Interview by Anne-Sophie Mongeau, photos and videos courtesy of Krotos
Hi, thanks for doing this interview! First, could you tell us about Krotos and introduce your work?
Thank you! Your blog is a great resource for the audio community.
Krotos develops innovative technologies that aim to fundamentally improve the way sound is designed. Krotos’ flagship vocal processing software Dehumaniser was first released back in 2013. It has been used to create all kinds of creature sounds in blockbusters like Stranger Things, Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Jungle Book, Far Cry, and Star Trek.
Our second product, Reformer, makes it possible for sound designers to perform any library of sound effects in real- time. It delivers the authenticity of real sounds without hours of editing and layering. For example, if a film requires the sound of a big cat roar doing multiple expressions, that would traditionally require hours of tiger sounds, editing the roars until they fit the visuals perfectly. Using Reformer, it can be done instantly by performing our Bengal Tiger library in real time with your voice or any other live input. The same applies to more complex sound design like mechanical effects and Foley. You can just throw multiple sounds from your own library into our Analysis Tool, (which is included with Reformer Pro) and perform them in real time. It’s an exciting and new way of working with sound.
Where did the idea behind Weaponiser come from and what was the main motivation for its development?
I needed to think of something that could improve people’s workflow whilst easily helping them to achieve what they had in mind
5 years ago I did sound design for a short animation film and I needed gunshots. I went to a firing range using a Sound Devices recorder and a range of decent microphones. The recording sounded like popcorn…so I ended up using a sound from a library, layers of drums and gun Foley to create the gunshot. That was the first time I realised that making gun sounds is not easy. After creating Dehumaniser, I was thinking what could come next. I needed to think of something that could improve people’s workflow whilst easily helping them to achieve what they had in mind.
Weaponiser is available in two versions – Basic and Fully Loaded. Learn more about them below:
Weapon sounds are difficult to capture and create. You have to either use library sounds or hire a team to record them using multiple microphones and pay for expensive firearms. If you haven’t recorded guns before, you might end up with bad recordings. There is a specific art to it in terms of microphone positioning, levels, equipment and mixing. Also, if you want to create weapon sound variations that you already have, editing library files and creating multiple layers in your DAW takes a lot of time. Designing Sci-Fi weapon sounds is also a lot of fun, but you have to find different synthesizers to achieve what you are looking for and then experiment in your DAW, before combining these with the work you’ve done with library files and layers. There are many issues with the general workflow involved.
Weaponiser aims to solve all that. It allows you to create and customise weapon sounds easily in one place and makes the whole procedure faster, easier and more fun. You can use the included 2300 samples or use your own sounds, import them into Weaponiser, customise them, save them as presets and create variations. It’s ideal for use in any linear project, video games or even theatre.
What is Weaponiser’s greatest strength and how does it compare to other commercial weapons libraries?
Customisation, variation and ease of use. There are some great commercial weapon libraries in the market, but usually you have to edit them and it takes a lot of time to make variations. Also, Weaponiser is great if you want to create a unique sound and don’t want to replicate the exact sound other professionals have used already. Weaponiser doesn’t aim to replace sound libraries or weapon recordings. It aims to improve your workflow and give you good results – whether you want to use the included assets or your own libraries. You can also perform your weapon sounds using a midi keyboard so it’s a lot of fun, not just for sound designers and audio post professionals, but also for more experimental beat-makers and musicians!
Weaponiser contains an impressive amount of assets, edited recordings, weapons, sweeteners, IRs and presets. How long did it take to develop it to completion, including the recordings? How many people were involved and what does the dev team look like?
Around 18 months from start to finish. In total around six people worked on the development of Weaponiser plus sound recordists, sound designers and UX designers. It was really a team effort putting the plugin together. It’s a very deep tool, and ideas came from everyone working on the project. We really value the input from everyone who helped develop the plugin, including advice from our friends and partners in the industry.
Can you tell us about the weapon recordings made for this library? Did you outsource any recording or editing work or did your team do everything?
It’s really important to work with experts when recording this type of material. We hired Steve Whetman of Audiobeast (now Pinewood studios) to record the session and handle the logistics. Steve is a real expert in weapon recording and pours his enthusiasm into his work! The session was handled by professional recordists and armourers, and we documented this as well (see our ‘Making of’ video coming soon!). We then edited the recordings in-house at Krotos. We had a huge number of recordings to work from, and most were very clean and immediately usable.
It’s really important to work with experts when recording this type of material
Some noise reduction was required on certain takes, as well as mic re-positions due to birds or other environmental factors. This could be audible in some tails when played at high volumes so we painstakingly edited these and cut each single and burst shot into a separate file. Many libraries provide whole takes with multiple shots in a single file, but we felt that edited shots enabled the user to work faster, especially when integrated with our file browser. Creating the Fully Loaded library was a serious undertaking, but we feel it was completely worth it!
The library features various types of sweeteners (from animal sounds to snare drums). What motivated the choice of assets included?
We did a lot of research and conducted interviews with top recordists and sound designers to get a clear idea of the type and range of assets we would need to include
There are lots of different approaches to designing and recording weapons, so we discussed this in detail and aimed to produce a library with a range of weapons, mic positions and flavours. We wanted to provide a range of weapons straight out of the box, so it was important to have a stock of shotguns, pistols, rifle and automatics. We did a lot of research and conducted interviews with top recordists and sound designers to get a clear idea of the type and range of assets we would need to include. We also got creative with our own sessions of Foley (including objects like locks, machinery and other useful things) and our own collection of analog synths. We also produced a large cache of more abstract sounds to stimulate people’s creativity. The drum samples add a lot to a design as well, and can be used for programming beats, which Weaponiser also does very well.
When getting started with Weaponiser, what would you recommend as the quickest way to familiarise yourself with the tool and get to know its multiple features and functions?
First you need to press the fire button and feel the power :) We have a huge range of presets included (over 100 in Fully Loaded) which can help walk you through using the plugin, and these can inspire your own designs.
Is it possible to add your own library of sounds to Weaponiser? Are there any other design applications for which you believe Weaponiser would work well?
Yes! It also works great with Foley, footsteps, drums, whooshes, punches, magic effects and any sound effect that needs layering and variations. It’s an extremely powerful tool for sound design in general, not only weapons.
Does Weaponiser exist as a standalone or strictly as a plug-in?
It’s only a VST/AU/AAX plugin for OS X and Windows.
Krotos also created Dehumaniser Live, a runtime plug-in for Wwise. Any chance we’ll see such a collaboration between the Weaponiser tool and Audiokinetic in the near future?
We are thinking about this and if there is enough demand we can make it happen. Please contact us if you are interested in that for your project!
Lastly, can you share a few sound design tips or strategies that can be achieved with Weaponiser?
One of the biggest challenges when designing weapons is combining various sources to produce a visceral impact. Recordings alone just don’t replicate the experience of being around firearms. A shot will have a physical impact on you due to the sheer volume, and the way your body reacts to that. To represent this experience, you often need to lean towards the ‘hyper-real’ (as we often do in sound design!). Layering different mic positions and sweeteners, plus combining these with FX is an excellent way to add impact to a weapon.
Layering different mic positions and sweeteners, plus combining these with FX is an excellent way to add impact to a weapon
Weaponiser has some excellent saturation and dynamics FX modules which can be used for this in the mixer section. Also, experiment with different playback pitches and envelopes to flesh out different frequency ranges or emphasise transients. Our synths can also add body and weight to your settings, so combined with our weapon recordings, you can put together some powerful ideas quickly. Animal sounds and synth sweeteners can also add some more weight and visceral impact, especially mixed in at low levels, almost as if they are imperceptible. We recommend using the different engines in Weaponiser for different aspects of the firing of the weapon. Filling your Onset engine with recordings directly on a gun, coupled with some Foley and sweeteners can produce a strong mechanical layer, and this can be mixed and processed independently from the rest of the shot. Using many different recordings in this section (using our banks system) will help add plenty of variation to the mechanical aspects of the shot, helping to avoid ear fatigue. Balancing this with a solid Body design, and a meaty Thump engine (with synth and kick drums to start) plus a range of tails will help produce a convincing weapon sound quickly.
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