Post Production: What is Foley and How To Do It

Foley is an often overlooked, yet extremely important part of sound design. Perhaps the reason that it is overlooked is because foley is a combination of a sound effect and originally recorded audio. You see, proper sound effects, like gun shots and a ringing phone are scripted. We know that a scene is going to need them added in post-production while we're shooting it. But foley is an enhancement of the originally recorded audio.

An Example of Foley

A great example of foley is the sound of foot steps. Let's say that two characters are walking and talking. The microphone was recording the actor's dialogue so the foot steps are not very distinct in the sound track. A foley artist will create their own foot step sounds and then add that into the sound track over the original soundtrack, making the sound of foot steps sharper and more distinct. 

Watch the Edit

Everyone should use foley in their projects because it will enhance their sound design. The more complex the sound design, the more likely that the audience will get drawn into the world you're creating. So how do you get started creating foley? Well the first step is to watch the rough edits a few times. Pay special attention to what is happening on screen as well as what you're hearing. Then make a list of every thing in the scene that could use some foley sound like foot steps, something dropping or a door opening. Try to include as much as you can on the list.

Get Creative

So now that you have your list of foley effects all you have to do is record them with your sound recorder and microphone. This is where you can get creative. The fun part about doing foley and sound effects is that you can use whatever you want to create the sounds you need. No one is going to see what you've used so the possibilities are endless. Just create effects that sound unique and distinct. Try to shoot several versions of each noise so that if you're not happy with one you'll have a back up that you can immediately try. 

Create a Track for Foley Effects

Add an audio track to your project in the editing system that will be reserved just for foley effects. You want to have your audio organized into separate tracks so that everything is easy to locate if changes need to be made.

Add the Foley to Your Project

Import the foley effects into your project and add them to your editing sequence. Play them back so that you can get a feel for the effects and see if they work or not. Often you'll find yourself not fully sold on the effect. If this happens then you need to go out and record some more foley. 

Mix the Foley Effects

If you're pretty happy with the foley effect then the last step is to mix it into your project. Adjust the volume so that it sounds distinct, but subtle. Foley effects are meant to enhance a scene, not take away from it.