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I am a boom operator. How do i save my back?


robertandrewreid
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I've been a boom operator for only a couple of years, and I aim to continue doing this for some time.  However, I am concerned about potential future back problems.  I obviously stretch before shoots, excercise proper posture (no leaning) and have an extensive collection of muscle-soothing ointments. I was wondering if anyone could suggest techniques and equipment for taking the strain of operating off your mucles, as well as any excercises that may help to improve your necessary "booming" muscles.

Cheers.

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How to save your back?  Don't become a bag based reality mixer/boom op!!

In all seriousness, exercise and upper body strengthening will do wonders to prevent injury and strain.  Either take up an activity that strengthens the upper body like rock climbing / bouldering, or start a workout routine that works both your core and boom op specific muscles.

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Don't be on a long pole or keep your arms up high for no reason. Boom from the chest when the shot allows for it. Check with your mixer if the boom is working in the mix on a big wide exterior. If not, don't be out on a 16' pole with a zeppelin. A ladder is your friend, if the shot requires a long pole, but doesn't require your moving around. There's a lot your technique can do to help prevent back pain and injury.

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All good suggestions offered IMO.

I'd offer learning to go both ways.... No joke.   By that I mean booming with either arm as the fulcrum. It will develop the mussels evenly and help you in many ways as you go about booming.  I have 3 friends who are top end boom op lifers and it can be done. Good luck.

CrewC

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All good suggestions offered IMO.

I'd offer learning to go both ways.... No joke. By that I mean booming with either arm as the fulcrum. It will develop the mussels evenly and help you in many ways as you go about booming. I have 3 friends who are top end boom op lifers and it can be done. Good luck.

CrewC

Very good suggestion and very useful in many ways.

The way I taught myself both ways or 'cack handed' is to start doing those simple static shots the other way. Slowly your brain adapts and now it makes no difference which way I boom, so I always boom facing camera or whichever is best for the shot.

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All good suggestions offered IMO.

I'd offer learning to go both ways.... No joke.   By that I mean booming with either arm as the fulcrum. It will develop the mussels evenly and help you in many ways as you go about booming.  I have 3 friends who are top end boom op lifers and it can be done. Good luck.

CrewC

Agreed, I've found swapping arms (when I get the chance) can help alleviate the strain on same muscles etc.

Also, being fitter and stronger (doing further exercise) than the job needs will help reduce strain on your body. 

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The way I taught myself both ways or 'cack handed' is to start doing those simple static shots the other way. Slowly your brain adapts and now it makes no difference which way I boom, so I always boom facing camera or whichever is best for the shot.

Me too. To become somewhat ambidextrous will help on many shots. Core strength is as or more important than upper body strength IMO. Get as much rest as possible. Buy good footwear. 

CrewC

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In my brief booming career, I boomed both ways, but in order to be facing the way I wanted to face. Both positions felt natural, although I favored left hand on the butt of the pole. It seems there are also health reasons to "go both ways".

And, yes, good footwear! Very important, as Crew pointed out. Spare no expense.

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Great tip.

E.

Very good suggestion and very useful in many ways.

The way I taught myself both ways or 'cack handed' is to start doing those simple static shots the other way. Slowly your brain adapts and now it makes no difference which way I boom, so I always boom facing camera or whichever is best for the shot.

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try also to breathe right and have a good consciousness of your gravity center in addition to have a focus on your sound, your mic, etc.. Another good thing i think after having lower back pain problems is to avoid to be completely Static, "micro movements" around gravity center helps to maintain this focus on your posture. No so easy to integrate but with time it become a habit.

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Loads of good suggestions.  I'd like to echo the positions discussion.  Changing booming positions on a regular basis can help greatly.  Even if you have a preferred position, even slight adjustments from that can help your muscles.  See how many different ways you can develop to hold a boom pole that still allow you to get the desired sound.

 

It's the repetition of a specific motion and maintaining tension on a specific set of muscles that does the most damage.  If you learn to change positions effectively, you can be exercising your muscle groups rather than fatiguing them.

 

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Hats off to you guys. I do "grip" work (meaning do whatever on small crew shoots) and have boomed now and again. Even for a few minutes, it is truly awful and painful.  Maybe it's cause I've always worked with aluminum and not carbon fiber poles. 

A lot is technique, keep your hands in line with your shoulders, therefore the weight is straight down.

Every time someone picks up a boom for the first time, they spread thier arms out and reach forward. therefore all out of balance.

If you do that it turns any easy shot into a long excruciating test of endurance.

technique is the key....

Know the shot and set yourself up for what will be the majority of the scene, so hopefully all those twists and turns where you are overextended or jammed awkwardly in a corner are the extra bits. Its all theory and sometimes its just awkward.

And then wait for...."ok, keeps rolling, reset and straight into another one"....

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I was wondering if anyone could suggest techniques and equipment for taking the strain of operating off your mucles, as well as any excercises that may help to improve your necessary "booming" muscles.

 

Listen to your own body! Only go H-position when you really need to, otherwise find a good position holding the boom close to the chest and rest your arms and shoulders as much as possible, use a ladder or box to gain height when possible. Be a weight nazi and travel light, use a short and light boom for close work and a long and slightly heavier boom for long shoots, use a light weight microphone and zeppelin. And a light weight mixer and bag. There's much work strain to be saved by going light weight.

 

And like others already have suggested, use proper shoes and do workout to strengthen your arms, shoulders and back.

 

 

Cheers

Fred

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Agreed with all that was said, but adding- in your strengthening workouts, don't ignore your legs.  There's a lot of stabilizing that goes on down there, and if your foundation is shaky, it doesn't matter how strong your shoulders or core are.  ...plus you really don't want to be all disproportionate and pencil legged.

 

And yes to yoga. I'm bad about only doing it on long stretches of shooting, but jeeze if it doesn't keep you in one piece.  I boom with an ENG bag, so perhaps the body strain is a bit different, but this http://www.myyogaonline.com/poses/twists/revolved-lunge-pose-parivrtta-anjaneyasana and variations of it are really helpful for opening up your chest/shoulders while stretching your lower back.

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