Emerging careers: Sound engineering

A "sound" opportunity

A "sound" opportunity

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 Glenn Kiser

Sound is an art and a craft that many people appreciate but a few know much about. It is a powerful storytelling tool that can immerse audiences in the story and bring it to life. Larry Fessenden once said, “Sound and sound design has always been very important to my approach to film, because it is a more subversive and allusive aspect of the medium.” Sound design is the art of creating an aural environment for listeners. It consists of dialogue delivery, music, and sound effects. Proper use of sound design can put the audience in the center of the story, allowing them to experience the world as the characters do. 

The sound design industry has witnessed a massive change over the past 40 years. From analog to digital, the tools to create and shape sound have grown increasingly complex, specific, and powerful. Today, the sound designer has a world of possibilities open and accessible using just a laptop computer, where earlier generations needed a complex, expensive post-production facility to produce similar results. Companies like Dolby have made great strides in making the technology more powerful, but at the same time easier to use..

Importance of Sound Design and Engineering

The popular quote “hearing is believing” stands true on the importance of sound in a piece of content. Little details like footsteps, rustling of leaves, a ‘ding’ of an elevator truly bring the scene to life and elevates the production. Creative use of sound design and mixing enhances a film’s storytelling potential. It is a creative and immersive art form used in various disciplines such as filmmaking, television production, theatre, live performance, video game development, sound recording and reproduction, post-production, radio, and musical instrument development.

Whether performing, editing previously recorded and composed audio, or creating sounds from scratch, a sound designer plays an indispensable role in bringing all the elements together. As practiced by cinema sound legends like Walter Murch, the sound designer is the individual ultimately responsible for all aspects of a film's audio track, from the dialog and sound effects recording to the re-recording (mix) of the final track.

Getting in

A course in sound engineering is extremely beneficial for students who have an interest in the art of sound and want to learn different technicalities related to the subject. Considering it is a job that balances creativity and technology, it requires a specific set of knowledge and skills.

To envision and create sounds that are appropriate to the medium, it is important to possess a good ear and interest in details. Knowledge and interest in music would also be an added advantage.

With more and more people becoming interested in this field, there are various training institutes for sound engineering abroad as well as in India. One of the most renowned institutes in India - The Film and Television Institute of India, Pune offers courses under the Film wing & Television wing. Similarly, Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute of India, Kolkata, Department of Music, University of Mumbai, National Institute of Film and Fine Arts NIFFA, Kolkata, MIT School of Film and Television, Pune, Ramoji Academy of Film and Television in Hyderabad, SAE Technology College (various campuses in India), Annapurna College of Film and Media in Hyderabad, Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication, School of Arts New Delhi, are some of the institutes that offer diploma courses in Recording Arts (audio engineering).

 Opportunities

The study of sound engineering offers diverse career options such as becoming as studio sound engineer, audio engineer, live sound engineer, studio designer, mixing engineer, mastering engineer, audio post-production, dialogue and music editor, location recordist, digital media entrepreneur, sound recordist, among many other lucrative profiles.

A sound engineer can either work in-house, with a production company or in a studio, or work as a freelancer. There is a wide array of roles that sound engineering graduates can choose to specialize in. 

 The profession requires creativity and vigilance to capture the environment, emotions, and messaging. The career creates endless opportunities to work in live events and recording studios for television, music, advertising, gaming, theatre, etc. The exceptional career field allows one to experiment with different nodes of sound.

Learning the skills and techniques to tell stories with sound is challenging and exciting, and offers great possibilities for a fulfilling and rich career in the creative arts.

The writer is Senior Director, Dolby Institute, Dolby Laboratories

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