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Learning how to become a freelance sound assistant can become a vital stepping-stone to a successful career in film and television production because sound assistants work alongside and under the supervision of two technicians who generally have more experience and more skills — a production sound mixer and a boom operator. Sound assistants have many technical duties that lead to one goal — making sure that the sound on a movie or TV set is high-quality.
Important steps to get into the role
Yes, you can take courses that will help teach you the skills to get an entry-level position in the sound production industry.
The best courses start out with lectures about the industry and the job so you have background information that is essential, but give you a chance to get hands-on experience within a few weeks.
Sound production industry professionals will be more interested in your freelance sound assistant skills than your grades when they make hiring decisions. That means they will ask the people who are most familiar with your work at school whether they are teachers or supervisors at an internship or college studio what you are most skilled at.
The more sound assistant skills you have the better. That’s why it’s beneficial to have a college degree in film and television production. College graduates have generally taken more courses than non-college grads.
Play to your strengths
The skills that your first employer might want you to have when it talks to your college trainers and hires you include how well you take care of equipment, your skill at positioning a microphone in relation to actors, and your ability to help the studio record sound that is clear without background noise.
Are you skilled at diagnosing and repairing equipment?
Sound assistants should be able to ascertain whether all the technical equipment is working properly. That includes microphones and other audio equipment as well as the cables. They should also be able to repair malfunctioning equipment if necessary.
Are you skilled at positioning equipment properly?
Sound assistants must make sure they put equipment in its proper place – before, during, and after the production. Cables cannot get in the way of fellow crew members or the actors. Microphones sometimes have to be repositioned as the scenes change and actors move.
Are you skilled at producing clear sound?
Sound assistants have a lot of responsibility in ensuring that the final tapes are clear. This responsibility includes doing everything they can to make sure that unwanted noise won’t interfere with the recording or the shooting schedule.
This might include asking people in the area not to talk loudly and figuring out whether traffic noise necessitates changing the recording site.
Keep developing your skills
As mentioned earlier, sound assistants work under the supervision of production sound mixers and boom operators. Watching them perform their roles can help you improve your overall skills as a professional in the film and television production industry. In fact, shadowing them is part of the job.
Sometimes, though, sound assistants can actually do part of the work of sound mixers and boom operators.
It’s common in large-scale productions for sound assistants to perform some of the production sound mixer’s job task of clipping microphones to the actors’ clothes and making sure they’re positioned correctly.
It’s also common in large-scale productions for a sound assistant to be a second boom operator. That means, for example, recording the dialogue of offscreen characters. There are many sources for learning how to be a production sound mixer. Here is one. And here is a source for learning how to be a boom operator.
Freelance sound assistants are not staff members. That means they have to continually look for job assignments. That sounds scary. Sometimes, it is.
Freelance sound assistants should prioritize establishing a rapport with as many production sound mixers and boom operators as they can – whether they are full-time employees or freelancers. Oftentimes, freelance product sound mixers, boom operators, and sound assistants are hired together as a team.
Looking for diverse job assignments is also important. Working in the theater can be a valuable way to develop your skills. Seeking out different locales such as indoor scenes and outdoor scenes can improve your skills and future opportunities.
So you can seek out different kinds of productions such as films and television shows with a lot of dialogue between a few people and shows that are shot amidst large crowds.
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