture the natural ambiance of the room.
Keep in mind that finding the best sound for your recording requires trying different microphone positions.
Check our guide on Best Room Microphones for Live Recording.
When should you use a boom mic?
What is the difference between a boom mic and a regular mic?
What do you connect a boom mic to?
To sum up, a boom microphone is a very powerful instrument that allows audio professionals to record high-quality audio with laser precision. Its capacity to filter out background noise and focus on specific sound sources makes it an indispensable tool for audio engineers in fields as diverse as cinema, television, music production, and live events. Boom mics are unparalleled in their ability to capture audio with outstanding clarity and detail. Their versatility and mobility make them an important instrument for recording sound in difficult circumstances.
From capturing the roar of a crowd at a live event to the soft whispers of an actor on a film set, boom microphones can do it all. Boom microphones are definitely the unsung heroes of the audio world.