A boom microphone is a directional microphone mounted or attached to a pole or arm. Primarily used in film and television, this type of microphone frees the hands of actors or reporters while allowing them to enjoy the amplified audio of a traditional microphone. Boom mics can also be used to amplify a group conversation, as they can be positioned so that everyone's voice can be heard.
A boom mic is simple enough to fashion for amateur productions. A broomstick, microphone stand, or fishing pole can be used to hold the microphone aloft. In fact, on-set, this pole is often called a fish pole. One concern with this type of microphone is vibrations that could mar audio quality. Boom microphones are sensitive enough to pick up such unwanted vibrations as unsteady hands, for example. To prevent this, the microphone should include some type of isolating mechanism, such as foam padding or elastic suspensions.
There are some issues to consider while working with a boom microphone. Those operating the mic must be careful that it doesn't creep into the shot, which distracts the audience and looks unprofessional. For optimal audio, it should be kept as close to those speaking as possible without it being visible on film. As some boom microphones are battery-powered, it is important to make sure the batteries are charged before beginning to film. Sometimes one requires a team to properly operate. For example, when filming a subject walking forward, the person holding the boom microphone has to walk backward. To avoid falling or ending up with the microphone in the shot, the operator might require an assistant to guide him.
On professional film and television productions, a boom operator is primarily responsible for handling a boom microphone. A boom operator decides where the microphone should be placed in order to capture the best sound, for example. A boom operator might also decide to augment the sound recorded by the boom microphone with small lapel microphones or other types of microphones. Making sure the microphone is steadily positioned is another job of the boom operator. This requires a steady hand and arm strength.
The boom operator must also review and remember a production's script, as he must be able to follow the dialogue and action with the microphone. Other important skills for boom operators include being a team player, technological savvy, and patience, as working on a set might include long hours with lots of delays. Though there is not a particular degree that qualifies one to work as a boom operator, many boom operators obtain a film degree to increase their knowledge of movie and television production in general. Internships provide potential boom operators with valuable experience and training.