When you’re learning how to make movies you learn about a billion and five jobs, many you’ve heard of such as writer, director, and producer, but then there are those obscure jobs like Foley Artist that can make you go “The heck did that guy do?”
Foley, named after Jack Foley the sound designer who pioneered the technique, is the process of adding recorded sound effects into a film.
Ever notice how you can hear E.T’s footsteps even though he’s just a puppet, Or how Luke Skywalker’s footsteps can be heard crunching the snow even though he’s in the middle of a blizzard?
Well that my friends is the magic of foley. And lucky for you I’m going to give you the hot scoop, so you can do it too!
So first off I know what you’re thinking: “Greg, why do I need foley? Can’t my film be better without it?”
Well thank you for asking, that’s a great question. The answer is no, your film is definitely not better without foley and you should use it.
Adding in sound effects is necessary because sometimes sounds don’t quite sound like they’re supposed to. For example if you’re in an echo-y room, or a heavy traffic area your sounds are going to be distorted. Taking time to re-record those branches snapping, or those footsteps will make the difference between an ametuer film and a professional one.
You can also do things like give your bad guy ominous footsteps and so forth, using Foley can be a creative tool to give a unique flair to your characters and the world you’re building.
Alright so now the question of the hour: What Do You Need?
To quote a hero of mine: “This is where the fun begins.”
Now obviously you’ll need some mics, for my setup I used a Rode Boom mic and a small lavalier mic. However you’re going to use whatever’s in your budget, and since we live in the future quality microphones are cheaper than ever and we have access to nifty smartphone attachments so you can record right into your phone if you need.
What you need more than anything else is a quiet place to work, preferably a room you can line with pillows, or mattresses or anything to do a quick soundproofing; basements work great for recording.
You’re also going to want to have a screen put aside so you can watch your movie as you record. Personally I’ve been using two monitors with Davinci Resolve for editing, it’s really good for sound editing and best of all it’s free.
Now it’s time to get creative.
Don’t have a creaky door? Pull out your squeaky desk chair and then do some magic in the editing room.
Recently I needed to recreate the sound of scotch on the rocks. Real ice wasn’t an option at the time, so I took “on the rocks” literally. I went out and found a bunch of smooth stones and voila! scotch on the rocks was served!
Foley is something really hands on which can make it really fun.
So far I’ve done everything from gathering large amounts of dirt and sticks to get forrest footsteps, to dragging a kiddie pool into the studio to replicate sounds of bathing in a river.
It’s not just big noises that you need to worry about, thinking of small sounds like clothing noise is just as important and will make a world of difference for your film taking your project from innovative film school status, to winning you an Oscar.