Features and Columns · Movies

What a Boom Operator Does On a Movie Set

Here comes the boom mic.
Boogie Nights boom operator
New Line Cinema
By  · Published on March 11th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores what a boom operator does on set.

Where were you as a fledgling film fan when you learned what “ADR” is?  If you’ve never bumped up against any truly egregious examples of dubbing (a practice whereby film dialogue is recorded separately from principal photography), you’d be forgiven for assuming that all dialogue is recorded live on-set. It turns out this is a lot harder to do than you’d think! Sets are noisy places. There are planes, electrical hums, and the ever-present chance that some rogue PA might let loose a sneeze.

Enter: Automated Dialogue Replacement, a practice that has absolutely nothing to do with automation and everything to do with actors recreating their on-set performances in a recording booth after the fact. ADR can be a godsend if you’re dealing with something like a noisy location, unintelligible dialogue, story changes, etc.  At No Film School‘s estimate, most movies these days hover around a ratio of 3:7 ADR to production sound. And if you’re a fan of certain international-leaning genres like Spaghetti Westerns or Italian Splatter flicks, you’ll be familiar with the acquired taste of movies that barely try to hide the fact that they’re entirely dubbed.

But, unless you’re trying to cover for a genuine mistake, it’s fair to say that usable on-set sound is ususally the goal. Enter: the boom operator, the sound technician responsible for recording as much dialogue on-set as they can. While you may not be super sure of what a boom operator does, you’re doubtless familiar with the tool of the trade: the iconic boom mic, outfitted with a fuzzy dead cat (no, really, that’s what it’s called) and ideally hovering just outside of frame. For a deeper look into what boom operators do on set, check out the video essay below.

Watch “What A Boom Operator Does On Set: Crew Breakdown”:

Who made this?

This video essay on what boom operators do on a movie set is by In Depth Cine, a YouTube account dedicated to providing its audience with practical rundowns and explainers on some of the more technical aspects of movie-making. Gray Kotzé, a documentary DP based in South Africa, is the man behind the channel. You can check out Kotzé’s portfolio on their website here. And you can check out In Depth Cine on YouTube here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).