What does a sound recordist do?
Sound recordists capture all of the sound on location for a TV programme. This can include dialogue, singing and action – from performance to real events. They set up mics and deal with any issues to do with their placement, thinking about the combinations of mics they use – such as boom microphones and hidden 'personal' or 'radio' microphones – to keep consistency with the shot and shot size and to avoid issues such as phasing (time delays) between the mics.
Sound recordists also work around any issues with background noise. The job is as much about making sure you don’t record the sounds you don’t want as recording the ones you do. They listen to make sure nothing’s wrong with the take, to see whether it needs to be recorded again. The sound has to make sense with the visuals, so sound recordists will often record a 'wild track' of realistic background noise that can be used in the edit to fill any gaps in the background atmosphere caused by editing, or added to a scene without drowning out the dialogue.
On studio productions or big outside broadcasts (OBs), several sound recordists work to one sound supervisor. For smaller location shoots, sound recordists will work alongside a camera operator, recording anything from interviews to group activity, following real events (known as “actuality”) or produced events. On very simple jobs, a producer/director will occasionally record the sound themselves.
Sound recordists are normally freelance. Camera operators tend to have relationships with specific sound recordists, so when companies are hiring, they might ask the camera operator if they have preferences for who they would like to work with.
What’s a sound recordist good at?
- Communication: have great people skills, put contributors at ease when fitting personal mics and be able to collaborate effectively with other team members to ensure the sound fits with the visuals
- Problem-solving: be resourceful and find effective solutions to technical problems and recording challenges
- Technical knowledge: be able to operate, maintain and repair sound equipment, keep up-to-date and use innovations
- Scientific knowledge: understand the physics of sound, the qualities it possesses, what can affect it, how to manipulate it
- Knowledge of the production and post-production process: have a good understanding of all crew roles and aspects of how an unscripted TV programme is made from pre- through to post-production.