Sound Assistants are the third members of the Production Sound Crew and provide general back up and support to the Production Sound Mixer and the Boom Operator. They are responsible for checking all stock, microphones and batteries and making sure that the sound department runs as smoothly as possible.

On large scale productions, Sound Assistants may be called upon to operate the second boom, recording all off-camera lines of dialogue, i.e., lines spoken by characters who do not appear on screen. Sound Assistants usually work on a freelance basis with the same Production Sound Mixer and Boom Operator. Most Sound Assistants work on both film and television productions, unless they work with a Production Sound Mixer who works exclusively on feature films. The hours are long and the work often involves long periods working away from home.

What is the job?

Sound Assistants usually begin work on the first day of shooting, arriving on set half an hour before call time, with the rest of the Sound Crew. They help to unload the sound van, and working with the Boom Operator, check that all equipment is prepared and fully operational. During the Director’s rehearsals with the Director of Photography and actors, Sound Assistants must pay close attention in case they are required to move positional microphones, or assist the Boom Operator to plan for difficult shots.

Sound Assistants also help to lay carpet if required to stop any unwanted noise being picked up from the studio or location floor. When other members of the crew or guests visiting the set use headphones with audio receivers to check for dialogue continuity, it is the Sound Assistant’s responsibility to ensure that they are in good working order, and that their batteries are fully charged. If there is unwanted noise during recording (talking, coughing, traffic, etc.), Sound Assistants are required to find the source of the problem and deal with it as quickly and tactfully as possible so that the shooting schedule is not disrupted.

Sound Assistants help the Production Sound Mixer to attach clip microphones to actors’ clothing. They also help the Boom Operator to negotiate cables on the studio floor during recording, and at the end of each shooting day, to ensure that all the sound discs containing the sound rushes are correctly packaged and labelled. They are employed until the end of the shoot, when they make sure that all equipment is carefully packed away and that any remaining sound paperwork is handed over to the production office.

On large scale productions where Sound Assistants are required to swing a second boom, Sound Trainees are usually employed to perform general running duties (making tea and coffee for the Sound Crew, helping with unpacking, cleaning and setting up all sound equipment, etc.). They also shadow the Production Sound Mixer and Boom Operator, learning while gaining invaluable on-the-job experience.

Typical Career Routes

Most Sound Assistants gain a foothold into the industry by finding a Production Sound Mixer who is willing to offer them a junior position on their sound crew as a Sound Trainee. This period of on-the-job training usually lasts approximately two years before Sound Trainees are ready to become Sound Assistants. Working with equipment manufacturers or hire companies can also provide the opportunity to learn about sound equipment and to make useful industry contacts. Most Sound Assistants aspire to progress to be Boom Operators and/or Production Sound Mixers.

Essential knowledge and skills

Sound Assistants must have a basic understanding of electronics and sound recording. They must have a good, reliable working knowledge of a variety of microphones and how to position them for sound.

Key Skills include:

Excellent aural skills
Dexterity and agility
Ability to anticipate
Good timing
Precise attention to detail
Diplomacy and sensitivity on set
Knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures