The Foley Artist

(Sound stage with foley floor from https://www.universalstudioslot.com/sound-services/3649/foley)

Within our article, The Power of Sound, it was written that in a film the visuals are the context of the story, the music is the emotion of the story, and the sound is the life of the story. The most common thing people talk about after experiencing a film is what happened, the story, and the action of it all. Then they may chat about the music and talk about if it was really a memorable story or not. However, no one really talks about the overall sound effects – the background noise you hear in it. This sound is the texture of the overall message of the film and is called foley within the film industry.

Many Sounds

There are a few jobs that deal with the design of sound. There are sound mixers, sound designers, and foley artists. Sound Mixers put sounds to the video, Sound Designers create new sounds, and Foley Artists make existing sounds. For this article, we will talk solely about foley.

Structure

Foley can be thought of as handmade sounds. Meaning, the artist makes reproduces sound effects occurring in the film to add more texture, depth, or clarity to the audio. For example, the artist may be working on producing sound for a fight scene and will get a slab of meat and slap it to get the desired audio. This is done in the post-production process of filmmaking.

Foley artists will watch part of the film and makes sounds to match the visuals. Normally there are requests sent with the visuals that the director wants or has envisioned. The foley artist keeps trying and making multiple takes until the director likes it. It may appear easy, but since it requires precision with what you see, it can be quite tricky.

The artist works in warehouse-like buildings that have countless assortments of objects. All the objects are labeled for what sounds they are known to make. There are even foley floors where the ground looks like big tiles of different textures and materials. All these floors sound different for the type of walking noises the artist is going for. Foley artists like to stay away from the “sound library” side of things and make them fresh and live for each film that is done. If the sounds seem “off” when really listening to them it may be because movie sounds have to be a little larger than life in order to really be noticed for the purpose of the film. That way the sound fits better and, if done right, will be incorporated seamlessly.

Acting

Successful foley artists must also act out what they see on screen. For example, the way the person carries their body and their mood must be conveyed in their walk on the foley stage to best represent what is occurring on screen. There are many details and stories that are told through sound. Sometimes it is like a song and you make instruments find a tune that all complement each other. A foley artist recreates real-life sounds onto the film’s story so that it is more familiar and immersive to the viewer. It is an art. The best foley artists create work that fits seamlessly into the film – the audio doesn’t draw attention to itself nor distract from the storyline but complements it and enhances the experience.


Videos to see foley artist in action:

The Magic of Making Sound

Foley Artists: How Movie Sound Effects Are Made


Want to learn about other video production tools and terms? Check out this article.