A utility sound technician, also referred to as sound assistant, sound maintenance or cableperson is an assistant to both the production sound mixer and the boom operator on a film or television set. Although sometimes the utility pulls cable, he or she is more than just a cableperson. The utility is a jack of all trades, assisting in setting up, operating and maintaining the running order of equipment, often acting as a second boom operator, or even second mixer, and also repairing and servicing equipment such as cables and hardware as necessary. As both mixer and boom operator(s) may be busy with their tasks at any given time, the utility may also apply or adjust personal microphones or actors' wireless transmitters, may move microphones or assist in running cables, and may liaise with other departments on issues such as noise minimisation and set lockdown.
A utility may start their career as some form of trainee and move on to utility as their competency increases, or may start as a utility if their experience and knowledge permits. Utilities typically move on to become boom operators or mixers themselves, taking over roles in the sound department previously held by their superiors. In studio based television production, the route for promotion from sound assistant is to sound technician/operator, and finally to sound supervisor. Formal qualifications are not specified for technicians in studio environments, although employers typically look for basic numeracy and literacy, and a solid foundation in maths and physics. Many applicants have A levels/H grades or have taken courses to certificate, diploma or degree level, such as ft2 (Freelance Film and Television Training). As the film and big budget narrative television industries are typically less corporate in nature than studio based television, utility technicians may have no training other than their experience from simply working in the sound department.
A utility sound technician typically makes between $150 and $350 (£95–£220) per day, often plus overtime, which varies depending on their exact role and production budget. Usually the production sound mixer will hire boom operator(s) and utility technicians that they know and trust, although one may be provided by the production in some cases.