Hollywood hears the roar of Edinburgh tech firm Krotos

A tech firm which started out with just one employee less than three years ago has roared into life thanks to its innovative vocal processor software.

Matt Collings and Orfeas Boteas (right) of Edinburgh-based Krotos Ltd. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane
Matt Collings and Orfeas Boteas (right) of Edinburgh-based Krotos Ltd. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane

Edinburgh-based Krotos has attracted attention from Hollywood film studios and seen its products used in such blockbusters as Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The company produces Dehumaniser, a vocal processor which allows the production of monster sounds in real time. It has proved popular with video games designers, such as the makers of the new Doom title, as well as TV and advertising executives across the entertainment industry.

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Viewers of Fox shows like Sleepy Hollow or ABC’s 666 Park Avenue will have heard the Dehumaniser in action without realising it, such is the demand for its realistic sound effects.

Krotos' technology has been used in Hollywood blockbusters such as the Avengers: Age of Ultron

Many of its customers can’t be named for commercial reasons, but the list of subscribers is growing.

It’s quite the success story for a product that began life as a Masters project by University of Edinburgh student Orfeas Boteas.

The 29-year-old from Athens arrived in Scotland to study sound design in 2011 and has since built up a business employing ten staff at an office in Haymarket.

“Films and video games are very much our target market,” he said. “Most of our customers work for major productions.

Krotos' technology has been used in Hollywood blockbusters such as the Avengers: Age of Ultron

“It’s great to sit back and watch a film which utilises your product.”

Such is Dehumaniser’s success that Krotos yesterday launched a second, fully updated version of the software.

It is also advancing plans to launch a series of similar plug-ins – but Boteas insists he cannot yet divulge any further information on what they might be.

The appeal of Dehumaniser to sound designers is obvious. It creates monster-like vocals in seconds, rather than hours using convulted programmes of old.

Traditionally, creating creature sounds required technical knowledge, access to professional audio software, various plugins at an extra cost, sound libraries and recording equipment.

Dehumaniser simplies that. Not only can the designers create the sounds in real time, the sounds can be generated by the actors themselves.

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“It’s a big step forward in terms of effects and vocals on offer,” said Boteas.

The idea for Dehuamiser came from its designer’s love of music and computing. He found the idea of creating imiginary creature sounds digitally “fascinating, but time-consuming” and decided to dedicate his masters project to creating a better solution.

“The Dehumaniser prototype was my final project for the MSc sound design at the University of Edinburgh,” he said.

“After receiving positive feedback from people that watched the video demonstration, I decided to offer the prototype online for anyone to use with very successful results.”

Boteas is full of praise for his alma mater, crediting Edinburgh with advising him on how to turn a promosing research project into a succesful commercial venture.

After speaking with Paul Devlin at LAUNCH.ed – the university’s in-house business development service – he applied for and won a nine-month internship which allowed him to further develop the product.

A fellowship award from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, in asssociation with the university, allowed the launch of Krotos in November 2013.

“Edinburgh is doing a great job helping start-ups,” he added.

Boteas decided early on to give away a prototype of his Dehumaiser app for free.

“I had hundreds of downloads, and people started e-mailing me, giving me feedback, so I built up a database of potential customers right away,” he said.

“When I had launched the commercial version, I had a whole list of contacts to tell.”

Boteas now considers Scotland to be his home and has no plans to relocate his business.

“I think Edinburgh is a perfect base for tech start-ups,” he said. “There is great support, there are a lot grants and programmes available. I don’t think the same level of support is available anywhere else in the UK.

“I was lucky to meet talented people through my degree and be in a position to offer them jobs.”