Broadcasting sound operator
Broadcast sound operators operate a range of equipment to create high quality sound in programmes across television, radio, film and new media. In radio, they also known as studio managers.
Broadcast sound operators work with a range of digital sound equipment in a range of settings including radio and TV studios, outside broadcasts and film sets and post production studios to create the right sound. They work with producers, journalists, editors and directors. Their responsibilities include:
- Managing a radio studio, setting up microphones, operating a sound desk to create a good sound balance and transmitting live programmes.
- Ensuring that audio links with presenters, contributors and external studios/control rooms are working correctly
- Creating 'spot effects.' For radio drama productions, some operators work in the studio itself alongside actors to create sound effects during the recording eg. Use coconuts to create the sound of horses' hooves
- Ensuring the right sound for TV programmes and films by using the correct microphones for different situations
- Setting up sound equipment for outside broadcasts, checking that audio links are working correctly and take down equipment after the event
- Working in post-production you need to mix edit and balance speech, effects and music for radio/online. Re-record and synchronise audio and sound effects in film and TV.
- Managing correct health and safety procedures in all settings.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for broadcasting sound operators
- Passion for creative and technical aspects of sound
- Good hearing
- Organised and good time management
- Excellent attention to detail
- Creative problem solver
- Interest in broadcast and media related technologies
- Supportive team player
- Logical and inquisitive at a technical level
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of broadcasting sound operators
- BBC ITV, STV, Channel 4, Five and S4C
- Independent radio stations across the UK
- Satellite, cable and digital broadcasters
- Outside broadcast companies
- Independent film and TV production companies.
Job vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications and specialist engineering recruitment agencies.
Qualifications and training required
There are routes into a career as a broadcasting sound operator for both university graduates who have completed a related or general degree and school leavers. It is important to be able to demonstrate your interest in working in sound by gaining practical experience in a related field either at school or during or after university eg. working in hospital radio, local theatres or music venues.
There are a wide variety of courses available eg. music technology, engineering (acoustic and sound) at different levels which may lead City and Guilds (BTEC) qualifications, HNDs, foundation degrees, first degrees and postgraduate qualifications. Apprenticeships are also available. Always make sure you check individual university, college or employer entry qualifications carefully, as specific entry requirements may differ.
In Scotland there are training schemes for school leavers usually requiring National 5s including Maths and Physics or a technological subject. These are very competitive. Most entrants have an HNC/HND in audio engineering, sound or music production or electronic engineering. Have a portfolio of your recordings as well as Highers including Maths and Physics or a technological subject A-C to be competitive. 4-5 Highers A-C will be required for a degree course including Maths and Physics.