Saturday, March 05, 2011

Boom microphone operator ruins 'The Adjustment Bureau'

I went on Saturday afternoon to see "The Adjustment Bureau," a romantic thriller starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. What's it about? Never mind. What I want to talk about is a technical point.

Do you know what a boom microphone is? Here, here's a behind-the-scenes picture from the production, showing the crew filming Matt Damon:

A man on the crew holds it at the end of a pole, just above the shot. At least it's supposed to be just outside the shot. Once in a great while, when watching a film or TV show, you'll see a little black blob in the frame just at the top, just for a half second. That's the boom mic.

Usually you see this on television, where production values are lower and shoots are faster. In Hollywood movies, almost never. When it does happen, someone is supposed to notice. If the cinematographer doesn't see it during the shot itself, someone will see it when they review the shots at the end of the day. And they surely must see it when the edit the freaking movie.

In "The Adjustment Bureau," there are three scenes in which you can see the boom mic. At least three scenes, because then I stopped counting. I stopped counting because I walked out, and I got a refund, because by that time I couldn't keep my eyes off the top of the frame.

For the record, you can see the mic:
  • Several times during the washroom scene where the film's romantic leads meet. In fact you can see it in both stars' close-ups, which were of course done separately, so I think that means the boom mic operator was high all day.
  • In the first scene in Union Square, where you see John Slattery, just as he sits down on the park bench with Anthony Mackie.
  • In the scene in Central Park halfway through the movie, where Slattery and another actor have stepped outside the restaurant and are wondering what to do, there it is again.
WTF??!? Was this movie made by amateurs? Was anybody watching the dailies? Was anybody looking when they edited this film??

It's inexcusable.

Update: In the comments in this review of the movie, viewers from around the country complain about the boom mike. Some say you can see it ten times.


Anonymous said...

The boom was intentional. You have to stay through the credits to watch the final scene. What happens to Thompson after he leaves? The scene after the credits show him coming through a door. He takes his hat off. Then a giant boom mic comes down and smashes him in the head and he falls down. (dead). I think the boom mic is supposed to symbolize God’s finger that is always just above your head… usually out of site… and that can come down and touch you at any moment. The boom was often visible in a scene when Damon was about to make a decision and the boom was right there in case he made the wrong one. They made reference to the boom mic in the real last scene of the movie. They asked if Harry was the Chairman. He said no… but we have all seen the chairman, we just didn’t know it was him. …and he glances up quickly at the boom mic and gives a slight wink. …and the boom mic bobs up and down in acknowledgement.

Think about it… Why would they need a boom mic when he was giving a speech with 10 microphones on his podiom? That’s when I figured it out. I’m just glad I waited through the credits to confirm it.

Mark Pritchard said...

Surely you're joking.

Anonymous said...

That would be the greatest ending to a move since Citizen Kane ended with a huge Boom mic crashing through the roof of Kane's room with the word "Rosebud" written on it.


Then it pummelled him to death. A classic.

Anonymous said...

haha funny -- you made me watch the credits -- since it was on demand cable tv, I had to ff through the whole film. lol

EzraBlum said...

These days there are enough people involved in the editing process for a major motion picture that you will never see a boom mic in the shot. If you do see a mic these days, as I saw in the movie Gothika starring Halle Berry, it is most likely due to the print being cut or framed incorrectly. This is what I was told from a projectionist. Sometimes an individual theater will make a mistake and you will see part of the film that was never meant to be seen.

chris horton said...

The theatre you went to projected the film incorrectly. The boom mic isn't part of the story. When a movie is being shot the camera operator looks throughout his viewfinder and sees a box, within that box there is a white line that makes a slightly smaller box. This is the safety zone. Anything inside the white box will be seen in theaters anything outside of the white line but still in the outer frame will not be seen but, still gets recorded to the film. This allows the boom operator to get his mike as close to the actors as possible. The camera operator will see the boom in his frame but he will tell the boom operator to move the boom just above the white line. So I'm guessing the theatre you went to did not lower the curtains to the correct aspect ratio, allowing you to see outside of the safety lines.

Anonymous said...

"The theatre you went to projected the film incorrectly. "
This is a common misconception. The book mic should never appear on a final film print - no amount of sloppy projection work should affect whether or not a mic is seen. In fact, if you've ever run one of these projectors (and I did for years in high school and college) they are pretty much automatic. Occasionally a print gets "out of frame" but you certainly don't magically see things that aren't supposed to be in the movie.

Apparently the movie you saw just had some sloppy editing. But there's another possibility: Sometimes cheaper theaters that show second-run movies get early prints. I once saw a version of Mimic at a dollar theater where you could see the boom mic almost the whole time, right in front of the actors!