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Production Sound Mixer

Industries:
Film | High End TV
Personality type:
Engineer
Departments:
Sound

The lowdown

  • Making sure that dialogue recorded during filming is clear
  • Advising on retakes
  • Working with the Boom Operator

Is this role right for me?

To do this role you will need to:  

  • Have a good understanding of electronics
  • Have a good working knowledge of all sound recording equipment 
  • Understand microphones, lighting techniques and camera lens angles
  • Have an interest in acoustics and audio technology
  • Understand the requirements of the other departments on feature films
  • Be aware of on-set protocols
  • Be computer literate.
  • Have excellent listening skills
  • Have good communication skills
  • Be diplomatic and tactful
  • Be able to give and to accept direction
  • Have good attention to detail
  • Ability to make decisions under pressure
  • Understand the relevant health and safety laws and procedures

What does a Production Sound Mixer do?

Most film sets are challenging environments for Mixers because there are often unwanted noises to deal with, or the required camera shots hamper the placing of microphones.

Approximately two weeks before the first day of principal photography, Production Sound Mixers meet with the Producer and Director. They discuss their creative intentions, (is the sound naturalistic or stylised, etc.), technical requirements and budgetary issues. They also meet with the Costume Department and Visual Effects Supervisors to discuss the placement of microphones on or around the actors, and visit all locations to check for potential sound problems. 

When filming begins, Sound Crews arrive on set half-an-hour before call time to prepare their equipment. During rehearsals, the Production Sound Mixer and Boom Operator plan where they should place microphones to get the best possible sound quality. After each take, Production Sound Mixers (who are situated off set, but close by), check the quality of sound recording and, if necessary, ask for another take.

Production Sound Mixers work with the Boom Operator to select suitable types of microphone. They carefully reposition these microphones for each set-up, to ensure adequate sound coverage.

If music is required in a scene, Production Sound Mixers also set up playback equipment and speakers for the actors. At the end of each shooting day, Production Sound Mixers may send the day's sound recording files to post production. They also hand over originals to the Camera Assistant, who packages them up with the camera rushes. Production Sound Mixers finish work when the film wraps (is completed).

Production Sound Mixers work on a freelance basis on features and drama productions. The hours are long and the work often involves long periods working away from home.

Will I need a qualification?

You don’t need a formal qualification but you will need specialist training in sound recording. There are many courses in sound production available at different levels. There are also some industry-led training schemes.

If you are considering taking a film production course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the film industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a career in film:

Film production courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

What’s the best route in?

You can start out as a Sound Trainee and learn on the job. After two years, you will be ready to work as a Sound Assistant. You can also work with equipment manufacturers or hire companies and make useful contacts in the industry. Getting experience on commercials, short films and television productions is also worthwhile. Once you have experience as a Boom Operator, you can progress to Production Sound Mixer.

You could apply to be a trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all-important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Interested? Find out more...

For more information on job roles in the creative industries, take a look at Hiive's job roles.  

Websites

Publications

  • Sound on Sound
  • Music Tech Magazine
  • Audio Media Magazine
  • Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects Cinema. Edited by David Sonnenschein (Michael Wiese Productions)
  • Film Sound: Theory and Practice by Elizabeth Weis and John Belton (Columbia University Press)
  • Audio-Vision : Sound on Screen by Michael Chion (Columbia University Press)

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