From animation to action blockbusters: diversity is key to audio engineer Mateo barragan’s success

Mateo Barragan – Photography by Carolina Rizzotto

Becoming a successful and sought after audio engineer in the modern film industry requires someone with a meticulous ear for detail, and the ability to balance the mechanical aspects of the production’s music and overall sound, which includes everything from the sound of rain drops to the actors dialogue.

The audio engineer’s role on a film or TV production is vast and varied, with some projects calling them in to specifically edit the score or the project’s dialogue, and others requiring them to oversee the entire body of sound. Being able to not only solve any technical issues concerning the sound, but also being able to think creatively outside of the box while serving the artistic vision of the production is key.

We needn’t look further than audio engineer Mateo Barragan, who served as the score editor on “Deadpool 2,” to see the vast nature of skill that is required for an engineer to become a successful force in the industry. There’s no question that his mastery of recording, mixing and reproducing sound, all while actively listening to what the artist wants and what best fits the production, have made him stand out in a big way.

Mateo says, “To put it simply, my work as an audio engineer could be divided into three different aspects: recording, editing and mixing.”

Throughout his impressive career, Mateo has worked on everything from engineering the audio on voice-overs for video games and multimedia projects to recording Grammy Award winning albums and editing scores for hit TV series and multi-million dollar films. 

Over the past few years he’s become known for his work as an audio engineer involved in major films such as the Oscar Award winners “First Man” and “La La Land” starring Ryan Gosling, the 2018 comedy “The Spy Who Dumped Me” with Golden Globe nominee Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”), as well as the BAFTA Award winning video game Life is Strange 2 and Vicente Fernandez’s Grammy Award winning album “Un Azteca En EL Azteca.” 

One thing that makes Mateo’s work unique in comparison to most other fields is the degree of difference between his role on one project to the next– which means both his technical knowledge and creative abilities have to be incredibly expansive in order to successfully meet the varying demands of each production.

“I would say that one of my strongest qualities as an engineer is being able to adapt to any of the situations that come in my day to day work. I know there are engineers that focus on one specific type of work and I totally respect that, when I moved to LA I initially just wanted to work in music,” explains Mateo, who has spent the past four years as an audio engineer at Igloo Music Studios.

“Because of the wide range of clients and projects that Igloo Music has, I had to learn from recording a band, editing an orchestra for a movie score to record dialog for an animated series or a video game. Each of these projects have their different workflows but you still need to be able to deliver your best work as an engineer so adapting to all situations is essential.” 

Adaptability, drive and passion have all been key to Mateo’s success. In 2016 Mateo landed a key spot as an audio engineer at Igloo Music (“A Star Is Born,” “Mary Poppins Returns”) founded by five-time Grammy Award winning engineer and producer Gustavo Borner.

It was through Igloo that Mateo was tapped to come on board as the score editor of the hit Marvel film “Deadpool 2” starring Golden Globe nominee Ryan Reynolds (“The Proposal”) and Josh Brolin (“Avengers: Endgame”). 

As the score editor of “Deadpool 2,” which grossed over $785 million dollars worldwide and took home numerous awards including four Golden Trailer Awards, Mateo played an integral role in ensuring the film’s music seamlessly matched up with the final cut viewed by audiences.

“We recorded a full orchestra, percussion plus a choir,” explains Mateo. “It is important to edit the recorded music of a score because we are looking to obtain the best quality of sound for the music while maintaining the musical performance of the musicians.”

Working with a brilliant score composed by Tyler Bates  (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “John Wick”), it came down to Mateo and the team at Igloo to digitally edit out any background noises while also ensuring the timing of the score matches the necessary parts of the film.

He says, “Regarding timing we have to make sure that the recorded music fits in naturally with all the other elements of the music… [But] it is really important to never ‘over edit’.”

“Deadpool 2” Movie Poster

Following the success of his work on “Deadpool 2,” Mateo was called in as the score editor on the Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man” directed by Damien Chazelle (“La La Land,” “Whiplash,” “10 Cloverfield Lane”).

The critically acclaimed masterpiece, which depicted the life story of American astronaut Neil Armstrong and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the moon, led Mateo to once again work alongside score mixer Nicholai Baxter (“Aladdin,” “The Disaster Artist”), whom he worked with on “Deadpool 2.” 

“On this specific project my role was very demanding because of the tight deadline we had, we needed to edit everything that was recorded immediately,” explains Mateo. 

“To put it in perspective, Nicholai was recording the orchestra at the scoring stage during the day. At night we would receive the recordings, we’d do a backup of the recorded files to our drives and then start editing immediately.” 

Mateo’s meticulous attention to detail, dedication, and ability to quickly solve audio problems once again proved to be integral to delivering a seamless edit for the film’s score. In the end, “First Man” was a major hit, with the film taking home an Oscar Award, as well as over 190 other nominations and 31 awards. 

“Mateo has been part of Igloo music for almost four years now and he has taken part in several projects during this time. We have worked together on a couple of albums such as ‘Un Azteca En El Azteca’ by Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez, two MTV Unplugged Albums/Dvds, and on several films such as ‘Deadpool 2’ and ‘Hobbs and Shaw’,” says Igloo founder Gustavo Borner.

“He is not only a skilled engineer and knowledgeable on the technical aspects needed for each project, but he is also a very dedicated person and always brings a great attitude to the team which is also a very important aspect of working with people.”

Undoubtedly what has set Mateo apart from others is the knowledge and skill that he has developed over the years which has allowed him to easily transition from one project to another. For example, shortly after working as the score editor on the hit films “Deadpool 2” and “First Man,” he was able to pivot his attention and take on the role as the dialog editor on the animated YouTube original series “Sherwood.” 

A refreshing take on the classic tale of Robin Hood created by Diana Manson (“Lucky Break”) and Megan Laughton (“Peter Rabbit”), the series tells the story of 14 year-old Robin and her friends, who embark on an inspiring journey to overcome inequality in a fight for justice.

Mateo Barragan – Photography by Carolina Rizzotto

As the dialog editor of the series Mateo was in charge of making sure the audio was as clear as possible, which meant removing any background or mouth noises from the part of the actors, as well as ensuring that the dialog matched up with the script and the visuals. With millions of views, “Sherwood” was yet another hit program where Mateo’s work as an audio engineer proved invaluable to its success.

“I really enjoy working in voice over projects for series and animations however my passion and love will always be with music,” admits Mateo. “Being in a city like LA gives you the opportunity to meet and collaborate with so many talented musicians, artists and producers.”

With a booming track record of success, Mateo Barragan is a prime example of what it takes to become a powerful force in the industry. At the end of the day, it takes more than just talent to make it as an audio engineer in film and television, it takes the ability to transition between projects and handle various roles with ease, something Mateo has proven time and time again.

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