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Production sound mixers (sometimes known as sound recordists) are essentially the heads of the sound departments on a film or television production. Their main role is to make sure that all dialogue and ‘real’ or 'diegetic' sound in the production is recorded clearly, and that there are no unwanted noises in the background.
The dialogue in a production is one of the most important features in story-telling and in producing emotional impact; the dialogue must be crystal clear in order to efficiently carry out its purpose.
Sound mixers work in the production stage, rather than in post-production. The role of a production sound mixer begins before filming begins, when they meet with the producers and directors to go over the creative briefs for the film. Sound mixers must then liaise with other production departments to discuss and decide on how to go about recording the dialogue and sound, as well as what equipment to use.
It is the production sound mixers that are on set before filming, instructing the department on how and where to set up the equipment. Production sound mixers will use multiple microphones to record dialogue and sound, recording it on a Digital Audio Tape (DAT). The sound will be monitored and handed over to those in post-production once the film has been wrapped. Production sound mixers sometimes also help to choose the soundtracks and arrange how and when they feature.
In television, sound mixers would be in charge of supervising the ‘talkback communication’ between live presenters and land-line connections outside of the studio. They are also vital when recording an interview or scene in a busy, noisy location, making sure that the dialogue is heard clearly over all the background noise.
Working as production sound mixer requires a lot of experience in sound recording, and sound mixers usually spend many years working as assistants or boom operators before getting the chance to be in charge. Hours of work are long and can be stressful, especially when working away from home. The role demands a balance of creativity and technical prowess.