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May 14, 2010 (Last Update)
 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JULIAN KWASNESKI

THE VOICES ARE HEARD
By Santiago Mendez

We all heard the thousands of dialogue lines on The Dig (maybe without paying any special attention to them) but there a was a little group of people at LucasArts who had to cut, edit, process and masterize all of these lines manually (one by one). One of these fearless heroes is Julian Kwasneski who worked on The Dig as a voice editing assistant. He worked on voice editing and sound design on the most brilliant games that LucasArts has produced, like: Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, The Curse of Monkey Island, Outlaws, Escape from Monkey Island and also worked on most of the Star Wars games.
Julian co-founded Bay Area Sound after leaving LucasArts in the winter of 2000. While on this new company he continued working on LucasArts titles like: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords and Star Wars Episode III: The Revange of the Sith. He also worked on The Lord Of The Rings - The Return Of The King (from Electronic Arts), James Bond 007: Everything Or Nothing and on the excellent game Psychonauts.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how did you get into the sound industry?

Once a stockbroker working for Merill Lynch, I got bored quickly and left to pursue things I was actually interested in. I had been in a band for many years and was started working as a second engineer at various recording studios in the area (as well as waiting tables and bartending). I eventually opened up a small music production facility which kept me busy part time. While doing all of this I somewhat stumbled upon Lucasarts and responded to an opening in the Voice department. I ended up not getting the job but eventually found myself working in the Tech Support department as a temp. A few months later I got hired on to do a contract voice editing job for Tie Fighter CD ROM and joined the Voice department soon after that. From there I was hired into the sound department and was thrown right into the action with no time to really consider what was happening. Those were crazy busy times, but I sure do miss them...it was one big “happy most of the time” family. So you could say that I did not choose to do game audio for a living, it chose me.

Since the history of The Dig goes back to 1989. How early in the game have you been involved?

1995

Have you worked on recording the actors (like Robert Patrick) or have you just done editing? Tell us a bit about this.

Macintosh Quada 650My work on the Dig was all voice work as I was in the Voice Department back then. Darragh O’Farrell would cast and direct all of the talent, most of it in LA, and then we would get select take DATs (no hard drives and DVDs yet unfortunately). We did do a few sessions locally, some of which I engineered, but mostly my work on the project was editing and mastering the DATs with Khris Brown and Coya Elliot. That project had some pain.....I recall having to de-ess about 2600 Boston voice files manually. I had two Quadra 650s working in tandem to pull it off. There were plenty of ad-hoc, one-line recording sessions too. I’m sure my thin ‘ol voice is somewhere in there....
We were definitely the do-it-all voice production team back then and had to wear many hats. Those were the days of 8.3 filenames, 20 hour days, no unique filenames and poor (or no) tracking. We all went on to create a lot of great internal systems, a lot of them based on the lessons learned with these early projects. They were fun times though despite all the work we put in.

Since you worked with the voices, maybe you could answer an ancestral question regarding The Dig. And this goes with all respect to Steven Blum who made a great job....but........What is Brink's Accent?

I honestly don’t know.

Now some technical issues. Do you remember what mikes have been used in voice recording?

Neumann U87 - Voice MicrophoneI believe those were all U87 recordings for the most part with a few Neumann TLM-170s scattered about.

What was your workstation for editing at that time? Did engineers use ProTools back then?

We all used Sound Designer, Deck 2.6 and Pro Tools Project systems. Let’s just say that we had to become our own technicians....we had our own sub network (which was a big deal then) and did all of our own technical support with the help of one Mac-wayward I.T. guy (thanks again Erik!)

What monitoring you had?

We all had our own monitoring, some had Meyer HD-1s, Genelecs...even some of the early Events.

Any funny story or anecdote about The Dig?

Hmmm, well, we all got thank you letters signed by Spielberg.

Have you participated in this old tradition at LucasArts, the "Pizza Orgy"?

Absolutely, though I don’t recall if they still happen sadly. It was a great opportunity for all LEC folk to voice their opinion either anonymously or non-anonymously, eat pizzas and enjoy a few beers with the people we spent the majority of our lives around.

And finally. What do you think about The Dig?

I love the DIG. I miss those old games.

February 2 2005
Copyright © 2005 Santiago Méndez.

Thanks a lot to Julian and his collegues at Bay Area Sound. He is a really cool guy and I'm sure we'll keep 'hearing' his work for a long time.

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