Interview with Matt Collings of Krotos

Matt Collings spoke to us about how he got into sound and his role at one of the most loved plugin companies. Krotos software has been used on Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, Avengers: age of Ultron, Big Hero 6, Disney’s Frozen II, Venom and Gods and Heroes to name but a few. 


With a background is in music and performance, Collings has been making and recording music for almost 20 years.  Whilst living and working in Iceland for six years, which was a huge influence on his outlook on life and creativity, he was lucky enough to be involved with some amazing artists, most notably Ben Frost (composer on the Netflix ‘Dark’ series amongst many other things) who took him ‘under his wing’ and from whom he learnt a huge amount. “I still compose and release music under my own name, and this is what brought me to Edinburgh, and into Krotos in one way or another. I received an MSc in ‘Digital Composition and Performance’ in 2010, where I learnt programming in Max/MSP. After graduating I created music, sound design and programmed software for various musical, theatre, dance, and installation projects across Europe. From there I got to know Orfeas, the founder of Krotos, who was looking to bring in someone to help with the Max/MSP side of the company so he could focus on the business side. I joined in 2015, and have been at Krotos ever since.”


His role at Krotos is pretty broad. “No day is ever the same! I lead our Product Development and design, but I’m involved with anything which ‘touches the product’. I am also involved in our roadmap and strategic decision making, and I am on the company’s board of directors. I also work with our sales and marketing teams to bring our products into the market and communicating our vision.”


There have been very big challenges for everyone continuing to work in audio since the pandemic hit so we asked Collings how he has seen the post and games industries be affected. “There seem to be different conditions for our customers all over the world. Running a production as before is simply not an option, so people are being creative to keep working at the pace required. Most sound designers have shifted to working from home, which some have found to be a real eye opener. The main takeaway has been that the industries we work with have been very adaptable, and the tools available to us all these days make it possible to have remote teams. Games have a different set of challenges, especially working on consoles, but it’s been a very strong year for the industry despite Covid. Having said all of this, the pace of projects and productions has not slowed a huge amount, and tools like ours are still in high demand to help people produce great sound at high speed.”


With many events being cancelled and event moved to online we asked what online events has he been involved with and what plans he has for this year. “We started the year at NAMM, where we won the ‘Best Plugin of NAMM’ award from Sonic State for our new synth Concept, which was a brilliant start to the year. It’s been great to see events continue online, but they feel very different. I’ve given presentations for Audiokinetic and various educational institutions from my spare bedroom, which is surreal! What I miss the most is the accidental encounters you have at conferences: in corridors, bars or wherever outside the main formal events. I’ve always found these to be very valuable occasions and you can meet so many amazing people so quickly and get into some great conversations. You can really get a feel for people’s issues in their work, which is very important, but often harder to gauge through formal presentations. 2021 sounds like it will be another interesting year, and I’m hoping we can attend more online shows and possibly some in person.”


With the ever fast paced developments in audio, Krotos needs to remain competitive and ahead of the game. “We keep track of competition but are always trying to put our own stamp on our area, and always aiming to innovate. We feel like it’s important to make unique products and try to identify and solve users’ problems rather than making something that already exists in the marketplace. Increasingly I look at other industries for inspiration; the world of VFX or web design can be a very inspiring place for ideas and keeps bringing in fresh angles to our work.”


When deciding on what products to create Krotos looks at a problem that users are facing. “Once we feel that we know what that is, we look at a solution, and we build this with continued feedback from our customers. We’re less interested in building emulations of other technology or replicating what exists already. We want to innovate, simplify and inspire. If our product ideas don’t meet this threshold, we won’t move them forward. There is definitely a ‘Krotos flavour’ to everything we have made, and people look to us for a certain standard of creativity and quality which we always aim to hit.”


Krotos products offer new ways of approaching existing problems, which Collings believes is simpler, faster and more expressive than traditional methods. “We also spend a lot of time on user interface and experience. For instance, Dehumaniser 2 allows you to perform creature sounds using just your voice, all within one plugin window, rather than layering various recordings, using multiple plugins in chains and more. Reformer Pro transforms your sound libraries into ‘performable instruments’, so you can perform Foley, animals or mechanical objects with any audio input in real-time, saving you hours of editing. Igniter allows you to ‘drive’ a vehicle from one control in its user interface. These are all different ways of approaching familiar challenges sound designers face, and streamlining a solution.”


We asked what has been the most unusual way that one of Krotos’ plug in has been used. “We visited Pinewood studios and found the Foley team there were using Dehumaniser as part of their performances on the Foley stage; feeding snow bags through it to create huge avalanches in real-time and much more. It’s an amazing thing to see what creative people will do with our software to find a result. I’m a big believer in leaving the ‘edges on’ our software, so that they can be used in many ways, and that we don’t restrict the user from using or misusing them in certain ways, as this keeps the doors to creativity open.”


Collings is often taken back by how creative some people are when using Krotos products. “I’m always blown away by what our users come up with using our software, especially when it goes beyond their original design intention. Craig Henighan (who works on Stranger Things at the moment) told me that he often has a mic connected in the studio ready to feed anything into Dehumaniser, so it can be mangled and be a starting point for a sound. One great one was when he fed his squeaky ironing board into it. Steven Avila also used Weaponiser in a sex scene for the ‘Preacher’ series!”

“A highlight for me was reading about how Weaponiser was used for Half Life:Alyx. It’s fantastic to be part of the first true full-length VR game from a studio like Valve. I also remember reading an article in Vanity Fair at 3am in a hotel in Tokyo about Game of Thrones and how Reformer was used, which was a real surprise treat. It’s a privilege to have so many amazing users all around the world using what we’ve made everyday.”


What is his favourite SFX plug in and why? “Reformer Pro still amazes me when I get to use it creatively. I ended up using it on a personal project in a theatre recently to create gore effects, and allowing the actors to explore it as a theatrical device was very exciting, as well as a very fast and powerful way to get sound into the production as fast as possible by using the audio I had in the session at that time. I quickly got a huge range of expressive SFX in no time, and I’ve no idea how I could have got that result with other processes in the time available.”


There has been massive growth in sound libraries in the last few years, and also of software for sound designers. Collings can only see this continuing to grow exponentially. “When you look at the production schedules of even just the major streaming platforms you can see the enormous amount of sound which needs to be recorded, designed, edited and put together in record time. Disney’s Star Wars series announcements are just one example! Libraries and software like our own can play a key part in this delivery process.”

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