Recording Arts Canada Student Review: RAC Montreal Grad Patrick Rioux

"A couple of months after graduating, I got a call from the Studio PR. They’re involved into dubbing English into French, and audio editing. Exactly what I learned to do at RAC! I stayed there 7-8 years, then decided to work on my own, for 2 years. I’ve worked for TVA, Technicolor, Modulation… everywhere possible in Montreal."

What is your background (education, music, recording, personal)?

Prior to studying at RAC, I was a live musician. I learned everything on the field. During 12 years, I was a musician and recording artist. However, I wanted to shift my career into the studio. But if you want to work in a studio, you have to get a degree. I went to several schools, but either the program wouldn’t fit, or it was of bad quality.

I went to RAC. The admission counselor who met me helped me see precisely what I was to expect, and I also loved the facilities. The atmosphere was great. So I decided to enroll.

Upon graduating from RAC, I worked at Bourbon Street, a legendary live venue. I did live sound for some great bands such as Tea Party, Sum 41, Billy Talent, Tragically Hip, and other great Canadian bands… I was at the console, doing monitor mixing.

A couple of months after graduating, I finally got a call from the Studio PR. They’re involved into dubbing English into French, and audio editing. Exactly what I learned to do at RAC! I stayed there 7-8 years, then decided to work on my own, for 2 years. I’ve worked for TVA, Technicolor, Modulation… everywhere possible in Montreal.

Eventually, Vision Globale offered me a position last year. I work for the show “Trente vies” broadcasted by Radio Canada. We are given 4 hours to mix the show entirely. You mix dialogs, sound effects, Foley, background sounds. The next day, you have to mix the music into it for 1 hour or 2. Finally, the director gives his approval and the show goes live. From September to April, I can tell you that the workflow is pretty intense, you have to get the work done on time.

Why did you decide to become a sound engineer?

It’s the music that brought me there. As soon as I started recording, I just couldn’t stop. The more I’d do it, the more I wanted to learn. Plus, I can’t see myself doing anything else.

I had no prior knowledge of sound recording. Before entering RAC, I used to record with a sound card, and the result sounded ok, but not as in the radio. I wasn’t satisfied with the result. The RAC course helped me develop so many competences. You get to do editing and mixing, and that’s pretty cool. You make your own mix, you listen to other students’ mix, and if it’s better than the others, you’re so happy. Then you get to do Foley. That’s the moment you discover that all you know about movie sound is so much more complex: if you watched a movie along with the sound recorded during the shooting, it would sound dull. Each sound effect lasts more or less a second. But in fact, everything is rerecorded in order to sound “larger than life”. Discovering all this at RAC opened so many doors and I wanted to get involved into everything.

So at school I was in a “wow” mood all the time. Sure, I learned many things thanks to music, but I got into postprod pretty deep. I still have my home-studio, and I can produce music that sounds really awesome now, all this thanks to RAC. I couldn’t have learnt all this by myself.

What habits have you developed to enhance your career? 

Always arrive at work in advance, be smart, smile, respect people. All this is as much important as being talented in what you’re doing. Respecting people is the key, be it your boss or the cleaning person. The most valuated quality, when you experience big amounts of stress while working, is to be able to say, when someone asks you something: “Hey how can I help you?” or “Sorry, I can’t help you right now. I come and see you in 2 minutes.” And don’t forget to go see that person afterwards! The key is not to inflict your stress to anyone.

If a client asks you for something stupid and asks your advice, always answer in a diplomatic way. Maybe he won’t like it, but he will respect your fairness and politeness – it’s not good to just nod all the time. The client will be reassured and will love to work with you. The quality of work is very important, but the quality of your interaction with pairs is as much important.

What is your best-preferred role in a production? 

Everything is fun. Every step presents its own interesting challenges. When editing, you’re creating an atmosphere. If you want to put birds sounds, you can, or maybe it’s a school yard, or a kitchen. You have to add a roome-tone, cars passing by in the street, birds outside. Sometimes, the director gives you a note that says: “I want a dog barking here”, but you can still add of your own taste, a supermarket with people delivering goods, etc. All this creative aspect makes sound editing so fun.

If you’re doing sound design, you can create a wave, drums, or a horror movie. This does not exist, you have to do it all from scratch. It is a fun as sound editing. When mixing, you take all this and adjust faders. Foley is fantastic; this is another very creative role. For me, all these steps are exciting.

There is also the recording of the voices, because we have to make a lot of dubbing. Given that most movies are shot outside, the boom catches cars passing by, airplanes, etc. So visually, the actor’s performance is great, but the sound is less… So sometimes you have to post-synchronize the dialogs with the actor. The challenge is to synchronize the voice with the original dialogs, cut the low frequencies, you have to dirty the sound a little bit so that it sounds like a field recording, so that it feels more real. Making the sound feel real is the number one challenge, be it recording, mixing, editing or sound design.

Do you have any suggestions for people interested in starting a career in audio or music?

Even if you’re not too good at the beginning, if you have the right attitude, you will learn fast. The school gives you a solid basis, but you actually learn most of it in the field. This basis will be refined, polished. So many news things come up year after year, new technologies, new protocols. You have to keep on adjusting to all this. And it’s passion that will make you stay and succeed. If you’re really passionate and dedicated to work hard, to give all your time to it, you will succeed.

In the beginning, you can offer your services for free, in order to gain experience and make yourself known. Maybe you will have to spend time just observing and listening. Being attentive to subtle things is the key, in this field, which allows you to develop your ear. Observe what everybody does. Ask questions, at the right time, upon a break for instance. You won’t be rewarded moneywise, but what you will learn will be worth a lot and will reflect in your own crafting. If you’re not passionate, you can’t do this.

Even the field of music gets harder to enter. Everyone has home-studios. But there is a market of clients, even for home-studios, so you can be a consultant for them. It is a demanding job. But with the Internet, new markets are opening. You can make so many projects on the Internet. Not necessarily music, but you can start your own web series, you can meet new people, and make your name with sound editing and mixing projects.

Where does your passion for sound comes from?

You know sound is the air I breathe; it replaces food. To the point I really forget to eat sometimes, until someone knocks on my door. And it’s important to take breaks, good for the ears… And you come back with fresh ears and brain.

I used to have other occupations, but it’s only here that I am really happy. I speak a language that other people can understand. I’m still doing music, I’m even signed. I sell my tunes all over the world. But of course I don’t make  living out of music. Currently I do some testing for a videogame: Thief 4. I record vocals. I work in French and English.

A memory from your RAC experience that had an significant impact on you ?

All the stories that Matthieu used to tell us in class. All his anecdotes. This man has a crazy experience.