Sound Engineering – For the love of the frequencies
What is Sound Engineering?
Many Sound Engineers I’ve come across often started their careers as guitarists / songwriters / arrangers / keyboard players and evolve into engineers and many times producers. Good audio engineers / producers work closely with the industry recording artists and they play a vital role in the production process of commercials, television and motion pictures. There are many specialist branches here:
- Audio Editor / Sound Editor
- Audio Post Production
- Mixing Engineer
- Mastering Engineer
- Auto Tune Engineer
- Mastering for iTunes
- Forensic Recovery Engineer
- Sound for Game Engineer / Producer
- Music Producer
- Audio FX
- Surround Sound Engineer
- Radio Production Engineer
- Live Sound Engineer
The List Goes On…
Here’s an interesting quote many senior engineers I’ve worked with have quoted:
We perceive 20 percent of what we hear, 30 percent of what we see, 50 percent of what we see and hear.
I do not endorse this statement, although if you try to recall the last flick you saw at the movies, the one that pops out the most would be the one with some really good audio post production, we’re talking about the bombs, the sound of the small fly as the lead actor walks across the river while a fish swoops up for some reason and with every frame, the things your eyes would normally miss out are enhanced with the art of good foley and audio post.
The recording industry has grown, evolved with enormous paradigm change. What would take an hour to record back in the days before digital audio AD/DA came into existence now takes a minute or less, with the growth of technology, recording budgets have been slashed and whether that’s good or bad for sound engineers is something that can cause an altercation between engineers worldwide. Globally, the good old big format analog consoles are disappearing day by day and are being replaced with the more cost effective, efficient Digital Audio Workstations – I love to call them the 1’s and 0’s consoles, well because its all boils down to binary and that’s not what music is all about.
Although, the DAW has helped artists create demos, helped many upcoming You Tube, Sound Cloud, Beat Port stars have climbed the ladders to stardom, where they take it from there is up to them. With the technology today, anyone with either a mac / a pc / an iPad or an Android can produce their tracks and publish them and gain monetization.
So, to say who a Sound Engineer is in today’s world is a complex question. Although, I believe there are somethings that a sound engineer should know, the way i see it is, the current technology has given the cars wings and taken off the manual gear shift, the steering wheel, the throttle and replaced it with fancy buttons much like the auto mode on a dslr camera.
A sound engineer should first learn how to drive a manual car, enter the 24 Hour Le Mans, finish in the top 3 and then get his hands on the fancy cars. I’ve come across way too many individuals dragging a limiter onto a channel and simply limiting at 0 dB with the input at -6 dB. I have had the pleasure of learning under some amazing, wise mentors – some old school audio engineers who also had some very deep electrical engineering knowledge and the knowledge they gave me has led to a never ending thirst, an addiction to experiment, innovate and analyze sound like never before.
A Sound Engineer is an artist who paints with frequencies, they are the alchemists of sound. Sound Engineers aim to capture sound in its purest form, and enhance it, give it life, make it huge, add magic.
I’ll be discussing the branches of sound engineering in future posts.
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