Sound Advice From The Pros—Part 2

By in Pro Mixing

I started my career as a recording engineer for music (and a lit bit of radio post) and it took me years to find out more about Post Production Sound for Film and TV. When I moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990’s I was slowly exposed to the world and language of post sound and found it fascinating.

Since then, I’ve immersed myself into everything that goes into making a great soundtrack and all the great people who make it happen. I’ve met many post audio pro’s along the way and in part two of my Sound Advice for young people wanting to enter the industry, here’s some advice from several award-winning and accomplished post sound pros. My standard question to them is:

What advice would you give to students or young mixers who want to do what you do?

Scott Weber

Emmy Winner – LOST, Person of Interest, West World

“I’d break my advice for young people interested in a career in post sound into four sections…

  1. Education: Learn as much as you can about everything and anything audio, Pro Tools, recording, mixing, filmmaking and microphones. The schools are a great place for that but in reality you will never stop learning, it never ends – you’ve got to constantly keep honing your skills on the latest console and newest gear! This year I have learned both the S3 and the S6 and am ready to mix a show on them. I believe that you have to be willing to work on the latest Avid surface and version of Pro Tools. If not, it’s hard to stay current and cutting edge—someone younger could come along and take your (my) place!
  2. Networking: The connections you make are as almost important as the education you receive. The people you get to know can be the key thing that gets you your next job. It’s a good idea to go to school where the business is happening like LA, NY, Nashville, London, etc… Places where there are people you can network with that are doing that work in the field you want to be in. Going to Avid events, reseller events, seminars, trade shows—where there are other users is also a great way to network. Those connections can get your foot in the door.
  3. People Skills: Once you get your foot in the door, I think as much as 50% of the job as a mixer or sound supervisor is as likely people skills as it is mixing/audio skills. Developing good communication and listening skills and then how to translate what the client is asking for into mixing moves and making the changes work is critical. Being cool under pressure and being able to get along with people is essential.  Ultimately, you want the client to have a great experience and ask for you for the next time. Also, always remember that it’s their movie or their show. Their opinion is more valuable than yours and diplomacy is just as important as knowing how to push all the right buttons and faders.
  4. Goals and Expectations:  When you get started, it’s good to have goals, but be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up through the system. Don’t be dead-set on what you think you want to do. You may want to be a sound designer but what they need right now is someone to cut foley (for your first job). For me, the doors opened by saying yes all along the way. A music-recording/engineering job turned into a sound effects editing job, which turned into being a foley mixer and eventually a re-recording mixer. It took years for that to happen, but always be willing to learn and willing to say yes more often than not.”

 

WATCH ‘MASTER THE ART OF POST MIXING’

Will Files

Star Trek Into Darkness, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Fantastic Four

“I like to bounce back and fourth between the big budget studio projects to the smaller indie because it keeps me on my toes, it keeps me fresh and I find that I learn things on both sides that I bring to the other side. One of the things you learn on movies with small budgets—you learn how to do things fast because you may have only 5 or 6 days for the entire mix with no premixes. You have to learn how to use the tools (Pro Tools especially) as efficiently as possible.

The mistake that a lot of mixers make starting out, (and I say it because I made them)—is that you tend to focus on the details more than the overall picture and you can get stuck on a small moment far too long and not on the whole and it really doesn’t make much difference on telling the story and the emotional impact of the scene. So now—even on big features, whether I’m cutting or mixing, I try to make a first pass as fast and as disciplined a pass at the film as I can and then take a step back and see what I really have. You can then really identify where the big challenges are and give them more attention. You have more perspective.”

 

CREATING FEATURE FILM SOUNDTRACKS WITH WILL FILES

“Pro Tools is the lifeblood of our industry. The more proficient you can get on it—the more valuable you become to a facility.”

—Frank Morrone

Frank Morrone

EMMY Winner — The Strain, The Kennedys

“My best advice to someone wanting to get into the film and TV mixing industry starts with: Pro Tools is the lifeblood of our industry. The more proficient you can get on it—the more valuable you become to a facility. Mastering Pro Tools and the surfaces like the S6 will make you a huge asset to any studio looking to hire someone.

 

READ THE INTERVIEW WITH RE-RECORDING MIXER FRANK MORRONE

There’s a ton of great advice and wisdom from these top professionals who rely on Pro Tools and Avid Pro Mixing solutions contained above. As they said, the barrier to entry and getting started is very low—it’s FREE in fact! So get started today by downloading Pro Tools | First for free or you can get the full version of Pro Tools for as low as $ 25 a month. If you are a student—educational pricing starts at $ 10 a month for subscription or $ 299 to purchase.

Be sure to also check out part 1 from last week, when we asked the same question to Music professionals!

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Marketing manager for Avid Post Audio and Pro Mixing, I am also a veteran engineer/recordist/editor. I've worked on music scores for dozens of feature films, including Ice Age, Collateral, and The Spirit.