Last week in part 8 of this series on Audio Post Production Workflows Using Pro Tools, we started looking at foley and Barnaby Symth shared some of his experience and this week Barnaby continues The Art Of Foley….
Foley - The Recording Process
Moves are usually performed first so the artist can get the feel of the scene. For example, the footsteps are all about walking on the spot with the right energy and feeling. Finding a range of good sounding shoes that work with different surfaces is the key. Usually old and worn in! Then it is about perfecting the technique of rolling the foot to create the illusion of forward movement, whilst going nowhere! The spot effects are then layered on top.
- Cellophane is used for fire crackle
- Leaves and shrubs can be created with camo netting, usually augmented with real foliage.
- Bird flaps can be achieved with gloves combined with real bird feathers.
- Snow footsteps are a combination of corn flour and dishwasher salt.
- White cabbages and water melons are used to help punches and blood and guts respectively.
On ‘Alien vs Predator’ we made a series of wild track recordings (not to picture) for the movement of the alien creatures and the face suckers. We used over boiled pasta, cream, hair gel, swarfiga and diced raw meat to create an array of gloopy and gooey body movement sounds.
The picture below shows me just having smashed apart an array of wooden crates, orange boxes and furniture for the sound of a house being destroyed. Tiring work!
In recent years I have done a lot of recordings on location. Mainly footsteps. I use a stately home near London, which has a number of different sized wooden floored rooms, each with a distinct natural reverb.
If the schedule and budget allows it, I often double track these recordings with studio footsteps. The location gives the natural authentic ambience, whilst the studio adds a little body and closer presence, often lost on location. We normally cover a few spot effects too, for example doors and windows, creaks, chairs etc.
Mic Placements in Foley
To achieve believable interior and exterior ambiences, relatively simple techniques are employed.
For interior scenes the mic is pulled back from the subject to add the sense of ‘room’ to the recordings. Sometimes a secondary ambient mic placed at distance can be mixed in to add depth of field to the recordings, for instance as the subject walks off screen or to the back of shot.
Compression is used to deal with loud transient sounds and to reduce the dynamic range of recordings. Useful when trying create loud punchy recordings. Eq is employed to shape and clean up the recordings.
Foley In Pro Tools
I try to keep my Pro Tools sessions as simple as possible. I will separate any location recordings from studio footsteps, so the mixer can deal with any possible tone or noise issues.
I will also try and keep similar sounding spots on certain tracks. Delicate hands or paper on upper tracks, loud punches, crashes and dynamic foley on lower tracks.
With Pro Tools 10 onwards the clip gain has been a great addition. Rather than using automation I simply balance the tracklay so it plays out sensibly at unity.
With all these technical skills and to a certain degree ‘rules’, quality foley relies on artist and engineer working together with the same vision. Also having ‘good ears’ and a wealth of experience is vital to know when you are achieving the correct recordings the particular film or TV programme requires.
In part 9 we will move onto sound effects with Bernard O’Reilly.