Florian Çakmak Cathary is French. He works in the sound field on film shootings and for performances. He will mainly talk about boom operator’s job.
Vinaya: Tell us briefly about your experience.
Florian: I started with a BTS [French diploma, ed] in audiovisual during two years. I learned the basic of image and sound. I studied for instance mathematical calculations that allowed to understand the room resonance, which helps to choose better the equipment that I’ll have to work with.
Which is the equipment that a boom operator must have?
A carbon fiber perch, it’s handy because it’s light. A suspension adapted to the mic, it prevents from vibration problems. An audio mixer or a recorder, a minimum 16 feet XLR cable which allows to connect the mic to the mixette or to the recorder, headphones that isolate from outside noise. I’ve got HD-25 Sennheiser headphones and I’m very glad about them. Of course, you have to have a boom mic, a windscreen (e.g. of the Rycote brand), a microphone blimp (e. g. of the Rycote brand), lavalier microphones to put on the actors. To place the lavalier mic, use gaff tape and use it as well to wrap the cable around the boom pole. Finally, very important, make sure you have back-up batteries available.
How do you prepare, as a boom operator, before going on a set?
Beforehand, you have to talk with the director, the screenwriters and the production sound mixer. The latter is the one who directs the boom operator and who chooses the equipment. Also, you have to locate the places and check the room resonance. A technique for that is to clap our hands; if the sound lasts more than one second, that’s no good. The sound will be bad.
Sometimes it’s difficult to have a good quality sound, in spite of a great equipment and a good preparation because some unexpected things can happen such as new public works nearby, planes, a barking dog, etc. So, if the budget allows it, the actors have to go in a recording studio to dub these scenes…
Yes, in those cases, there is a mix of post-production (the actors tell again their lines in a recording studio) and real sound, for example if the scene takes place outside, noise of wind in the trees will be add, ect. All of this is a sound mixing work.
How is it going on on a set?
Before shooting a scene, everybody has to place themselves with their equipment and the boom operator always place himself last because we need everything to be quiet to do our audio recording corrrectly. Then, I see the cameraman and the director to ask them which plan they’re going to do, with which camera movements in order for me to follow the actor with the boom pole, especially if they have to move. I also have to think about my movements not to block the light. Before the day of shooting, I have to think about the floor which we will walk on; Will it make noise?, if there is a refrigerator in the room, it will have to be unplugged not to hear it activate automatically. Also, a technique to detect parasitic sounds is to close your eyes and focus on what you’re hearing. One last thing, when recording, you have to move away the boom mic from the walls and the ceiling.
Once the shooting is over, other people take the sound in charge…
Yes. in post-production, the mixer takes over. On a big-budget feature, to save time, there will be around ten mixing studios working together at the same time. For instance, one studio is going to handle specifically door sounds. Another studio will just handle firearm sounds. Another one, will only focus on the voice, etc.
For those who would like to go for sound mixing, do you have a software to advice?
I recommend Pro Tools and Reaper.
Would you like to add something?
For those who understand French, I recommend the book Le son au cinéma et dans l’audiovisuel, from Bernard Guiraud.
A big thank you to Florian for giving me this interview !
More about Florian Çakmak Cathary:
Next publication 02 October 2018: interview with Alex Lekouid about the job of PERFORMER-INTERPRETER. He’ll also tell us anecdotes he experienced with Claude Nougaro and Henri Salvador.
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