What does a sound supervisor do?
Sound supervisors are in charge of all the sound mixing on a live or recorded studio production or outside broadcast (OB). They are often involved in a production right from the beginning. They meet with the producer and director to establish the requirements, such as how many people will be on screen and in what location, the crew and equipment needed. They go on any recces and are involved in setting up the studio or location.
During a production they delegate tasks to more junior sound team members. They also liaise with camera operators to plan the placement of mics so that they don’t spoil the shot. Sound supervisors constantly monitor the recordings for any issues that might cause problems in post-production or for viewers at home, such as phasing issues, audio interference or unintelligible dialogue, and make real-time adjustments to the sound levels and equalization (EQ) on a multi-channel audio mixing console.
On studio productions, all the sound crew work to the sound supervisor. Sound supervisors are might be on staff for a studio or broadcaster, but many are freelance. Small-scale productions filmed on location are unlikely to have a sound supervisor.
What’s a sound supervisor good at?
- Technical knowledge and skills: be able to operate and stay up-to-date with the latest technology, manage multiple sound input from a variety of locations at one time
- Problem-solving: be resourceful and find effective solutions to technical problems and recording challenges
- Scientific knowledge: understand the physics of sound, the qualities it possesses, what can affect it and how to manipulate it
- Communication: be able to collaborate effectively with other departments to ensure the sound fits with the visuals
- Leadership: communicate and give instructions effectively, make good judgement calls, have a good understanding of all crew roles
- Staying calm: be able to make good decisions under pressure