The world of recording arts is ripe with opportunity. Whether they’re producing music, rigging the stage for huge concerts, or recording sound on real film sets, our graduates follow their passion in a variety of positions across the nation. Where will F.I.R.S.T. take you?
The audio engineer (also known as a recording engineer or sound engineer) sets up, operates, and maintains a wide array of electronic and electrical equipment involved in TV or radio broadcasts, concerts, plays, musical records, or ﬁlm. The main concern for an audio engineer is the successful transfer of a live performance into a high-quality recording through careful set-up and close monitoring. Audio engineers will work with artists, producers, and directors during a recording session to check levels, balance, and blend. Many audio engineers are musicians themselves, with a strong understanding of how to capture the sound of individual instruments and voices so that they all shine together. Audio engineers often manipulate the recordings once they are made, polishing and perfecting them through the console. Many audio engineers work outside the studio as well, serving as field engineers or specializing in sound reinforcement or acoustical consultation.
Sound technicians are the go-to people for managing electrical equipment and tools. This is a hands-on, tech-heavy job that can give you great variety in terms of workplace. Sound technicians are needed in every type of entertainment from TV, film, musical recording, and radio to sporting events, speeches, concerts, and theater. Sound technicians prepare acoustical spaces, setting up and testing complex systems of microphones, speakers, and amps so that every word said or note played rings true. They also install, repair, and maintain recording equipment, and sometimes work with consoles, too, to assure a smooth transfer of live performance into clear recording. The duties of a sound technician can vary depending on the place of employment, but they are often at work in the field, whether that means checking systems, running gigs, or advising on the best equipment to use at a given venue.
Broadcast engineers oversee, operate, maintain, and update the hardware and broadcast systems used in the production of television, radio, podcasts, etc. They may work in television or radio stations, helping to produce content in-studio or managing live material as it is transmitted to the studio (or sent directly to a show as a live feed!). They assure that programs are clearly broadcast at their scheduled times, attending to any interference that may occur and neutralizing it. They may be required to install, monitor, and repair both hardware and software, and even to design audiovisual circuits for custom purposes. It is important for broadcast engineers to keep up-to-date with the industry so that they can bring the latest and greatest strategies to the workplace, making this a great position for those that love learning about and implementing new technologies.
Mix engineers do everything from finalizing records for bands to adding laugh-tracks to sitcoms. All the tracks from a recording session, or series of sessions, end up in the hands of a mix engineer, who typically works with a console to find balance amongst all the elements, to decide on pan positioning, and to adjust things like tempo, reverb, and so on. Whatever the project, the task is to blend all the various individual elements of a recording into a final, polished product that’s ready for mastering. Mix engineers work very closely with performers and producers, advising and helping them to achieve their vision – because ultimately the mix engineers are in control of the overall sound of the final recording! It’s a creatively demanding job that requires a great deal of expertise and care, but it is also a deeply rewarding role that calls on your own imagination and style.
Sound designers typically work in theater, film, and television to create soundtracks and soundscapes that accompany and complement the action. Sometimes designers are called in once a project (like a short film or a commercial) is finished, and they do all of their magic in post-production, but when working with live performance, sound designers are involved throughout the process, working with the director and other designers to produce a cohesive piece. Apart from technical skill in creating sound effects, musical scores, and atmospheric sounds to suit the dialogue and plot of a show, good communication skills are crucial for sound designers: they must work with Foley artists, ADR editors, re-recording mixers, and many others to shape and perfect the final soundtrack. Lots of script analysis goes into navigating the needs of each design. Sound designers analyze where, when, and how the sound cues are to be implemented, and because sound designers make many creative decisions on a project, they have a great deal of impact on the “feel” of the finished product.
The re-recording mixer is the person in charge of taking all the elements of a sound design and mixing them into a balanced soundtrack. They work with the dialogue tracks, ADR tracks, Foley and sound effects, atmospheres, and music to create realistic and effective soundscapes for film, television, commercials, etc. They balance volumes and equalize dialogue, implement cross fades and adjust the background music for dramatic effect. One important part of the re-recording mixer’s job is to make sure that sound effects and music never distract from the project itself, keeping levels appropriate throughout the action. Sometimes re-recording mixers are asked to create rough cuts of the soundtrack for test screenings of a film or show. Once all edits have been made to the footage, the re-recording mixer is able to go back into the rough cut of the soundtrack and modify it (incorporating new effects or dialogue as needed) so that the finalized, polished soundtrack can be mixed. Re-recording mixers need good communication skills as they often work in a team of artists and editors, and it is up to them to balance not only the sound itself, but also the vision of the group.
Foley artists recreate specific audio effects for films. Set recordings do not always capture each individual sound, so Foley artists are responsible for remaking minor sounds in a scene to maintain authenticity. They are not involved in standard special effects, like crashes and explosions. Instead, they focus on the sound of footsteps, or a creaking swing. Foley artists might even work on the removal of certain sounds in a scene, like a barking dog. These artists are crucial to the overall auditory experience of a film.
Acoustic engineers are audio engineers that specialize in acoustics, dealing with sound and vibration. These engineers are in charge of controlling sound levels in a designated area. They reduce unnecessary sounds and help enhance those that are desired. Acoustic engineers can work in a variety of settings. Some may work in audio engineering, designing systems for sound, while others may work in architecture, constructing performance spaces and studios. Technical and mechanical skills are needed for this position.
If you are interested in the gaming industry, becoming an audio programmer might be a great fit with a recording arts education. Audio programmers process the sound effects and music for a game. They are accountable for how a game sounds. Working closely with the audio and software department, audio programmers must be able to enhance the experience for gamers with appropriate music and audio effects.
Music producers oversee all aspects of the recording process of an artist. They are greatly involved with writing, producing, and arranging the music. This position is very competitive and has the potential to be very rewarding, both financially and creatively. Most music producers have a background in recording arts, and a majority of them start out in home studios. As a music producer, you have the power to directly influence an artist’s sound and feel. You have the chance to generate album and song ideas, coach artists during the recording session, and even direct the audio engineers in the mixing stage.
A Mastering Engineer balances the frequency spectrum of a song and adjusts the dynamics to sound consistent across audio systems. Mastering adds clarity and depth to the mix. This is the most crucial step in getting the perfect sound that musicians aspire for. Masteringis the endingstep to polish mixed music.
Location Sound Mixers are responsible for recording all sound during production on a film or television set. They place microphones, choose recording media, and mix audio signals in real time.
Boom Operators position microphones to capture the best quality of dialogue and sound effects. They do this by fitting lavalier microphones to artists, placing microphones appropriately for shots, and operating a boom microphone. They are responsible for the upkeep of sound equipment on a set.