Production sound mixer

A production sound mixer, location sound recordist, location sound engineer or simply sound mixer is the member of a film crew or television crew responsible for recording all sound recording on set during the filmmaking or television production using professional audio equipment, for later inclusion in the finished product, or for reference to be used by the sound designer, sound effects editors, or foley artists (aka foley dancers). This requires choice and deployment of microphones, choice of recording media, and mixing of audio signals in real time.

Sound technician with mixer, boom, slate and multiple wireless mic transmitters and receivers
Sound technician with mixer, boom, slate and multiple wireless mic transmitters and receivers at San Diego Comic Con 2011

Usually, the recordist will arrive on location with his/her own equipment, which normally includes microphones, radio systems, booms, mixing desk, audio storage, headphones, cables, tools, and a paper or computer sound logs. The recordist may be asked to capture a wide variety of wild sound on location, and must also consider the format of the finished product (mono, stereo or multi channels). The recorded production sound track is later combined with other elements, i.e. effects, music, narration, foley or re-recorded dialog by automatic dialogue replacement (ADR).

Often, when taping on video, the sound recordist may record (single system) audio directly onto the camera rather than use a separate medium (double system), although a separate copy is often made, as it both provides an extra copy which may have more tracks and also may include other sound captured without the camera.

The sound mixer is considered a department head, and is thus completely responsible for all aspects of production sound including the hiring of a boom operator and utility sound technician, planning the technical setup involving sound including both sound equipment and ancillary devices involved in syncing and time offsets, anticipating and discussing sound-related problems with the rest of the crew, and ordering and preparing the sound equipment to be used on the set.

Production sound mixer
Sound mixer at work.

References

  • David Yewdall. The Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound. Focal Press, 1999.
  • Vincent Magnier, Le guide de la prise de son pour l'image. Éditions Dunod/INA, 2007.
  • John Purcell, Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures: A Guide to the Invisible Art. Focal Press, 2009. ISBN 0240809181
  • Jay Rose, Producing Great Sound for Film and Video. Focal Press, fourth edition 2014 Book info. ISBN 9780415722070

External links

Ben Osmo

Ben Osmo is an Australian Production Sound Mixer. He is recipient of an Academy Award, three AACTA Awards and an honorary Australian Centenary Medal 2001. He is best known for his works Dead Calm (1989), Strictly Ballroom (1991) and Mad Max: Fury Road, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing at the 88th Academy Awards alongside Chris Jenkins and Gregg Rudloff.

Boom operator (media)

A boom operator is an assistant of the production sound mixer. The principal responsibility of the boom operator is microphone placement, usually using a boom pole (or "fishpole") with a microphone attached to the end (called a boom mic), their aim being to hold the microphone as close to the actors or action as possible without allowing the microphone or boom pole to enter the camera's frame.

Chris Duesterdiek

Christopher Robin Duesterdiek is a Canadian Production sound mixer. He is best known for his work on The Snow Walker (2003), Elysium (2013), The Interview (2014) and The Revenant (2015).

In 2016, he received an Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing nomination at the 88th Academy Awards for his work on The Revenant.

Christian Cooke (sound engineer)

Christian T. Cooke was born January 23, 1959 in Toronto, Ontario and is an audio engineer, best known for his work in 2017 film The Shape of Water for which he was co-nominated with Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier for Sound Mixing at 90th Academy Awards.

Christian Cooke currently lives in Lindsay, Ontario.

Claude La Haye

Claude La Haye is a Canadian production sound mixer, best known internationally as the sound mixer of Arrival (2016), for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Sound (shared with Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Sylvain Bellemare) and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing (shared with Strobl). He has been sound mixer/recordist/engineer on many prominent films shot in the province of Quebec including The Red Violin (1998), The Human Stain (2003), Taking Lives (2004), My Internship in Canada (2015), Brooklyn (2015), and Race (2016).

Digital imaging technician

A digital imaging technician (DIT) works in the motion picture industry. The DIT position was created in response to the transition from the long established film movie camera medium into the current digital cinema era. The DIT is the camera department crew member who works in collaboration with the cinematographer on workflow, systemization, camera settings, signal integrity and image manipulation to achieve the highest image quality and creative goals of cinematography in the digital realm.With the progression of the digitization ever more tasks concerning data management emerged: the position of the Digital Imaging Technician was introduced. The DIT is the connector between on-set time and post production. DITs support the camera team with technical and creative tasks with the digital camera. Their purpose is to ensure the best technical quality possible, as well as production safety. DITs are responsible for tasks during preparation, on-set time and post production. They are also responsible for managing data on set, such as making backups and quality checks of the material. In post production, the DIT hands the recordings to the post production team, possibly after checking the quality of the material and generating working copies.

Data backups and quality control are of great significance for the DIT who has to make sure that the original camera data and metadata is backed up at least twice daily, ensuring data integrity with checksum verification. Furthermore, the data may be backed up on LTO tape which is hardier than electronic devices and is used for long-term storage. Another copy must be made on a transfer data carrier that will be sent to post production along with the reports of the content. Again, the data has to be backed up. The data has to be accessible at all times and should be saved in a system where it can be reviewed, displaying the metadata of each clip.

The DIT's role on-set has become especially prevalent through assisting cinematographers, normally accustomed to film stock, in achieving their desired look digitally. This is accomplished by the DIT through monitoring picture exposure, setting up Color Decision List (CDL) on daily basis and, if requested, "look up tables" (LUTs) for the post-production. Additionally, the DIT handles any settings in the digital camera's menu system, such as recording format and outputs. As a courtesy, the DIT also secures the digital audio recorded by the external digital audio recorder operated by the Production Sound Mixer.

Director of audiography

The director of audiography, (DA) within Indian-style filmmaking, is the head of the sound department and the person responsible for planning the audiography and managing the audiographers of a film.

The title is not used professionally in most of the world. The role of audiographer and the title "director of audiography" derives from Bollywood-style filmmaking in India, where it is an established title credit.

The DA works to carry out the director's vision, identifies the tasks necessary to realize this vision, budgets for those tasks and coordinates all the work from pre-production to post-production whilst keeping an eye on overall sound quality.

Since the onset of the "talkies", a creative and professional conflict has emerged from the ongoing tension between the visual and aural dimensions of film. Production sound crews often complain about the lack of consideration given to sound on film productions.

Having a DA in pre-production helps to exert a powerful presence to defend the dimension of sound in film.

In the early days of the Hollywood studio system, every studio had a sound director (SD) or a recording director (RD), who headed the sound department and took sole credit for the work done by a large crew of sound technicians.

Hollywood sound editor David Yewdall bemoans the loss of the SD in Hollywood and recalls the story of film producer Ross Hunter, working on the film Airport, who neglected to take the advice of sound editor Joe Sikorski to record aircraft sound effects on location; an SD would have immediately appreciated the financial implications of not taking such advice.Following the demise of the studio system and the loss of the sound director, part of this role was delegated to the post-production supervisor, supervising sound editor, sound designer or production sound mixer - each role allegedly having less influence, responsibility and scope than the former SD. Where no DA is hired - as is the case when making films in the West - there has been some debate on the most appropriate role to head the sound department; a supervising sound editor is seen as a technical manager - comparable to an art director - whereas a sound designer is viewed as a creative visionary, analogous to a production designer.

In practice, the industry sees both roles as equivalent.The DA should not be confused with a production supervisor or post-production supervisor - both are administrative roles in the production department. In contrast, the DA is a technical role blending leadership, management and administrative skills with creative audiography ranging over pre-production, production and post-production - constrained only by the Director's vision and the production's schedule and budget. In many ways the DoA role is a natural extension of the more limited post-production role of supervising sound editor.

The term director of sound (DoS) has also been proposed as an alternative title to that of DA.

Jeff Wexler

Jeff Wexler is an American production sound mixer. He has been nominated for two Academy Awards in the category Best Sound. He has worked on more than 70 films since 1972. He is the son of cinematographer Haskell Wexler.

Kirk Francis

Kirk H. Francis (born August 27, 1947) is a former production sound mixer in the motion picture industry. He mixed production sound for over 60 films, including 12 Years a Slave, Bull Durham, Under Fire, Wonder Boys, Mr. Holland's Opus, Sleepless in Seattle, Tin Cup, and I Dismember Mama.

Francis was given the 2008 Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing for The Bourne Ultimatum, and won two BAFTA awards, for The Bourne Ultimatum in 2008 and LA Confidential in 1998 [1]. For LA Confidential he also received an Academy Award nomination in 1998. He received three Cinema Audio Society Award nominations for his work on LA Confidential, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Mark Weingarten

Mark Weingarten is an American production sound mixer. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards in the category Best Sound Mixing, winning in 2017 for Dunkirk. He has worked on more than 80 films since 1987. In addition, he won an Emmy for the television show The West Wing.

Peter Grace (sound engineer)

Peter Grace is an Australian production sound mixer. He is best known for his work on critically acclaimed war-drama film Hacksaw Ridge (2016) for which he received the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing at the 89th Academy Awards, sharing with Robert Mackenzie, Kevin O'Connell and Andy Wright.

Ron Judkins

Ron Judkins (born 1953) is an American production sound mixer and writer-director. He has won two Academy Awards for Best Sound and has been nominated for another three in the same category. He is also the winner of the BAFTA Award for Best Sound for Schindler's List in 1996. Judkins directed his first feature film, The Hi-Line in 1998, and the project premiered in the Dramatic Competition at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.

Judkins is also the writer-director of the comedic drama, Finding Neighbors, a feature film, which had its world premiere in the Narrative Competition at the Austin Film Festival in 2013. He also directed the 2013 documentary 24 Peaces which includes interviews with Desmond Tutu, Marianne Williamson, and Deepak Chopra.

Russell Williams II

Russell Williams II (born October 14, 1952) is an American production sound mixer. He has won two Academy Awards for Best Sound. He has worked on over 50 films since 1976. He is a full-time professor and Distinguished Artist in Residence at the American University School of Communication in Washington, DC.

Stuart Wilson (sound engineer)

Stuart Wilson is a sound engineer.

He has been nominated for 4 Academy Awards, for the films War Horse in 2012, Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2016, Rogue One in 2017 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2018. He was nominated for a British Academy Film Award and an Academy Award for Skyfall.

Thomas Curley (sound engineer)

Thomas Curley (born May 16, 1976) is an American production sound mixer. He has won a BAFTA and an Oscar in the category of Best Sound Mixing for Whiplash.

Thomas M. Curley was born in Troy, NY, and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 1994. He graduated from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York with a B.A. in Film Studies in 2001. Curley is a member of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 695 since 2003. In 2008, he was inducted into the Cinema Audio Society, and then the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2015.

Utility sound technician

A utility sound technician, also referred to as sound assistant, sound maintenance or cableperson is an assistant to both the production sound mixer and the boom operator on a film or television set. Although sometimes the utility pulls cable, he or she is more than just a cableperson. The utility is a jack of all trades, assisting in setting up, operating and maintaining the running order of equipment, often acting as a second boom operator, or even second mixer, and also repairing and servicing equipment such as cables and hardware as necessary. As both mixer and boom operator(s) may be busy with their tasks at any given time, the utility may also apply or adjust personal microphones or actors' wireless transmitters, may move microphones or assist in running cables, and may liaise with other departments on issues such as noise minimisation and set lockdown.A utility may start their career as some form of trainee and move on to utility as their competency increases, or may start as a utility if their experience and knowledge permits. Utilities typically move on to become boom operators or mixers themselves, taking over roles in the sound department previously held by their superiors. In studio based television production, the route for promotion from sound assistant is to sound technician/operator, and finally to sound supervisor. Formal qualifications are not specified for technicians in studio environments, although employers typically look for basic numeracy and literacy, and a solid foundation in maths and physics. Many applicants have A levels/H grades or have taken courses to certificate, diploma or degree level, such as ft2 (Freelance Film and Television Training). As the film and big budget narrative television industries are typically less corporate in nature than studio based television, utility technicians may have no training other than their experience from simply working in the sound department.

A utility sound technician typical makes between $20-$60 an hour with overtime after 8 hours and double time after 12 hours. This varies depending on their exact role and production budget. Usually the production sound mixer will hire boom operator(s) and utility technicians that they know and trust, although one may be provided by the production in some cases.

Vivek Sachidanand

Vivek Sachidanand is an Indian sound designer, sound mixer and recordist.

Walt Martin

Walt Martin (April 8, 1945 – July 24, 2014) was an American production sound mixer. He was nominated for Academy Awards in the category Best Sound Mixing for the 2006 film Flags of Our Fathers and the 2014 film American Sniper. He worked on more than 70 films. He died of vasculitis on July 24, 2014, aged 69. His final film, American Sniper, was released posthumously.

Willie D. Burton

Willie D. Burton is an American production sound mixer. His career has spanned four decades and has included films such as The Shawshank Redemption, Se7en, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Burton has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound or Best Achievement in Sound Mixing a total of seven times, winning twice; he has been nominated for two BAFTA Film Awards for Best Sound, winning once; and he was nominated for one Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Mixing for his work on Roots.

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