Sound operators control the sound of a performance based on the artistic or creative concept, in interaction with the performers. Their work is influenced by and influences the results of other operators. Therefore, the operators work closely together with the designers and performers. They prepare audio fragments, supervise the setup, steer the technical crew, program the equipment and operate the sound system. Their work is based on plans, instructions and other documentation.
Excludes people performing media or broadcast activities.
The duties of a sound operator include, but are not limited to:
- Preparing and operating sound equipment.
- Setting up and breaking down audio equipment.
- Running audio equipment and checking that everything is properly connected.
- Testing audio equipment for volume, tone, and clarity.
- Evaluating audio equipment for repair and maintenance.
- Operating mixing consoles and adjusting sounds and volumes when necessary.
- Ensuring customers are happy with the sound quality and the set up of the audio equipment.
- Recommending equipment and software upgrades when necessary.
- Collaborating with other audio technicians.
The following job titles also refer to sound operator:
sound board technician
sound board operator
audio board operator
sound audio technician
While a formal educational credential is not necessary to become a sound operator, it’s important to show a good understanding of the physics of sound, technical aptitude (including an awareness of current sound technology and equipment), good aural skills, excellent communication skills and attention to detail.
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 operator is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Sound operator career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to sound operator.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of sound operator. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of sound operator with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of sound operator.
- 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.
- Work ergonomically: Apply ergonomy principles in the organisation of the workplace while manually handling equipment and materials.
- Understand artistic concepts: Interpret an artist’s explanation or demonstration of their artistic concepts, inceptions and processes and strive to share their vision.
- Set up a multi-track recording: Make the necessary preparations to record music or other sounds on several tracks.
- Mix multi-track recordings: Mix recorded sound from several sources using a mix panel, and edit it to obtain the desired mix.
- Safeguard artistic quality of performance: Observe the show, anticipate and react to possible technical problems, ensuring optimal artistic quality.
- Monitor mixing in a live situation: Monitor mixing in a live audio situation, under own responsibility.
- Perform quality control of design during a run: Control and ensure the quality of design results during a run.
- Communicate during show: Efficient communication during live performance, anticipate any possible malfunctioning.
- Adapt artistic plan to location: Adjust plans to other locations with regards to the artistic concept.
- Use personal protection equipment: Make use of protection equipment according to training, instruction and manuals. Inspect the equipment and use it consistently.
- Adapt to artists’ creative demands: Work with artists, striving to understand the creative vision and adapting to it. Make full use of your talents and skills to reach the best possible result.
- Program sound cues: Program sound cues and rehearse sound states before or during rehearsals.
- Perform soundchecks: Test the sound equipment of a venue to ensure smooth operation during the performance. Cooperate with performers to make sure the venue equipment is adjusted for the requirements of the performance.
- Prepare personal work environment: Correct settings or positions for your working instruments and adjust them before starting operations.
- Interact with actions on stage: Take cues from actions on the stage and interact with them. Decide on the exact timing and procedure in a live environment, in order to produce a fluid and consistent performance.
- Operate an audio mixing console: Operate an audio mixing system during rehearsals or during live performances.
- Use communication equipment: Set up, test and operate different types of communication equipment such as transmission equipment, digital network equipment, or telecommunications equipment.
- Mix sound in a live situation: Mix audio signals from multiple sound sources during rehearsals or in a live situation.
- Translate artistic concepts to technical designs: Cooperate with the artistic team in order to facilitate the transition from the creative vision and its artistic concepts to a technical design.
- Support a designer in the developing process: Support designers in the course of the developing process.
- Record multi-track sound: Recording and mixing audio signals from different sound sources on a multi-track recorder.
- Organise resources for artistic production: Coordinate human, material and capital resources within artistic productions, based on the given documentation e.g. scripts.
- Manage personal professional development: Take responsibility for lifelong learning and continuous professional development. Engage in learning to support and update professional competence. Identify priority areas for professional development based on reflection about own practice and through contact with peers and stakeholders.
- Work safely with mobile electrical systems under supervision: Take the necessary precautions while providing temporary power distribution for performance and art facility purposes under supervision.
- Work with respect for own safety: Apply the safety rules according to training and instruction and based on a solid understanding of the prevention measures and risks to your own personal health and safety.
- Interpret artistic intentions: Interpret the artistic intentions of the author.
- Edit recorded sound: Edit audio footage using a variety of sofware, tools, and techniques such as crossfading, speed effects, and removing unwanted noises.
- Consult with stakeholders on implementation of a production: Consult with different people and groups who hold a stake in the production. Be on the same page on the practical side of the production, and keep them up to date.
- Plan a recording: Make the necessary arrangements to record music.
- Record music: Record a sound or musical performance in a studio or live environment. Use the appropriate equipment and your professional judgment to capture the sounds with optimal fidelity.
- Use technical documentation: Understand and use technical documentation in the overall technical process.
- Set up sound reinforcement system: Set up an analogue sound reinforcement system in a live situation.
- Operate sound live: Operate sound system and audio devices during rehearsals or in a live situation.
- Set up basic recording: Set up a basic stereo audio recording system.
- Keep up with trends: Monitor and follow new trends and developments in specific sectors.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of sound operator. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Monitor developments in technology used for design: Identify and explore recent developments in technology and materials used in the live performance industry, in order to create an up-to-date technical background for one’s personal design work.
- Lead a team: Lead, supervise and motivate a group of people, in order to meet the expected results within a given timeline and with the foreseen resources in mind.
- Provide documentation: Prepare and distribute documentation to ensure all people involved in the production receive relevant and up-to-date information.
- Prevent undesired changes to sound design: Adapt your maintenance of sound equipment to prevent undesired changes in the sound balance and design, safeguarding the overall production quality.
- Ensure safety of mobile electrical systems: Take the necessary precautions while providing temporary power distribution independently. Measure and power up an installation.
- Perform technical sound check: Prepare and run a technical sound check before rehearsals or live shows. Check instrument setup and ensure correct functioning of the audio equipment. Anticipate possible technical problems during a live show.
- Update design results during rehearsals: Updating the design results based on observation of the stage image during the rehearsals, especially where the different designs and the action are integrated.
- Fit up sound on stage: Set up, rig, connect, test and tune audio equipment on stage.
- Technically design a sound system: Set up, test and operate a complex audio system, based on a given sound concept. This could be a permanent as well as a temporary installation.
- Plan teamwork: Plan the working schedule of a group of people in order to meet all time and quality requirements.
- Assemble performance equipment: Set up sound, light and video equipment on stage before performance event according to specifications.
- Advise client on technical possibilities: Recommend technical solutions, including systems, to the client within the framework of a project.
- Coach staff for running the performance: Give instructions to all team members about how they should run the performance.
- Draw up instrument setup: Document musical instrument setup.
- Keep personal administration: File and organise personal administration documents comprehensively.
- Promote yourself: Market one’s own strengths in terms of skills and knowledge.
- Develop professional network: Reach out to and meet up with people in a professional context. Find common ground and use your contacts for mutual benefit. Keep track of the people in your personal professional network and stay up to date on their activities.
- Adapt existing designs to changed circumstances: Adapt an existing design to changed circumstances and ensure that the artistic quality of the original design is reflected in the final result.
- Document your own practice: Documenting your own work practice for different purposes like assessment, time management, job application etc.
- Read musical score: Read the musical score during rehearsal and live performance.
- Maintain sound equipment: Set up, check, maintain and repair sound equipment for a live performance establishment.
- Maintain system layout for a production: Establish a workable layout for the system you manage and maintain it for the duration of a production.
- Store performance equipment: Safely dismantle sound, light and video equipment after a performance event. Make sure the equipment is correctly stored away.
- Set up equipment in a timely manner: Make sure to set up equipment according to deadlines and time schedules.
- Follow safety procedures when working at heights: Take necessary precautions and follow a set of measures that assess, prevent and tackle risks when working at a high distance from the ground. Prevent endangering people working under these structures and avoid falls from ladders, mobile scaffolding, fixed working bridges, single person lifts etc. since they may cause fatalities or major injuries.
- Tune up wireless audio systems: Tune up a wireless audio system in a live situation.
ISCO group and title
3521 – Broadcasting and audiovisual technicians
- Sound operator – ESCO
- Audio Technician Job Description – Betterteam
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