Brad North Love, Death & Robots sound design

In Netflix’s own words, Love, Death & Robots is awash with “terrifying creatures, wicked surprises and dark comedy” so you’d expect some pretty special sound design, right? 

Love, Death & Robots does not disappoint. One of the key players in the creation of the sound design, Brad North, caught up with us to talk about how Krotos Everything Bundle helped shape the hit series’ sound design.

Reformer Pro and Dehumaniser 2 were used in the creation of the Sanat Monster in the “All Through the House” episode of Love, Death & Robots.

Doug Siebum: Can you tell me about your use of Reformer Pro in Love, Death & Robots?

Brad North: Yes, I love Reformer Pro. I use Reformer Pro and Dehumaniser 2 quite a bit in my vocal processing chain. Here is an example of how I used it in Love, Death & Robots.

There was an episode called “All Through the House.” In this short, two little kids hear Santa Claus downstairs, so they want to sneak in and check out Santa. This Santa Claus happens to be a monster. The monster comes out and scares the kids. He says each kids’ name and says if they’ve been good or not.  The very talented Fred Tatasciore did the creature voice for Santa Claus. He did a higher breathy vocal pass. Then he did a lower register vocal pass. The director had his selects of each version. Then I made a comp track.

Before you know it, you have this big, beastly Santa Claus that’s coughing up slimy gifts for the kids!

Once I had the comp track, I did a Dehumaniser 2 pass to get a big low end bass. I believe I started with the Angry Beast preset to pitch it down and make it rumbly and growly. That layer was to give it a huge presence. For some of the other layers, I used Reformer Pro. I wanted to get a low mid layer made up of animal sounds.  Reformer Pro has a lot of cool animal libraries, like the leopard and the Bengal tiger. I would put a different animal sample in each quadrant and move the X/Y Pad in Reformer Pro. I would “perform” these moves while recording the audio back into Pro Tools.

I edited the best five or six takes and cut it together to give it the creature layer.  I also needed a gore layer because the monster’s mouth was dripping with slime. Plus, you could see its breath. So I did fruit squish on one of the quadrants and a crunchy Foley sample on another. I wanted to have some breathiness, so I added ice and some compressed air to the other quadrants.

Again, as the comp track plays through, I move the X/Y Pad across the different samples, basically performing it. I edited the best bits and called it a breathy gore track. I think I ended up with 4 or 5 different layers and then mixed it all together. Before you know it, you have this big, beastly Santa Claus that’s coughing up slimy gifts for the kids. I was really happy with the final sound. But it all starts with the voice talent. Fred is incredible. That’s one of the ways that I use Reformer Pro.

DS: I’ll have to look out for that Santa Claus, because I’ve watched some episodes of Love, Death & Robots, but I haven’t made it to that episode yet. Do you have any other tricks for Reformer Pro that you want to tell people about?

BN: I’ve used Reformer Pro to sweeten regular sounds. Say there’s a big truck by that’s on a cut or transition, and you want to fatten it up and make it big. Run it through Reformer Pro and put some Big Beast or Big Creature on it. Just perform it several times and you’ll get the right sound.

DS: So you can set up a Reformer Pro track and just sweeten your sounds real quick that way?

BN: Oh yeah, absolutely. You can have it on a separate track and drag your audio to it. Perform it and re-record it and put it back on your cut tracks and you’re done.

DS: Did you also use Igniter or Weaponiser in Love, Death & Robots or other shows?

BN: I use Weaponiser and Igniter mostly for sweetners. I’ve pulled guns into Weaponiser and messed around with them. Most of the time I’ll use Weaponiser for a sweetener or mechanical effect like a mag click or a dry fire hit. I’ll pull that in and add it to the existing gun shot and it will give it more life. I use Igniter in a similar way. I will play with different vehicle bys in Igniter. They’re dynamic with a lot of movement. I’ll pull those in and cut it along with the real effects to give it some life.

DS: Those are some great tips! I’m going to have to play around with doing that on truck bys and stuff.

BN: Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

DS: Did you use Krotos sound effects libraries in any of these shows? If so, did you have any favorite sounds there?

BN: I have the Krotos Everything Bundle, so it comes with a lot of library sounds. I love the Krotos library. The big effects are dynamic and interesting. The hard effects sounds are well recorded and have some life. The Foley and movement libraries sound full and real.

Krotos also has the SoundMorph libraries on their website. Those are two of my favorite libraries. When I’m looking for a sound effect in my library database, I will sort by library and go straight to the Krotos and SoundMorph libraries.  That also helps me avoid some of the older sounds that don’t have the same quality.

DS: One thing that I do, when I get the equivalent of writer’s block. I go into a specific library and just start opening the folders. I go through random folders like “what have these guys done?” You’re right, some of the stuff that’s been around forever, it’s old, it doesn’t sound as good, maybe it has some noise in it. If you go to some of these newer libraries like what Krotos has done, you get some great animal sounds. They’re big and they’re full. It’s everything that you need.

BN: I agree.  The movement is so good too. Whether it’s trying to fill in for animation like Love, Death & Robots or if you have a bunch of ADR that you need to put in some specific movement like a leather jacket. If the production track doesn’t have it and the Foley didn’t get it, you can fill it with the Krotos Foley library.

DS: Can you talk about your workflow for sound design and how does the Krotos line of software fit into that workflow?

BN: Yeah, whenever I start doing vocal design, it starts with Dehumaniser and Reformer Pro. Then I go into other plugins if needed, but that’s where it starts.

DS: Are you putting them on the track itself or are you using an aux track?

BN: I use an aux when I’m trying to process multiple sounds with the same processing at the same time. It also makes it easy to rerecord.

This is an extract from our interview with Brad North. Read the full interview with Brad North here.

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