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Tip #1145: What Every Sound Utility Should Know

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The sound utility person is an essential piece of the audio puzzle on set.

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This article, written by Daron James, first appeared in NoFilmSchool.com. This is a summary.

There are dozens of roles and responsibilities on a film set. Whether you’re a camera assistant, a prosthetic makeup artist, a set costumer, or a video assistant, everyone makes up the dynamic team that supports a director’s vision.

A sound utility is one of the puzzle’s most important pieces. Part of the production sound team that generally includes a production sound mixer, a boom operator, and a sound utility, they’re often referred to as 2nd boom, third, or cable person.

As a sound utility, you’re one of the first people on set. You power up the sound equipment, check batteries and wireless frequencies, and you make sure there are enough printed sides of the shooting script. You understand the shooting schedule and when it’s time to move. You double-check the bag rig in case the production sound cart can’t be used. You understand audio playback and the importance of soundproofing sets.

You need to have people skills, understand set politics, and know when to speak up.

One of your most methodical and critical jobs on set will be to wire talent. You’re working with actors, wardrobe and makeup/hair to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands what you’re looking to accomplish. Having to stop production to fix an incorrectly placed lav is something every sound department wants to avoid.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Assist the boom operator, wire the talent, and make sure all equipment is in range
  • Set up loop systems, dampen noise, and make sure everything is charged
  • Organize paperwork, know where your gear is, and make sure the equipment works
  • Remember to wear your IFB, be a cart master, and make sure everything is returned

The article goes into more detail on each of these points with detailed, practical advice.


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