The audio engineering industry is a multi-faceted field that spans a wide variety of professions that abound in other industries such as the music industry, the film industry, and the broadcast industry.
Each industry carries its own specific requirements and needs when it comes to audio, which will generally vary per project that engineers take on.
It’s Easy To Get Started
While the industry tends to be highly competitive, it’s a lot more accessible to more people who are interested in getting involved because the technology and software have advanced to the point where people can potentially produce great-sounding recordings even with a limited budget and little to no experience, as information about how to produce, compose, record, mix, master, etc. is largely available via many thoroughly and professionally documented websites.
However, the downside is that since the technology is so widely available and accessible to everyone, the level of competition has skyrocketed dramatically, thereby reducing the most sought-after positions to a scant few that are exclusively available for only the most highly qualified and talented audio engineers out there.
In the music industry (this knowledge will translate and likely be required in other industries as well, but it’s a must for the music industry), most practicing audio engineers are required to have a fairly expansive knowledge about various micing techniques and how they can be applied to various instruments, the differences between a condenser mic and a dynamic mic (or even a ribbon mic, for that matter), comprehensive understanding of signal flow, and a proper “bedside” manner in regard to how they deal with artists and studio personnel, etc.
Signal Flow & Its Importance
Understanding signal flow is particularly crucial because routing configurations can become inordinately and unnecessarily complex depending on a studio’s particular set-up, and engineers have to be aware of where the signal’s coming from and where it’s going at all times so they can quickly spot and identify potential problems or snags that can rear their ugly heads unexpectedly during a recording session.
For example, in certain studios with multiple rooms, it’s possible to have different studios patched into one another via “tie lines”, which are essentially patch points that allow equipment in one studio room to be routed to equipment in other rooms. This sort of configuration can be highly useful for various collaborative purposes or for facilitating productivity between different rooms.
For example, let’s say that there are two engineers that have to record an orchestra, but all the orchestra members can’t fit into one recording booth.
At that point, the audio engineers decide to use two studio rooms to record the orchestra and divide the orchestra members into two groups, and what ends up happening is that one of the two studios will essentially be slaved to the other. This means that the mics used to record the second (or “slave” group) will be routed through the tie lines to the “master” studio so that everything’s recorded into the same medium, which saves a considerable amount of time and money in the process.
Back Up Your Data
Furthermore, most professional studios these days will also have a comprehensive back-up system that they will use to routinely back up every single project that’s been created or worked on, as most audio professionals tend to err on the side of caution by following Murphy’s Law religiously!
Of course, in order to pull this off in an efficient, timely fashion (because nothing’s worse than a session that drags on for hours on end while producing no results, which will both piss off your client and get you fired), both engineers must be extremely well-versed and comfortable with signal flow, routing configurations, and know their equipment inside and out 100%!
Aside from other considerations such as proper microphone set-up and making sure that all of your equipment is working properly, other key elements in the equation include understanding the tools of the trade and the methodologies that guide (albeit loosely) their usage in modern music, such as:
- EQ (equalization)
- time-based effects (flanger, chorus, and delay)
Because of the complexity of the processes involved, it’s highly recommended that you have a set-up of your own that you can use to practice and get acquainted with these concepts.
There are also things like frequency response, dynamic range, intrinsic loudness, signal-to-noise ratio, and countless other audio engineering concepts that you’ll have to be familiar with if you’re seriously considering a career in this field, though it’s highly recommended that you start off by pursuing a career in computer science or electrical engineering if you really want to get a handle on these concepts and outpace the rest of the competition!