Jump to content
Bartek

Booming without headphones

Recommended Posts

Hello,

I was just looking at Oleg's pictures and the fact that the boom op had no headphones jolted my memory. About two years ago I boomed on a film where the mixer asked me not to wear headphones. We were doing dialog scenes, and whille I always respect and value the approach of the sound mixers I work for, I couldint help to think that this was a strange way of doing it. As a mixer I always have my boom ops "on the air" not only for the fact that they can critticly judge their work but also for communication reasons. Also I have ran into the no boom op headphone issue whille going through the behind the scenes of various films.

I was just wondering how people out there tackle this, 

what would be the advantage of no headphones other than no duplex?

Anyone out there who could share?

Thanx,

Bartek

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would guess it's simplicity. In some ways it makes it easier to concentrate on mic position. I boomed for Simon Hayes early on without headphones, mainly for budget reasons. He didn't have any complaints (that he told me about). I worked "utility for a day" for Bob Doyle mixing and John Salter was booming without cans. I'm also led to believe John was deaf in one ear. Just goes to show ....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was just wondering how people out there tackle this, 

what would be the advantage of no headphones other than no duplex?

Anyone out there who could share?

Thanx,

Bartek

This topic had heated discussions a few years ago when I became aware of the fact that it is standard procedure in England (and possibly other places) that boom operators work without headphones. I am still frankly amazed that good proper boom operating can be accomplished without headphones, and even MORE astounded if the person doing the boom work has never worn headphones. I can see a veteran boom op doing a shot or two for whatever reason without headphones, but to do this as a preferred method of standard procedure just completely baffles me. The few times that I have not been working with Don Coufal, I have had enough difficulty at times with other boom operators not really getting it right, AND wearing headphones. The thought of doing really good boom work without the headphones seems ridiculous to me.

Regards,  Jeff Wexler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also had to learn about lenses when I was booming. Is that another Brit thing? No one I ever boomed for ever had a video feed on their cart .... (all over 10 years ago mind you).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also had to learn about lenses when I was booming. Is that another Brit thing? No one I ever boomed for ever had a video feed on their cart .... (all over 10 years ago mind you).

Of course you have to learn about lenses...  and lighting, and wardrobe, and props, and acting and all sorts of things to be a good boom operator, but it is my contention that you must HEAR what the microphone you're operating is hearing or you are really "booming blind" so to speak.

Regards,  Jeff Wexler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Was there ever a time in America when this was commonplace?  I seem to remember some pictures of classic Hollywood studio productions where the boom operator wasn't wearing headphones.  When did it become common practice here for boom operators to wear them?

-Tim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Was there ever a time in America when this was commonplace?  I seem to remember some pictures of classic Hollywood studio productions where the boom operator wasn't wearing headphones.  When did it become common practice here for boom operators to wear them?

-Tim

It has always been the case as far as I know ... boom operators always wear headphones. Now, in some early pictures you may have seen, it was common for boom operators, and even some sound mixers, to wear earpieces rather than conventional headphones. There was one very old company in Hollywood that did custom ear molds and made in ear earpieces for sound technicians. It is possible that in the images you refer to the boom op may have been wearing "hidden" earpieces --- they were often "flesh colored" (like the crayons) and had very thin twisted cables that usually went behind the head and neck, connecting to a monitor box either belt worn or on the boom.

Regards,  Jeff Wexler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe a VERY GOOD boom op will be able to cut through everything (including not having to listen to his own mic feed on headphones) and an AVERAGE boom op may actually get 'confused' by listening to the feed in his ears. 

-vin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The molded in-ear monitors are still around, and you can choose between clear, flesh, and a number of custom colors. From what I read, they're an integral part of professional live music nowadays. The company that makes them is called "Ultimate Ears" and they have several different models. I considered getting a set for mixing, but there are a couple of things that make them undesirable for our trade. Namely, even their flagship model doesn't reproduce 20Hz-20KHz, it's more like 20-16K, which isn't the end of the world, but they're also tuned in some fashion for music, not a flat response. I suppose if you're paying $900 a pair plus House Ear Institute molding fees, you should be able to ask for those two specs?

www.ultimateears.com

Tom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I must be loosing it, I thought we already worked this conversation. I know you can boom without headphones, and you can mix with out them as well, but you will do a better job with them. Use the tools.

CrewC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Off topic a bit, but I never liked the idea of in-ear molds or the small in-ear monitors (not to be confused with earbud headphones).  There is no escape for pressure when some actor claps his hands in frustration or excitement, or some AD belts out a command near the mic, or an IFB takes a big radio hit, and other such noisy issues.  I took to wearing earbuds when I was familiar with the mixer and the show, just for comfort, but ordinarily wore the trusty 7506.

I couldn't imagine not wearing headphones when I boomed, but I suppose if I trusted everything was working, and I trusted the mixer, and I trusted the actors, and I trusted the crew to be quiet, and I trusted the pair of camera operators with 12 to 1 lenses not to go from a 27mm to a 75mm without telling me, then I'm pretty sure I could have the mic in the right place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi All

very interesting topic of discussion,

i have known of an example of a team work between a boom op and a mixer, where in the mixer monitors the Lavs and the boom op monitors the boom,the mixer leaves the monitoring of the boom to the boom op,occasionally checking it

i dont know the authenticity or the practicality of the setup

maybe there could be more instances of interesting set ups

regards

Hari

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi All

very interesting topic of discussion,

i have known of an example of a team work between a boom op and a mixer, where in the mixer monitors the Lavs and the boom op monitors the boom,the mixer leaves the monitoring of the boom to the boom op,occasionally checking it

i dont know the authenticity or the practicality of the setup

maybe there could be more instances of interesting set ups

regards

Hari

Frances and I often work this way if I think the lav mix is worthwhile and I need to follow a script and do a lot of dumping and bringing back etc.  After hearing a few takes of what she has going w/ the boom I will listen to the lav mix and ask her after the cut how she did.  Sometimes I listen  to a playback of her channel. 

Booming w/o headphones is stupid.  Yes, I know old Brit movies were done this way back in the day, and they also did a lot of ADR.  Equipment was not so sophisticated, feeds were harder to make etc, so for smaller shots on location  it was just a Nagra and the mixer had the phones and the boomie had the boom.  I had a lot of arguements about this in my early days--many TV engineers thought I was making a big deal out of something they thought was dead simple (production sound).  I had one guy tell me that he had never had a boomer use cans on one of his shoots.  When asked about "focus" for the directional mic, he replied that "that's not a lens on the end of that pole".  In many cases like this (this one in  specific), I knew that this sound guy was actually too lazy to get a feed together for the boom op--he just wanted to pickup a Nagra, a mic, a pole, one cable, some headphones and some tape from the rental house and charge a full pkg rate for it all.  He actually laughed at my setup--early days it was so there was some 'humor" to my rig, because it looked like such overkill to him and he was charging the same as me for about 1/4th the gear. The producers wised up pretty fast...he hasn't been around in  many years.

Philip Perkins

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't understand that way of working (no hp)

I like to work with my boom op as if we were one. Same headphones, same source, etc.

Also very important for silent  and efficient communication.

I ask my boom op to be very accurate in finding the right mic position and be aware of any tiny change in timbre.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My 2c:

Like anything else in the world, there's "doing it" and then there's "doing it well."

Once in a while I'll go wireless boom and send a Comtek feed to the boom op for monitoring, but I don't like to do that because it loses that extended low end that comes from a direct feed into 7506 cans.  If the actors have much blocking, handling noise can be one of the biggest "gotchas."  The extended low end allows the boom op to hear handling rumble even before it becomes a big issue.

Then, of course, there's all the rest of the usual:  how the sound changes as the actor moves in the space, walks near walls or sits down at a desk as the sound merrily bounces off any available surface.  Then there's simultaneously booming two voices of different levels as you work the louder voice a bit off the side of the Schoeps to match levels.

I guess if you're only after a guide track, cans for the boom op aren't a must, but in my book, I agree with the majority here -- they ARE a must.

John Blankenship, C.A.S.

Indianapolis (Super Bowl Champions!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well guys I have only been mixing for 25 years so maybe I dont know enough, but yes we work without cans for the boom operator and somehow manage to achieve some excellent sound. A friend of mine has 2 Academy Awards and his boom op doesnt wear cans. Another friend had an Oscar nomination and has worked with Kubrick, Woody Allen, Milos Forman and Robert Altman and his boom doesnt use them either. There are many approaches to this craft of ours and most of them work, but to hear what is very much the norm over here described in these posts as 'ridiculous' and 'just stupid'  seems  a little disrespectful. Because you cannot imagine working in a particular way, doesn't make it wrong. I believe it is common in the Netherlands for the Mixer to operate the boom and the assistant to sit at the cart and record. I could not imagine doing it that way myself (what stand up all day?...), but it works for them.  We are not all a bunch of bumbling amateurs over this side of the Atlantic..

From a comms point of view, I agree it helps and we often use a small wireless earpiece or a walkie when I am a distance away from camera.

This feels a bit like those discussions where people tell you that you can only judge sound quality on speakers, so you should never do any EQ or filtering , 'because you are only listening on cans'. 

Jeff, thanks again for this excellent site. It is a great resource.

Regards

Roger

"Good,Quick,Cheap.Pick any two.."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I confess: I am the one guilty of using the word ridiculous --- "The thought of doing really good boom work without the headphones seems ridiculous to me.   Regards,  Jeff Wexler"

In some other posts I think I also said that I am somewhat baffled by this style of working. I am completely aware that many, many terrific British movies have been made with really good sound, where the boom operator has not been using headphones. So, I know it CAN be done and with good results.

Regardless of how many good films, or films with good sound, or films that have gotten awards, etc., etc., I still stand by my conclusion that higher quality work will come with higher quality boom work, and this boom work will require the use of headphones (and this is NOT for any sort of communication need in my way of working --- it is only for the boom operator to fully participate in and appreciate the sound that is being recorded, to be able to truly experience the microphone on the pole). In addition, and I just thought of this, when doing wireless work or even plant microphones, it is STILL important for the boom operator to be wearing headphones to judge the quality of his or her work regarding the placement of microphones that are NOT on a boom.

So, no disrespect intended but still a definitie opinion from an American sound mixer.

Regards to all (and I think this thread may have run its course, again) 

Jeff Wexler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Congratulations on your awards.  Booming w/o headphones is just as stupid when done by an experienced award winner as it is when done by a beginner.  The reasons for working w/headphones have been well gone over in this thread.  The reasons for not wearing them are.......what again?

Philip Perkins CAS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If they're not listening on cans and they can't hear what they're doing how are they able to finesse their boom skills?  One of the first things I was ever taught was if you can't trust your ears (and this extends to whatever you're monitoring off of) you can't trust your mix.  Of course that only works if you listen.  And yes many good films have been done with the boom ops not wearing headphones.  Personally, working that way voluntarily feels like gambling to me.  I'd rather use the tools.

Cheers,

Sara

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This topic seems so crazy to me.  As a utility person and boom person, not only did it help me to listen to the work that I was doing, but also to listen to the work the mixer was doing.  How can you possibly learn to be a good mixer without listening to someone else doing it?  When you become experienced enough as a boom person that you feel you no longer need to listen to yourself, don't you feel that you owe it to your department to be an extra pair of ears for things you aren't booming?  What happens if a wire is noisy or a plant doesn't work for one take because an actor gives their line at a different mark on one take?  Does the mixer then have to charge onto set to alert the boom person and production that something went wrong before they check the gate and move onto the next setup?  Or is nobody doing anything other than one camera-one boom out there in fantasy land?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regards to all (and I think this thread may have run its course, again)

Jeff 

Sorry, and with great respect Jeff,I do not think this thread has  run its course – not while some posters make  adverse comments about the highly successful methodology of fellow professionals. This thread is a perennial - I recall it running a number of years ago on RAMPS, and reading the same kind of negative comments then.

If it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it. Not using cans is clearly a matter of choice, experience and just the way you may have learned or were taught. Roger Slater made some valid points with his ‘different strokes for different folks’ position.

Booming is less about listening in a qualitative way, than in knowing how to position a mic. to achieve the best results given all the parameters on a set. I never did get the concept of the finding the“sweet spot” – any Boom Op worth his salt would know where the ‘sweet spot’ for any mic. should be, but rarely is he able to position it with the optimum placement. His, and her, responsibility is to get it to the best possible place given set, lighting, lenses,actors and camera  moves,  not to mention multi-cameras?

I started many years ago in radio then progressing to TV where I was a boom op on many live-transmission dramas. I operated a variety of Fisher booms, I wore a headset, I worked with multi-cameras. Was I concerned with the sweetspot and how I could finesse the sound? Hell, no! I was flying that damn mic all over the place following script ,cast, dodging shadows, listening to Directors and Vision Mixers cueing and getting the occasional blast from the Sound Supervisor (Mixer) on my cans!  However all the time I was trying to get that mic.in the best position I could, if rarely to the spec sheet optimum.

My experience gained there put me in good stead when I moved over to film – I knew my lenses, framing, lighting etc. and being free of cans I could also be fully aware of what was going on around me on the set, picking up the snippets of information of changes in moves, where a line of dialogue might be re-positioned, if the DoP was quietly asking the Gaffer to bring in another lamp and so forth. Information I could then feed to the Mixer. I did my bit; he did his - including the qualitative listening.

I’ve now been mixing for almost forty years – I guess that makes Jeff and I pretty close contemporaries – and had several great Boom Ops. Not one of them wanted to wear cans,and not one of them needed to. The only concession

has been brought about  by technological change  in that IFB’s – we never utilised the double cable system for comms -now help dramatically with communication between Mixer and Boom, so for that  a single earpiece is preferred.

Sadly, modern filming techniques with the inevitable need for more and more wireless mics frequently do not allow the Boom Op to demonstrate his skills as in the past. On the increasingly rare occasions that  ‘proper’ mic. techniques can be employed, a good Boom Op, proper rehearsals, time and actors who do not mumble bring great satisfaction and a sense of  achievement  that makes the methodology of ‘cans or not’ a side issue.

So, to those of you in favour – I would never comment, criticise or demean your position; I respect you as professionals and your way of doing things. It obviously works for you, and why not?  Why is it you find it so difficult to accept that not wearing headphones can be successful for many other Boom Ops too!

Wearing cans does seem to be “the American Way” -  with us Brits doing it our way.

Well, what can I say, WE even drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road!

We may begin our journeys from different starting points, we may choose different means of transport, but if we all arrive successfully at our common destination, who cares if you use an ass and I a donkey?!

Respect!

Mutt n’Jeff

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, so the topic is not dead. Here I go then, respectfully responding point by point to your last post (I will quote portions then reply).

"Sorry, and with great respect Jeff,I do not think this thread has  run its course – not while some posters make  adverse comments about the highly successful methodology of fellow professionals."

I think we clarified the part about adverse comments, certainly where I said that I am somewhat mystified that proper boom work can be achieved without headphones. I then stated, as others have, that "to each his own" and also mentioned that I have seen and heard many fine movies done where the boom operator did not wear headphones.

"This thread is a perennial - I recall it running a number of years ago on RAMPS, and reading the same kind of negative comments then."

If by "negative comments" you mean other professionals questioning the use or non-use of headphones or expressing their opinions on this, that's what this thread is all about --- here and on r.a.m.p.s. in the past.

"Booming is less about listening in a qualitative way, than in knowing how to position a mic."

I disagree with this completley. The raison d'etre, the whole purpose of booming is to achieve a qualitative result. Positioning the mic is the means to the end goal of good quality sound.

"I never did get the concept of the finding the“sweet spot” – any Boom Op worth his salt would know where the ‘sweet spot’ for any mic. should be, but rarely is he able to position it with the optimum placement."

We have a different concept of "sweet spot" for the mic. This is not something that is built into the mic during its manufacturing. Although an analysis of the characteristics of any given mic could yield something which we might refer to as optimal pickup or acceptance, this is NOT, in my mind, the "sweet spot." In terms of boom work, the sweet spot is a dynamic thing --- that spot where the it SOUNDS GOOD. It is still my contention that without listening, in a qualitative way, you will be hampered in finding that "sweet spot" while booming.

"His, and her, responsibility is to get it to the best possible place given set, lighting, lenses,actors and camera  moves,  not to mention multi-cameras?"

Again, how will he or she know this "best possible place" has been reached unless the sound mixer (the only person listening to the "quality" of the sound) gets up from the cart and goes over to the boom operator to give a report?

"I started many years ago in radio then progressing to TV where I was a boom op on many live-transmission dramas. I operated a variety of Fisher booms, I wore a headset, I worked with multi-cameras. Was I concerned with the sweetspot and how I could finesse the sound? Hell, no! I was flying that damn mic all over the place following script ,cast, dodging shadows, listening to Directors and Vision Mixers cueing and getting the occasional blast from the Sound Supervisor (Mixer) on my cans!"

So, you were on a job where you had no time to "finesse the sound". In those cases, the use of headphones in an effort to achieve terrific sound would probably have not been of much benefit. But, voluntarily and as a matter of course, denying yourself the possibility of finessing the sound with the necessary tool, the headphones, doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

"being free of cans I could also be fully aware of what was going on around me on the set, picking up the snippets of information of changes in moves, where a line of dialogue might be re-positioned, if the DoP was quietly asking the Gaffer to bring in another lamp and so forth. Information I could then feed to the Mixer."

I don't see how NOT wearing headphones gives you an advantage in overhearing the quiet conversation between the DP and the Gaffer. The way I work, with Don Coufal and the rest of our team, is that the mic is plugged in on the set always (even if it isn't the mic that is being used for the scene), and the WHOLE SOUND dept. is listening to the set (on headphones) --- including any and all conversations, changes, and so forth. So, all 3 of us might miss something, or any one of us might learn something (or, we might all 3 learn something and there will be no need to pass the information around the sound department).

"Why is it you find it so difficult to accept that not wearing headphones can be successful for many other Boom Ops too! Wearing cans does seem to be “the American Way” -  with us Brits doing it our way."

I do not find it difficult to accept that people do work this way, without headphones, and with great success. I just felt it was important when this topic began to explore the rationale or justification for doing one way or the other. I feel that those of us, primarily here in the U.S., have made a substantial case for the use of headphones, and I am not so sure that the those who do things the other way have offered explanations or justifications that adequatly support that method of work. The existence of successful soundtracks ("we've always done it that way"), the prime support for NOT using headphones for boom work, is not sufficient for me.

Regards,  Jeff Wexler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...