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Post-Production Technician


Description

Post-production technicians are involved in many of the tasks that transpire after a production has been shot or music recorded. Post-production is the manufacturing stage that assembles all the pieces into a finished work of art including editing, sound mixing, sound effects and adding a musical score. Without these processes, music and film would be nothing like we know them as. Post-production techniques are as crucial to the film or music as the production. They serve to enhance a production with character, eloquence, coherence, persuasion and turn raw images in to a final print.

Post-production technicians who specialize in special effects create illusions that are synchronized with sounds. They add echoes, delays, speed up or slow down tempos and fine-tune voices. In so many words, post-production technicians manipulate sound to correspond with images to create certain effects. This process used to insert sounds is called dubbing. For example, if a director wants to make a villain more domineering, a mixing technician might raise the volume of his or her voice and adjust the tonal qualities to make the villain sound larger than life. Experienced technicians and mixers will get some creative room to make suggestions as to how the sound quality can be improved and where fades should take place.

Sound recordings produced on multi-track tape recorders, digital audio workstations, computer hardware and samplers record each instrument and voice separately. The post-production mixing technician then takes each of these separate recordings and mixes them together to form a polished and cohesive sound. The same happens in film during the post-production stage. Sound technicians work closely with producers, directors, arrangers and performers to achieve the desired sound for these different audio and musical recording mediums.

Another post-production editing technique used by post-production technicians are cuts, which help change scenes, compress time and vary points of view. A jump cut (a type of cut) is quite abrupt, often used deliberately for dramatic effect. Post-production technicians also use cuts effectively to imply information, so that the film does not take place in real time. For example, showing an airplane taking off when you know a character is about to go on a trip, implies to the viewer that the character went to the airport, checked a bag and is now sitting on the plane we have just witnessed departing. Other more smooth methods of cutting are fades, dissolves and wipes. Post-production technicians also use different cutting rhythms and speeds, use split screens, such as when two people are on the phone, and work with editing techniques to help manipulate the story. Post-production technicians also edit and reproduce tapes for compact discs, records and cassettes, for radio and television broadcasting and for motion picture productions.

Post production technicians must keep up-to-date with new technological and digital advances. In recording studios, radio stations and some post-production studios, traditional analog recording is still used, but most recordings nowadays use SMPTE or musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) time codes for synchronization. Recording techniques are increasingly computerized and digitized, which allows allow sound mixers to work at a faster and more efficient pace.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Post-production technicians must be patient, understanding and flexible because they will spend long hours in the studio. They must have good ear for sound, pitch and tone and have the ability to pay close attention to details. Good communication skills and an outgoing personality are necessary to clarify what particular sounds are desired, and they must constantly make suggestions and accept criticism.

Post-production technicians need to have an open mind when it comes to a variety of film styles and genres and work as part of a team. They should also enjoy using electronic equipment to perform tasks requiring precision, and troubleshooting problems. Finally, they must love producing sound effects, but also be able to create interesting sounds, and have a solid understanding of the film editing process.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Operate audio equipment to record and edit music, dialog and sound effects for films, videos, radio and television
  • Build sound effects from scratch, using one's imagination to create sounds
  • Mix and edit sound and film clips in the studio
  • Work closely with a foley artist to generate the proper sounds
  • Use control board to coordinate and balance pre-recorded sound and film with movies or TV shows
  • Use console board to adjust volume and sound quality during recording sessions
  • Keep a log of outgoing broadcast signals and recording sessions
  • Work with varied and sensitive performing artists to help create the desired product
  • Think of creative ways to mix sound or coordinate camera feeds
  • Handle sound boards, microphones, cameras, antennas and other filming and recording equipment
  • Post-production technicians may be required to work extremely long hours in a studio or on a film set to meet project deadlines, however hours will vary depending on the field. They work indoors in soundproof, windowless studios. Days are usually the longest when deadlines are looming.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Post-production technicians work for sound recording firms, film and video production and post-production houses, multi-media companies, television and radio stations and on film sets. Some freelance technicians set up their own "basement," "project" or "boutique" recording studios.

  Long Term Career Potential  
At the beginning of their career, post-production technicians may start out as a gofer or assistant technician and work their way up. In this industry, it is important to be willing to work for little money to gain practical experience and establish a reputation for good work. Experienced studio post-production technicians may advance to producer positions and senior film editor positions. Therefore, technicians should keep updated on technological advances within their field.
 

  Educational Paths  
It can be extremely difficult to break into the post-production business. Experience working at a co-op placement through a school training program or as a volunteer at a cable television station is an asset. Beginning in radio commercial production is another option.

Although a related postsecondary degree, certificate or diploma is an asset when seeking employment as a post-production technician, there are no formal education requirements. Formal training is very specialized and relatively few schools offer such programs. Most post-production technicians acquire a working knowledge of today's computer-based recording technologies, such as digital mixing and random access editing, and adapt quickly to many different recording formats and devices by learning on the job or taking related training courses.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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