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gkim

Asking for frameline

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As a newish boom op, i'm wondering who and how to get a frameline. Most of the time, I can get a glimpse from video village or the small monitor off of camera, but there are times when there's a pan move that wasn't discussed that catches me off guard. 

Some 1st ac's are helpful, and say when they are getting focus marks is a good time, but when there isn't rehersal when is the appropriate time to ask? Is there a protocol for getting this info?

It often feels like camera dept could care less about communicating with sound regarding frameline and pans. 

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One of the primary reasons a sound mixer should have a monitor on the cart and a line of communication to you is to help establish the frame line.

If not, this is yet another instance where maintaining a friendly relationship pays off big time. 

One of the challenges is that if you have the boom anywhere out of the frame and ask for a frame line, often they'll tell you, "you're good," and then go back to being important -- even if the Windjammer is dusting the ceiling. 

Usually, the best way to know the frame line (well, the third best way -- experience is the first best way, know your lenses, etc. -- the mixer at the cart is the second best way), is to start with the boom inside the frame and have them talk you to the edge.  The challenge with this method is that as soon as you dip into the frame -- even if you request a frame line as you do so -- someone in the camera department will typically yell, "Boom's in the frame!" with the same verbal ferocity they'd deploy if you were raping their dog.  This is when having a friendly working relationship saves the day for all concerned -- and sometimes a bit of properly-timed humor can go a long way.  They're more apt to know it's humor if you have that friendly relationship.

 

 

 

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Having a good working relationship with the operator is the best way. Always listen to instructions being given to the camera dept, then you will know about those reframes or pans/tilts etc.

Dipping into frame and being called out is the best way to get an edge, choose the right time, dip the boom in and look over and they will signal you out to the edge. Also check for shadows and don't be afraid to ask.

I had a conversation recently with a DP and he mentioned that a lot of the new boom ops never ask for edges or check for shadows. I think how a boom op works with camera dept is one of the indicators of experience.

We work in a collaborative job and as a boom op it is your responsibility to know the frame and work with cam dept to mic the scene as best as possible. :)

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understood - our work is collaborative and maybe there's more I could do to have a better working relationship with camera. Sometimes they're such pricks though - makes it tough to be diplomatic. 

I love John's description of a DP yelling "boom in frame", so true it made me laugh out loud on the subway.   

Thanks again for sharing insight guys, muh appreciated. 

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Learn filmmaking. Look at a frame and understand what is desirable in the frame and what isn't. If it's a two-shot of people across a conference table, and the camera is not physically on the table, then you can be sure there will be a lot of headroom so as there isn't a mile of brown in the bottom of the frame. If there's a cool ceiling fan or neon deep in the frame in a bar scene, you can be sure that on a medium or wide, the operator will want to keep that in. Perhaps negotiate keeping it for the opening, but then settling to normal headroom after what would likely be the first cut (when the person off camera talks). Recognise their contribution to the storytelling, and they will recognise yours. It isn't always necessary to be right on the edge of frame. With a lot of mics we use, the edge of frame might be too close for the best sound.

As a mixer, I try to keep the boom safe whenever proximity is not critical. That way the operator isn't always looking for you, and they learn to trust the boom operator. When being close is necessary (acoustics or BG noise or level), then you can make a joke and say you might "scare them" a bit for this shot, but you need to be close for xxx reason. Would they mind helping you get a hard frame line.

In terms of tilts and such, knowledge of filmmaking is another way to know what's going to happen. Ask if they're going to hold the foreground headroom or stay down with the deep actor. These sorts of questions lets them know that you have an understanding of what they are trying to do, and will establish trust and a good rapport.

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16 minutes ago, gkim said:

Thank you Robert for the great advice, truly helpful. Looking into books and materials now. 

Watch movies and TV shows, and pay attention to framing. Books are one thing, but actually seeing what makes the cut is more important. Great shows like "Breaking Bad" and "Mr. Robot" will break the mould in terms of framing, but in general you can get a good understanding of composition when you watch movies and TV with that in mind. Start by rewatching something you've seen a lot, that way you aren't distracted by story :-)  You will also understand exceptions to the rules and when they are used effectively. Learn about "the line", and you will instantly become a better boom operator in terms of knowing where to stand, etc.

Once you've done all that, remember to listen. Smooth it out.

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When hunting for a frame line, shake the boom gently as you test limits. That provides a visual clue that you're looking for guidance and not simply so dense as to think that the microphone can be used deep into the frame. (Only works, of course, if a suitable person is actually at the eyepiece. Don't do this with the Director or a Producer/Client at the camera.)

David

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Despite I'm usually an OMB - guy, I  boomed my first and so far only bigger full length feature last year and that was a good experience.

 First day, I introduced myself kindly to the DP. Got no response. First shot, I figured a good moment to ask the camera operator / DP for frameline ( he was looking at his phone). He looked at me, made a long pause, probably to raise tension, and replied: "Don't talk to me".

Gorgeous start!

However, over the 24 shooting days, I learned a lot about how and when to communicate on these kinds of sets. I think I've always been quite good at this, but this production was a hell of a quest.

After day three I had a perfect working relationship with 1ac, 1ad, lightning-crew by doing the following:

 

- ask which lens they use instead of "where can I put the boom?"

- ask for a quick glance at their monitor instead of saying "show me where I..."

- get a feeling for "when" to ask. The moment, the ac is changing lenses or adjusting something in the menue is not the right one.

 

For shadows / lightning:

- test it yourself, before asking. If you're not shure about a single light, ask for this one specifically. Try to know the equipment. Like: a question concerning "the four bank above the door" sounds more professional than one concerning "that long, bright thing over there".

 

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16 hours ago, John Blankenship said:

"....Usually, the best way to know the frame line (well, the third best way -- experience is the first best way, know your lenses, etc. -- the mixer at the cart is the second best way), is to start with the boom inside the frame and have them talk you to the edge.  The challenge with this method is that as soon as you dip into the frame -- even if you request a frame line as you do so -- someone in the camera department will typically yell, "Boom's in the frame!" with the same verbal ferocity they'd deploy if you were raping their dog.  This is when having a friendly working relationship saves the day for all concerned -- and sometimes a bit of properly-timed humor can go a long way.  They're more apt to know it's humor if you have that friendly relationship."

10-4 on JB's  and soundpod's comments. I have a pat line or two to feed the camera department. It goes a little like this:

Me: (standing with my hand on the C-stand knob and joint) "Could you guys help me (or my boomie) out with a frame line? I'm gonna drop the boom into the frame, and you guys can help me out to the edge."

Camera op (standing at the monitor): "BOOM'S IN THE SHOT!", (everyone looks at me).

Me: "Yep, I know. Your first AC is helping me out to the edge. In the audio department, we live on the edge. If we're not living on the edge, we're not doing our job."

Everyone: (laughter, friendly approving remarks)

I'll also surreptitiously check monitors, or I'll have one at my cart, when I'm working behind a cart. I'll watch for boom shadows or lens changes. It's an art form for sure. 

cbsixty, I feel for you. Sucks to work with that sort of ego. I've been pretty lucky. 

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Such good info here, many thanks. 

speaking with a dp now about how she composes shots and lenses.

cbsixty: i may be working with the same dp

rachel: thanks for sharing an approach

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3 hours ago, cbsixty said:

Despite I'm usually an OMB - guy, I  boomed my first and so far only bigger full length feature last year and that was a good experience.

 First day, I introduced myself kindly to the DP. Got no response. First shot, I figured a good moment to ask the camera operator / DP for frameline ( he was looking at his phone). He looked at me, made a long pause, probably to raise tension, and replied: "Don't talk to me".

 

Gee, that reminds me. There really are some unbelievable assholes in our line of work that I like to think would never survive a day in any normal social environment (which a film shoot isn't). Good self practice to keep your composure in a situation like that. I guess the only thing you can do is avoid these characters as best you can and wait for the shoot to end. So you did good, making friends with AC etc.

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Some great advice above for anyone who really takes the craft of booming seriously. RPSharman mentioned previously that frame-line is only one of the factors. Sometimes close is too close so use your ears and judge each situation by the picture being created. Always give the DP their creative space when hand held and use peripheral vision to mirror their movements. By the same token, don't ever distract an actor with your microphone on extreme close-ups. They have a creative space which is what we're all trying to capture.

Don't let the occasional grumps take you off your game. But there's a lot to learn before you can earn their respect after the first couple of days. To me, "Boom Operator" is the best job on set, so enjoy your opportunity!

 

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Knowing the frame in scripted work it's easy. You are on set. Everyone discuss about this. Knowing the lenses and what they see, need some time to figure out. Using 75mm, yeap it's going to be close up and medium sometimes. Even with 35mm sometimes going close up.

In non scripted work, there is a different story. I don't like lenses like 24-70mm because when we are rolling, operator will go from 70 to 24 instead. So have an eye to operator.  

When someone tries to get marks and asking about frame; this is no bueno.  

It's ok to ask for frame. I am always asking if it's necessary. Have a good attitude. How to win th e operator? Hold his/her pencil sometimes. Yeap, now you are getting closer for a good collaboration.  

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IMHO, So many DPs get their show reels together doing non sync shoots (pop promos, second unit etc) that it's now of no surprise (on a low budget shoot) to find a DP sat on a dolly behind an Alexa with a box cooke's primes and little idea about sound acquisition. That said, I rarely need to get a frame line, I know my lenses, I know how the shot needs to be framed. Shot lists are helpful as they indicate the coverage (if they've don't have 1 then ask about coverage - it's not a good sign if neither are forthcoming). I find if its a complicated shot, camera dept. need more time working it out than I do (don't disturb them when they are doing focus marks but pay close attention to where they are putting them as they are locking down some of the vagaries of the block through). Professional camera departments are an impressive thing (not least as they know how to get on with their stuff while letting others get on with theirs) but it is production's job to hire HoDs who know what they are doing as well as locations and studios that give them the outcome they want. If you're fighting BG/environmental noise because the location scouting was poor there is a pressure to force the issue with the boom if you want it used. I find if I get on with the basic stuff without pedantry I get good co-operation when things get difficult. Eg wild lines, lighting adjustment, extra coverage etc.

Audio wise, docs and factual are mainly talking heads, non sync wides or GVs and occasionally 'up-sync' from something in between. It's got to be a boom and radios for these because the sync shot becomes a VO/OS as soon as the editor needs it to be (unless you're Nick Broomfield who's Rycote is contractually obliged to appear in most of the film even if contributors are wearing personal mics :).

Having come from photography, using 35mm and everything up to 10"x8", I'm quite confident about lenses. If you are unconfident about lenses, I would recommend buying a cheap APS-C camera with a zoom and then play around with shots of friends talking, a lot of the time there isn't that much variation on how to frame this type of shot (whatever the lens) and therefore what you can do with the boom because headroom is generally determined by convention but starts to gets messy when dealing with different heights Eg. 1 stood, 1 sat down or adult & child etc. Having a light source you can move about is also great for learning where a shadow will end up. It's not an easy thing to say you've been 'lit out of the shot' but sometimes you will need to, so best to be informed on how they can improve things (even if you don't say) - raising or dropping a light a few centimetres can make a big difference, if not 'C' frames and flags may be needed. And I never hold the 'pencil' of anyone in a camera department, it'll give everyone the wrong idea about what I'm there for, camera departments have trainees to scoop up after the egos. If you're working alone with a camera op, then you are both in each other's department, they've probably booked you so you are on the same team so there will be times when you are holding a white card, sitting in, carrying cases, help with lighting and grips etc etc which is fair enough but if they ask you to hold a 'pencil' it's a joke (:

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2 hours ago, daniel said:

(unless you're Nick Broomfield who's Rycote is contractually obliged to appear in most of the film even if contributors are wearing personal mics :).

Ha! You crack me up.

Good stuff everyone. 

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