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Matinée Multilingual – delivering outstanding value translation, voice recording and subtitling services from the UK, for over 30 years

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History of Matinée Multilingual

With 2022 marking 40 years in business, Matinée Multilingual has been on quite the journey since its creation in the eighties. From keeping up with developing technology, to adapting to the ever-changing industry trends, we’ve overcome our fair share of challenges to get to where we are today.

And who better to tell the story than the man behind it all? Chris Broderick, owner and Managing Director of Matinée, gives an insightful look back at the history of his company, reflecting on the obstacles faced and the lessons learned along the way.

Where it all started

To rewind all the way to the start of the Matinée story, we have to go back to the late seventies and early eighties. Alongside running my own decorating business, I was playing bass in a mod band called The Crooks.

This was certainly a busy time in my life, as I juggled my business and the band; decorating during the day, and driving up to London to play gigs in the evening. Our claim to fame was that we played a couple of gigs with The Police, as the line-up looked good having The Crooks followed by The Police, who were naturally the headline act.

The Crooks

Around the start of the eighties, we did a lot of gigging in London, and took on a manager, Jazz Summers, who later went on to manage Wham! and Snow Patrol. We released three singles and one album over the course of the next few years. Along the way, I became the band’s resident ‘fix-it’ man, helping when anything went wrong with instruments and amplifiers. I’d always been a dab hand at that kind of thing, and I enjoyed the technical side of recording studios, where we started to spend more and more of our time.

But, after three years on the road, I decided to quit the band and set up my own recording studio in Reading, which is where the real story begins.

In 1982, I purchased a detached four-storey townhouse at 132 Oxford Road, which is still the company’s base today. The plan was to convert the basement into a recording studio, which sounds daunting, but really, the toughest part of the process was coming up with a name. Many late nights (and some wine!) later, we decided on Matinée Music. We were up and running.

It all started on a shoestring budget and over the following years the studio was improved and enhanced until it became a fully-fledged 24-track recording studio by the end of the eighties. When we started, everything was vinyl, but as CD emerged during the 80’s, everything changed from analogue to digital.

By this time, Matinée Music was a team of four, having added another sound engineer, a receptionist, and an account manager to the team. We were feeling optimistic, and were looking forward to seeing how the business would evolve over the coming years.

A growing company

With our origins firmly rooted in the music industry, we mostly worked with unsigned bands who would come to record their demos and albums at the studio. However, now and again, we would be contacted by video production companies who wanted to record voice overs in the studio, as our location made us a great alternative for TV voices who lived in the area and would rather record locally than travel into London.

Audio editing suite

It was during one such recording session, my video producer client suggested I should consider moving away from recording music – which was never going to pay for the Porsche – to recording voice over for video. There was a growing corporate market for foreign language recordings, as companies built their markets overseas. Now in my early thirties, I decided to take the leap and move away from the music industry and into the world of business audio. Matinée Sound and Vision was born.

As we begun to embrace business audio, we purchased some (rather expensive) equipment which allowed us to sync our multitrack tape recorders to video tape recorders, which is how audio to video was assembled in those days. Within the next few years, as the world of digital evolved, we gradually managed to move away from all the expensive analogue kit and do the job inside a computer, as it is done today.

Moving into the nineties, corporate audio was our thing, and the music recording side was gradually phased out. As we grew, it became obvious that if we organised the translations as well as the recordings, we could offer a full foreign language service for video.

As the business evolved, so did our use of different technologies. We were now using Macs and PCs around the studios, and I became interested in computer-based presentations. I wanted to push the boundaries of what the desktop PC could achieve, over and above the standard PowerPoint presentation. This was the beginning of the Windows era, and I remember to this day the release of Windows 3.1, which was a total game changer.

Most quality business presentations at the time used video, but we wanted to create a computer-based presentation that looked and sounded great. Full screen video was not possible on a PC at this time, and the colour laptop was still a few years off. So, along with a few computer geeks I hired, we set about writing some code that would allow images to sequence onto the screen in attractive ways, accompanied by a music soundtrack, sound effects, and a voiceover. We knew then that we’d struck the perfect combination – what couldn’t be achieved with visuals, we could enhance with a great soundtrack.

The nineties saw some big developments for us: another name change (hello, Matinée Multimedia), the addition of a twenty-two strong multimedia department, a new video production department and a live-events team. By the new millennium, we’d seen huge growth in the business which meant that we expanded our Oxford Road site to five buildings, so we could house our team of eighty full-time staff.

The Matinée video edit suite in 2006

A bump in the road

Managing a growing business for twenty years was, of course, not without its complications. Besides the hard work and many long hours, I took a lot of risks to keep us pushing boundaries and pointing in the right direction, and faced some challenges as we transformed from a small team to a workforce of eighty. I remember reading, at the time, that when a company expands beyond forty to fifty staff, that’s when the problems start.

The nineties had been great for us, but the tech bubble was about to burst in the great dot.com crash of 2000 and the recession that followed. We lost many of our best customers, and pretty soon I realised we had to dramatically reduce the size of the business over the next few years.

This meant that I had to reduce headcount and decide which parts of the business would not survive. Although I had spent ten years actively growing the business, it had become too cumbersome and downsizing allowed us to get back to our roots in audio and foreign language versions.

Now, as a more manageable unit, we were working out of just two adjacent buildings at 132 and 134 Oxford Road, as we do today. Of course, these changes weren’t complete without yet another name change, as we rebranded to Matinée Multilingual to more closely reflect the services we now offered.

Where we are now

After the rollercoaster years of the nineties and noughties, the last decade has been about honing in on our audio and video service offering, as the digital age has developed to where it is today. Translations and voiceovers are still at the heart of what we do, and somewhere along the way we added subtitling and captioning to our service offering. All that’s really changed during the amazing tech era we’ve lived through is the delivery of media, which is now all online as opposed to using video tape and then CD and DVD.

Now in my mid-sixties, I’ve handed the Matinée reins over to my daughter and her husband, who manage the business whilst I enjoy some peace (and a lot of golf!) over on the Isle of Wight, where I now live, having moved away from the Reading area just before Covid struck.

Thankfully, we made it through the pandemic virtually unscathed, with an adaptable team who can work from home, and a good tech infrastructure that allows them to do this fairly seamlessly.

So, what’s next for Matinée Multilingual? Honestly, I don’t know. That’s a question for Lauren and Callum. What I do know is that there are some very special and talented people who have helped the business get to where it is today, and I’m excited to see how it evolves in the future. It’s been an interesting forty years, that’s for sure!

To find out how we can help your business with professional subtitling, translation, and voiceover services, why not get in touch with us today?

Email us at project@matinee.co.uk

Or call us on +44 (0) 118 958 4934