by Joseph Herman
Along with a compelling musical score, convincing sound effects are one of the most important audible ingredients in a motion picture or television production. In a movie with a chase scene through the downtown area of a city, all sorts of sounds are required, such as revving engines, flying helicopters and the rapid fire of automatic weapons. In an off-world, sci-fi movie, you might need the sounds of futuristic spaceships, laser beams and robots (maybe even a scary monster or two). Whatever the movie happens to be, if you’re the sound designer, you’ll need to create authentic effects so that audiences believe what they’re watching is real.
In the past, sound designers could buy a large collection of sound effects in the hope that it would contain the sounds they might need. Sometimes the collection had what they needed, but often it would not. Another option would be for them to go out and record the audio themselves, perhaps with found objects they could use to mimic the desired sound.
Now there is another option to create sound effects in the form of a suite of VST/AU/AAX audio plug-ins from Krotos Audio that work inside your favorite DAW (I use both Pro Tools and Studio One). For this review, I received Krotos Audio’s Sound Design Bundle 2, which contains all four of its flagship products, as well as bundled libraries.
Inside Krotos Audio’s Sound Design Bundle 2 is Igniter Full Tank, a remarkably useful plug-in that allows you to create all manner of real-world or science fiction vehicles — whether they ride on the ground, hover in the air or fly by in space.
Next in the suite is Weaponiser Fully Loaded, a plug-in that lets you design and layer an unlimited scope of weapon sounds, including pistols, automatic weapons, rocket launchers, lasers, phasers, energy blasts and anything else you would need to cause serious damage (or defend the home front). Also part of Weaponiser Fully Loaded is the Battle Bundle, a huge collection of nearly 6,000 high-quality combat sounds that adds sword attacks, rapiers, chainmail, shields, hand-to-hand combat, body falls, impacts and more.
Sound Design Bundle 2 also includes Dehumaniser 2, which allows you to create monster and creature sounds (as well as robotic-sounding voices) using either pre-recorded audio or your own voice in real time.
Reformer Pro, another interesting plug-in found in the Sound Design Bundle 2, allows you to trigger sound effects libraries with other sounds and blend them together. It comes with the Krotos Bundle 1 library, a large collection of sound libraries that work with Reformer Pro.
The important thing to realize about Krotos Audio is that the company doesn’t just create libraries of sounds, but rather, sophisticated software to craft your sound design with remarkable levels of control, precision and almost unlimited creative possibilities.
Igniter Full Tank
Let’s start with Igniter Full Tank, Krotos’ plug-in that allows you to create practically any real-world or sci-fi vehicle and engine sound effect, whether it’s sports cars, motorbikes, airplanes, helicopters, spacecraft or more. There are audio assets for a large amount of vehicles, such as Aston Martin, Porsche, Tesla, Harley Davidson, Boeing CH-47 Chinook or Bombardier Challenger. There are also 75 GB of additional library content like skids, slides and Foley sounds. Recordings come from Watson Wu, the Recordist, Sounding Sweet, George Vlad, Echo Peak and Flysound (a full list of assets are available on the Krotos Audio website; see below).
All those professionally recorded sounds are important to the way the plug-in works, but again, don’t think that Igniter is merely an editing system that lets you splice together or simply combine sound libraries. It’s far more sophisticated than that.
Igniter has four different sound generators, which can be layered together to form limitlessly complex vehicles. Aside from a collection of sounds of engines and exhausts, there is a capable synthesis module that’s useful for sci-fi vehicles (see Figure 1). Every generator can have up to five effects, including equalizers, compressors and limiters, as well as sci-fi effects such as flangers and ring modulators.
In the Mod section, you can drag any parameter into a graph-like area, which allows you to modify sounds and trigger events based on how fast the engine revs. Of course, it is difficult to describe all this verbally. Instead, be sure to watch the Igniter walkthrough video found on the company’s website. Not only will it explain the Mod system, it demonstrates how powerful and deep this plug-in really is. Engine revving can be automated in your DAW, based on the performance of the vehicle in the video.
Weaponiser Fully Loaded
Weaponiser is Krotos Audio’s plug-in for designing practically any kind of weapon you can imagine. To make the plug-in, an amazing amount of assets (2,734 of them) from an impressive range of weapons were recorded for use by the plug-in. There are also 186 weapon pre-sets from accomplished sound designers Bryan Celano, Jim Stout and George Vlad. Together with the Battle Bundle, which contains an additional 5,854 high-quality combat sounds, Weaponiser Fully Loaded is a powerhouse of a plug-in for creating every type of weapon sound, no matter the genre or where it takes place.
Like Igniter, Weaponiser has four sound generators. They’re called Onset, Body, Thump and Tail — the different components that make up a fired shot. Each generator has four sound banks and each bank allows for five samples. In this way, a different sound can be selected each time the weapon is fired, allowing you to vary each shot — since no two shots are exactly the same (see Figure 2).
You can also change the playback speed and level of each bank as well as its amplitude envelope and, since you never know where your scene will take place, there is an extensive library of impulse recordings for different reverb profiles, like parking garages, offices and hallways.
Weaponiser includes a wide range of weapons, such as pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles and in the case of automatic weapons, both bursts and single shots. Multiple takes of each weapon were made with 12 different microphone distances and positions such as front, side and rear locations.
Weaponiser also allows you to shift around the timing of each generator visually in a timeline so that the Onset, Body, Thump and Tail won’t happen at the same time. This is important when designing complex weapon sounds. For example, you might want to hear a click before a gun is fired, or a sci-fi weapon that needs to be charged before releasing its energy. For further variation, you can also randomize the start times of each component every time the weapon is fired.
For those looking to create sci-fi weapons, Weaponiser comes with a library of sci-fi sounds and sweeteners that you can use and modify to create laser guns or pulsing energy blasts. In addition, each of the four engines (or sound generators) has a unique built-in synth specifically designed for it with four distinct voices. The synths allow for even more creative possibilities and harmonic effects, with a range of waveforms and the ability to manipulate the pitch, FM and amplitude envelopes (as well as the depth). You can also add AM synthesis for even more tones and modulations.
In Weaponiser, each engine has four slots for effects like equalization, saturation or sci-fi effects like flangers and ring modulators, and dynamics controls like compressors and limiters. There is also a master bus with four slots, which allows you to add effects to all the engines at once.
Dehumaniser 2 is a vocal-processing tool that can be used to create a range of vocal effects for your production’s monsters, demons, robots and more. It uses live or pre-recorded input, so you can use it live in the studio as you record your voice or process audio that was recorded previously during a shoot (see Figure 3).
If you’re pressed for time, or just want to see what is possible, you can browse through the pre-sets that come with the plug-in. Or you can design your own creature sounds by patching together modules in a nodal-based system. There are 10 essential modules and over 100 pre-sets.
Proprietary effects, such as scrubbing convolution and spectral shifting, deliver remarkable results. Dehumaniser has been used in large-scale productions such as Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016), as well as games like Far Cry 4 (2014).
Krotos Audio’s Dehumaniser 2 includes such pre-sets as Harmonic Vocoder, Humanoid Robot, Flanged Human and Broken Mars Transmission, to name just a few. There are also 133 high-quality animal recordings, such as tigers, leopards, pigs, parrots and more.
While it’s more or less clear what Weaponiser, Igniter and Dehumaniser can accomplish, Reformer Pro is more elusive. According to the description on the Krotos website, Reformer Pro allows sound designers, producers, musicians and performers to design, automate and perform any sound in real time.
While that sounds good, it doesn’t really tell us much, so let’s take a deeper look. With Reformer Pro, you can trigger sounds in sound libraries with other sounds in real time. For example, a clap can trigger breaking glass or a human voice can trigger a leopard’s roar. The triggering sounds can be pre-recorded or they can come from a live source like a mic. They can also be midi. In other words, Reformer lets you turn your sound libraries into performable sound palettes that, along with its controls, can be used to make and perform a wide variety of complex sound effects.
Reformer Pro ships with the Krotos Bundle, which includes over 3.8 GB of high-fidelity sound libraries like Bengal Tiger, Electronic, Leather Foley, Fruit and Vegetable Collection and more. Suppose you wanted to generate the sounds of a rustling leather jacket by crumpling up a piece of paper. Reformer Pro lets you do that.
In addition, you can blend and control up to four libraries in real time with Reformer Pro’s X/Y pad by dragging around a marker. The closer the marker gets to the corners, the more it will blend towards that sound. The closer the marker gets to the middle, the more it will blend all four of the sounds together (see Figure 4).
Krotos Audio’s Sound Design Bundle 2 is an incredibly versatile suite of tools that offers impressive levels of control and creative possibilities for those producing sound effects for film and TV, whether it’s vehicles with Igniter Full Tank, guns and weapons with Weaponiser Fully Loaded, monsters and creatures with Dehumaniser 2, or sound design and Foley with Reformer Pro.
Aside from gigabytes of included sounds that work with the software, Krotos Audio’s plug-ins are remarkably deep and elegantly implemented, and offer endless customizations and explorations. It’s pretty obvious that professional sound designers will find Krotos Audio’s Sound Design Bundle 2 to be a useful tool in their work. For more information, visit www.krotosaudio.com/products/sound-design-bundle-2.