DIY: Shank You For The Foley

    A watermelon produces a million sounds. Well, maybe not a million, but pretty close. This was the realisation I had when I wanted to get foley of a guy getting stabbed.

    What started out as innocent clean fun turned into a massacre of life’s bigger fruits. At the end of the project the watermelon was stabbed so many times that it was just a heap of red and green.

    Below are the materials you’ll need to get some good stabbing foley for yourself.

    • A helper (to either make the sound or capture it)
    • A sound-proof room (or something of the equivalent)
    • Half of watermelon
    • A knife
    • A large plate with rounded edges
    • Two microphones: 1.) a Hypercardioid mic (“shotgun” mic), 2.) a large Diaphragm Cardioid studio mic
    • Task cam
    • Portable mixer
    • Headphones
    • Microphone stands
    • SD card

    If you don’t have access to this kind of sound equipment then you can also use a smartphone.

    Here’s what I learned from my foley.

    Step 1

    After you have procured a quiet room, a helper, and the necessary equipment, the first thing to do is set up the two mics so they are about 6 inches from the watermelon. Simple mic stands can do this easily enough. Also connect the headphones to the mixer to monitor the best placement for the mics. Make sure to put the watermelon on a plate in order to avoid spills. Again, If you don’t have mics or a mixer, then set up your smartphone to record the sound.

    Step 2

    Once the mics are screwed into microphone stands, make sure both are connected to inputs on the portable mixer, which is used to adjust the gain level for each microphone. The mixer I used has a line-level output which sends the two signals to a 2-channel portable audio recorder, which records Stereo Digital Audio files (in .wav format) to an SD Card. Your mixer may or may not have this.

    You don’t necessarily need the sound mixer and could just use the mics directly connected to the Tascam recorder, if you have one, but the mixer has a louder headphone output and could also be used to adjust the sound mix between the two microphones to taste. Once you’ve turned everything on and made sure your equipment is working, you can move on to the next step.

    Step 3

    Make sure before you make your incisions into the watermelon, you put it on a plate with edges that curve upwards. We had our watermelon on a plastic bag and when it leaked its juices went all over the place. So yeah, to avoid any spillage, best to have a plate, or even a bowl.

    I found it was rather difficult to stifle a laugh when we went to town stabbing the watermelon. In saying that, make sure you are as quiet as you can so that the squishy sound from the watermelon is the only thing heard.

    Now what we did is took turns listening and stabbing. We got pretty creative with the different ways we made sound with the watermelon. We would make stabs, stabs with twists, long cuts, stabs with the handle part of the knife, etc. The quick stabs made nice squishy sounds, and the stabs and twists created an almost bone-cracking sound. The stabs with the handle had a nice hitting sound to it, which could be used for a punch or a knife stab.

    Here’s some different audio examples we created:

    It’s also good to note that for the sake of simplicity, use different recordings for the different techniques you use to get sound. You’ll thank yourself later when you go to edit and sync it with a clip.

    For instance, if you need a simple stab, have that on one recording, and the next one could be stabs with the handle of the knife, the next one being when you punched the watermelon. After you’re done getting the sound you need then turn off the mixer and the task cams and unplug the mics and the headphones.

    Step 4

    In this step make sure to tear down any stands or equipment you used and clean up the watermelon carnage that is likely to remain, depending on how many stabs you made. After everything is cleaned up then you can simply upload the SD card to your computer and voila! You now recorded foley. The next thing to do is to edit the sound and sync it to the clip that requires the stabbing foley.

    Here’s some clips with the synced foley.

    This clip is with the sound of a stab:

    This clip is with the sound of a stab and twist:

    This clip is with the sound of the blunt end of the knife stabbing:

    This clip is with the sound of a rind stab and twist:

    You can shank me later.

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    • Keaton is an actor and writer who works with the Initiative Production Company in Brisbane, Australia. Native to Alaska, he enjoys staring at the stars while contemplating the meaning of life.

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