Gabriel Maybank || Published March 16, 2016
Introducing the most overlooked, often underrated, most important player on your team, the sound engineer. Oh, how loved they are when they on their game and flawless, and controversially hated when they are not. It really is some kind of awesome roller coaster being a sound technician no matter what field you are in. In music, they are the most sought after gems. In film, the audio blasts through any visual aspect to enhance the best of scenes. I could go on… orchestra, plays, television, churches, sports events, clubs, bars, shopping centers, medical, forensics, etc. You get the point. So if you have undoubtedly chosen to be in this elite group of the most hated and loved people on the planet, where could you find your little slice of the pie “in the mix”? Here is my countdown of what I think would be the top 10 jobs to have as a sound engineer.
10. Freelance Engineer
Although you have the freedom from “the man”, becoming a successful freelancer can be just a daunting as trying to land an actual salaried position. Being patient and sometimes working with not-so professional people just for the pay, can make this dream a nightmare quickly. Freelancing does have its perks too. You can set your own schedule, manage the clients you do want, and build a legitimate income over time. You also don’t have to limit yourself to just one category, if you are proficient in other areas of study.
9. Voice Over Technician
There are so many different paths to take as a voice over technician. You can freelance and record yourself, get hired by companies and corporations to record commercials and voice over talent, record for audiobooks, or film like animated shows and movies. There are plenty of voice over actors with million-dollar voices being recorded by million-dollar engineers.
8. Forensic Audiologist
Forensics focuses on more technical concepts than getting in a studio and creating sound. It is an investigative position directed towards analyzing, evaluating, and understanding provided audio as evidence for a court case. Being a forensic audiologist is like reconstructing a pre-recorded movie scene. A forensic audiologist’s main focus would be in law. You could make or break a case decoding audio from video or unscrambling phone calls.
7. Boom Operator
If you like being on a film set, this is a great position to obtain. Boom operators capture vocals, ambience, and wilds (extra additional sounds needed for the film) on set during the production. Being a boom operator, especially with your own equipment, can land you a job on any film, documentary, or television set. The range of production sets you could work is virtually unlimited.
6. Foley Artist
Think Hanna-Barbera cartoons or movies like Avatar, Jurassic Park, Transformers, or Titanic. Foley artist fill the movie soundscape with all kinds of creatively designed sounds or noises. Foley artist have fun recording seemingly basic items and various sound effects to come up with a complex sounds to enhance the on-screen experience.
5. TV/Radio Broadcast Engineer
These audio engineers get to do it all, record music and vocals, sound design, post-production audio editing, but at a super fast pace. No one likes watching TV or listening to a radio with no audio. Being a broadcast engineer, you have to deliver crystal clear audio every time without fail. However, holding these positions can guarantee a rewarding salary.
4. Sound Designer
Sound designers are similar to foley artist, except they are essentially the audio editors. They put together all the recording sounds and place them together and are responsible for everything the audience hears. Sound designers can record their own sounds too, but on big productions and multimillion-dollar films the foley artist, would record the sound effects. Sound design is an art, but can land you a job for film, TV, theatre, live sound, video games, music, and/or radio.
3. Recording Engineer
The recording engineer is the picture perfect audio engineers dream. Large workstations with all the bells and whistles and effects rack and pro audio grade equipment can entice any musician to working with you. It’s no secret there is big money in studio recording. This one makes number three just because it’s a widely sought after position.
2. Field Recording Technician
Field recordists bring us some of the most diverse and majestic sounds this planet has to offer. Field recording is my number two pick because of the variety being in this position can bring. Traveling to third world countries just to record the sounds of people, places, and things we would not normally hear if it wasn’t for the field tech is just priceless. Recording marine life or the sounds of Paris in the spring. There is just nothing comparable to being able to say, “I recorded that”.
1. FOH Engineer
This one deserves number one for the simple fact of mobility, but also for all kinds of venues, people, work-desks, networking, pumping the crowds, and the pay. Imagine if you were Derek Brener, Bruno Mars’s front of house engineer, you would have been paid to be at Super Bowl 2015 and 2016. Even on a much smaller scale, there are so many venues, theatres, and bands that need a sound technician. Bringing live music to life and getting a response from hundreds to thousands of people at one time is just as surreal for the engineer as it is for the performing musician.