Make Your Movie: Adding Foley to Your Film

As an indie filmmaker you’ve certainly heard of Foley Sound and possibly even had to create some of your own. No great film can go without this integral part of the filmmaking process.

Without Foley, a film sounds empty and hollow – the actors seem to be talking in a vacuum. The sound recordist, if they did a good job, has given us the dialogue and excluded everything else, but our films needs more than this for the picture to come alive. We need to hear the little sounds of clothes, furniture, etc – but we need to control those sound effects so they don’t obscure any of the dialogue.

Another common use for Foley sound replacement is adding it to documentary footage. Old historical film seems lifeless when it is screened without sound, and adding foley to it helps bring those long dead images to life. Next time you watch a history documentary that uses silent archival footage, listen closely and you should hear at least minimal Foley sound fx, mostly footsteps, behind the narration.

Foley can also be used to enhance comedy or action scenes. Watch most comedy films and you’ll notice that many of the sounds are enhanced for comic effect, and sometimes the Foley sound is the joke. As for action, most fist fights do not involve the actors really hitting each other, and even if they did we would not be able to record a satisfying punch sound. By punching and variously molesting such objects as cabbages, celery and sides of beef, Foley artists can record unique and much more ‘realistic’ action sounds. (via)


A few tips this informative video offers to those of you working with Foley for the first time are:

1. The director should sit down with the dialog, music, and sound effects mixers for a spotting session.

2. Make a detailed list of every on-screen sound that needs to be recreated in post.

3. Gather all the materials you’ll need to reproduce those sounds. Be creative. (I would recommend using something other than your actual head to recreate the sound of a head banging on a desk, however.)

4. Once you’ve got your sound stage set up, watch your video and record each sound along with your on-screen actors. (John used a Rode mic to record his foley sound.)

5. Sync everything together digitally, including at least a minute or two of ambient sound or room tone you recorded during production, and you’ve got yourself a rough yet well rounded audio track for your film.

To give you a better idea of what a professional Foley session looks like, you can check out the video below. It is a longer version of the “Track Stars” clip shown in the video above. As you can see, there is a lot more that goes into Foley sound work than you may imagine. The best part about watching this video are the various “tools” used to create such a complicated sound effects track. The artists need to know exactly where each object is and execute each cue effortlessly.

Check out the rest of Filmmaker IQ‘s series on Film Sound below:

The History of Sound at the Movies

The Science and Engineering of Sound

The Basics of Recording Audio for Digital Video

The Fundamentals of Sound in Post Production

Introduction to Automated Dialogue Replacement

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