If you’ve ever tried to be absolutely silent, you’ve probably noticed how much noise everything makes. That creak of the floorboard, rustle of your jacket, muffled footsteps on the carpet floor.

It is a filmmaker’s job to deliver a convincing end-product: to make a believable reality appear on screen that the viewers can relate to. One way to add realism is through sound. In addition to ambient noises in a scene, there are all sorts of sounds that come from the characters or other environmental factors. Often times, these real-life sounds such as footsteps, clothes rustling, or a dripping faucet, are added in post-production. This process is called foley.

 

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What is Foley?

Foley, named after the man who created it, is the act of recording or re-recording sounds with the purpose of imitating real sounds that should exist in that scene. A foley job is done well when the audience doesn’t even notice or think about the fact that those sounds weren’t recorded live on set.

 

How Are Foley Sounds Created?

Foley artists have come up with many creative ways to mimic and create new sounds. This creativity was born from necessity since some sounds are impossible to record live. Think about the sound of bones breaking. Visually speaking, if an actor broke a leg, it would either be implied but not actually shown, or there’d be some prosthetic or special effect. In lieu of the actor actually breaking their leg and having the microphone positioned perfectly, sound engineers turn to other methods like twisting a stalk of celery. Need a brain-smashing impact sound effect? Just drop a watermelon.

 

 

Finding Foley Sound Effects Online

Creating foley can be fun and exciting, but it can also be time-intensive and costly. Luckily, filmmakers and video editors have a much quicker and more affordable option: already recorded, high-quality sound effects.

Now that you have access to thousands of Foley sound effects without moving from the chair, it is your job as editors and sound designers to analyze your project for sounds that are missing. Break down each element. Can you hear the footsteps? Should you hear the footsteps? What about the rumble of the car engine, or the front door locking?

 

 

One by one, start to layer foley sound effects into your scene to make it more realistic. Using tools like EQ and Reverb can help blend sounds to match the environment for which they’re intended.

Once you’re happy with the scene, try showing it to a non-savvy friend and asking if they noticed anything strange. If you’ve done your job well, they won’t be commenting on the sound effects!

In addition to foley sound effects, it is also important to have the proper ambient sounds for your scene.

 

Continue on to Sound Design Basics Part III: Ambience.

 

 

 

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AUTHOR
Jason Brandel,

Filmmaker/Video Editor

Jason is currently offering the Soundsnap community a 95% discount on his top-rated online course, The Complete Audio Guide for Video Editors, which includes 4.5 hours of in-depth video tutorials. Clicking the link automatically applies your discount.