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English vocabulary discussion: Sound Recordist or Sound Mixer?


Fred Salles
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Hi everyone,

When interacting in English, I have always been using the term "Sound recordist" for my job and I realised that many here use the other term "Sound Mixer" (sometimes with the added Location on both).

I know they pretty much mean the same thing, but do they really in the industry?

 

Who and why choose one over the other?

Thanks

warm regards

Fred

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On USA union production jobs the head of the sound dept. is referred to as the "Production Sound Mixer", whether they are actually "mixing" any audio or not.  I often refer to myself as a "Location Sound Recordist" when on simple jobs with only one or two channels in record, but that is a personal choice.  IMDB accepts both PSM and "recordist" titles without question, in my experience.  My personal choice of title has to do with the complexity of the location sound recording on a given production I've done, including whether or not I had a crew to manage (vs one-man-band), and was I doing any mixing that might make it into the final version of the project (including live-mix jobs for streaming shows etc).. 

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I think it is important to get this right. I had a friend miss out on an Emmy because production credited him as a Sound Recordist instead of a Production Sound Mixer. I’ve also heard that even some production insurance companies are sticklers for official titles. I know that if your equipment is paid to you via a box/kit rental from payroll, as opposed to a “sound equipment package rental” invoice, they won’t insure the equipment and deny a claim, because a sound equipment package rental is not a box rental or a “kit”. I’ve even spoken to payroll companies about this, and they say the same thing, that sound equipment is not a box rental, and to not list it as such, but to invoice the production company directly. 
 

Sorry to get a little off topic, but for the sake of the conversation I figured I’d add to the discussion. 

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I've had the opposite experience about "box rental" with PR companies, including on a very big show this year, so go figure.  I just do what they tell me to do.   It's important to get productions to properly credit you, or to credit you as you wanted to be credited, more like.  Lately I've noticed that the title "sound designer" has become an acceptable and listed title on IMDB, whereas before it was a non-category that threw up flags, so these things evolve.  I do think it is important to patrol IMDB etc and make sure you are properly credited on the shows you work--you can't count on the prod co to get it right, or even credit you at all, really.

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Hi and thanks everyone,

JonG that is precious information and we can all benefit from knowing what to look out for in our contracts and invoices! The Emmy story of your friend is disturbing. How can they not figure it out?

 

Philip, thanks for the info on the union production practice in the USA, it confirms my supposition.  About being properly credited in my experience whatever is agreed on the contract regarding job title is what is seen on the credit, and sometimes foreign productions -non French non English speaking- ask me what I would like while drafting the contract. I tend to say Sound Recordist as a habit from the times when I was mistaking Sound mixer and Re-recording mixer (the latest translates as "mixeur" in French while we use "Chef Opérateur du son" for production sound recordist/mixer) 😁

 

Codyman you might be right in term of habit, UK and South African and Kenyan productions I worked with use or agree on Sound Recordist (Production Sound Recordist also). I have never been asked to use Sound Mixer only yet! Obviously never done a US union job, although I worked for US productions overseas.

 

I am sure others can give inputs, especially from all the diverse areas of the world represented here 🙂

 

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Not exactly on topic but I had an older colleague tell me he was a recordist for many years. I asked him what shows he mixed and to my confusion, he said he never mixed. He then explained that he would "record" (transcribe) the sound reports for the mixer, which was the primary job of the position which would later become known as the utility back then. I haven't heard that anywhere else...

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Originally, at least in the US, the Recordist was a position established I believe in the early days of Optical Recording and certainly was a position for most  of the years of on set Magnetic sound recording on film. The sound crew was almost always 4 persons: a Sound Mixer (also the head of department), Boom Operator, Utility person and the Recordist. The Recordist job was primarily setting up the recording equipment (aided often by the Utility person) and then while shooting,, monitoring the performance of the recorder, keeping the sound logs, and so on. So, the Recordist, in fact, was not "mixing" anything  --  that was all  done by the Sound Mixer, usually the Sound Mixer had little to do with the operation of the recorder.  As for the ongoing discussion of what to call ourselves, I vote for continuing to refer to us as Production Sound Mixers. One very important thing to consider, as has been mentioned in this thread, is the importance of using the title/position that has been established by the Union. Arbitrarily changing it jeopardizes adherence to the contract (both sides) and can cause problems being paid properly. I am well aware of the efforts in the UK to change some of these titles but this is being done in conjunction with Union practices and is being done to try and elevate the various positions and pay scales.

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😲 Oh my... Thanks Bab414 and Jeff, that shed a complete new light on the term « sound recordist » I never ever thought of!

 

So is it that bad? Have I been completely wrong and misleading in using «sound recordist »  all this time for my job as production sound mixer on features and documentaries ?! On credits and even posters!

My English speaking was nurtured in South Africa and also on set with US and UK crew shooting in Europe and Africa. I have never been told that I should use « sound mixer » rather.

 

Any inputs from colleagues in the UK?

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7 hours ago, Shastapete said:

Personally, I view the distinction of Production Sound Mixer vs. Sound Recordist the same as Cinematographer vs. Videographer.

Not me.  More like Cinematographer vs. Camera Operator.

 

And I am old enough to remember when a PSM actually mixed the track that was (mostly) used in the movie.  :)

 

D.

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12 hours ago, tourtelot said:

And I am old enough to remember when a PSM actually mixed the track that was (mostly) used in the movie.  :)

Same here. First shorts and first jobs as a trainee on features were done with sound mixed down mono on Nagra 4.2

But there was still a sound editing and final re-recording mixing process down the line. That is why I was always reluctant to use the word « mixer », as I wrote it comes from the French terms. In my youngish foolish brain I associated « sound recordist » with the work on set that I loved, and « sound mixer » to the work in a dark studio done by people already bold at 30... (no offense) 😅

From then it remained a habit, encouraged by the fact that others, native English speakers, were using it too.

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On 12/3/2021 at 11:12 AM, tourtelot said:

Not me.  More like Cinematographer vs. Camera Operator.

 

And I am old enough to remember when a PSM actually mixed the track that was (mostly) used in the movie.  :)

 

D.

Me too mon ami--that was a major reason I started in this work!  (And what I miss most about it.)

 

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14 hours ago, JonG said:

I think that the title Chef Ingénieur du Son is the most correct title in French. That’s what I was taught when I studied sound in France. 

That is now « Chef opérateur du Son » 🙂 

and in the film industry we do not have the choice, pretty much like the union practices Jeff mentioned, it is now the official term agreed on by représentatives of technicians, producers and government. I do not remember when, a while ago already. There are different terms in tv work but in film it is this one only.

Ingénieur du son is sound engineer so it is a global term used for general communication whether in the music or film industry but it is not used on contracts nor credits.

 

Any inputs from UK colleagues about the use of the term « sound recordist » versus « sound mixer?

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