Inside the Vault: Matt Killmon

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After a long hiatus, we’re back. We’re here to talk with Matt Killmon, video producer. His most recent work, the trailer for The Pitt, can be found here.

What’s your job at Bethesda?
I’m the video producer at ZeniMax Media, which means I do all the video work for Bethesda’s internal and external projects, as well as other games published by ZeniMax’s mobile gaming division, Vir2L. Trailers, promo footage, b-roll for news organizations, even in-game video… anything that’s video is my responsibility.

What other games have you worked on?
Well, I started working here late last May, and within a week and a half I was going full-steam on the trailer for Fallout 3 — trial by fire! So, that’s the first big game I’ve worked on.

What is the best part about being a video producer? The worst part?
The best part is definitely getting to be creative — to be able to express my “voice” so to speak. I of course work closely with Todd Howard on the stuff for Fallout to make sure I’m executing on what he wants to communicate, but it’s a very back-and-forth process. Obviously with the initial Fallout trailer we worked together for days, but I’ve gotten a lot more latitude with the trailers for our DLC, so it’s been fun to come into my own and be the primary force behind that stuff.

The worst part is just a problem of having too much to do-because I work for ZeniMax, not just Bethesda — I’ve always got numerous projects on my plate. But it’s a problem of luxury, really, as the constant workload keeps me busily employed!

How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?

To be honest, I got in through a lucky combination of happenstance and good fortune. I did a lot of extracurricular short films and other projects in college to build up my demo reel, and then worked a year and a half at a post-house in LA which taught me a lot about pro video workflows even though my position there was decidedly non-creative. By then I was thinking about a different job and possibly moving back to the DC area. I had two friends back here who worked for Bethesda in QA who alerted me to the open position, and I decided to go for it. I actually packed up my stuff, drove cross-country, and interviewed the day after I arrived.

However, even though I’m not a member of the “industry” in the usual sense of coder/designer/artist, I think the same principles apply for those positions as well. Being willing to go beyond your coursework/what’s asked of you and exploring new ideas, tools, and techniques on your own will give you a leg up. It’s that initiative, that drive to be better than average that any game-maker (any creative industry, really) looks for.

What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?
I’d have to say ICO. Fumito Ueda is definitely one of my favorite game designers/directors, and that game is such a pure expression of his vision of “design by subtraction.” While its graphics are a bit dated now, for its time it was doing never-before-seen things with light and color, and all its elements (graphics, sound, score, even animation) worked so cohesively to create an atmosphere and quiet narrative… it’s just a wonderful experience through and through, one that I enjoy re-living again and again. Shadow of the Colossus was pretty great too. As for classics, Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger were two of the first RPGs I ever played, so they’ve had a pretty big impact on my game tastes.

…Uh, I mean, Fallout 3! Best game ever! :)

What games are you looking forward to?
Right now I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to keep up on what’s coming out (and I’m working on several things I’ve missed). My girlfriend picked up a copy of “Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise” recently and it’s surprisingly fun. I’m also playing through Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice on my DS, and realized that I’d somehow missed the third game in the series (Trials and Tribulations) completely, so I’ve got to pick that up. Maybe at some point I’ll get around to figuring out what’s coming out soon.

I’m still holding out hope that someday we’ll see a 2.5d, hand-drawn & animated remake/re-write of Final Fantasy 6, but I think that game is more in my head than anything else.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
The fact that I have the coolest job ever. Seriously, making videos for awesome games — who wouldn’t love that?

Actually, a big part of it is the great people I’ve met here. You might only know them as names in our credit lists, but there’s a whole cadre of incredibly talented and fun individuals behind those names, and I get to spend every day working with them. If it was just the “stuff” of the job it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable.

Worst job you’ve ever had?
I don’t like to say “worst job,” because from an objective standpoint none of the jobs I’ve had have been particularly bad. Probably the one I enjoyed the least was the two summers I spent working at a defense contractor here in the area. Not that it was terrible, it was just way outside my area of interest and I’m a big believer in pursuing work that you are passionate about. It was hard to be passionate about software configuration management (though I’m sure it turns somebody’s crank, so if you’re into that then good for you).

I also had to get up at o’dark-thirty and commute on 66 east towards D.C. at rush hour — so that dulled my enthusiasm a lot.

Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Well, games are obviously a hobby, but one of my primary interests is music. I’ve been really into Neko Case’s new album “Middle Cyclone,” and I’m looking forward to the new Decemberists’ album, as well as Phoenix’s impending “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” (that free single “1901” is pure electro-pop perfection). I’m also waiting for some Sigur Rós vinyl re-issues to arrive — they’re my favorite band and I’m into collecting their releases (I’ve got all their official ones on CD and vinyl). I haven’t gotten into collecting unofficial promo stuff yet but I figure it’s just a matter of time.

I’m also a lapsed fan of books — I got out of the habit in college but I was an avid reader growing up, so I’m trying to get back into it. Recently I read through Mark Z. Danielewski’s love-it-or-hate-it novel “House of Leaves” and loved it. I highly recommend it (even if it is dense and a bit pretentious in its construction). I also read Tennessee Williams’ play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (due to a song lyric by one of my favorite bands, The National, in their song “City Middle”) and enjoyed it quite a bit. I’ve been thinking about re-reading Asimov’s Foundation series, so I’ll be giving that a go soon.

Reader Comments

  1. he said nothing of college education, so that gives me hope.

    the trailer for the pitt was good, but i really didn’t like the choice of font at the end. I usually keep my gripes to myself, but that font really rubbed me wrong.

  2. Your vids are Awesome! That said, my favorite game trailer of all time was the intro trailer to Oblivion that begins with Uriel Septim VII talking. Your trailer for Fallout 3 would have to be my second favorite then.

  3. Hey, Matt – who’d a thunk I’d see your face when I was looking for a new game to buy. I guess you know Harry is off to Iraq in June . . . where the heck is the next Oblivion? I’m old – I can’t wait forever!

  4. I had lunch with Matt last summer at Bethesda’s offices. I can assure you all that not everyone who works there is, in fact, hot.

    Also, Matt doesn’t let on that he’s an affirmative action hire.

  5. Ok, so I’ll admit, I haven’t played Fallout 3 (it’s on the list though, trust me). As such, I’m a little bit curious about the specifics of said created video. Matt is responsible for all the promo footage and in-game cutscenes as well(assuming there are cutscenes)? Are the cutscenes in-game or prerendered?