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The history of foley sound effects

in Blogposts on 2019-11-18

The world is a place full of sounds. And as humans, we are quite sensitive to what we hear. There are many uses of sounds and, one of the places it is used to the most effective is in the movies. It is simply used to interpret and convey the way we feel naturally. Every day sounds influence our senses. Sound also influences our mood by creating illusions and simulates reality.

What is Foley?

The Foley effects are effects of sounds which are added to videos after the production (or after the recording of the video has stopped). Foley (which was named after the famous sound effects artist, Jack Foley) reproduces the daily sound effects of activities, and are added to movies, videos, and the many other media after production to improve their audio quality. These effects include sounds such as clothes rustling, folding paper, footsteps, crockery clinking, opening and slamming of the door, throwing of punches, breaking of glasses, and many others. These effects are added because they are not properly captured while recording or during the shoot.

Advantages of adding Foley sound effects

The role of the boom operator is to properly record the dialogue and of course, only the dialogue. At first glance, it may seem strange that we are adding to the soundtrack exactly the same sounds that the sound recorders tried to exclude. But the goal in this is ‘control’. By removing (the original sounds) and adding these sounds effects, after shooting, there is perfect control of the time, the quality and the relative volume of the various sound effects.

The basic action and sounds of a biker wearing a leather jacket, for example, can be improved if his jacket creaks upon entering the scene. But we may not really want to hear that every time he moves. So by adding the Foley sound effect to the video, you can control its intensity and hide it at the beginning of the dialog –till you want the sound to be obvious. Anything, even something as small as boots on gravel may interfere with our understanding of the dialogue if the recording is too loud. It is far better if the actor wears a simple sneaker or even a pair of socks (if the feet will not be captured) and consequently, the Foley sound effect of the boot-crunching is added after shooting.

Reasons to use sound effects

1. Add realism

When you record a scene, you are likely to get and record all kinds of ambient sounds that you may not be paying attention to. However, it is possible you only detect the sound as you playback the recording, when the origin of the sound is no longer there. Suppose you are filming someone preparing a cup of coffee in a small cafe. In addition to the sounds of the action the person is performing, it is very likely that there are some cups clinking, a low hum of chatter, and even chairs moving as people leave their seats, I know you get the point. So it is not always possible to record all the sound during recording, so you may need a Foley sound effect of someone in a café making coffee.

2. Sound effects stop scenes from being flat

The truth is that, when there is a scene where there is no sound effect, we know something is missing in the scene without really knowing what it is. Your brain records that something is wrong and you know something is wrong, without knowing what it really is –most times, it is the absence of a good sound effect. The sound effect helps to ensure the scene is not ‘bland’ and completely dry. If every sound you hear in a day is considered –even without consciously processing them, it will amaze you to know that your mind easily catches that one scene where the sound is offbeat. That shows that the mind unconsciously takes note of sounds, whether we are conscious of it or not.

3. It helps in the recording of a dialogue

When shooting a scene of actors speaking dialogues, you want the scene to be as crisp and clear as possible. This often means you shooting directional audio while canceling or blocking the ambient sound. Later on, it may seem very flat and appear as though they are in a studio, of course, that cannot be the desired result. If you add the sound effect of the right ambiance later, that will keep the dialog clear and prominent.

How is the Foley sound effect created?

Foley sound effects are usually performed by people known as Foley artists. Usually, they stand on what is known as a Foley stage (an area where a variety of props and possible surfaces are kept for the scene). This is usually located in a Foley studio (a specialized studio for the recording of Foley sound effects).

These Foley artists usually have a screen where they see the scenes they are to make sound effects for, and they perform their actions, following the scenes on the screen for timing. They can perform a variety of actions, including walking, running, rubbing their clothes, jostling each other, breaking objects, handling props, and many more. All these are done while watching what’s going on in the scene to be sure of the sound effect they are creating is in line with what is going on in the movie or video.

Check this YouTube video to get an idea on how Foley artist work:

More and more today, many simple Foley sound effects are performed or added to videos without a Foley artist. More often than not these days, the sound effects are retrieved electronically (either downloaded online or in a sound effect library) and the post-production sound engineer performs them using his keyboard while looking at the visual. If done well, this type of Foley sound effect can add so much to the video being produced, and make it even more natural and complete. It is also cheaper and easy to reach than regular Foley artists.

If you are looking for some nice Foley sounds like opening and closing doors, jingling keys, clicking lighters, ball pens and many more, then check out the single sounds and libraries tagged foley, here on yourfreesounds.com! The library is growing constantly. So its worth browsing it now and then.

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