What does a sound assistant do?
Sound assistants generally assist the sound recordist to make sure the whole sound recording process runs smoothly and safely; they also provide general support to the sound crew. They unload and set up sound equipment and PA systems. They de-rig and reload at the end of the day. They attach mics and run cables in effective, safe positions and often lay carpet to stop unwanted noise being picked up from the floor.
Sound assistant roles can vary in seniority depending on the production. On many productions, this is the entry level role. Sound assistants do jobs like replacing and changing batteries, securing and monitoring cabling and making teas and coffees. On some productions, sound assistants have a little more experience and are required to monitor sound and record background sound with a boom.
If there are any issues with unwanted noise, sound assistants need to deal with these as quickly as possible, communicating tactfully with whoever’s making the noise so the shoot is not disturbed. At the end of the day, they make sure all the sound media has been labelled and any sound paperwork delivered to the production office.
Sound assistants are usually employed as freelancers and are often requested by the same sound recordists after a good working relationship has been established.
What’s a sound assistant good at?
- Technical knowledge: have a thorough understanding of sound equipment, how it works, what’s needed to maintain it
- Attention to detail: be meticulous with the packing, unpacking and maintenance of equipment, and the handling and storage of recorded material
- Resourcefulness: identify crew needs before being asked, find effective solutions to technical problems and recording challenges
- Learning by watching and asking: be able to observe what’s happening and ask questions at the appropriate moments
- Health and safety knowledge: ensure you operate safely, manage cables and equipment in public and studio spaces
- Communication: have good people skills with both crew and programme contributors, collaborate effectively and clearly with other sound team members and with crew across the whole production, be tactful and diplomatic when handling external noise issues