As an engineer who works mostly in music, voice and live broadcasts, sound design and Foley are only occasionally part of my workload, so I hope I’m not coming off like an impressionable newbie in my enthusiastic admiration of this group of software tools from Krotos. The software is intended for monster creation, but is applicable to many, many more uses.
Krotos’ Reformer, Reformer Pro, Dehumaniser II and Dehumaniser Simple Monsters all use different means of manipulation, control and complexity, but they share many traits. Each works as a plug-in within your DAW (offering convenience over a standalone program), is entirely automatable, and functions in real time (albeit with a bit of latency). These factors will all prove to be important as we dig down.
Reformer is by far the simplest and most limited of the group, but it is also the easiest to use and get results very quickly. Paired up with a Krotos sample library (Reformer comes free with only the Krotos Black Panther library, but the company has numerous offerings, some from BOOM and SoundBits as well), any input can feed the patch, whether it be your live voice or a pre-recorded track. You can use input sounds similar to your desired outcome, or use a sound that is wildly different and even inappropriate. Reformer senses the amplitude and frequency to trigger its sounds, but you can choose to actually hear your input (or not) with the Dry/Wet control. The only other control is playback speed, which can be automated to bring more “realism.”
Behind the Sound Design of Predators, by Mel Lambert, July 9, 2010
Even without speed/pitch automation, the results were wildly successful. Using a live mic, I could easily mimic a black panther, and even with my somewhat silly attempts at being a scary cat, I was hearing a large, ferocious beast come out of the speakers. The tracking is surprisingly nimble, morphing through a wide range of responses as it follows your voice/input. Sure there’s some latency, but I could easily follow the video action and time my voicing to the picture.
Reformer is being offered free for now, although you’ll need to load it with some sound libraries to be effective. A huge range of libraries is offered (from animals and electronic to Foley) across a wide range of prices.
Compatible with 32- and 64-bit systems, AAX/AU/VST, iLok account required, sample rates from 44.1 to 192 kHz.
Krotos Reformer • www.krotosaudio.com/products/reformer
Krotos Reformer Pro
Reformer Pro takes the concept of Reformer and multiplies it by four, plus some extras. Indeed, four different sample sets can be triggered by a single input, with controls for speed, volume and slow/fast reaction. There’s a master Wet/Dry to blend your input as desired, as well as a dynamics section and master volume. The GUI visualizes what’s going on with a quadrant grid, and this blending of four sounds is automatable with X- and Y-axis values.
There’s a Transient Engine that allows precise control of blending specific sounds that occur only at the initial hit of a trigger event, to give sounds more impact and power. There’s also a Dynamic Input section that enables specific behaviors and tuning of response sensitivities, which is easily automated, and opens the door to extreme customization, especially for continuous sounds.
Getting a mix between your four sounds is easy and sounds fantastic, so triggering live with your voice is quite possible. But the real fun lies in recording voice and then automating the parameters—not only using mutes and volume rides for dynamic blends, but also changing pitches, adding transient sounds and tweaking the Dynamic Input controls to truly animate your results.
Sounding Out A Quiet Place, by Clive Young, April 15, 2018
Reformer Pro is definitely well suited for the creation of monsters and creatures, but it can excel as a platform for a wide range of Foley and sound effects, too. Reformer Pro comes with four libraries: Black Leopard, Fruit Squish, Leather and Electronic.
$399 in VST/AU/AAX, iLok account required, includes the Krotos Bundle for free (3.8 GB of sounds, normally priced at $449).
Krotos Reformer Pro • www.krotosaudio.com/products/reformer-pro/
Krotos Dehumaniser 2
This is where things get complicated, but also where limitations cease to be a factor. Dehumanizer 2 takes a modular approach to sound creation, with a series of modules that can be placed in complicated arrangements, using virtual cables to interconnect. Modules have five outputs each, as well as gating and EQ, and include the basic input and input type, as well as ring modulator, pitch shifter, noise generator, sample trigger (where you add your own sample, control its varispeed and reverse), flange/chorus, delay pitch shift (loops the audio and introduces a pitch shift with each repeat) vocoder, granular (breaks the audio into grains and allows stuttery, fragmented and pitch-shifted results), scrubbing convolution (allows amplitude to control the sample’s playback position) and spectral shifting (allows amplitude to control pitch, in bizarre ways loaded with anomalies). I found that last trio of modules to be where the unusual and unexpected secrets lie, and their results could be breathtaking, with dramatic effects and response well beyond the natural or organic.
You can arrange these modules as you see fit, constructing both parallel paths and serial paths, without fear of creating a feedback loop, as Dehumanizer 2 won’t allow such a faulty connection. You can blend your input sound to taste, in particular at each individual module used, allowing some really intriguing results and combinations. There’s also a master Wet/Dry, master limiter and a totally cool stereo-spread control that couples nicely with some of those funkier modules, once again offering otherworldly results.
Using your own voice as a live input to trigger one of Dehumanizer’s 100-plus presets is a blast and also a very time-effective activity, as even though super-deep complexity is offered here, once a sound has been selected, the artistic use of that sound is effortless and really quite fun. In fact, parameter sets can be stored as “drawers” and quickly selected/copied to a new module—a huge timesaver. The amount of expressiveness is ridiculous; using granularity, adjusting the sensitivity of a module to amplitude or pitch and setting sensitivity to peak or average input levels allows true artistry. As you’ve guessed, Dehumanizer 2 is already widely used in film, especially in sci-fi, action and horror genres.
$399 in VST/AU/AAX, Mac or Windows, iLok account required, upgrade from Dehumanizer for $180.
Krotos Dehumaniser 2 • www.krotosaudio.com/products/dehumaniser2
Krotos Dehumaniser Simple Monsters
As deep and fun as Dehumanizer 2 is, Dehumanizer Simple Monsters is even more fun with its brilliant approach to monster and creature sound creation. It starts with the core sound of any given patch, which has a number of rather unusual controls. Size, Fury, Age, Character and Wildness allow variation in output that varies rather differently based on the specific sound selected, and they are all quite interactive. DSM appears to introduce noise, randomness and pitch changes to create what truly sounds like alien wildness, or creature fury, or mutant age … or at least what I imagine such things to sound like.
Designed to be easier to use than Dehumanizer 2, the plug-in’s sliders allow quick, intuitive control of parameters, even for the non-technical user. We technical types will revel in the dual X/Y grids provided for automated control, which can be assigned parameters to open up a world of complex behaviors and results.
I would have been satisfied with the amount of control and flexibility here, but Krotos adds a sample player to each patch that sends the results into the realm of the incredible. The provided sample patch can be replaced with your own, but either way, that sample can be played back with scrubbing convolution (the same module used in DH2). You can change the response envelope by moving nodes on the graph, allowing amplitude to control sample playback position.
Do not underestimate the importance of this feature, as it enables a degree of animation and lifelike behavior (well, bizarrely lifelike, at least) that would otherwise be unobtainable. Simple Monsters’ dynamism and responsiveness will delight voice actors and give them plenty of fodder. Once you hear such deft manipulation of audio, you’ll recognize what is surely DSM processing in a slew of modern films; yes, this is how filmmakers achieve such impressive monster, creature and alien sounds.
$99, upgrade from Dehumanizer Lite for $40.
Krotos Dehumaniser Simple Monsters • www.krotosaudio.com/products/simple-monsters