Why can't the director or editor see the boom mic? Check out this week's Ask the Critic question, then post your own

By Owen Gleiberman
Updated April 13, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Why can’t the director or editor see the boom mic?

If I can see the boom mic, why can’t the director or the editor? How does this happen? — Jeff

Movie buffs love to play ”Gotcha!” whenever a boom mic dangles into the frame, as if they’d just caught the film-makers with their pants down. Look! A mistake! How stupid! The truth is that when you catch a glimpse of that telltale mic, it’s generally not the fault of anyone behind the camera but, rather, of the projectionist, who has framed the image incorrectly, so that too much of the top of it shows. Viewers first spotted boom mics in a big way in the ’80s, when sloppy VHS transfers resulted in the improper ”unmasking” of images. In a video, you could freeze the frame and behold the boom in all its glory — a problem that DVD letterboxing more or less took care of. Once in a while, there is a visible mic, usually in a shot that couldn’t be redone. (Or in a spoof like The Kentucky Fried Movie.) The next time you spot a boom mic, though, remember: There are ones just like it hovering at the tops of other shots. They’re just out of view.

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