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Make some noise

education Updated: Apr 24, 2012 16:51 IST
Syed Amir Ali Hashmi

India recently made its mark in sound and music when Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire won laurels for sensational music and sound. Not only did the world recognise India's potential where creating great music was concerned, but the film also carved out a niche for itself for this profession - sound engineering.

Be it in films or radio or any other medium, the sound that we hear is not the original one but controlled output that is taken care of by a team of sound engineers - different profiles work in tandem to make that happen. Recording and reproducing sound might have started with the phonograph long back in 1877, but it has travelled quite a distance since then with the advent of digital equipment and instruments.

The profession of sound engineering is all about capturing sound, recording, copying, editing, mixing and reproducing sound by means of electronic and mechanical devices. The work starts at the production level and ends with post-production. At the production level, the work involves actual recording on the sets, and in post-production it gets the final touches to make it more livelier and soothing to the ears.

People with a degree or a diploma in the relevant field can pursue the career. "If you are joining radio or TV then you should be flexible enough to do other things also apart from sound. A short term diploma or certificate course in camera related aspects, or video editing or animation can put you above the rest," says a senior broadcast engineer with the BBC. As these are people behind the final sound that we hear in music, programmes, or recording, they have to have a good ear for music and sound. Sound engineers are also involved in developing instruments for the audio engineers. Back-ground in science also helps a lot as you have to deal with lot of technical things. However, it is not a must.

What it is about?
Sound engineering is about capturing sound, recording, copying, editing, mixing and reproducing sound, using electronic and mechanical devices. It involves both production and post-production tasks. The production part may involve everything from set-up to the actual recording. Post production, the recorded material gets polished. The course involves study of technical and creative aspects of sound recording, editing and mixing. Students start by learning the basic theory and frequencies of sound and then go on to cover vast areas in recording, post-production, live-sound reinforcement as well as broadcasting. Courses not only teach the technical aspects such as sound mixing, giving special effects, these also train a student in the usage of recording tools, microphones, etc.

Clock Work

Institutes and URLs
Film and Television Institute of India, Pune.

Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata

MGR Government Film and Television Institure, Chennai

Government Film and Television Institute, Bangalore

Asian Academy of Film & Television, Noida

Keltron Advanced Training Centre, Trivandrum

Whistling Woods International, Mumbai

The Payoff

Entry level: Your designation and salary depends on what medium you are joining - Radio, TV. However, initially the salaries fall into the Rs 10,000-Rs 15,000 bracket. In films you might earn around
Rs 1500- Rs 6000 per day or even less in some cases as it depends on the budget.

After gaining experience: Once you have mastered the skill, you tend to keep moving up the ladder. If you have created a name for yourself in your field then money would not be a constraint.

'Being passionate about something makes people recognise you'- Nakul Kamte

We must know that every film needs sound. As a cinematographer and a cameraperson give life to a director's vision, sound gives life to a film.

Nakul Kamte has been sound designer for films like Krrish, Lagaan and many others. He started his career in film industry with Bhopal Express. Kamte has more than 25 years of experience in sound and gives valuable advice to prospective sound engineers:

I would say it is a growing business. We must know that every film needs sound. As a cinematographer and a cameraperson give life to a director's vision, sound gives life to a film. The scope for sound has increased with the coming up of the TV industry.

There are different ways to enter the industry. In films there are production mixers (who record dialogues on location), then there are foley engineers (who give sound effects), then music engineers, effects engineer, final re-recording mixer, etc. Normally, people enter the industry from film schools. Keep in mind that if you have a passion for sound, people will recognise you.

There are problems on the sets, and only people like us understand that. There is extra noise, you have to ask extras and others to keep quiet, switch mobile phones off. You have to learn to knock off that extra sound.

For those in the field, the first thing is to earn people's respect. Temperament is most important. Stay cool and composed. Initially you will not get good money but as you gain experience money will automatically flow in. One more thing, it is a difficult industry to break into. As film making is an expensive business they do not want to take chances with new people. My final advice to the aspiring sound engineers is, 'be patient.' Have a lot of passion for sound. You are sure to prosper.