Your film has been shot and edited. Now it’s time to start filling in the missing sound.

One key step in the post-sound process of every professional great film is Foley. Foley (named after ‘Jack Foley’, inventor of the art) is the art of performing sound effects to match movement on the screen. Common examples include footsteps, chewing, drinking, cloth movement, keys jingling, doorknobs twisting, etc.

Foley is often much more time efficient than manually editing sounds in, and it provides a richer character and performance (and thus, realism) to certain sounds in the film. Typically, whatever the Foley artists can’t create in-studio, the sound designers and sound editors tackle in their roles.

But what’s the best way to recreate the sound of a fist fight? How can you mimic the sound of footsteps in the snow in the recording studio? What’s the best prop to use to recreate sword fights or gun cocking?

Here, we share some tips for creating Foley sound effects to picture on a budget.

 

Household Foley Sounds

image of the sounds of boots of a person on old wooden plank walkway

  1. Wooden Creaks

Prop ideas: old shipping pallet, piano bench, old chair.

Wood creaks appear in almost every film you can think of, whether it is a spooky door opening, footsteps on an old floor, or walking the plank. The advantage of using the props above is that the creak can be controlled. Once you have a technique down, performing these creaks to the picture saves tons of time from needing to edit all the sound effects in Pro Tools to match the picture.

Our suggestion is to try bending a pallet plank or shifting on a wooden bench manually can provide the right mix of subtly and action.

  1. Fire

Prop ideas: cellophane, potato chip bag, steel wool

The idea here is to scrunch up the prop then release it. The effect will be subtle, but when mic’d closely, a low-level burning sound will be created.

  1. Stack of Cash

Prop ideas: old deck of cards, or a cut-up paperback book.

This trick to this effect is using paper sources with softer, flexible textures. Bonus: add an actual bill on the top, bottom, or wherever your fingers will brush the surface of the stack to get just the right feel of skin on cold, hard cash.

  1. Metal Venetian Blinds

Prop idea: tape measure.

You know the thriller scene where the victim anxious peeks through the blinds to see if the killer is approaching? Nail this motion by flexing the metal ribbon of an extended tape measure. Maybe layer a couple of them to give the full effect of multiple blinds rubbing together.

 

Animals

image of the sound of horses running on grass

  1. Horse Hooves

Prop idea: coconuts.

This is probably the most well-known Foley prop (as seen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Some Foley artists suggest stuffing the half coconuts with fabric for a more realistic sound. Do this on compact dirt or a piece of sod, or whatever material the horse is running on.

  1. Bird Wing Flaps

Prop idea: gloves, old-fashioned feather duster

Flap gloves to mimic the sound of birds flying. Experiment with different fabrics; heavier textiles will create a bigger, thicker sound for larger birds. A feather duster can create a great effect too if you can find a nice sounding one and hit it against different objects for different sound qualities.

Human

image of the sound of rugby players fighting over ball on a muddy field

  1. Cigarette Inhale

Prop idea: saran wrap.

Using saran wrap is a slight twist on the fire prop idea, above. It’s more subtle, but is produced the same way: compress, release, and mic it closely. Just make sure not to overdo it.

  1. Footsteps – Grass

Prop ideas: scrunched up magnetic tape (VHS, 1/4”, cassette), AstroTurf, hay, sod, camouflage netting.

For years, magnetic tape was the go-to for recreating grass footsteps. It’s fallen out of favor for more subtle props with a less ‘plasticky’ sound. You can’t beat buying a square meter of sod to get the real sound, either. Just be sure to record all your cues before the grass dies!

  1. Footsteps – Snow

Prop idea: cornstarch in leather.

This is another classic Foley prop: ball up or squeeze some cornstarch in a leather glove or pouch.

  1. Body Hits

Prop idea: meat, leafy raw corn, phone book, baseball mitt, leather jacket.

Recording body impact sound fx is a tricky one. For a realistic effect try hitting steak, raw chicken, or anything else you can pick up at your local butcher. Want something a bit less messy with the classic, over-the-top sound? Roll up a phone book and begin beating. Experiment hitting it with different things: your hands, a baseball bat, and so on.

Layers are often key here, so getting the deep body tone as well as the more ‘smacky’ top end and mix them all up depending on where the hits land on the actor’s body.

  1. Bone Breaks

Prop ideas: celery, bok choy, carrots, walnut, King crab legs, dried sunflower stalks.

The goal here is to snap an object that has a little bit of resistance to it. Also, aim to highlight the splintering aspect to achieve especially grisly sounds. Experiment with freezing vegetables for sharper snaps, and wrapping props in fabric for a more muffled, realistic impact.

  1. Head Being Smashed

Prop ideas: watermelon, pumpkin.

Working on a slasher film? Bring home the sound of a head or body cavity impact by hitting watermelons, pumpkins, or other gourds. Take turns smashing, stabbing, smacking and gutting your produce to get an assortment of horrific and juicy body destruction sounds.

Oh, and make sure to prepare some clean-up materials as this one might get a bit messy!

  1. Remove Bullet from Wound

Prop idea: tomato.

These sloppy vegetables aren’t the best for normal body impacts. But, when you wet and drippy sound fx, the tomato is the king.

 

Vehicles

image of the sound of truck with rear tire spinning, burning out on asphalt

  1. Car Skids

Prop ideas: balloon, hot water bottle.

Car skid sound fx are difficult to record in real life. They’re even harder to match in the editing suite, later. That’s why a good Foley imitation can save a lot of time. Try dragging a filled balloon across various surfaces, such as glass or ceramic, then pitch it down. A filled hot water bottle dragged across wet cement gives other options, too.

 

Weapons

image of the sound of assault rifle gun sitting on grass

  1. Arrow Passing

Prop idea: bamboo rod.

This one’s easy: simply swing a bamboo stick past the microphone to create the sound of an arrow passing by. This is very similar to other whoosh sounds, except for these, you’re aiming for a more ‘whistly’ sound.

  1. Sword Scrapes

Prop ideas: metal spatula and cooking tray.

Drag a metal spatula across a cooking sheet to create sword scrape and lock up sound effects. Lift it quickly off the surface to create the classic ‘shing’ sound. Experiment with different widths and thicknesses of spatulas to add character to different-sized weapons like broadswords, rapiers, daggers, and others.

  1. Gun Handling

Prop ideas: heavy duty stapler, cassette, doorknob, three-hole punch, dual-armed metal wine bottle opener, caulking gun, padlock.

Not everyone has access to handgun and rifles. It’s easy to recreate the sound of grabbing, moving, racking, and loading pistols. The best choices are metal, slightly loose, and rattle. Choose from the options above to fit the weapons’ size and age.

  1. Gun Cocking

Prop ideas: briefcase latch.

One type of gun handling deserves special attention: gun cocking. This is often an emotionally loaded sound effect. Usually, it’s used to create tension in a scene. You can have complete control over the speed, energy, and power of the gun cocking by manipulating a briefcase latch.

  1. Bullet Whiz-By

Prop idea: slingshot and metal washer.

If you’re a good shot, aim a slingshot in front of a microphone and fire a metal washer past it. The best types are larger, heavier, with a large hole. The result? The hollow washer will spin past the microphone with a powerful zip.

There are different ways to stylize these whiz-bys, either with a fuzzy, tonal sound or with a very acute, fast, airy sound. The choice of aesthetic is up to you and the need of the scene.

  1. Grenade Launcher

Prop ideas: wrapping paper cardboard tube, shipping cardboard tube.

Looking for the hollow sound of a grenade or rocket launcher firing? Find a long cardboard tube. Longer and thicker is better. Then, try blowing into the tube to get the resonant launching sound. Pitching this down in post may sell the effect more easily.

  1. Chainmail Armour

Prop idea: a ring of keys.

It’s easy to jangle a ring of keys to match the motion of a knight in armor walking around. You’ll need a dozen keys to match the tight-knit aspect of the chainmail. Just ensure the keys don’t have too much ringing to them: focus on the metallic, ‘jangly’ aspect instead.

 

Sound Design

image of the sound of hand on sci fi electric glass ball

  1. Laser Pistol Blast

Prop ideas: trampoline spring, Slinky toy.

Looking for the classic warbling zap from a laser blaster? The options for sources here are almost endless. It’s not as hard as it seems.

Strike a trampoline spring with a metallic object. Try other springs, too (the more length and tension, the better, as the difference in propagation speed between high and low frequencies is what creates the laser effect), or even high-tension wires if they’re around.

Some have been known to stretch out a metal Slinky and tap the coils with a metal rod (or spoon) for a similar effect.

  1. Tentacles

Prop ideas: kelp, seaweed, cooked pasta.

Recreate the smooth, slick sound of a tentacle creature crawling by sliding fresh kelp or seaweed across a surface. Too far from the coast to find any? Try using different types of cooked pasta instead. Squish them on a surface or squash them in your hands for a good second option.

  1. Spaceship Door

Prop idea: trunk hydraulic, push bar door hydraulic.

The main elements you need to create space station doors opening and closing are the whooshing aspect of the slide and a metallic hit of the door closing or opening. A car trunk or boot hydraulic arm will create the futuristic whishing sound, and the metal can work for the open and close. A push bar hydraulic door is a good backup. Note that the metal impact of these props will likely need to be enhanced with other effects to sell it properly.

  1. Robot Movement

Prop ideas: DSLR camera zoom servo, DVD drawer.

Use a camera zoom to recreate the sound fx of a robot moving. This is a simple one to perform; the zoom control makes it easy to create a variety of nuanced actions by pressing a single button. A DVD drawer has good servos, too. It has less control, though, so it will need to be cut delicately in post.

  1. Stone Secret Door

Prop ideas: paving stones, toilet tank lid.

A good way to sell a castle secret door opening is by rubbing paving stones across another gritty stone surface. A toilet tank lid is a good classic that is heavy and will have a bit of tomb-like space behind it, too. Either of these props can double for other stone doors or crypts opening.

  1. Whoosh

Prop ideas: dowel rods or sticks, cable, skipping rope.

This one’s similar to the arrow whoosh, above: swing a dowel rod or stick in front of the microphone. Want a bit more hollow texture? Use looped cables or skipping ropes.

 

 

If you find that you don’t have the time or resources to facilitate recording sounds like these, you may find the sound effects you need in our library at soundsnap.com. You can check out this blog to see what Soundsnap has to offer: How Soundsnap Became the World’s Best Sound Effects Library.

We hope this list helps get the ideas flowing! Do you have a favorite Foley prop trick? A go-to you’ve used before? Share it in the comment section below!

 

featured image courtesy of: foleyrecording.com