Setlife: The Sound Mixer

Planning, acquiring the right tools, informing producers of any additional recording needs, and ensuring perfect timing between the camera and audio are just some of the insights and tips offered in this article for sound mixers in film production. We stress the significance of providing everyone on set with live audio access and delivering high-quality sound.


3/12/20232 min read

Every production calls for a different kind of Sound Mixer. But the Sound Mixer is a specialist who knows what sounds must be recorded for the edit, provides a live feed of dialogue, and who makes sure the cameras and the sound recorder are in sync. The Mixer is also responsible for keeping up with and having an understanding of the equipment used to perform these duties.

The primary responsibility of a mixer is to deliver the highest possible sound quality in a given environment. When the crew is large, it's especially important to know who to talk to. In a small crew, the producer and even the camera operator can help with audio issues. When working with a larger crew, it is best to alert the Director or, even better, the Assistant Director to any audio issues ahead of time. If you can, let people know ahead of time when you'll be near loud noises like airports, train tracks, or compressors.

Any situation that calls for the use of a microphone will benefit from careful planning and the acquisition of the appropriate tools, such as a boom or lavalier microphone. It is helpful to know the camera's field of view in order to determine whether or not any outside noises are problematic. It's not very practical to have a cow mooing in your living room, but including one as scenic background detail can enhance the overall effect. So long as the subject’s voice is prominent, assess when and where these sounds fit into the picture. It is the responsibility of the Mixer to inform the producers that additional audio recording is required if the original recording is muddy or obscured by background noise.

The Mixer also plays a crucial role in ensuring perfect timing between the camera and the two-stage audio system. The most well-known synchronization aid is the timecode box, but there are others. Jamming the timecode directly from the sound mixer's console works fine for a straightforward interview, but a timecode box offers more reliable protection against drift. High-speed shooting is a feature offered by many modern cameras. In order to prevent the Mixer from having to follow the camera operator's every move, a timecode box is used after fast-paced shots so that the camera can be jammed. The audio scratch track adds an extra layer of security. Sound waves can be used by editors as a means of timing. We need consistent volume levels across all our devices.

Last but not least, make sure that everyone who needs it on set has access to live audio. Filmmakers, producers, agency clients, and script editors all fall into this category. Depending on the shoot, camera operators may need to listen to and keep up with the cast. In most cases, the scratch track communication system also serves as the set communication system. Mixers are often expected to provide headphones too, so come prepared to set.