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Old August 8th, 2007, 07:12 AM   #1
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sound recordist career?

This is kind of a silly sounding question (as mine usually are) but would people say, on the whole, location recording is a good career choice?

'Good' as in there's a demand for people with skills in this area?

Most of the people I know want to be a director or dp, I've never met anyone who said 'I'm only happy when I'm holding a boompole'.

Obviously, you have to be a good sound recordist. But I know for my films I'm always scrambling to get audio people. The professional ones I met seem to make a good living and work steadily.

Also, a friend of mine who works as a grip in a lot of local tv and film productions mentioned to me 'no one wants to take responsibility for sound' - everyone hands someone else the headphones and says 'what do you think?'

So, it strikes me as a very difficult job, but one in which there is slightly less competition (at least, not the way everyone wants to direct). The equipment is expensive, but if you can learn how to deal with a variety of situations, be dependable, it could be a good gig. But I'd invest in a gym membership, as it seems physically demanding.

While I think of it, do a lot of people who do on location recording also do a lot of sound engineering in post? Or is it usually you do one or the other?

I'm probably way wrong on a lot of that, so I'm curious what the experts think.

Last edited by Dennis Stevens; August 8th, 2007 at 07:14 AM. Reason: added question about audio engineering
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Old August 8th, 2007, 10:53 AM   #2
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I think sound is a great career, or part of a career. But then, I'm somewhat biased.

The real question is whether it's a great career for you. Not because your head is telling you "there seems to be an opportunity here", although that could certainly help, but because you have a good ear and a genuine interest in sound. Would a specialization in sound make you happy?

Your friend the grip for local Boston TV/Film certainly says something interesting - would these producers hire a sound op? Why aren't they doing so now? Would you be able to get that work with some training, experience and equipment? Do you have a phone and a car and are you developing a reputation as the guy who's always early to the gig, easy to work with, and is extremely dependable?

Here in Portland (a large media production market for its population), most field sound people I know also do post, but not always on the same projects. Not only are they a complementary set of skills, but, it really helps your recording to know how your field techniques worked (or didn't work) in post.
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Old August 8th, 2007, 11:20 AM   #3
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You've got to really have a passion for it. If you do, it can be a very good career. Sound folks, especially good ones, are always in demand.

Having said that, sound guys are also really in a tight spot. They have a very challenging job since controlling sound is difficult, most everyone else is worried only about picture, and you are never going to have the input into the process that you need. So you have to be adaptable and diplomatic in addition to punctual, reliable, and dependable. The reason folks want to be directors and DPs is for control (or the illusion of it).

Oh, there's also probably a monetary investment needed to get into the sound business, too. Most folks are going to expect you to come with equipment, so you need to own or be able to rent some kit. You'll need at least a mixer, boompole, mics, cables, and headset. At least one wireless mic should be close behind. You've got to have equipment that is dependable and reliable, and I'd plan to budget $4000 - $6000 to get started if you want to buy.
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Old August 8th, 2007, 02:38 PM   #4
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I can say this much: I am hoping to do an indie film short sometime next summer. I'd like to make money on it, so I want to do things right. But can I find a boom op who is available and affordable? No. So, depending on who you want to work for and how low you are willing to charge, it seems to me that it could be a great opportunity. Also, the boom op job isn't going to go away with the on-coming of the digital cinema era. If anything, they are going to grow greatly in demand as awesome-looking picture quality becomes more and more affordable and the rapidly growing number of digital movie makers attempt to bring their audio quality up to match that of their picture.

However, have you done much of this sort of work before? If so, did you enjoy it? Sit back and think about yourself in this occupation. Would going to the set of your jobs seem like just another day of grueling work or another opportunity to have a good time doing what you enjoy most? The perfect job for you should seem like playing to you because you enjoy it so much. If that doesn't describe how boom operating seems you, it's not for you.
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Old August 8th, 2007, 03:00 PM   #5
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'I'm only happy when I'm holding a boom pole'

There ya go ya met someone who said it :-)
Mind you other things make me happy but when you nail a really difficult scene it's hard to beat.

As for a career ? Well it's hard to beat as well so go for it and to keep fit just goto work, it'll make you as fit as you need, mind you everythings lighter these days, try lumping a stereo Nagra around on ya shoulder and you soon realise how nice the new recorders are for your shoulder lol
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Old August 8th, 2007, 03:18 PM   #6
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As a career path, you'll need to multi-track. (Pun intended.) The ammount of location work available will ebb and flow, so you'll need to make up that slack in a studio environement.

Find a sound studio that offers location services, hire on... work your way up.

Good luck.
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