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A Sound Recordists prime function is to make sound recordings of outstanding quality, free from interference and all unwanted noise.
That sounds relatively straightforward, but can prove very difficult,especially when recording that vital scene or interview near Heathrow, the M4, East Coast Mainline, road works, clock tower, play ground etc.
Recording in sound proof studios is generally less challenging than location work, but making a large space sound intimate or vice versa, tracing the odd hum to source, or isolating equipment noise can still take forever.
As a Sound Recordist it is possible to work across a wide variety of television and film formats or genres, but as with most production roles people tend to specialise in one or two areas, such as commercials and features, documentaries and live concerts, or wildlife.
Each type of production has its particular set of aural challenges. On a large scale feature film, for example, the Sound Department may be relatively large by television documentary standards, consisting of a Sound Recordist or Mixer, one or two Boom Operators and a Sound Trainee. The quantity of microphones and equipment employed may differ also, with two boom microphones which are mics on poles, being operated and recorded simultaneously, possibly in conjunction with clip mics, tie mics which are mics fitted to actors. This requires the Sound Recordist or Mixer to monitor several mic inputs at the same time via a small mobile mixing desk, usually found installed in a custom made trolley.
What qualities are required?
Like many production roles you will need stamina, determination, resourcefulness, good technical knowledge, an appreciation of other crew positions, physical fitness and outstanding communications skills.
The ability to relate clearly, calmly and professionally with your crew and your subjects, be they film stars, streets sweepers, politicians, TV presenters, or whoever, is a huge priority. You may be a technical whizz, but without good people skills, you cant make a successful Sound Recordist or any crew member come to that.
An appreciation of sound, the various qualities it can possess and those things that can effect recorded sound (from hard surfaces, room sizes, interference, etc) are a prerequisite.
Technical knowledge can be vital and run much deeper than merely knowing how to operate a DAT recorder correctly, but that is clearly a good start.