Job profile Utility Sound Technician

(ger: Tongeräteassistent*in, Zweite Tonassistenz)

The utility sound technician is the third member of the production sound team. He assists the production sound mixer and the boom operator and is responsible for maintenance and transport of the sound equipment. When the boom operator is eye and ear of the production sound mixer on set, the utility sound technician is his right hand.
Increasingly small time budgets for permanently growing technical effort create the need for a third (or – in the case of two boom operators – fourth) person for sound on set more than ever before. The utility sound technician saves the team a lot of time and enables elaborate preparations, while production sound mixer and boom operator can concentrate on rehearsing and communicating as well as on their actual tasks on set. The utility sound technician does not replace a boom operator, for serial programmes and extensive scenes there may be the need for two full boom operators.

Field of activity

He or she takes charge of the acoustic improvements of the rooms, like laying carpets and hanging acoustically insulating curtains. He tapes shoes and hears at rehearsals which props or extras generate disturbing sounds. Along with the production sound mixer and boom operator, he wires the actors and takes care
of the of the radio transmitters with new batteries. He pulls cables for the boom operator, manouvers these in backwards movements and supports the cables with an additional boom if there is short time need for it. Distributing and collecting the feeds for the film team is another part of his responsibility. He may also prepare sets and vehicles for driving footage, while filming takes place at another location. If necessary, he can also assist in ambience and wild track recordings, while the film team moves to the next set. In situations, where a source feed is needed, he may prepare a PA and supervise the playback as well as taking charge of the recording of smaller, distinct 2nd-unit frames without dialogue.
Along with the 2nd boom operator he is responsible for the timecode synchronisation of camera and sound.

Requirements

  • good physical constitution
  • ability to concentrate over extended periods of time
  • skill
  • willingness to work at irregular and sometimes overtime hours, on changing sets (different cities and countries, on weekends and nights)
  • ability to deal with situations of high stress level

Training and job situation

There is no state-approves training for utility sound technicians. The training is usually attained by diverse interning for production sound mixers and film productions. A background in electrical engineering or media areas can be of use, e.g. in event technology (with emphasis on sound), audiovisual media design or as assistant in up to-date coverage.

Utility sound technicians usually work as employees of the production company, limited to the duration of the production. If they gathered sufficient experience on various shootings and proven themselves on set, they can become boom operators as well.

The effort in production sound has increased, yet the international standarf of a third person in the sound team is not established sufficiently with German production companies. With the introduction of a corresponding German job profile, the bvft reinforces the repeated calls of production sound mixers for a utility sound technician on set.