A sound mixer, line mixer, sound tech, sound assistant, or just mixing engineer is typically the member of an acting or production crew on set, directing, and responsible for tracking all sound recordings in place. Most audio mixing jobs are considered a backup position to the main audio specialist. In television, they often work as the third member alongside the director or producers. They mix the audio so that it fits and accents the visual drama.
Sound mixers are often found operating from a small, portable studio or home set up. Their role on set is to monitor the monitors of the directors and producers and mix the audio effects. Mixing the audio helps establish the mood, tone, and style of the entire scene. Therefore, the sound mixer must understand the fundamentals of audio mixings, such as waveform analysis, equalization, compression, and equalization. It's also important that the sound mixer knows the different sound formats used in broadcast and film.
The evolution of film technology and the addition of VSTs (Videophone Systems) to the industry have made the sound mixers more versatile than ever. It is now possible for inexperienced audio technicians to produce professional sounding sound effects through the use of software and hardware. Some of the equipment that has become available for sound mixers include the following:
Sound mixing consoles come in many shapes and sizes. A desktop mixer or a laptop to house your computer and other audio equipment is a popular option. However, if you have limited space or desire a compact, no-frills audio mixer, a console with multiple input and output options is an ideal solution. A multi-track audio mixer is usually incorporated with a software sequencer. The sequencing tools allow the user to add special effects, which is achieved through assigning digital sounds to various channels. Multi-track audio mixing consoles also have the MIDI capability.
The main reason that you need to purchase a sound mixer is that you want to be able to reproduce the sounds of live performers. You can't do this yourself, and as a result, you need a quality sound mixer that will take care of the job for you. There are four main types of sound mixers to consider when purchasing a new system: desktop, in-ear, wireless, and plug-in.
Desktop audio mixing consoles are smaller than laptops and most resemble mini-amps. They are plug-and-play devices that you connect to your laptop or a hard disk and playback the audio that you have recorded. The drawback to a desktop sound mixer is that it may not have enough input and output options. If you wish to be able to mix several instruments at the same time, you need a separate input for each instrument. Most desktop sound mixers also come with microphones for input.
In-ear recording audio mixers are also small and portable. Although you can plug them into an external source for monitoring, they do not feature any built-in speakers. They are typically used for live performances and for practicing guitar. An in-ear recording mixer will allow you to record audio without using headphones. You will need a separate sound card to record with if you do not already have one and will need an amplifier or soundboard to plug into your laptop or personal computer.
Wireless microphone mixers (also known as wireless studio monitors) can be used with a desktop mixer or with personal computers. They usually have three to nine input channels as well as output channels. They are best used for monitoring or for practicing without using headphones. With these units, you can run several input channels and up to nine output channels from one unit.