Sound has always fascinated Matt Gionet. As a kid in Campbell River, he and a friend set up their own makeshift radio station, doing the news and other shows by using walkie-talkies tuned to an FM frequency.
Now, he has turned his love of audio into a business, Ear Worm Sound, though it’s safe to say he’s using more advanced equipment these days.
He trained in a multimedia program at then-Capilano College in 1998 because there was no sound-specific program. Instead, sound formed one component of his program, but he was always attracted to the sound elements of TV and film production.
“I always wanted to get into sound,” he says.
He was able to do some practicum work for a month in a recording studio as an assistant, which meant anything from changing light bulbs to getting lunches for people, but this helped him learn the business from the ground up and gave him background into the technology.
Gionet found his way over to Airwaves Sound Design in Vancouver where he worked for about 10 years
“I always wanted to come back here,” he says.
Ear Worm started through a local Community Futures business start-up program where Gionet put together a business plan. He started with small jobs, even getting paid in beer for a commercial for a beer company. More jobs started to come in though, and a few years back he landed work on sound effects for a video game project based in Hungary. The project ended up being shelved, as can happen in the gaming world, but he says it was still a good learning experience.
About three years ago, he began specializing in audio production for the voice-overs of movies and shows, again using his connections from the Vancouver area to get contracts through Descriptive Video Works, which provides the bulk of his work right now.
The descriptive video (DV) voice-overs perform the same role for vision-impaired viewers that captions do for those with impaired hearing. The DV typically describes anything from characters’ appearances or expressions, settings, action and other elements important to understanding the story.
“Pretty much everything now is described,” he says.
The mixing means having to be careful about when to drop the audio because Gionet does not want the DV tracks to take away from the show or movie.
“I’m basically going through and I’m dipping the mix where it’s loud, and I’m making sure the audio description, which is the narration, doesn’t overlap the dialogue of the show,” he says.
How much dialogue a movie has versus action can present a challenge. A show with subtitles adds even one more layer, as the viewer also needs to hear what the subtitles are saying. Whatever the show, the clients will conduct quality control and send a show back to Gionet to update if it needs refining.
At Ear Worm Sound, he has been able to set up a studio at his home office, adding equipment such as a mixing board, and he has been busy enough to call in his own subcontractors for occasional jobs. Still, the business sometimes means he’s putting in 18-hour days.
“I’ve probably done a thousand shows now,” he says. “It started off really small.”
His clients have included shows on CBC and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), as well as several in the ever-expanding world of streaming programs. These efforts have not gone unnoticed, as he has a Leo Award to show for his work. The awards honour the best in the province’s film and TV industry, and he brought home an award for working on the APTN’s science show, Coyote Science.
As to where he wants to go from here, Gionet hopes to keep expanding his workload, his list of clients and his work space.
“You always want to be able to take on more work,” he says. “More work, more money.”