When you’re watching a film, the sound you hear coming from your speakers isn’t always the sound that was recorded on set. While filming a car chase scene, it is very unlikely that the sound recordist, no matter how skilled, will be able to capture every little detail. The sound of the driver’s leather gloves creaking as they grip the wheel would be lost behind the engine noise, rushing air, and squeal of rubber tyres. Instead, sounds are added afterthe shoot, in the sound recording studio.
This practice of adding sounds to a scene by recording them in a studio afterwards is called creating Foley Sound.When done correctly, the audience has no idea it’s happened at all.
Jack Donovan Foley was the developer of many sound effect techniques used in filmmaking. He is most famous for his work in developing a more hands-on version of Foley Sound that consisted of recording all of the sound effects live and all in one take.
Originally, Jack Foley worked for Universal Studios during the silent movie era (1914). After their competitors, Warner Studios, released a film that included sound, Universal needed to move quickly to stay contemporary. They called for any employees that had experience with sound and radio to step forward, and with that, Jack Foley became part of the newly formed sound and music crew.
Jack Foley and his small team perfected the art of recording live sound effects on a single track of audio. They had to practice over and over to ensure their timing was exact, otherwise actors footsteps and closing doors would not be synchronised with their sound effects. Jack Foley continued to work on films until his death in 1967; his basic techniques are still used today.
Fortunately, sound effects no longer need to be recorded live and with so much precision onto one track. Instead, nowadays we can record each sound effect onto separate tracks individually, then align it exactly with its on-screen counterpart.
A Foley studio employs hundreds, if not thousands, of props to help create sounds. The goal is to re-create the sound as realistically and believably as possible, but what you see and what you hear aren’t always the same object.
Here is a list of common tricks:
This post was written by Jack Chapman.