I can honestly say the Panamic boom pole has never let me down during my entire career.
I grew up in Cork in Ireland and spent most of my teenage years playing in the band I formed with a group of friends from school. Through anamazing series of events we found ourselves signed by Morrissey onto his vanity label Attack Records. Our single was released worldwide and we ended supporting the man himself on a couple of tour dates. Needless to say, with the band’s success my studies had fallen by the wayside, and when our momentum stalled I was left to pursue a Plan B. After leaving school I enrolled in a film production course in St Johns College Cork with the intention of writing and directing my own films. Once there I quickly realised how much more I preferred recording the sound for my fellow students projects to directing my own. I think this is a common occurrence in film production courses; sound is an area of the film industry that few find themselves drawn to, but those that are get totally hooked.
Having completed the course in Cork I was offered the chance of joining the final year of the Film and Television Production course at Sunderland University. I focused entirely on sound recording and design and worked on as many projects as I could, aiming to have enough experience when I left to pursue a career in sound recording. Unfortunately, despite knocking on every door I could, I struggled to find employment in the North East. I realised I would have to try a different approach if I wanted to break into the industry. I set my sights on the sound production course at the NFTS and, after a very glamorous year of working 5 nights a week at a petrol station, I was accepted into the NFTS in 2010.
I cannot stress enough how important my time at the NFTS was in shaping my career. It gave me the opportunity to work with the best equipment and to be tutored by some of the country’s most renowned sound mixers.The entire 15 months was a non-stop creative experience and I was able to leave the school with a new found confidence in my craft. I managed to secure a job within weeks of graduating, soundassisting on a comedy series and I’ve been lucky enough to find employment ever since, having now stepped up to Boom Operator (1st Assistant Sound).
I’ve had the opportunity to work across all genres of film and television. For the first couple of years I worked predominantly on comedies for the BBC and ITV but more recently I’ve found employment on high-end dramas. Series 3 of Peaky Blinders is the most memorable of these shows. Being a huge fan of the series, there’s a great feeling of pride knowing when you go to work every day that you’re a small part in the machine producing such a quality piece of television.The scripts were incredible and the actors always delivered such amazing performances. The thrill of being in the room and capturing these portrayals is truly what our job is all about.
On Peaky Blinders our sound team was working with the director Tim Mielants with whom we had worked with previously on an episode of the Sky production,“The Tunnel”. We had a great working relationship with Tim, so when he came up with inspired, but technically challenging, ideas there was definitely an extra level of motivation to deliver the best sound we could. For example there was a wedding reception scene involving 14 speaking parts and 3 musical groups playing in different rooms of the venue. Tim conceived this entire sequence as a one single uninterrupted steady cam shot and this obviously created several technical challenges to all departments. To be part of a team that was able to take on that challenge and to achieve the needs ofthe director was particularly rewarding.
Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?
Currently, I’m working on a new Tom Rob Smith written drama, commissioned by the BBC called Mother Father Son, starring Richard Gere, Helen McCrory and Billy Howle. As with most contemporary dramas one of the main challenges we are facing is dealing with problematic locations. A production often decides on a location for visual reasons alone, despite various sound issues being flagged up during recces. It’s then our responsibility to attempt to controlthese issues, working closely with the location department in turning off or damping the various extraneous noises that might impede the recording of dialogue. I’ve also had to contend with extreme wind conditions on this project and have been grateful to have a Panamic pole in my hands which was more than capable of dealing with the strain with minimum flex on the pole.
Wired or Wireless?
Over the past few years I’ve seen production sound mixers gradually moving away from cabled booms to embrace wireless systems. Whereas there are certain advantages in having a cabled boom, such as no risk of RF drop out or overloading of the transmitters. The benefits to a boom op. of wireless transmitters are tremendous. You are given total freedom of movement and, with the fast pace of shooting a television production, you’re not having to deal with constant cable re-routing as in the past; thus you are left free to concentrate on the numerous other issues thrown up by location filming. Although the wireless transmitter does add weight to the end of the boom pole, advances in technology mean that they are getting lighter all the time, reducing the strain on the pole – and the Boom Op’s back!
I can honestly say the Panamic pole has never let me down during my entire career.
Would you recommend Panamic to other boom operators?
At the start of my career in sound I used many different brands of equipment, most frequently low-end, inexpensive gear, certainly for the first few years. However, as soon as I got my hands on a maxi Panamic boom pole I knew I was working with a top of the line piece of kit and it has become my go-to pole. Despite toying with other brands, in my opinion there really is no other pole that comes close to the build quality and reliability of the Panamic.
The nylon webbing on the handle provides a comfortable and secure feeling while the pole is in your hands which provides a confidence you need when operating a 5 meter pole over the heads of both actors and crew members. Also the ability to easily disassemble each section of the pole and thoroughly clean it has been invaluable. With the gruelling schedules and locations of film production I could spend an entire day outside in torrential rain so to be able to take the pole apart and dry it before the next days shooting really helps in preventing any long-term damage.
Another great feature is the adjustable end stops on each section of the pole, which allow me to re-tighten each individual section that become slightly worn down over time. I’ve worked with dozens of experienced boom operators during my time as a sound assistant and have always found it impressive that so many use their own Panamic poles, often bought in the 1990s, and that their performance remains as solid as a pole manufactured more recently.
Compared to other brands the locking rings in particular are extremely easy to operate allowing for quick extensions and retraction of the pole, an essential manoeuvre that needs to happen without delay in the event of a change of camera position or framing. Also in a similar situation the removable spigot on the top of the pole is invaluable as it means I can change the microphone suspension between my maxi pole to a mini pole in seconds. I can honestly say the Panamic pole has never let me down during my entire career.