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Career Spotlights ~ TV or Film Sound Technician
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Basic Info
  • Hours: Variable
  • Starting salary: £18,000 + per year
The Work

As a sound technician, you would record, mix and check the sound for live and recorded film and television productions. You would use microphone, recording equipment and editing software to record sound and produce a clear, high-quality soundtrack.

You could specialise in one of the following:

  • Production sound - recording sound on set or location
  • Post-production - putting the final soundtrack together in an editing studio

On a production sound team you could work as sound recordist (also known as production mixer), a boom operator or a sound assistant. Depending on your job role, your duties may include:

  • Setting up equipment to suit the acoustics and sound designer's instructions
  • Seleting and placing fixed microphones
  • Operating the boom (positioning the moving microphones around the performers for the best sound)
  • Monitoring sound quality
  • Recording onto digital audio tape
  • Servicing and repairing equipment
  • Playing music or sound effects into a live programme

Post-production team can include a re-recording (dubbing) mixer, dialogue editor/mixer, foley artist and foley editor. Post-production sound work can involve:

  • Following a sound designer or sound supervisor's instructions
  • Mixing and balancing speech, effects and background music
  • Editing speech to fit the action on the screen
  • Creating extra sound effects and adding them to into the soundtrack (known as the 'foley')
Hours

You would often work long and irregular hours, including early mornings or late nights, according to the demands of the production. You may also need to be flexible and work at short notice.

For production and sound recording, you could work anywhere from studios to outside locations in all weather conditions. Location work could be anywhere in the UK or overseas. Post-production sound editing takes place in soundproofed studios and editing suites.

Income

Starting salaries can be around £18,000 to £25,000 a year for ongoing full-time work (although it is common to work for less at the start of your career)

Experienced freelance rates can be between £800 and £1,600 a week (before tax)

Freelance rates can vary widely. You could negotiate fees bassed on the type of production and your own track records. Contact BECTU for current pay guidelines

Entry Requirements

You will need a good knowledge of sound technology and equipment, and you will find it useful to understand basic electronics and the physics of sound.

You may increase your chances of getting into the industry by taking a relevant course to develop your knowledge and skills before you look for work. Courses include:

  • City & Guilds Award, Certificate and Diploma in Sound and Music Techniques (7603) at levels 1-3
  • BTEC Level 3 Certificates and Diplomas in Creative Media Production (Sound Recording) or Music Technology (Production)
  • BTEC Level 4 and 5 HND Diplomas in Creative Media Production or Music (Production)
  • Foundation degrees or degrees in sound engineering, music technology, media technology or technical theatre

Check with colleges or Universities for entry requirements. When looking for your first job, you will find it useful to have practical experience of using sound equipment. Taking a relevant course can help with this, and you can also build experience in the following ways:

  • Working on student or community film or radio projects
  • Setting up ('rigging') sound equipment from amateur theatre or local bands
  • Working for a sound equipment manufacturer or hire company
  • Assisting in a recording or editing studio
Skills and Knowledge
  • Good hearing levels
  • A knowledge of electronics and sound technology
  • Good practical skills
  • Patience and concentration
  • A high level of attention to detail
  • The ability to cope with long hours and tight deadlines
  • Good communication and 'people skills'
  • The ability to work as a part of a team
  • An awareness of Health and Safety

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