Sound Stories: Julien Matthey
Julien Matthey is a sound designer and field recordist that we were lucky enough to have a chat with about his process and sound journey.
What was the first sound / ambience you ever recorded?
The first sounds I created were recorded in the studio. It was often short sound effects to illustrate sound design for radio jingles (I started my career with 13 years of sound creation for many radio stations in my region). The first time I recorded a sound effect with a portable recorder was on ... my very first iPhone (laughs). They were footsteps in the snow. That's what made me want to buy a little more gear (a Zoom H4n at the time) and record more and more stuff. The first ambience (stereo) I recorded was simply the street passing in front of my house.
Any bit of gear you’d like to purchase in the near future and why?
I do recordings for sound effects but also for filming (especially dialogue). So I equipped myself with microphones that allow me to do a bit of the 2. I've bought a lot of equipment lately. Last summer, I bought the Sound Devices 888. A real bomb !!!! I love it. I use it for everything, even if I still sometimes use my Sound Devices 702T for stereo / binaural recordings, or my Zoom H4n to record for example the audio output of a mixer during an event of which I must capture the sound. When it comes to hypercardio or shotgun microphones, I have a DPA 4017C, a Røde NTG3 and a Sennheiser MKH50, I think that's good enough for now. For stereo microphones I have an old Røde NT4 that I don't use too much anymore, a Sennheiser MKH 418S, LOM uSi Pro, Oktava MK012 (which sound great for music) and I also use a lot my Sony PCM-D100. I love this recorder, it is very portable and of exceptional quality. I take it everywhere with me, especially when traveling.
I also have a few special microphones like contact microphones (LOM Geofon and AKG C411), a Zoom H3-VR (but which I don't really use at the moment), a 3Dio Free Space Pro II and a DPA 4560 for binaural. In the studio for voice or sound effects I use a Neumann TLM103 that I really love.
Since I shoot a lot I also have several wireless systems (Lectrosonics and Sennheiser) as well as several Voice Technologies VT500 and Sanken COS-11D lavaliers.
So as you can see, I don't need much anymore. But while I think I have pretty much everything I need, like any sound recordist I would like to take the quality up a notch and why not buy a pair of Sennheiser MKH8040s.
What would your best tip for new sound designers be?
I think it's important to try as much as possible to create your sounds from recordings you have made yourself. This allows you to understand the process well, to have lots of possible variations and to practice more and more to obtain better quality. When recording yourself you also realize that the simple fact of placing or orienting a microphone a little differently can change the frequency spectrum of the sound (very interesting for sound design). I also advise collecting, like foley artists, objects that can be used to make sound effects. I particularly like to save certain materials that can make interesting things like corks, beer caps, small sticks of wood, crushed eggshells, seeds and various plastic or metallic objects that make interesting noises. Before I throw something in the recycling center, I wave it around to see if it might be worth saving for sound design (laughs). I think before using a lot of plugins it is essential to have the best raw sound, from a quality recording. If your recording is good quality, you can do whatever you want with it and sometimes without even needing to add too much special effects on it.
Another thing that I find very useful is to export your creations for possible future uses. Indeed, there is a quantity of sound effects that we sometimes have to create from scratch for certain projects and which are made up of several layers of sound effects associated together (impacts, woosh, passbys or ambiences for example). When the result is excellent, why not? not export it as is for future use? This could eventually serve as a basis for creating a next sound. When I was working in radio, I did this very often, which led me to have an increasingly large, sophisticated and complex sound, which also saves considerable time when creating new sound effects of the same type.
Obviously, this does not apply if, for example, you are creating the sound identity of a video game. The sound designer who created the sounds for Halo will not reuse his sounds for Doom because very often these created sounds will become the property of the game.
Who’s someone else’s work in the industry that you admire and why?
I'm not going to be very original, but I'm a huge fan of Ben Burtt's work. His work on Star Wars (but also on the Indiana Jones, Wall-E or Star Trek saga) is incredible! He really revolutionized sound design. I recommend this excellent book on this subject which tells many anecdotes on the creation of the sounds of Star Wars.
In any case, his work inspires me a lot.
Gary Rydstrom also has an impressive filmography. He worked on a lot of films which marked my childhood and my first sound experiences as a spectator such as Terminator and especially Jurassic Park. I am also a huge fan of animated films and love the work of Randy Thom.
I really like the work of sound designer for video games like Xavier Despas (Detroit Become Human and Heavy Rain) and Carl Malherbe on Life is Strange.
Do you have a prediction for the future of sound?
Hard to say. Today it is easier to buy fairly good quality gear at a lower price than 5-10 years ago. Many programs and plugins also exist to generate sound effects (woosh, footsteps, vehicles, etc.). So that means it's much easier to create than before. But in another way, everything might sound the same without a little imagination and originality. This is the risk. In any case, I am convinced that we become much more inventive when we are "limited". This is why I avoid abusing plugins and relying too much on them and rely mainly on the sound created during recording. When you look at what Ben Burtt created for Star Wars with much less tools than what we have today (even if he used obviously synthesizers and and effects like chorus, delay, harmonizer, etc.), it shows in my opinion just how much inventiveness and choice of what to record brings much more to the result than the material used.
Thanks so much for the time today Julien to chat with us and share your knowledge with our readers.