Sound editor

A sound editor


Sound editors create the soundtrack and sound effects for motion pictures, television series or other multimedia productions. They are responsible for all the music and sound featured in the movie, series or videogames. Sound editors use equipment to edit and mix image and sound recordings and make sure that the music, sound and dialogue is synchronised with and fits in the scene. They work closely together with the video and motion picture editor.

Includes people producing new music especially designed for a movie.
Includes people working with music composers.

Sound editors typically do the following duties:

  • Conduct checks on copyright clearances for sound materials.
  • Judge the feedback of sound edits to maintain detailed records on quality of sound production.
  • Make sound edit decisions based on creative briefs.
  • Manage appropriate usage, storage and maintenance of all sound equipment.
  • Operate equipment to perform sound editing, foley and automated dialogue replacement.
  • Organise sound edits in preparation for final sound mixing.
  • Perform sound mixing to blend sound elements together for coherent and uniform sound quality.
  • Prepare secure storage of recordings and back-up recordings.
  • Process sound elements for post-production in line with scene requirements.
  • Test sound equipment before the broadcast, recording or other events.
  • Transfer sound sources to an appropriate format for digital storage.
  • Verify that sound equipment is set up according to required technical specifications, frame rates or audio formats.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to sound editor:

audio editor
dubbing manager
dialogue editor
automatic dialogue replacement editor
music supervisor
ADR editor
sound designer
foley artist
music editor
foley editor

Minimum qualifications

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally sufficient to work as a sound editor. More importantly, a qualification in film scoring, music production, sound engineering, or related field is crucial to start in this industry. Such experience can be acquired in smaller events such as parties, weddings, or other celebrations. Building a portfolio of customers is also a huge asset.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Sound editor is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Sound editor career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to sound editor.

mastering engineer
location manager
publishing rights manager
miniature set designer
script supervisor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of sound editor. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of sound editor with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

music arranger
music director
video and motion picture editor

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of sound editor.

  • Personal directing styles: Understand and analyse the behaviour of specific directors.
  • Musical genres: Different musical styles and genres such as blues, jazz, reggae, rock, or indie.
  • Film music techniques: Understand how film music can create desired effects or moods.
  • Audio editing software: The various software for editing and generating audio, such as Adobe Audition, Soundforge, and Power Sound Editor.
  • Musical theory: The body of interrelated concepts that constitutes the theoretical background of music.
  • Copyright legislation: Legislation describing the protection of the rights of original authors over their work, and how others can use it.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of sound editor.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of sound editor. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Musical instruments: The different musical instruments, their ranges, timbre, and possible combinations.
  • Film production process: The various development stages of making a film, such as scriptwriting, financing, shooting, editing, and distribution.
  • Musical notation: The systems used to visually represent music through the use of written symbols, including ancient or modern musical symbols.
  • File-based workflow: The recording of moving images without using tape, but by storing these digital videos on optical disks, hard drives, and other digital storage devices.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of sound editor. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Draw up artistic production: File and document a production in all its phases right after the performance period so that it can be reproduced and all relevant information remains accessible.
  • Transpose music: Transposing music into an alternate key while keeping the original tone structure.
  • Engage composers: Engage services of professional composers to write the score for a music piece.
  • Purchase music: Purchase the rights to music pieces while making sure all legal requirements are met.
  • Rewrite musical scores: Rewrite original musical scores in different musical genres and styles; change rhythm, harmony tempo or instrumentation.
  • Organise compositions: Arrange and adapt existing musical compositions, add variations to existing melodies or compositions manually or with the use of computer software. Redistribute instrumental parts.
  • Synchronise with mouth movements: Synchronise sound recording with the mouth movements of the original actor.
  • Archive documentation related to the work: Select relevant documentation related to the ongoing or complete work and take steps to archive it in a way that ensures its future accessibility.
  • Collaborate with music librarians: Communicate and work together with music librarians to ensure permanent availability of scores.
  • Draft music cue breakdown: Draft a cue breakdown by rewriting the script from a musical point of view, helping the composer to estimate the tempo and meter of the score.
  • Transcribe ideas into musical notation: Transcribe/translate musical ideas into musical notation, using instruments, pen and paper, or computers.
  • Work with composers: Communicate with composers to discuss various interpretations of their work.

ISCO group and title

3521 – Broadcasting and audiovisual technicians

  1. Sound editor – ESCO
  2. Featured image: Photo by cottonbro studio from Pexels
Last updated on February 24, 2023

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