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Okay so I am going to be doing some foley soon for an action piece.

I was mesmerized by the realism of foley in The Hurt Locker, Green Zone and most of all, Saving Private Ryan.

The film I am going to be working on is along those lines. Fast cut and hand-held documentary style.

I don't want my foley to sound like it's recorded in a super-dead acoustically perfect studio. I want it to be gritty and real like those movies.

Any idea on how I can make the foley sound great and real and have the sharpness and realism as those movies?

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6 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

One of the things that makes foley sound like foley is the interior room acoustic. With that in mind, you may want to try recording as much as possible in an exterior environment (assuming the scenes are exterior). Recording outside will give you a feeling of "air", hard to explain but you know it when you hear it. The recordings may match in better against production, which is key -- not knowing where production sound ends and sound design begins is what you're shooting for.

I completely agree with Tim that shooting foley to picture while outside is not efficient nor would it be an easy setup. My advice to record exterior was not meant to be to picture, but rather wild tracks that you later edit to picture, just like sound effects recording.

Regarding mics, I'd experiment and try multiple mics on your sources. Grab a multichannel recorder of your choice and plug in a whole slew of mics; shotguns, cardiods, even a 5.1 setup may sound great (DPA makes a great one that is enclosed in a small housing and captures a stunning, realistic image).

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The studio I work at owns about 10 DPA mics - I'll check them out. Never thought of them to be good for foley. –  Utopia Mar 9 '11 at 5:34
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Be careful not to confuse [how material is captured] with how it is mixed ie [the final context] - one obviously informs the other but making a foley track that is "gritty and real" sounds to me like a lot of very careful, layered, detailed foley tightly edited & predubbed to follow picture cuts and perspective changes tightly...

The films you use as examples would have had excellent, very experienced foley artists working in large foley studios with a LOT of props... and I think that is key to creating a great foley track - the right sounds & performances, the attention to detail etc...

I'm not sure it is really realistic to do the intense, detailed performance work to picture in an exterior location... I'd bet the foley predub for Hurt Locker involved a lot of tracks, and for sure was augmented with exterior FX recording, but foley is about performance to picture....

I'd use the KMR81... We've never had a problem matching exterior foley to production sound using this mic... But how well it matches exterior scenes is dependent on how good your foley room is - is it a large room with neutral acoustic? Do the pits sound solid ie dirt sounds like dirt? (& not like dirt in a wooden box) You could also try recording two track, the KMR 81 close and another mic wider, to give you optional perspective in the predub...

Having a creative foley artist & the right props to achieve this will be VERY important - dirt & debris, weapons, plants, bushes etc....

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As Jay wisely said, something exterior or extremely dead would be great for external stuff. That'll give you freedom to back your mics off and get a good perspective. Also, take the time to get your props and surfaces right before you start; there's nothing worse than spending a few hours recording, then realising a way to improve the sound.

As for mics, i love the Neumann KMR81. As it's a supercardioid with very little off axis colouration, it lets you move around without having to worry about losing frequencies. A lot of people like to have a mic dead-on the foley artist, and mix it together with a further away "room mic". Another way that i've found useful is to deliberately record slightly off-mic. If you're using an 81, that'll tone down the really present frequencies while not colouring the sound too much. Also, i'd avoid trying to introduce reflections while recording. I'm no expert, but i'd prefer to have the freedom to apply reverb in the mix. Your life/grit should come from performance, miking, surfaces/props and mixing.

One more thing; make sure you grab all the small details: gravel scatters, liquid drips/splashes, explosion debris, things blowing in the wind.

Best of luck man, i'm envious!

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Here's a great read on preamp and mics for foley recording.

I'd focus on getting a dead quiet room and a great performance with the right props. Despite the fact that you don't want the end result to sound like it was recorded in a super dead acoustically perfect room, you probably do want to do your actual recordings in such a room and mix sound that out later on.

If you try to record foley in even moderately noisy environments you're going to really regret it when you start stacking tracks up. I'd also avoid artificially trying to add reflections with plywood or whatnot. You're more likely to get unpleasant mic phasing than good sounding room reflections.

If you're not convinced of your ability to mix foley realistically after the fact, you can always go and worldize some stuff once you've performed it and recorded it correctly. This gives you an opportunity to experiment without locking you in to something that you may regret later on.

Thinking outside the box is certainly commendable with projects like these, but there's often a reason things are done they way that they are done, and your film references are not pointing to people who do it any differently.

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Good point on avoiding environments with any kind of b/g noise. From someone who's recently recorded a bunch of foley in questionable environments: the cleaning is FAR too much work! –  Roger Middenway Sep 3 '10 at 23:05
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Hey folks!

I like to use the TLM 103 and a Neumann 184 as "Room Mic" placed a little further away from the action. The TLM generates a warm close sound - combined with the 184 you can do some really good mixes. Technically seen a good mixing console combined with good Preamps and a good acoustic in your recording room do the rest. But in my opinion the most important thing is to have the feeling for what (and how it) really happens in the scene. What is important, what needs to be accentuated, ... For this reason I like to hear The Hurt Locker´s opening scene over and over again. All the guys who worked in the Sound PostPro did a damn good job.

Cheers! Alex


Never Trust Your Ears .:production sound recording & sounddesign:.

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Make sure that you have director's support and actors too. I seems you should have good picture in mind what you want to get in mix and you will be able to explain it to somebody who do not understand why you can't make it usual way. If you have such support and time to make this even if you do not get good result you get full picture what is really happening, basic to make good studio foley.

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