By Robin Shore
Dehumaniser’s aim is to make the usually time consuming and esoteric process of designing creature vocals into something as simple as twiddling a few knobs and flicking some switches. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to create the voice of dinosaur, alien or troll then this software is for you.
I first used Dehumaniser about a year ago when it was available as a free-by-request beta version from creator Orfeas Boteas’ personal website. Even with this early version I was impressed by how easy it was to transform a fairly dopey sounding recording of myself groaning into a massive King Kong-sized growl.
The interface at the time was a little wonky, but the results we’re exactly what I’d hoped for. I was incredibly pleased to learn recently that Krotos Ltd. has now released Dehumaniser as a full-fledged commercial product with some great new features and a much improved UI.
Upon first opening Dehumaniser you’ll be brought into the program’s aptly titled Simple Mode. From here you can load in whatever audio you’d like to affect, and choose between a large number of presets. Even without making any further tweaks many of the included presets will yield very polished results.
The bottom section of the Simple Mode screen contains the Voice Designer which allows you to combine up to five different presets and adjust the balance between them to taste. As suggested by Simple Mode’s name, the interface is incredibly easy to use, and anyone with even a little bit of experience manipulating audio on a computer will be able to produce some incredibly satisfying monster sounds within only a few minutes.
Aside from letting you load in your own pre-recorded sounds, Dehumaniser can also connect to an input on your audio interface, allowing you to perform into a mic and hear the results in realtime. This is by far one of the most fun aspects of the program.
Flipping over to the Advanced Mode reveals the real meat of the program. From here you gain detailed control over a variety of pitch shifters, synthesizers and convolution effects that combine to create Dehumaniser’s signature sounds. Any tweaking you do here can be saved as its own preset for easy recall back in Simple Mode. Learning how to work each of these different modules requires some trial and error, but the included documentation does a pretty good job of explaining each effect’s purpose in simple, easy to grasp language.
One of the coolest features of Advanced Mode is the Sensitivity section. Here you can make adjustments that allow each of the effects to respond differently depending on the dynamics of the incoming signal. This allows for some very nice nuanced details. To cap it all off Advanced Mode also includes an effects rack where you can load up to two VST or AU plug-ins of your choice into the chain. The whole thing is tied together by a comprehensive routing window.
Dehumaniser is not without some limitations. While it works astoundingly well for non-vocal sounds (grunts, groans, growls, snarls, etc.), it does start to lose some of the magic if you try feeding it something with actual language. There are some presets included that are meant to be used on speech, but preserving intelligibility can be a little difficult and the effect never feels quite as organic as I want once spoken words enter the equation.
Dehumaniser’s biggest drawback by far is that it only works as a stand-alone application. Anyone hoping to use it within a DAW for some quick on-the-fly processing during a mix might find themselves a little disappointed. There are instructions on Krotos Ltd.’s website for using open-source tools like Soundflower and JACK to route the signal from a DAW in and out of Dehumaniser, but you won’t get the same amount flexibility as you would with a real plug-in.
Using this method still won’t allow you to automate the effect and Dehumaniser’s settings won’t be saved with your DAW session, so if you need to close out and come back later you’ll also need to reopen Dehumaniser and recall all its settings manually. For now it seems the easiest way to use Dehumaniser is still to process all the sounds you need from within the standalone application and bring them into your DAW as new files,
All in all, Dehumaniser makes a great addition to any Sound Designer’s toolkit. It’s not necessarily something that’ll be used on every project, but when you need it, it’ll get the job done quicker and better than most other things out there.
Robin Shore is co-owner (with Cory Choy) and engineer at audio post sound house Silver Sound in New York City.