The boom microphone first appeared on a film set in 1929 and since then it has been an indispensable part of audio film production. Though it looks simple, (holding a boom mic out of frame, making sure it doesn’t fall on someone’s head, etc.) operating a boom mic requires technique and precision. Boom Operators work closely with production sound mixers by operating boom microphones, selecting and placing radio microphones, and maintaining the audio equipment. New York Film Academy (NYFA) 6-Week Documentary Filmmaking alum-turned-faculty Anna Khromova has been working as a boom operator since completing the program. Since her time as a student, her projects include work alongside notable names including Neil Patrick Harris and Gigi Hadid.
Anna Khromova spoke with NYFA about her role as a boom mic operator, her work out routine and what it takes to work on set with boom mics.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What brought you to New York?
Anna Khromova (AK): At some point in my life, I found myself too comfortable and decided I needed a challenge. So I quit my engineering job at a construction company in Moscow, where I worked as a Project Manager, and decided to explore other places. Moscow is a huge, vibrant city with a crazy fast pace of life. So when I was picking my destination, I looked for a city with the same kind of energy, if not more energetic and energizing. New York seemed like an obvious choice. And as you can see, the city still keeps inspiring me.
NYFA: Do you enjoy being a boom operator?
AK: Being a boom operator is a very challenging job, physically and mentally. You can ask my students and they would absolutely agree. So, it would be impossible for me to do my job without being absolutely in love with it. Production Sound Mixing is a very special profession. We are among a few first people who watch a film before anyone else. It is a truly special moment to witness a great performance so up-close and to be able to hear every little nuance of its sound.
NYFA: What made you fall in love with the boom?
AK: I fell in love with sound while I completed the 6-week Documentary program at the New York Film Academy. I was fascinated by how colorful and magnificent the world around us sounds through a microphone. I was hooked immediately and never looked back. While in school, I realized that something I enjoyed the most was actually being on a film set. So, I started to look more in-depth into the crew positions specifically that were not directing, production, or editing. The production sound team seemed like an obvious choice: I really loved doing it, I could afford to buy the whole sound gear package from the very beginning, and the demand is constant and only keeps growing.
I also love that my job quite literally takes me places; because of sound I found myself standing on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial in front of thousands of people during the historic March on Washington for the feature length documentary Black Girls Ride, in a middle of the desert at the Joshua Tree Park shooting a horror feature film Falling Stars, and in the train that was rented to run between New York and New Jersey for hours to shoot a scene for The Inspection by Elegance Bratton.
NYFA: How did you become a NYFA instructor?
AK:New York Film Academy – NY Chair of Cinematography Piero Basso texted me that the school was looking for a new Sound Instructor and that he and Andrea Swift, the Chair of Filmmaking and Documentary departments, thought that I would be the perfect match. I could not have been more happy and honored to hear that. Andrea always was one of my favorite teachers at NYFA and a role model.
After graduation, I worked on over 300 different projects, including feature-length narrative and documentary films, TV shows for major TV channels, pilots, short films, music videos, commercials, corporate videos. Now, as a teacher, I have all kinds of stories to illustrate every aspect of sound recording and boom operating to my students.
NYFA: What’s the one piece of equipment you can’t live without?
AK: This is the easy one. It’s my “blue” mic or Schoeps CMIT 5U Shotgun microphone. I can change recorders, wireless systems, and boompoles, but as long as I have this microphone on me, I am confident that I will make everyone, including the post-production crew, happy with my sound.
NYFA: What’s the hardest part of being a boom operator?
AK: The hardest part of my job is waiting. Waiting on lights, waiting on talent, waiting on reset of the set. We do a lot of waiting and it’s what I struggle with the most. When I am running behind the Steadicam operator, booming a scene, recording an interview, I am doing the job I love and fully engaged in the process. I don’t have a specific arms routine, but I enjoy climbing a lot. I think climbing and bouldering are two perfect activities for those who want to strengthen their arms and upper body. It’s a great combination of stretching and muscle.
NYFA: Who’s been your favorite fashion icon you’ve worked with on set so far?
AK: This is a hard question since I was fortunate to work with many talented designers and models. But yes, I do have my favorites. Don’t tell anyone. I love working with Gigi Hadid! She is a hard worker and the sweetest person. And believe me, after 12-hour shifts, it becomes obvious who is a nice one. Of the designers, I admire Peter Dundas, who let us in his magical world of fashion for the documentary TV series that we were shooting during New York Fashion Week. It takes a lot of nerve and patience to let a film crew follow your every step during the most important and stressful event of a year.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on right now?
AK:This week, I am covering a statue opening in Madame Tussaud Museum, recording several interviews for the documentary film, and shooting 2 commercials. And I still have one day off, which is exciting because not all of my weeks have days off. No complaints here; as you may remember, I love being on a film set!
NYFA: Anything we missed you’d like to speak on?
AK: I would like to say thank you to [New York Film Academy] for asking these questions and sharing my story. I think it essential to share our stories with new filmmakers who are just at the beginning of their careers and might have a lot of doubts about themselves. When I enrolled at NYFA, I didn’t have any experience in film and had very minimal knowledge about the film industry in general. But I dared to try and now, I couldn’t be happier about that decision. I also post a lot of videos from film sets on my social media, not only to share some tips and tricks on recording sound but, first of all, to show that if I could do it, you can do it too.