The world of Foley is fascinating, especially for someone who records and produces sound effects.
You may not have even realised that many of the sounds in films are man-made and added by Foley artists. A few examples are:
- Coconuts = Horses hooves
- Metal sheets = Thunder
- Celery snapping = Breaking bones
- Cornflour = Walking on snow
- Cellophane = Crackling fire
There can be confusion over what Foley actually is and how it differs from sound effects.
Foley is performed to a film. Foley artists will select all of the props they need for a particular scene and will then use the props to recreate sounds to accompany the film. Most of the time, the sound element of the film is not recorded in the field. It is simply not practical to record all of the sounds required at the quality needed. Typically, films concentrate on capturing the dialogue of the actors and then the Foley artist recreates all of the ambient sounds needed in the film.
They will usually do this in stages. For example, they might do all of the footsteps in one session, then add other elements such as cloth noises, water effects etc.
The recording will take place in a Foley studio using various props to create the sounds in the film. The final track will be mixed and edited from the live performance of the Foley artists.
They will have microphones set-up at fairly close range to the props they are using and vary the distances and number of microphones depending on the sound/effect they are trying to recreate. The studio will often have additional microphones in the ceiling and at various points in the studio recording room. This is so that they have a choice of different microphone placements when they are mixing it. This can work well on sounds like footsteps, creating the effect of somebody walking into the distance by blending close and distant microphone sounds.
Sound Effects vs Foley
The line between the two does get blurred. When you go to sound effect libraries, you may find sounds labeled Foley, such as these in our sound effects library.
However, in reality, Foley is the name given to the art of performing and creating sound effects live to film. This name came about simply because the person that started this kind of work was called Jack Foley. At the time, there was no description or job title for this type of role. Jack’s surname became the term that film producers started using and it is still called this today.
So, technically speaking, these library sound effects were Foley when they were recorded and could be used to create a Foley track. But, they are not Foley in the true sense as Foley is mostly bespoke and performed to film. This is still the case for most films as the variety of sounds needed is vast, and finding every nuance in a sound library is not only impossible it is extremely time-consuming. If you are looking to fill a few sound gaps in a short film, you can get away with using stock sounds, however, if you are creating a large film, Foley artists are simply much better at creating these sounds.
I enjoyed watching this short film on YouTube. It is the best one I have seen for demonstrating the artistry of Foley.
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