I can't remember the last time I thought about sound at work, sounds like an odd statement but it's true. Being a documentary sound recordist my daily work is more about reading and reacting to the moment, supporting the director, cameraman, and the contributor, none of which I can do so effectively if I'm thinking about gear.
There's a slightly different but similar philosophy when in the studio: it's important to know that compressor, EQ, or pre-amp you're using inside and out so its use doesn't get in the way of an artists performance.
This is the reason why my colleagues and myself are so particular about using certain gear. It all just needs to work fluidly, effortlessly, deliver results and not draw attention to itself and distract from the process. I guess this is how industry standards are born.
I can, however, remember a time when it wasn't like this. Earlier on in my career I'd look at the ease and almost symbiotic way in which my elder colleagues worked and thought I'd never get there. It just seemed like an insurmountable task. However, as Malcolm Gladwell would argue, I just hadn't put in my 10,000 hours yet so I was not going to be as good.
In his book The Outliers, Gladwell talks of the 10,000 hours rule (the book is worth a read for this section alone). Now 10,000 hours is what it takes to be freakishly good at something and I'm not suggesting learning the foundations of our craft will take that long, but there is something to be said about this quote:
"Practice isn't the thing you do once your good, it's the thing you do that makes you good."
Which I guess is the point of this article: those hours, the journey, the successes, the failures are so important, nothing is a substitute for that.
It enables you to get to that place where you no longer think about sound and things start to become creatively interesting.
So don't worry, enjoy the journey; use that time wisely, experiment, work out what your go-to's will be, develop workflows, learn to listen, then forget it all.
Allan Hill has worked as a professional Sound Recordist since 2000 and over the course of his career has filmed on boats, in helicopters, cars, up mountains, in deserts, down caves, and occasionally just in London.
He also plays guitar, bass, and writes music for The Lovers.