Sound Tip #2 – Make sure your sound guy is more geek than chic.

Ok, maybe the sound tip title is a little rude. There is nothing wrong with looking your best and taking a little pride in how you present yourself. Everyone in the professional world should do so! I try to present myself professionally everyday. What I mean by “more geek than chic” comes from a conversation I had last night at a benefit dinner with a couple amazingly talented video directors in Nashville (you know who you are). We deduced that “Nashville is Music City USA, and with that title comes an influx of people who “produce audio”. This is a dangerous and relative term… and we use it all the time” (myself included).

Let me try to explain my point with an analogy. I consider myself a great driver. I am safe and follow the speed limits (usually) and I always used my blinker when taking a turn (you’re welcome). However, just because I have a clean driving record, own a car, have a drivers license, and most importantly can turn left multiple times, does not mean I am qualified to drive for NASCAR. That’s pretty obvious right? I may drive everyday, but until I learn the industry, that is NASCAR, I can not even think about going to the local drag strip in my 08′ Chevy HHR. (what an awkward visual)

So, how can we make sure your sound technician is all that and more? 

1st, background is key! Find out who they have done work for. If you are the first client, it’s ok (everyone has to start somewhere). Take a chance if the project can afford the time delays and inexperience. It would likely be cheaper or even free and you’re helping someone progress their career. If your project is important, a good “previous client list” like this one can be VERY helpful.

2nd, get a real quote! Nothing bugs me more than estimates. If I take my car to the shop and they give me a quote, they better adhere to it. Personally, I won’t do business with people that base prices on “hours” when I am looking for a completed project. If you are looking for someone to do work for you “on-going” an hourly rate is expected. However, if you are looking for a custom music bed for your production, try to get a flat rate. The rate may seem high, but that is the trick to hourly production rates… they seem low and come back higher than expected.

*it should be noted that this is not an open invitation to own the sound designers life, be courteous of this and a flat quote will work in both parties benefit.

3rd, and this (in my opinion) is the most important rule when finding a professional sound technician. If they have never used a soldiering iron… walk away! If the person you are hiring supposedly does sound design and engineering for their living, they better know how to build and fix audio cables. I can not express enough how important this is! You would never send your child to a teacher that couldn’t read, no matter how much information they could talk about or how eloquently they communicated, if they can’t read they shouldn’t be a teacher. Not knowing how to fix a cable when on a remote shoot or in the studio (when one inevitably breaks) is hazardous to your hourly rate (see 2nd rule). I’m serious on this one.

Find a technician that can fulfill all three rules and you’ve got a winner. Never let that person go!

-Lee Kebler

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