A sound engineer works with the acoustics on a video production, ensuring that sound effects, voices and music are all heard and understood by the audience. The sound engineer needs to consider how the microphones and volumes of each sound work in context in any given scene, and adjust as need be throughout. Most sounds for video can be cleaned up after the work is completed as opposed to during.
What to look for
Do they have video experience?
A sound engineer on a stage production will have different duties than those in video.
What techniques do they have experience with?
Most sound engineers will use a variety of both technical and traditional tools to achieve the perfect sounds.
What type of equipment have they used?
This is a technical job, so the person should be comfortable setting up, positioning and operating machinery of all kinds.
Know what you need
Where will your scenes be?
On closed sets, the sound will be fairly easy to master, but windy or otherwise noisy settings will be much more difficult. You’ll need someone who is just as comfortable in the dessert as they are in a sound booth.
Will you need sounds effects?
Sound effects can be crucial in action or comedic scenes, so ensure you have someone who can get the timing and sounds to enhance the plot and provide further direction to the characters and audience.
Will all sounds need to be heard?
Some sounds need to be muffled for the sake of mystery or suspense. Hire a freelance sound engineer who can handle every type of nuanced request.
Questions to ask a potential candidate
How do you decide which equipment to use?
This question gives you an idea of their expertise with different tools in order to capture the sound on film. The prospective candidate should be able to talk about the logistics of positioning it all as well.
What movies influenced you?
The quality of the sound in movies is an important matter in how moving or effective a film is, and knowing what drives them can help you determine how well the two of you match.
How would you deal with a sound effect you couldn't find?
If you’re creating an alien world, then you’re bound to need sound effects that haven’t been conceived of yet. Get a sense of their creativity and thinking process by asking this question.
How do they handle their time management?
Sound is about priorities, and the sound engineer needs to be able to address all of their tasks in the right order, as well as stay flexible with changes given by the director or producer.
How do you keep up with the film?
Computers have changed the world of sound dramatically, so your candidate should be staying on top of all the latest news. This way you know you have access to everything available.