Monday, August 04, 2008

What is Foley and Why Should You Care?

What is Foley and Why Should You Care?

Here's everything you need to know about Foley.

Foley effects are sound effects that are easier and more efficient to perform to picture. You project the movie in a studio and one or two people actually perform the sound effects to the picture. The sound effects are recorded live and are used in the final movie.

The most common Foley sound effects are foot steps and clothing rustle. Some specific effects are actually much easier to do in Foley than cutting them individually. In Finding Forrester, there were lots of scenes with basketballs. The main character was a high school basketball player. It was much easier for us to have the Foley artists do the basketball dribbling for the movie then to sync each basketball hit by itself.

Foley is used mostly when you have to deliver a foreign mix of your movie. You use Foley footsteps when you can't use the footsteps on the production recordings because you have to remove the dialog so that it can be dubbed into whatever language a particular country uses.

We had the basketball effects on the dialog (or production) tracks and they were in sync. If there was any conversation going on during any of the dribbling, then when it came time to deliver the foreign version of the sound mix, we couldn't use any of the production basketball effects. There was dialog on it.

In the case of Far From Heaven, the Todd Haynes film, Todd wanted us to do all of the Foley footsteps so they sounded like they came from a sound library that was put together in the 1950s. In fact, he wanted all of his sound to sound like it was from the 1950s and this was a studio picture. That was a challenge.

Any time you do a period film it's a challenge. I had to find telephone effects with bell ringers, typewriters, and real V8 automobile engines. Most sound libraries don't have these effects anymore. And finding the real thing can be tough.

As a sound designer, you learn to be resourceful trying to find some of these effects. We went out and recorded some old automobiles to get some realistic sounds of heavy old car doors closing. I mean, let's face it, a 55 Buick door certainly sounds a lot different from a Honda door.

But back to Foley. If you're doing a small independent movie, the odds are you're not going to use much Foley. With Kicking Bird, I did all of the Foley myself with two of the effects editors, and we recorded it straight into the Pro Tools. I watched the movie on a monitor and performed the effects right in the editing room. I knew exactly what I needed, so I just did the effects that were absolutely necessary.

I had decided all of the running sequences would be done to music so I didn't even worry about doing footsteps for the runners. That would have driven me crazy if I had to do all of that. I just figured out what I needed to get the job done and did exactly what I needed. Since I was going to be doing some of the mixing myself, and after 20 years of doing this, I knew what I needed and what I didn't.

- - from The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide (coming really soon)

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