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AUDIO PRODUCTION ROLES
THE ASSISTANT (ENGINEER IN TRAINING)
The Assistant Engineer is basically an Engineer-in-training who learns while helping experienced Engineers. Assistants are employees of the studio, and must know every specific detail concerning the studio. For example, if the mixing board has been customized in any way the assistant must be able to explain the customizations to the engineer and help him to work. A good Assistant can make any Engineer look comfortable in the room with the equipment, even if it the first time they are working there.
Assistants learn by not only following instructions from the Engineer but also by trying different techniques when they are given additional responsibilities. Although some Engineers insist on doing everything themselves, some will ask the Assistant Engineer to set up mics, or even operate the board or tape machine. Especially if the Engineer is performing multiple roles (such as engineer/producer) the assistant will blur into more of a main Engineer.
Relationships between Engineers and Assistants can be tight, and often teams will last years as Engineers request the same people for each session. Such teams often blur the lines between Engineer and Assistant as the Assistant demonstrates an ability to perform work to the Engineer’s standards.
Assistant Engineers will become actual Engineers due to many situations. The main Engineer may be sick and the Assistant chosen as a suitable replacement due to his understanding of the project. Most often, Assistant Engineers are hired as inexpensive Engineers and have the opportunity to prove themselves and be rehired. The move from Assistant to Engineer can take time (even over a decade) and the transition can be a tricky one to navigate through. An Assistant who jumps to replace an Engineer who is running late may find himself no longer requested if the Engineer thinks him pushy. It is usually better to allow the quality of your work to get other people to push you into the Engineer chair rather than try to sit there yourself.
THE INTERN (ASSISTANT IN TRAINING)
The Intern is often called the “gopher” because they have to “gopher this” and “gopher that”. Interns used to need to work tedious jobs at a studio for YEARS before being allowed into the actual studio rooms. Once they have proven themselves to the point of being allowed in, they will help with setups and take care of any tedious jobs within the session itself rather than for the studio (for example, changing guitar strings rather than taking out garbage). Interns with promise can rise in the industry, but it is only the first of a series of opportunities to prove how good…or bad…you are.