What does a Sound Mixer do?
Sound mixers head up the department responsible for all the sound recorded during filming. This is predominantly dialogue but can include sound effects, music, and atmosphere.
Before shooting starts, they meet with the Producer and Director to discuss the best method of capturing sound alongside the Director’s shooting style. They visit locations to check for potential sound problems, like passing trains or road noise.
During filming, Sound Mixers ensure audio from radio and boom microphones are recorded at a good level for every take. If they flag up a problem, the Director decides whether to do another take or correct it in post-production.
A lot of sound on a film or TV drama is added afterward in the edit. Speech is often corrected through ADR (automated dialogue replacement), a way of re-recording in a studio.
Most film sets are challenging environments for Mixers. Costumes rustle. Generators hum and cameras point in places where a microphone needs to be. Sound Mixers solve the problems, often under pressure. They must put all the elements of sound together in a way that not only sounds seamless and natural but also heightens the dramatic tension or emotional impact that the Director wants in each scene. They work on a freelance basis.
What's a Sound Mixer good at?
Be able to hear precisely and to concentrate on sound in a distracting environment
Know how it moves, how we hear, how sound can be manipulated and distorted
Knowledge of equipment
Understand electronics, recording, playback and editing gear
Attention to detail
Be able to listen to and manipulate tiny sounds, keep accurate and precise records
Know how sound can tell a story, understand the requirements of other departments, including camera, rigging, art, wardrobe and hair and make-up
Be able to listen to the director, give instructions to other members of the team, persuade other departments of the importance of the needs of the sound department and share decisions made while under pressure
Who does a Sound Mixer work with?
Boom Operator or First Assistant Sound
A boom is an extendable arm on which a microphone can be mounted. They are designed to pick up the sound without appearing in the shot. Boom Operators are responsible for operating booms as well as placing radio or clip microphones to capture the best quality dialogue and sound effects. They must carefully note all planned camera movements and lighting requirements to make sure the microphone is always hidden.
Sound Assistant (second assistant sound, third assistant, utility sound technician, cable person)
Sound Assistants begin work on the first day of shooting and help unload, check and set up sound equipment. They find and stop unwanted noise (including laying carpets) and check batteries for the sound crew. They may help attach clip microphones, negotiate cables on the studio floor, and ensure sound rushes are correctly filed at the end of the day.
How do I become a Sound Mixer?
A good route to becoming a Sound Mixer is to start as Production Assistant and work your way up through the roles outlined above.
Here are some tips:
Get a degree: It’s not necessary to have a degree, but you might want one in sound engineering or music technology.
Educational Requirements: To go to university for a sound-related course, you might want to study courses in math, physics, and music. A program in Media or Film studies, concentrating on post-production audio, is also useful. Experience using editing software is key, as is working on small projects to build your portfolio
Get an internship: Internships are jobs with training, so they’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. Think about taking that job, learning the core skills of sound and transferring those skills into film and TV drama at a later point. Before taking any internship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want.
For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.
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