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Become a Radio Production Engineer?

If you are totally in command of the techniques of audio and have a flair for creativity, you might consider working as a Radio Production Engineer...

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Radio is an intensely creative industry. Maybe you wouldn't believe it when you come across yet another easy-listening, mellowed-out rock station. But many listeners tune in for intelligent content. They want to be amused and amazed at what they hear. And that doesn't just mean the programs, it means the station idents, promos and commercials too.

Radio can be a medium of importance too, not just entertainment. Take for example the UK's Radio 4. If a politician has something significant to say, he will probably say it in an interview on Radio 4 before it appears in any other medium. And people for whom current affairs are important will listen every day.

The creation of pre-recorded material for radio is a career with opportunities for creativity. Where once there would have been a producer, budget constraints now often mean that there is only one person involved in the making of, say, a station promo or program trailer.

Obviously, to create a piece of audio suitable for broadcast, you would need to be totally in command of the equipment and techniques involved. But this is no longer enough and there has to be a creative input too. So the station manager comes to you and asks for a 30-second promo and gives you a few guidelines and script ideas. Then it's up to you to come up with the creativity and to work with the talent in the studio.

And when you have finished, you have in your hands a piece of work ready for broadcast. It does need approval by the station manager, or whoever commissioned it from you. But it doesn't need any further technical work. Your 30-second promo is already fully up to the standards of the industry.

If you would like to do this kind of work, it wouldn't hurt to start by making your own demos. Just come up with ideas similar to what you hear on radio and produce your best work. When you have a few recordings that are fully as good (nothing less will do) as what you hear on radio, then you need to talk your way into radio stations and get people to listen to what you have done.

You might get offered a trainee position if you are very fortunate. Or perhaps you might be put in touch with freelance opportunities. Perhaps you might get the opportunity of assisting someone who is already working in this area.

It's different to music recording, but it's just as creative. And since the role of Radio Production Engineer is relatively new, there are opportunities available if you are totally in command of audio, highly creative and can see a project through all the way through from conception to a finished professional product.

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By David Mellor Tuesday January 3, 2006
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