This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Sound technicians record and mix sound for radio, film, television and other media.
Sound technicians usually earn
$45K-$80K per year
Source: Entertainment Technology New Zealand, 2016.
Sound technicians on a salary usually earn between $45,000 and $80,000 a year.
Many sound technicians are self-employed and work on short-term contracts. Their daily rates need to cover the cost of equipment, and work may be sporadic.
Entry-level or assistant sound technicians usually start on $250 a day.
Self-employed, experienced sound technicians usually earn between $350 and $500 a day.
Source: Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand, 2016
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Sound technicians may do some or all of the following:
- discuss requirements with clients
- organise recording sessions
- prepare radio booths and television studios for recording
- choose and set up microphones
- preview sound recordings and adjust quality to correct level
- mix sounds on a mixing desk, and add sound effects
- mix sound for live bands and corporate events
- edit recordings and adjust levels as necessary
- set up and pack out sound equipment
- maintain sound equipment.
Skills and knowledge
Sound technicians need to have:
- knowledge of sound, music and acoustics
- technical skills to operate sound recording equipment and computer production equipment.
Sound technicians who work on a freelance basis need to have good business skills.
- may work long and irregular hours (the standard television day is 10 hours), and may work nights, weekends and be on call
- may work indoors in radio, film and television studios, recording rooms and concert venues, or outdoors in various locations.
What's the job really like?
Sound Engineer Cadet
Jordan Koziol-Repia always wanted to be a performer, but he found unexpected satisfaction in working to help others sound good.
"I love it! I edit and master recordings, which means I record the voices and chop them up and then put them together properly.
A hobby turned into a job
Jordan's experience as an amateur musician and producer helped him get the cadetship at digital media company Kiwa Media.
"They listened to the music I produced and they liked it. I already knew a lot about editing, so they only needed to tell me about their programs and I jumped into it."
Sound work in foreign languages
"Right now we're working on a digital book. Kids can use it to learn to read, write and pronounce words in eight different languages, which is quite cool.
"I just have to get around French. It's a real flowing language – it blends from sentence to sentence, so there's no actual break. I have to go through the script to find the place to chop it."
Jordan is of Ngāti Kahungunu descent.
Dave Whitehead - Sound Designer/Composer
I actually started doing theatre sound first, so making sound effects for little theatre productions and then writing music for little children's-pantomimes, and things like that, so it was pretty basic stuff.
Prior to that I was actually playing in bands, the school band, so being in the music room, trying to record a track, you know, so putting down a guitar, putting down a drum track in the music rooms at school, so really utilising what they had.
And then I went to a careers guys and he told me about theatre and television and that sort of thing. So it was actually my guidance counsellor at school who told me to head down that path.
Anyway, so theatre sound tracks, doing sound effects, and then started doing short films. Now the thing is if anyone really wants to get into doing pretty much anything in film, I would say start with a short film and there are people at the polytechnics, there are people at universities, people at film schools that need sound, or that need art department, or that need people who are creative to come in and work on those projects and make them great.
And so the thing is look at short films, because they are the building blocks, and I've done maybe 30 or 40 and I still do them now, and I'm about to shoot my own first one, so it's like things move from one thing to the other.
But start small and I think it's a better thing... I'm mean feature films are huge and if you work on a short film and it gets noticed by someone who works on a feature film, or the director that you did the short film for becomes famous and has a feature film, all of a sudden you're in a different ball park and you will have a career that might open up into feature films.
There's a lot of times where you don't have incoming money, so it's good to be diverse. So the thing is the film industry there might be a film shooting for four, five, six months and then it will... be a break of a couple of months where you've got to hopefully store your pennies, but it is a good industry to be in so don't be dismayed by that whole thing, but there might be times when you have to borrow some food money from your parents, but it's a good career.
Sound design, sound effects editing, dialogue editing, foli artist, music producer - all of those things, they're all in the same sort of park and all of them just require you to sort of, chip away at your skill sets.
So start small - play your guitar, get it sounding good. If you're shooting a little film on a hand-held video, just put a little fluffy thing on the end of your microphone so that it doesn't all sound horrible.
Look online at advice from people such as myself or other people and use that as your resource to try and move your career ahead, but just small steps, small steps. Do something every day to get to what you want.
It's okay to be scared of what you're going to do. Like it's actually a prerequisite to doing some creative job. But embrace that fear of what you're going to do because you don't know if you're going to be able to pull it off and you've got to try and pull something out of thin air to make something work, but that's part of the process, it's part of that whole kiwi ingenuity thing - if someone from overseas is watching this, it's the the same thing as well - where ever you are, use what ever you have within in your grasp to try and propel yourself forward. To get to the top of what you do...I don't know if there is a top, you know, and I don't think you're striving to do that. What you're trying to do is try and get your voice out there, because your voice is important, you know, it's important for anyone to hear what you have to say, because it might be what we all need to hear.
There are no specific entry requirements to become a sound technician as many skills are gained on the job as an assistant sound technician. However, some experience and demonstrated ability in sound operating is preferred.
A tertiary qualification in a relevant field, such as sound engineering or television, video or film production is useful.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter tertiary training and useful subjects include English, maths and physics.
Sound technicians need to:
- be patient, reliable and creative
- show initiative
- be able to work well under pressure
- have an eye for detail
- be good problem solvers and decision makers
- be good communicators and team players, as they work closely with others.
You wouldn't get too far in a job like this if you were stressed, because there can be a lot of panic times. You need to be cool, calm and collected, particularly when you have five things happening at once.
Kelly Buckland - Sound Operator (Radio/Film/Television)
Useful experience includes:
- any previous recording or sound work
- working with computers
- any event work
- music, television or film industry experience.
Sound technicians need to have excellent hearing. They also need to have good stamina as they may be on their feet for long hours.Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Technology changes reducing demand
Job opportunities for sound technicians have decreased as technology has advanced and become easier to use. Nevertheless, the need for quality sound has increased.
Chances increased by networking
The best way to enter the sound industry is to contact employers directly and widen your networks, as it is a "who you know" industry.
Casual work in the industry such as events packing in and out is a good way to get relevant work experience .
Wide range of employers
Sound technicians are employed by a wide range of organisations to create the best sound in various situations, such as:
- live concerts
- recording studios
- corporate events and functions
- television sets
- radio studios
- film sets
- post-production sound editing suites
- stage or theatre performances.
- van Gent, L, general manager, Audio-Visual People, Careers New Zealand interview, December, 2016.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Johnston, S, executive director, Multi-Media, Careers New Zealand interview, December, 2016.
Progression and specialisations
Sound technicians may specialise in a particular medium such as television, film, radio or music recording. They may also specialise in a particular area, such as live events or post production sound mixing.
Last updated 9 June 2017