VoiceTalks AV Series: What does a sound engineer do?

3 min read

So what does a sound engineer do, you ask? Well, many will argue that of all the members of an audiovisual production team, the sound engineer’s role is the most important. Why? Surveys have revealed that AVs with bad visuals may still get watched if the sound is good, but not the other way round.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away…

Say you’re a business owner and your company is launching a marketing campaign. The scriptwriter wrote an engaging and interesting script. The producer and director got the best voice actors on board. The animators did a sterling job, and the marketing section came up with some wonderfully novel ideas. In fact, you have every reason to suspect the team is gonna knock the ball out of the park.

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Now, imagine you’ve invited a selected who’s who to attend the premiere in the boardroom. The lights go down and someone hits the remote’s ‘play’ button. Everything looks great and you start feeling a little like George Lucas — until the music comes in and the voice over starts.

But instead of an engrossing soundscape, all you hear is a cacophonous din. The sound distorts. It’s so tinny it hurts your ears. The music is so invasive you can’t hear the voice actor speaking. Then the voice is so loud you can’t hear the music. Furtively, you glance around the room. Your audience is starting to look at you in discomfort. One person has even tried to cover their ears surreptitiously…

This was no Star Wars opening. No, sir. As a result and within 30 seconds, your great AV presentation tanked.

Ouch.

The art of sound

There is art in great sound. It envelops, encapsulate mood, and can both dictate and underscore emotion. In many ways it defines the psychology of sale.

In short: sound matters. Seriously.

Consequently, for an audiovisual production to be its best, you need a talented sound engineer at the controls.

Qualified sound engineers are experts at editing and mixing all the required audio elements so they fuse into one, cohesive and impactful soundtrack that wraps around the visuals. They make pictures sound good.

What goes into the role of a Sound Engineer?

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Sound engineers control all the technical aspects of production sound: microphones, mixing boards, overall acoustics, as well as editing software and plugins. Sound engineers are often skilled in other aspects of AV production too because what they do impacts everything else. They have to ensure everything works in harmony.

Any and every kind of AV production requires the services of a sound engineer: video games, product demo videos, explainer videos. eLearning videos, feature films, short films, radio, television, etc.

A breakdown of what their responsibilities look like:
  • Work with the producer and director to understand their project vision and supply creative ideas.
  • Design and set up the entire recording system, including microphones, monitors, mixers, etc.
  • Use a mixing console to not just check the sound quality before and during recording but also conduct sound checks.
  • Resolve any audio problems that might take place during the recording.
  • Enhance and edit the audio by employing their preferred collection of hardware and software tools.
Different types of sound engineer

While all sound engineers essentially work with sound, depending on the nature of your audiovisual project, you might need to get a sound engineer on board who has specific niche expertise. This makes sure your audiovisual project isn’t handled in an amateur way and that no aspect of the sound is overlooked or neglected.

Studio sound engineers

As the name suggests, these work mainly in the studio and take care of mixing and mastering, adding sound effects, auto-tuning, equalization, etc. This work is often done once the entire recording is completed.

Game audio design engineers

These sound engineers have specialized expertise in working with video games and taking care of every sound in them. They work on music tracks in the game, dialogue of the many characters, and sound effects of other elements such as cars, bikes, gunshots, etc. They frequently create sounds as well.

Recording engineers

Recording engineers work best when they are hired to handle the sound during recording sessions for video voice-overs, podcasts, music videos, etc. They are experts in setting up recording equipment and make sure that the sound recorded is word perfect!

Audio post engineer

If you are looking to create audiovisual content for the television or a big movie screen, hiring an Audio Post Engineer to handle the sound is the way to go — although, as the name suggests, they usually get involved after the production is complete.

Systems engineer

These sound engineers are experts in handling the music and sound for a live event. They usually come with a small team of live sound and monitor engineers. Jointly, they ensure the audio quality is top-notch for the audience and also make sure that the performers can hear themselves properly onstage.

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The final word

Be it a short eLearning video or a full-fledged features film, hiring a sound engineer can work wonders for your audiovisual project. High-quality sound, which is pleasant on the ears, helps you hold the attention of your audience and enables you to engage with them well. Your audience will have a top-notch viewing experience and will keep coming back to watch more of your work.

Sound engineers can also help you understand what advanced technology and equipment you should use for not just recording sound but also video. They invent new techniques to enhance your audiovisual projects in all the right areas.

An experienced and professional sound engineer can be the difference between a high-flyer project and a tank. Make sure you understand your requirements and get a sound engineer that can steer your AV project to the heights of success!

Finally, we wish you the very best!

(This article is one of a six-part series; the other articles cover: What does a producer do? What does a director do? What does a casting agent do? What does a scriptwriter do? What does an editor do? Don’t forget to have a look at them as well!)