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What does a Production Sound Mixer do?
- what kind of education do you need? 

Carl Warner answers Rebecca Rees' questions 

1. Do you work for a company or are you an independent mixer?  
I operate Warner Location Sound Services. We work for independent film/video producers and the television networks providing them with complete location equipment recording packages, Production Mixer and Boom Person for feature film production, television series, television commercials and live performances. 

2. What does a Production Sound Mixer do? 
 A Motion Picture Production Sound Mixer is responsible for recording film/video production dialogue and efx. He commands a crew consisting of one or more boom persons, a cable person and sometimes an Equipment Technician. The Sound Mixer will determine what mikes are used for every scene (or assign that responsibility to his boom person), he will operate the sound recorder, maintain the Sound Report, notify the director (or AD) of any sound problems, keep sound levels consistent, avoid distortion because of too high levels, watch for boom shadows, determine sound perspective after discussion with the director, 
record "room tone", and of course most important provide a sound track with clean, intelligible, first-rate audio quality. 

3. What kind of projects have you worked on? 
I have worked on feature films, dramatic television series, network and local television commercials, band concerts and live musical shows and music video. I worked on the CBS-TV television series ROUTE 66, Filmways THE BEACHCOMBER, ABC-TV AMERICAN SPORTSMAN, CBS-TV SUSPICION, and other television sports and dramatic series. 

I worked on network television commercials for: Colgate, Frito Lay, Maiden Form Bras, Manhattan Shirts, General Electric, Ford, General Motors, Haines Hosiery, Fruit of The Loom, Scott Tissue, Fallstaff Beer, Miller Brewing co., Coca Cola, Wilson Sporting Goods and many other major TV commercials. 

When I was much younger I worked on the big budget feature films as Production Sound Mixer today at 76 years of age, I have slowed down a bit and in feature film Production work mostly on medium and low budget features. Just finished one in Nashville, CHRISTMAS DIP. 

4. What kind of equipment do you work with? 
I have several equipment packages that I offer clients: Nagra 4.2 STC, HHB and Tascam DA-P1. For low budget features where TC is not required I find that the Tascam works out very well. 

Our microphone inventory includes the usual pro mikes (Senn 815, Schoeps etc.) but, we use our low priced Okatava MC 012 and several low priced Audio Technica shotguns on most of our low budget feature work with really excellent results. On low budget features we use a Mackie or our Spirit Folio mixers (modified by us to offer more flexibility). Of course we have windscreen blimps for all of our shotguns. We almost always take our sound cart with lights and bells on location shoots. Our equipment packages include Motorola business band walkie talkies, one or two loud hailers, at least four wireless lav mikes and a 400 MHz headphone distribution transmitter with battery operated receivers. 

5. Approximately how much do you make a year? 
Because we do so much work for low budget producers (and also work on IATSE contracts) it is difficult to give you an accurate income figure. In general my boom operator will make at least $250. a day plus time and a half over 50 hours. The production Sound Mixer (on non union projects) makes at least $325. per day. 

6. What kind of education and experience did you have prior to getting this job? 
A professional Motion Picture Production Sound Mixer will usually first start as a boom operator. While a college degree or tech school diploma is not a requirement, to become a first rate pro Sound Mixer requires that this person have a good basic understanding of the psychology of sound and a good background of technical audio knowledge. 

The human ear is somewhat complimented. Sudden loud sounds, for example, can cause hearing to become diminished affecting certain frequencies of audio more than others. Then human hearing will, after a long period of headphone listening, become "tired" and sounds will not be heard the same as "normal". There is of course much more to the psychology of sound, all of this in my opinion vital to someone desiring to become a really first rate professional Sound Mixer. 

At least some formal learning in sound technology is very important. Courses at a trade school or college (or even just studying sound technology text books) in electronic theory, reverb and acoustics would by quite useful. 

Finally, there is something that can't be learned--you either have it or you don't. You have to be born with an "ear" for sound. Somewhat like a musician's ear.

Edited excerpts from discussion thread "Please help me" March 2001 at  CAS Webboard 

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