The Art of Foley

As the films move into the post production stage, I’ve been finding myself more and more interested in the world of the Foley artist. Having done some for a couple of films prior to this project, I had a little experience but this time around I wanted to make sure that I was heading into the Foley booth as prepared as possible, with a proper understanding of what is required as a Foley artist.

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

Simply put, that’s Foley.

If we go deeper into the art of Foley, it is so much more than that. And it doesn’t just have to take place in a bespoke studio. When on location it is absolutely essential to capture the dialogue, and if possible, nothing else. This means that footsteps, clothing movements, the sounds of objects being picked up or put down are often missed. Therefore, as a Foley artist you need to record these sounds separately to make the picture as believable as possible. This however doesn’t just mean any old footsteps will do. Matching the shoes, the surface, the walking style is absolutely critical in making it sound real. If the character wears heels and stumbles a lot, then turning up in trainers won’t cut it.

This is something I’ve been very mindful whilst working on the post production for these films. Whilst Remember has hardly any footsteps in it at all, Feel Good, for example has a lot. Making sure that these characters movements are accurate is all part of the job.

The same goes for objects.

What I really enjoy about Foley however is the detail needed. Subtle things like clothing movements, the sloshing of water in a glass, the dripping of a tap, it all adds to the atmosphere, and it all makes the film seem real.

Foley is not to be confused with SFX. Things like explosions, or car noises, can be created in a Foley studio, but the sounds recorded would need to be manipulated so much that it would be taken well beyond what Foley actually entails.

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Project Management

This project requires a lot of managing. Whether this is managing people on-set, managing the director in post or managing other people within the group, a hands-on approach has been needed at all times.

Making sure that everybody knows what they’re doing at all times has been absolutely essential, and will be as the project continues. Each week we have been meeting between ourselves and planning out the week ahead. This has been extremely beneficial as we have been able to go through each film one-by-one and discuss what has been done, and what needs to be done. In the early days of the project it was mostly about finding out where the films themselves are at, their progress in planning, in terms of locations, dates, requirements, for example. Then as the location dates started coming in we often discussed who would take on each shoot, who was booking the equipment, meeting times and locations. And now, as we’re moving into post-production with each of the films, it’s a been a constant discussion as to who is doing what on what day.

Booking facilities and equipment has been a bit of a struggle at times, as there are many people working on films outside of our project. whilst we have five films covered, they aren’t the only five films being produced by students this semester, so getting to grips with who has what booked and when has been difficult, but manageable. The amount of location recording and post-production we’ve done and and have been doing has meant a near constant use of some of the equipment and facilities. This hasn’t been helped by issues such as dates being changed for location work, or when picture lock is missed, or edits need to be made to correct errors that have been missed.

One of the key parts of managing this project is making sure the communication between director and the manager at our end is as clear as possible. Fortunately, being able to get a text message to the director for Remember has been absolutely no issue, especially when there have been problems with the actual filming. Whilst the communication from our side has been as clear as we could make it, there have been times when the director hasn’t communicated information with us. Such as springing random location dates on us for example. This could be put down to poor management on their part, however it is likely just a bit of missed information.

On top of this, emails between each of us and the film groups are forwarded and shared between us so that we’re all kept in the loop with each others films, opposed to only knowing about our own.

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Location, Location, Location

One of the biggest elements of this project is the location recording aspect. Out of our five films, four of them required location recording services. These films are; Descent, Feel Good, Immort, Remember.

All five members of the group took on the location recording, splitting the hours between ourselves as best as we could.

As I am managing the sound for Remember, I wanted to have as much involvement with its location audio as possible. This can also be said for the other films and their managers. However, some of the dates meant that my availability was limited, or I was unable to make the shoots altogether. Having a large group meant that the others were able to step in when needed, and I could then offer help on the dates that they were unavailable for, or wanted someone else on the job instead.

Having only ever had one location recording experience in the past, I was somewhat apprehensive about getting involved in the location recording to begin with. Prior experience to this project consisted of me holding a boom mic, albeit very badly, in a cemetery for a couple of hours during semester A. It was essential for me to make sure that I got the techniques correct, and payed close attention to what I was doing this time around to capture the best possible sound.

Boom technique is certainly something I struggled with to begin with. Prior to attending the shoots, firstly I harked back to the lecture delivered to us by Grant Bridgeman and the techniques he taught us, and secondly I researched into location recording.

Sound recording tips: how to record location sound in film and video production

Here I found some very useful information regarding location recording. Things such microphone choice and placement were top of my list. For all of our shoots, we have used the Sennheiser MKH416 Rifle Mic. This particular mic has an extremely directional capture. Almost like playing sound into a cone, it only really goes right onto the tip of the mic. This makes it excellent for capturing dialogue, especially when combined with a radio mic.

Gladly I am able to say that at no point did I have the boom in shot, and the dialogue we captured has been of the quality desired.

The second job on set is the sound recordist, and whilst it may seem the easier of the jobs, this has often not been the case. The Sound Devices 633 has been quite a steep learning curve for me, as it can be an extremely complicated piece of kit to use. On the first day of shooting for Remember, I was given a quick 5-minute run through by Alice, as she has already had experience with the recorder. In hindsight, I ought to have booked out the kit and had a trial run on my own time, however the delays on the shoot meant that fortunately there was enough time to go through it.

To begin with, the roles were swapped around to get a feel for each. As the shoots progressed, I became much more comfortable booming opposed to recording, and as such pursued this as much as possible for each location recording I was on hand for.

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