Ryan van Eerde
My Journey With Foley
In my last blog I discussed ADR and that dialogue is the main focus of recording sound on set for TV and Film with as little to no background noise as possible. That being said if only dialogue is recorded what happens to all of the other sounds that make up normal everyday human interactions, this is where the art of Foley comes in. Foley is the process of adding sound to a scene after the visuals have been shot, everything from footsteps, glass breaking, clashing of swords, trees rustling, cars, waterfalls, and much much more. Due to the fact that all of these sounds are recorded in a studio environment they can be controlled a lot more than if they were recording all on set along with the dialogue, meaning that the all of the sounds can be independently mixed together to produce a more realistic and professional result (Mavros, 2019).
The Foley artists follow along and perform exactly what the characters are doing on screen whilst using a multitude of different props and surface types to create the illusion that the sound was recorded on set. Below is a video showing a couple of Foley artists at work.
A great line from this clip is that they are there to "sell that sound", this really sums up what the whole Foley process is about, its all well and good producing sounds but if they don't work with what the picture the audience isn't going to buy it. Just like ADR the Foley artists work hard to get the sounds they produce to be in sync with whats happening such as, if there are out of time footsteps it would break the illusion that the sound is actually coming from the person who is walking. Also getting the different surfaces right to make in appear that the character is actually in that specific environment, walking in a wooden house would not sound the same as walking on snow for example (Variety, 2019).
For my project there are multiple Foley sounds that will need to be produced such as, sword hits/clangs, gunshot, bullet ricochet, punch/impact hits, glass breaking, water/drink spilling, chandelier swinging, flying bottle swish, and a few more. Seeing as I don't have the luxury of firing a gun, ricocheting a bullet or swinging from a chandelier I will need to work out a way of recording and manipulating other sounds to make them sound like those things. Due to the fact that I don't have a lot of experience with Foley and sound design it would be best if I did some research on how to create these sounds so I can produce the most realistic sounds possible.
At first glance producing a ricochet effect wouldn't be an easy thing to do and a lot of my initial research into it just led me to sound libraries but using a sampled sound just isn't as fun as doing it myself. After much heartache I managed to find a video of someone actually making it from scratch, see video below.
(Game Sounds, 2017)
The way the sound is create is by blending 3 sound together, a low sounding thud, and surface hit, and a Doppler Effect. The low sounding thud is produced from a Kick Drum sample for the purpose of having some bass frequencies in the ricochet impact, to replicate this I plan to just hit something like a heavy piece of fabric, wooden flooring, or a heavy piece of fabric on a wooden floor, anything I can get my hands on that will produce a low thud. For the surface hit I'll get a couple of different pieces of metal and bash the together until I get something that resembles a bullet hitting a chandelier, which technically speaking would be a high pitched "ting" sound ("ting" is the best describing word I could come up with, leave me alone). Then lastly for the Doppler Effect, luckily I have the same Waves plugin used in the video (otherwise I would probably be screwed), instead of using the same sound as the surface hit to run through the plugin I might try something like a piece of metal pipe as I think it could produce a better sound. If the pipe doesn't work then I will have multiple different metal sounds from experimenting with the surface hit track to work with. The video also goes into pitch shifting the different some of the sounds which would be a good thing for me to experiment with as well depending on what I can produce in the studio from hitting things. Like in the video the sounds might not be heavy enough and need to be tuned down to really get the full impact tone of a bullet hit.
On a side note, the recordings of hitting a bunch of metal together could potentially be used for the sword hits as well killing 2 Foley birds with 1 metal bar (please laugh at the joke), or whilst doing it assess the sounds and maybe work out different ways of hitting the metal to make it sound more like swords clashing.
The thing that is really going to make or break this sound design is the Doppler Effect sound, for all those who don't know what that is, its
the effect produced by a moving source of waves in which there is an apparent upward shift in frequency for observers towards whom the source is approaching and an apparent downward shift in frequency for observers from whom the source is receding. ("The Doppler Effect", 2019)
Below is a crude example of the Doppler Effect but it clearly highlights just what it sounds like.
As this is the most important part of the ricochet sound I will need to spend a good amount of time on it with adjusting the settings within Waves Doppler plugin to make it as realistic as possible. Even though the bullet wouldn't ricochet in real life like it does in the Pirates of the Caribbean clip I still need to make it sound like what people think I should sound like to "sell the sound".
This sound is one that I'm probably the most apprehensive about seeing as it is logistically the most troublesome. The obvious way to get a glass breaking sound would be to just recording glass breaking, and that's all the research I need to do for that, job done (not really). Recording that in a studio environment will be problematic not to mention I would need to find some glass that I would be willing to break, below is a video of people doing just that though.
The people in the video do capture some really good sounds (as you would expect) but it doesn't particularly look like a very safe thing to do and neither will I be able to do this in the studios that I have available. If is was going to do this I would have to record the sounds at my own place of residence with some form of recording device such as a handheld ZOOM recorder but that would also mean running the risk of getting broken glass around my house which is not really satisfactory. Another problem with that is because my house is not a sound treated recording environment I will most likely get a lot of background noise which will most likely ruin anything I record rendering the sounds useless.
One technique I found that didn't require the breaking of anything was throwing a metal key into a glass, see video below.
(Audio Productions, 2016)
I really like this technique as it produces a decent sound with not mess and no risk (as long as the glass doesn't break in my hand). With recording different size keys thrown into different sized glasses and blending them together with some possible pitch shifting I should be able to produce a very realistic sounding glass smash.
If that technique doesn't work there is another one I found that uses piece of broken plates and glass in a strong materiel bag that is then hit to produce the sound, see video below.
This technique still uses broken glass but it's safer and more controlled and has a nice initial impact sound that is produced when the hammer hits the bag. Seeing as a lot of the glass smashes in the Pirates of the Caribbean clip are bottles being smashed over people, hit with swords, or thrown against a wall, maybe having that impact sound would work well in the clip possible making it a better option than the key into glass technique. At the end of the day depending on my time schedule and if I can find things I'm willing to break I could use a combination of both of these techniques to make the sounds as good as possible.
Water Spill/Splash Sounds
As all of the bottles that are broken in the clip contain some form of liquid (Rum most likely as they are all Pirates) the glass smash sounds will also need to be accompanied by the sound of liquid spilling out of them. Now recording water may not seem like a hard thing to do but water and electric recording equipment don't really work incredibly well together, nor do I have a waterproof recording environment to go to crazy with chucking water around everywhere. Unfortunately through my research I wasn't able to find any techniques to create water effects that don't require actually splashing water around everywhere, see video below.
I think my only option now would be to record water effects at my house with a handheld recorder and hope that I don't get a lot of background noise. Unlike breaking glass I have an infinite amount of water at my disposal which provides me with the ability to record enough takes that I should be able to get some good clean usable sounds from it. Also if there is some background noise because these sounds will be fairly low in the mix any noise with most likely not be noticeable.
To record the sounds I will use the technique of pouring a large amount of water on the ground to get the surface splash/spilling sound I'm after, and to make sure I don't damage any equipment using some form of condenser microphone to record the sound from a small distance will be ideal. Recording the sound from a distance will increase the risk of background noise but I will only be able to tell if it works or not on the day. If the sounds really don't work out then I might have to concede defeat and go with a sampled sound.
Ideally I would use a proper Foley sound stage to do something like this which can be seen in the video below from 4:30.
(Great Big Story, 2017)
Something like this would make my life a whole lot easier.
The main aspect of Foley is to make the sounds you are creating to be as realistic as possible and tricking the audience into thinking that what they are seeing on screen is actually producing that sound even when it could be produced by something completely different in the studio environment. As things stand at the moment I'm confident that the Foley techniques I have outlined will produce good results but I will only truly know if they work when I come to do them myself.
Audio Productions, K. (2016). Breaking glass foley. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO0LwAlPoHQ
Game Sounds, S. (2017). How To Make A Ricochet Sound Effect. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrnckkaM0Cg&t=114s
Gibbons, R. (2013). Doppler effect- Using trumpet. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WgSQlRymwE
Great Big Story. (2017). The Magic of Making Sound. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO3N_PRIgX0
Mavros, S. (2019). Foley Effects | Foley Artists | Foley Sound | Sound Ideas. [online] Sound-ideas.com. Available at: https://www.sound-ideas.com/Page/what-is-foley.aspx [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].
Rowland, A. (2010). Foley Session - Glass Smashing. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47PLzCWC8H0
Variety (2019). "The Hunger Games" & "Frozen" Foley Artists Turn the Sound of Junk into Miracles | Art of Sound Ep.3. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB6Wjty-MNk [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].
TheatreSquared. (2017). Breaking Windows: Foley Effects In ‘It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZlx1V8XbnE
The Doppler Effect. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/waves/Lesson-3/The-Doppler-Effect
www.SoundDesignFilm.com. (2014). Sound effects recording small water splashes. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mqg9f1uB1tU