Art Of


What Is Foley?

Jack Foley

How It's Done

Post Production
ADR / Dialogue
Sound FX

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ReelWhat Is A Foley Artist?

What It Is...

A Foley Artist 'recreates' sound effects for film, television and radio productions on a Foley Stage in a Post Production Studio.

Using many different kinds of shoes and lots of props - car fenders, plates, glasses, chairs, and just about anything I find at the side of the road - the Foley Artist can replace original sound completely or augment existing sounds to create a richer track.

The Stage Is Set

Almost every motion picture and television show you have ever seen contains a Foley track!

The Stage After A Fight Scene

"Don't they record the sound when they film?"

Sure, but there are many reasons why Foley is an intricate part of a soundtrack.

On a film set nothing is real - the sword is made of plastic, the marble floor is painted plywood. Foley replaces or enhances that live sound; the result is a sword that rings like metal and floors that echo like marble!

During filming, the location sound recordist tries to capture only the dialogue. Microphones are keenly positioned on set to record even an actors slightest whisper without the background noises from camera and crew. Foley helps to add back in that layer of sound to produce a rich and realistic track.

But despite the recordists best efforts, the modern world has a tendency to be loud - planes, trains and automobiles are all around us and you can't stop the world just because you're making a movie!

Noises on location often mask the dialogue which must be replaced in a recording studio later - an actor may have to replace an entire scene or just one word!

ADR Stage
An ADR Booth

This process is called Looping or Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR.) The Dialogue Editor then conforms the 'Production Audio' (the live sound) and the ADR into a complete track.

However, the ADR segments are clean and free of noise - it doesn't sound natural when combined with Production. And the footsteps are missing, as well as any other action on screen. Foley fills in the gaps between the live recording and studio ADR, smoothing out the sound and creating new sounds where they are missing.

The Room
A Bar Scene Foley Style

The process of filming also creates dips in the sound since each scene is filmed from different angles over several takes for the best look and performance. Once cut together, the picture flows from shot to shot in a fluid motion but the sound can become choppy and overlapped. Once again, Foley provides a foundation that bridges these gaps.

And most productions are sold all around the world and translated in many languages. When skilled actors replace the English with another language (in ADR), a Foley track is also required to replace the footsteps and effects that are missing.

What It Isn't...

Foley does not cover sounds like car engines, explosions or other mechanical stuff - driving a car around in the studio or blowing up a building is usually not possible although we have tried! We don't do birds, laser blasts, dog barks or rain storms either!

These are the domain of the Sound FX Editor who draws upon a sampled Sound FX library and computer technology. Everything from helicopters to thunder can be layered and mixed in to an SFX track.

FX Workstation

While a Sound Editor can do very precise and repeatable effects, they have a harder time when it comes to footsteps for example, since every step is different and unique, the pace changes and the mood of the step is always different. With a good pair of shoes and years of practice, a Foley Artist can perform an actors walk perfectly on the first take while making it sound natural!

In fact, one of the great ironies of Foley is that if you can tell it's Foley, then it isn't very good! My job is to make the sound so real that the audience would never know it wasn't. C'est domage...

An Example...

Let's say in a scene the actor grabs his gun, walks to his motorcycle, starts it up and drives away...

  • Foley would recreate the sound of the leather jacket and jeans as the actor walks, footsteps (heavy cowboy boots!), the gun pickup and handling, handlebar grab and bike moves - and maybe some key sounds as he puts them in the lock.
  • The Sound FX Editor would create the roar of the motorcycle engine starting and driving away, a tire squeal and background ambiances (birds, wind etc.)
  • In an ADR studio the actor would rerecord his line, "I'll be back...", which was inaudible on location with the motorcycle engine running. The Dialogue Editor would conform the production and ADR into one.

When played together, the tracks produce a seamless tapestry of sound.

How It's Done... (click here)

Discovery Fight Scene
A Fight Scene
(1.8 Meg)
Discovery Studio Tour
Tour A Stage
(1.6 Meg)
Click on the images (left or right) to watch a
QuickTime movie on Foley courtesy of the Discovery Channel

If you need QuickTime click here

Read more about it!

Here are a few titles to pick up if you're interested in learning more about the art of Foley. Just click on the links to get more info or order the book.

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© Philip Rodrigues Singer M.P.S.E.