ADSactly Music - Behind the Sound - Foley
Jack Foley, born 1891, is credited with developing a unique method of performing sound effects live to picture in a recording studio environment. To this day, these performers are called foley artists.
Foley artists work in acoustically treated rooms with an array of interesting objects chosen for the characteristics inherent in them that lend themselves to being used in recreating sounds for the things we see on screen, a great example would be old wooden chains used to recreate the sound of creaking floorboards.
This next video is a fantastic short film, giving wonderful insight into the tools used, the focus employed and the way these artists bring moving pictures to life with sound.
THE SECRET WORLD OF FOLEY
And it really is a secret world. When it comes to foley, it is the kind of art that you don't want to be conscious of. If you are watching a movie and you suddenly think to yourself "Hey that seemed like it was added in afterwards", you become drawn out of the immersive nature of film and you become an observer of the film, rather than someone immersed in it.
Why wouldn't filmmakers just use sound recorded on set when finishing up the film?
Consider how much activity is going on during the filming of a scene. You often have 10's if not 100's of people - depending on the type of film - on set nearby. The ambient noise generated by large groups of people is a factor to be considered. Then, you may have a director actually giving verbal cues to the actors during the shoot.
Often the location, while framed to look a certain way, may in fact be completely different to what it appears when one zooms out or pans out of the frame. The beautiful tranquil forest may in fact just be a park next to a busy highway. There could also be generators nearby generating - excuse the pun - ambient noise, which would interfere with the capture of these sounds.
But, the main reason is that while there generally are sound recorders on set, capturing audio. Their focus is on trying to get as much clear dialogue as possible using highly directional microphones, which don't necessarily capture the nuances; footsteps, breathing, the rustle of cloth as a character moves, all of these things may be lost in an on-set recording and have to be "brought back" during post production.
Any art form is allowed a certain measure of license and foley is no exception. Decisions are made between the director and the sound team on how they would like the sound to be treated during the film. A decision in sound could also mean using no sound during scenes in order to contrast with other scenes, and accentuate the "reality" that takes place. We could find ourselves viewing scenes that have sound effects that are larger-than-life, recreated and accented in crisp, livid detail, louder and clearer than we might find in real life.
An example of this subjective reality from my own personal experience: when working on a scene where a character had been stranded in a mine shaft for seven days without food, and he sees a cockroach scurrying near him. We designed the footsteps of the cockroach using the sounds of pebbles falling, and made them crisp and loud. The motivation was that without any interaction for seven days, any sensorial perceptions would be extremely heightened.
Spoiler alert: He eats the cockroach.
Here's another fantastic video detailing some insight into what goes on behind the scenes in foley studios.
THE MAGIC OF MAKING SOUND
Its become such a "thing" that there are a number of parody videos of foley artists. There is one where the "artist" being interviewed talks about his work in the porn industry and the different kinds of meat he uses to create the sounds heard in porn films. Its hilarious. Here's one that's a little less NSFW, but is also pretty funny.
THE FOLEY ARTIST FOR "THE BACHELOR"
In Indiana Jones Raider of the Lost Ark, in the scene where he runs from a rolling boulder, the sound that was used was a car rolling with the engine off. It is difficult to isolate these sounds as they are in a mix with many other sounds, but that is part of the game.
I hope you've enjoyed this "Behind the Sound" article. Next time we will be talking about the little-known audio technique called ADR.
Authored by @heypapalegend
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