Post-pandemic career prospects in sound

Summary: A discussion about the subjects related to sound and the respective career opportunities.

Introduction: Though pandemic made the lives of sound professionals a bit miserable like it did for many others, now it is back to quite normal.  The cinema, radio, music and television industry are again back in full swing after a small dip in the graph. So for those interested to build a career in the audio, it is necessary to understand the subjects related to sound. Hence, first I will give a brief idea about the subjects related to sound and then I will mention the career opportunities.

How to begin? : The study of sound is a vast field. It is like an ocean with innumerable waves that one can choose form. Precisely the subject of sound is a field of study that deals with how human beings perceive sound. That perception can be manipulated for a better listening experience. That’s the primary goal of a sound practitioner. Now this listening experience of human beings varies according to the sonic environment, where the listener places himself. Depending on this varied listening environments, the science of sound could be studied differently. This is why study of sound has given birth to many disciplines. For example, sound engineering or audio engineering, sound designing for cinema, theatre, radio and television, music production, live recording for cinema, television, auditorium shows, podcasting, acoustics, and sound installation to name a few. Now let’s have a brief idea about each of the field mentioned above.

  1. Sound Engineering/Audio Engineering: This field is a bit technical. To pursue a higher degree in sound engineering one should have a clear understanding of basic physics and mathematics of higher secondary standard. In this subject students are taught about the technical or engineering aspects of the sound systems that are responsible for generating, recording and processing sound for various fields. For instance, in this subject of sound engineering students learn details of microphones including how and where to place them. In other words students develop an idea of selecting suitable microphones for specific purposes. Similarly they learn about speaker systems, how to manufacture them and how to select suitable speaker systems for given sonic environments. They are also taught about the relation between sound reinforcement systems and various types for enclosed and open environments.
  2. Sound Designing: This field focuses more on the aesthetics of sound with respect to various media like cinema, television, theatre, radio etc. It does not require hard core knowledge of physics and mathematics that is required to study sound or audio engineering. Instead it requires a creative drive or passion to play with sound. In this course students are generally taught how to evoke an emotion from within the hearts of an audience. That’s the primary purpose of studying sound designing and it is not as easy as it sounds. To play with the emotion of an audience requires absolute mastery over the art and craft of sound. However, this course introduces students with Digital Audio Workstation or DAW equipped with software, computer, mixing console, sound card, microphones, speakers etc. all installed within an acoustically treated room for a specific purpose. However to design a DAW, the help of a sound engineer is needed. DAW is a concept that has come from cinema post production and then it has been incorporated in the field of television and radio too. For theatre the support of DAW is often required to predesign the sound track for the show. But the live arrangement might also be needed for the same. For cinema generally students are extensively taught about the sound elements like dialogue, music, ambience and foley and to record these elements students are taught how to operate a dubbing studio for dialogue, how to operate a studio for music, how to record and lay ambience in a DAW and how to operate a foley studio. Besides they are also taught about creating and working with various sound effects.
  3. Live Recording: This field is probably the most adventurous part of sound. It requires extreme travelling. For cinema there remains dedicated location audio engineers, whose job is to record clear audio especially dialogue at the location of shooting itself. So in this course students are taught about the dedicated location audio gears and how to record with them. Also this field requires extreme man management skill as the location engineer and his/her team must know how to handle actors and other crew members at shooting spot. Apart from cinema, live recording is a challenging and well paid job for music shows. So the students of this course are taught extensively about setting up sound reinforcement systems for  music shows for example in a stadium. Besides they are also taught about how to manage sound reinforcement system in an enclosed environment e.g. an auditorium.
  4. Podcasting: Podcasting is comparatively a new buzzword. This became popular with the arrival of internet. This is nothing but making an audio track available for downloading for other users. It could be either free or paid. So the students of podcasting are mainly taught about the same thing related to sound designing. There is a trend nowadays that podcasting could be done with a smart phone. It is true that it is possible. But the quality of this type of audio will always be questionable and unprofessional since however digital we might become, our ears are still analogue, microphones and speakers are still analogue and will always remain so. So the quality of a podcast will always indicate whether it has been recorded in a bad or good studio or acoustically controlled environment. So the students of podcasting are taught about the quality of an audio track especially about the difference of recording with a bad set-up and a good set-up as quality does matter in the long run.
  5. Acoustics: This field is basically the study of behaviour of sound in a specific environment. Basically it teaches how to build up an environment for soothing aural experience. It could be a cinema hall, an auditorium, a shopping mall or even a house. All require acoustic treatment to avoid the irritating unwanted sound or noise of surroundings. So the students of acoustics are taught about architectural designs for less noisy and soothing sonic environments. However, this course requires basic idea about mathematics and physics as a prerequisite.
  6. Sound Installation: This is another field of sound. This course teaches about sound reinforcement systems and how to install them. For example, in a multiplex of, say, four cinema halls, the sound reinforcement systems are to be installed. This course teaches about how to do that. It requires basic ideas about electronics and electrical engineering along with thorough knowledge of sound engineering.

Career Opportunities: So studying any of these subjects will open the doors for a professional to work as

  1. Sound Engineer
  2. Sound Designer for movies, television, radio and theatre.
  3. Studio Manager
  4. Acoustic Consultant
  5. Digital Remastering Engineer
  6. Live Sound Engineer
  7. Studio Designer
  8. Academician
  9. Entrepreneur
  10. Technician
  11. Researcher

Conclusion: In a nut shell to become a sound professional requires hard work, patience and passion. There are many schools in India and abroad that teach various disciplines of audio and now the cinema, television, radio and internet portals are operating in full swing after being hit by an instantaneous wave of the pandemic. The demand for the right sound professionals is higher than before as both the audiovisual and audio-only contents are becoming more and more popular every day.  All you need is to develop the right skill sets and aptitude for audio. Then the world is yours!

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