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 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 is 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.
Quite a lot of sound on a film or TV drama is added 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 work on a freelance basis.
What’s a sound mixer good at?
- Hearing: be able to hear precisely and to concentrate on sound in a distracting environment
- Understanding sound: 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
- Film production: know how sound can tell a story, understand the requirements of other departments, including camera, rigging, art, wardrobe and hair and make-up
Communication: 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