June 28, 2018

Audio Engineering, Mixing, Editing, & Sound Design | Youth on Record

Sound Science: Audio Engineering, Mixing,      Editing, and Design

Music and sound effects are equal parts art and science. The ability to reshape and blend a sound into songs, or a completely different noise, takes an incredible amount of creative and technical skill. Although it may not take much to listen, it’s another thing entirely to be able to make something worth listening to.

There’s a whole world of sound possibilities that most of us aren’t even aware of. Audio engineering, sound mixing, and sound editing are just a few of the numerous jobs in the audio industry that are waiting for you to discover them. What are these careers, though, and how does one go about acquiring the necessary skills to get noticed? If you’re interested, put on your listening ears and find out.

Sound and Audio Engineering

Where there is sound associated with any kind of media — songs, shows, movies, games, mobile apps and ringtones — an audio engineer was probably involved. Sound and audio engineers work behind-the-scenes on the technical and mechanical side of things to make sure everything sounds the way it’s supposed to.

They’re able to work in a variety of industries, and are responsible for a number of diverse tasks. If you’re into making things shine, but not necessarily being the one that’s shining, sound engineering could be the career for you.   

What is Audio Engineering?

Audio engineering is the process of recording sounds and transforming said recording into something reproducible. So whenever you hear your favorite song on the radio, laugh at a funny joke you hear on TV, or jump at the sound of a scary monster noise in a movie, you’re listening to the handiwork of an audio engineer.

With the direction of a music producer, audio engineers organize and edit sound recordings to achieve the overarching vision of the product that’s being worked on. Live performances can delve into the realm of audio engineering as well.

It’s the responsibility of an audio engineer to set up the sound systems and make sure equipment (such as microphones and speakers) are connected and in working order. This career also dabbles in creating innovative pathways for the industry through the development of new sound equipment and techniques.

What is Sound Design?

Movies and TV shows are great examples of sound design at work. Although it may look like everything was captured perfectly in one shot when you’re on your couch watching Netflix, these seamless visual narratives are actually meticulously assembled hodgepodges.

When different scenes are filmed, the audio that gets recorded is rarely ever used, even the dialogue. This is because, for the most part, the sounds that do get picked up are of low quality, and definitely not up to cinematic standards.

That means everything we hear onscreen, from footsteps to clinking glasses and leaves rustling, is all fabricated. These everyday noises are known as foley, and they comprise a huge portion of sound design.

Even though doing sound design for a simple scene may seem easy enough, there are a plethora of sounds and noises happening in the background alone that most of us usually ignore.

It takes a tedious amount of work and care to get every creak, whisper, and crunch done right to make a scene sound as realistic as possible. Sound design also covers the creation of sounds of fictional origin.

Spaceships and alien languages, the guttural roar of monsters, and the sounds magic powers produce all fall under sound design. These sounds can be made by the use of everyday objects combined and mixed together, or digitally rendered through the use of different equipment and software.        

What Do Sound and Audio Engineers Do?

So, what exactly do sound and audio engineers do? As mentioned before, these professionals are directly involved in the technical and mechanical aspects of sound. However, the mechanical aspects have become more digital as time has passed.

That being said, sound engineers record, mix, manipulate, edit, and reproduce different sounds depending in the field they’re in. This includes taking out any unwanted noises during a recording, improving the quality and volume of sounds, and quite a bit of collaboration between many individuals.

The training and supervision of audio technicians — which are different from audio engineers — is also a responsibility of this profession. Sound engineers can find themselves working in the radio, music, TV, movie, advertising, and video game industry among many more.

Where they work will ultimately determine the kind of sounds an audio engineer will be working with, as well as the kind of working environment they’ll inhabit. Sound engineers are found in studios, crews, theaters, and even government and educational institutions. Project management comprises a good portion of their day, as well as meetings and interactions with clients.

Sound Mixing vs Sound Editing: What’s the Difference?

Sound mixing and sound editing may sound interchangeable, but they’re actually two different steps of the post-production process of projects. Sound or audio editing refers to the gathering of sounds, while sound mixing is what is is done with those sounds. They make up the two sides of the sound design coin.

Like the foley aspect of sound design, sound editors replace and fill in missing sounds and noises in a recorded scene. Sound mixing, on the other hand, makes sure those added noises sound accurate and meld in perfectly with what’s going on in a scene. They decide what’s important to hear and what’s not.

In other words, sound editors determine what people hear, and sound mixers interpet how people hear it. Another way of putting it is audio editing is involved in individual noises while sound mixing is responsible for the overall sound of a piece.

Sound Engineers vs Music Producers

As with sound mixing and audio editing, sound engineering and music producing can appear to be one in the same. However, they both have unique responsibilities that differ from one another. The role of a music producer is to help tracks and songs reach their fullest artistic potential.

They aid and advise artists on how and what they should play to achieve an overall mood and feeling, even to the point of performing with the artist if need be. Although not directly involved with the technical aspects of things, music producers do have sound engineering knowledge to effectively oversee and guide the sound engineers they collaborate with.

It’s the job of the sound engineer to carry out the music producer’s and artist’s vision, and produce a product they’re both happy with. Sound engineers set up and operate different equipment and digital tools to capture, edit, and mix the recorded sounds into something people want to listen to.   

How to Become an Audio Engineer

If a career in audio engineering sounds appealing to you, there are a few things you’ll have to do in order to become one. Although you don’t need a college degree to become an audio engineer, it’s a good idea to seek out an education anyways to learn all of the necessary skills you’ll need to be successful at this career.

It takes more than raw talent to be able to mix and blend sounds in a meaningful and seamless fashion. You’ll also need to learn how to operate the different equipment and software that’s involved in recording, editing, mixing and reproducing sounds. This can be made easier by taking on a job as an assistant engineer.

To be able to learn first hand from professionals working in the industry is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Lastly, no matter if you get an education or not, you’ll need a world class portfolio to back you up. You may not have access to all the gear employed audio engineers do, but there are many softwares and recording equipment available at a more economical price to showcase what you can do.

There are also organizations that provide studio space in order to execute quality recordings. Educational institutions will have the necessary resources like studio space, equipment, and other creative individuals to build your portfolio as well. Then, all you need to do is practice and practice some more to improve upon the skills you have.  

The audio industry is so much more than what people typically think of. Someone is responsible for almost every fabricated and amplified sound we hear, and we live in pretty noisy world. It’s truly up to you what you want to with your passion for audio. Although the manipulation of sound is a science, it’s also an art and can be used like any other medium. So the question is: what will you make with it?