When it comes to the Production Sound Department, no other position is as important as pivotal to the department as the Sound Utility Technician. This position, which is not always negotiated for, can literally make or break a Production Sound Team depending on the production and work at hand. Great utilities are hard to come by, and Blas Kisic is here to give you a few tips about what Production Sound Mixers look for when hiring their 3rd.
A Sound Utility Technician is considered the “3rd” of the audio department. It has been known by many names over the years (including Cable Man and Audio Assistant). However, in most recent years, it has adopted the full term “Sound Utility Technician”, which really helps to understand the full spectrum of responsibilities that a Sound Utility Technician has. Before, their primary roles were carts, cables, and 2nd booming.
Now, in recent years and beyond, Sound Utilities are meant to coordinate wireless frequencies, wire talent, complete sound deviation, and much more. It is a job when done right will exhaust even the seasoned pro, and will keep you on your feet the entire day if you are a hustler for your department!
Psychology and Set Etiquette
Blas Kisic mentions in our discussion that Sound Utilities have to be “clean”, personable, and honest, punctual. Utilities need to be willing to get their hands dirty, but also know when to pull things back and approach a situation differently. Remember, you will be the one pushing carts in the heat, then instantly having to put wires on the talent that are all made up and ready for the scene. It is fast-paced, and you need to be positive and full of good energy to radiate a positive experience throughout the crew.
A Great Sound Utility Technician is Proactive, not Reactive. If you are sitting down and always waiting to go into the set, you are not actively looking for ways you improve each take. That is the ultimate goal, to improve every take because we get so few.
Staying Employed as a Sound Utility Technician
One thing I learned at a young age is to diversify your Sound Mixers. When you have a bunch of sound mixers that love you and they all get work, then it is easy to stay employed year-round. Sound Mixers may struggle, but they will always call when the work comes their way. I didn’t have to worry as much growing up in the union as a utility because my services we always needed and appreciated. I loved to pay attention to detail, organize carts, clean cables, and keep a positive attitude on set.
As a Sound Utility Technician, you are expected to be a Jack of all Trades. You need to be able to plug in a Sound Mixer’s cart and know the signal flow to hold your own in an emergency. You also have to have prior booming experience when you are asked to split up the booming responsibilities on set. Developing your third ear and being able to listen to stay on top of everything in an organized fashion is very important.
I love having Blas Kisic in my discussions. He is an open book of knowledge and loves to share with anyone interested. If you love what Blas has to say, check out his course, Being Better Business Savvy. This course is a must for any aspiring Production Sound Mixer. It teaches things most people don’t think about – the business side! Blas breaks down some basic principles that will help any sound mixer understand the business side of things better than ever before.