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Hi,

I am a MSc Sound Design Student at Leeds Met Uni in the UK and for my final major project (starting now and handed in at the end of September) I am proposing to make a Kontakt-based sampler instrument for Foley. The rationale behind this is to create a sampler instrument that saves time, and more importantly money for creating basic foley for low budget film & TV etc.

As Foley is quite a vast area, I need to narrow down the possible areas covered by the instrument so I can complete the project in the time frame I have. I was thinking of starting off with footsteps as one of the sampler sounds.

I would love your thoughts and ideas on what sounds I should concentrate on and suggestions of the operation of the instrument (for example random sample triggering for footsteps or an arpeggiator control to speed up/slow down steps)

Also - I must mention that this pack may not be restricted to just human foley sounds. I shall be looking at all the options and may include such things as household sounds, vehicles or any other sounds. As it is so vast this is why I need you help and input on what I may include! I will also need testers as soon as I have a working model of the instrument.

Looking forward to reading your replies.

Cheers

Simon Morgan

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19 Answers

It surely sounds interesting and I understand why you want to go there. But the thing is, and you can call me old school, recording Foley it's more about defining the personality of the character. Is he/she a bad guy, is he/she shy? Nervous? Relaxed? You can emphasize the psychology of the character through the recording of Foley. Every time I watch a cheap production, it takes me off when I hear a sample of, let's say footsteps. Bad quality, that they don't match at all the character and also in your face. So allow me to ask this: Isn't it time consuming to sync in picture the right kind of footsteps, using this sampler and later adding(if necessary) some reverb? IMHO i think it's faster to record and edit Foley...

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Thanks for the reply Marco! Oh, for sure. Foley is all about defining the character etc but the rationale with this project (for my tutors benefit!) is that I wanted to create a cheap alternative for productions that can't afford to hire a foley room and artist. This instrument won't just be about footsteps - i'm looking for suggestions of what it could contain and how it may operate. It may not turn out to be particularly time-saving but it would be a money-saving to people without the budget! –  Simon Morgan Jul 6 '11 at 16:10
    
"It may not turn out to be particularly time-saving but it would be a money-saving" - I think the term false economy springs to mind... I agree with Marco.... –  user49 Jul 7 '11 at 6:48
    
Having experience with smaller productions I can see where you're coming from as the majority of them aren't paid and simply offer "your name in the credits and a copy of the film on DVD". However, surely this is just shooting sound designers in the foot? There are plenty of sound designers out there who have/will work for credit at the early stages of their career (inc. myself) as it is a key opportunity to build contacts, experience and confidence. If I was getting turned down from jobs because an editor had a plugin that could do it I think I'd be a bit miffed :| –  Alan Pring Jul 7 '11 at 7:51
    
Guys, this is just for a university project for my course. I'm not trying to take work away from an already very competitive field, especially one that I hope to work in! I'm just asking for ideas for how this instrument was to work if created. –  Simon Morgan Jul 7 '11 at 11:16
    
And thats what you are getting feedback on, no? –  user49 Jul 8 '11 at 7:19
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This is the video you was talking about: http://designingsound.org/2010/10/video-tutorial-using-battery-for-sound-design/

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was just about to post that ;) –  Alan Pring Jul 7 '11 at 16:37
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I've created a kind of style like this with N.I. Battery, you can trigger off the different samples and link things like volume & pitch randomization with midi velocity etc. Really useful. You can just use it like you would program drums then perform it on a keyboard-and also assign effects to things like x-y pads.

I saw a video for this kind of technique that the guy used with Wall-E ( he triggered the mechanical sounds of it moving) but cant track it down now.

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Thanks for the input Kyle! I'll have a hunt for the Wall-E video... –  Simon Morgan Jul 6 '11 at 16:11
    
This might be what your looking for, there's a series of videos. benburttinterviews.blogspot.com/2009/02/… 'that guy' is Ben Burtt –  Auddity Jul 7 '11 at 16:21
    
Actually I think he meant this video - designingsound.org/2010/10/… –  Daan Hendriks Jul 11 '11 at 14:10
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Foley seems like something that is done per-individual basis. Coin flipped. Low budget productions re-use foley to save time and money.

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That may be so but i'm looking to incorporate Foley sounds into a MIDI-triggered sampler instrument which will feature some controls to manipulate and play the sounds. I'm just looking for suggestions from sound designers of what it should contain and what controls it may have. Cheers! –  Simon Morgan Jul 6 '11 at 16:13
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Also - I must mention that this pack may not be restricted to just human foley sounds. I shall be looking at all the options and may include such things as household sounds, vehicles or any other sounds. As it is so vast this is why I need you help and input on what I may include!

Cheers.

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@Simon, you should rather edit your original question than further explain your question in an answer to it. Everything you wrote here is likely to sink down to the bottom of the page, new readers won't find it and might try to answer the first version of your question... Cheers. –  Justin Huss Jul 7 '11 at 17:37
    
Thanks Justin - original post now edited. –  Simon Morgan Jul 9 '11 at 8:25
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We also use Battery in our three rooms for this very thing when projects don't have the time or budget for foley. The video Kyle Martyn-Clark refers to is on the Designing Sound page but you'll have to dig for it, it was up a few months ago. FYI, we tried this with Kontakt but felt the learning curve was much steeper than Battery in this regard. John.

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Thanks for the input, John! –  Simon Morgan Jul 7 '11 at 11:17
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I would have to agree that, when compared side-by-side, Battery might be the easier alternative in this case. The interface is simpler and caters more towards the "one-shot" nature of footsteps (generally-speaking).

Is your brief specifically for Kontakt or could you perhaps extend the idea? Maybe even produce one for each system and document the differences in approach?

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Thats a great idea - i'll look into using Battery too and compare the two. Thanks! –  Simon Morgan Jul 7 '11 at 11:14
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I did this with Reason once. In the better sampler that it carries, you can assign a different footstep to each note. Then - you'll have to figure this out - i think there was a way to randomise the notes on the midi track in Pro Tools, making the foots sound a little less unnatural. And it'll be a little more natural sounding than just altering the pitch/eq.

Also, see if you can find anything on Happy Feet. They loaded a sampler with different layers of stuff for at least some of the foot foley. There were the feet (leather i believe), as well as the surface (ice, dirt, etc.). I'm sure there was MUCH more to it than that though.

As for other stuff like moves or door handling, you could load some into a sampler, but they're pretty specific, so i can't see it working that well.

As Tim said, it is a false economy, but i see you understand that so i'll abort the lecture!

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Thanks Roger, All this is good advice/comments. I need to see if this thing is feasible and whether it would make a good project before I embark on it so criticism is essential –  Simon Morgan Jul 7 '11 at 14:24
    
@Simon Ah, well i think this could conceivably reduce costs (no foley artist or studio), but it would take about the same amount of time to "perform" the foley and edit the midi into sync. This would be of much lower quality though, and it would be more effective to record some guerilla foley. Your proposed technique might be cool in animation though, depending on the style. The main problem, i think, is the lack of control over the emotive quality of the foley. –  Roger Middenway Jul 7 '11 at 16:13
    
yeah what Roger said could be the idea. Marketing the Foley Kontakt instrument towards animation or game characters where they are a bit "less human". The irony being that you may be trying to make them sound more human..!? –  mrchegibson Jul 15 '11 at 1:27
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How about creating something with a little more usability in perhaps a max/msp environment? You could have a facility to load in a sample bank and then create a series of parameters to control them such as velocity/speed etc. Could go one step further and experiment with the wii sensor...? Just a suggestion..

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I'm building a foley/sound effects library for Kontakt right now. K4 may scare some guys cause it's not easy to dig inside but it's a fantastic tool. Patch well done can be a time and money-saver for low budget situation but for shure it cannot replace the foley artist even if it can do a lot of things. Working with samples layers, group layers, mod wheel crossfade, release triggering, multi-instruments and tweaking auto parameters can help to build realistic patch to help designer but starting from scratch is a lot learning, editing and brain overheating! You can look sfx categories from Sound Ideas, Hollywood Hedge to be inspired and figure what can be done with a sampler. Ex: footsteps on a patch and noise pants samples trigged by release on another can be useful. Add noise from a backbag or/and keys to the multi and so on. Now you can eq/filter/fx each patch, record it and keep it in midi until you're happy with the sequence.

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Great suggestions. Thanks! Yep - it will no way be able to better properly recorded foley but i want to try and get as close as I can! –  Simon Morgan Jul 11 '11 at 19:03
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I'm not sure how this would be better than loading footsteps from a sound effects library into Recycle, cutting them up then playing them from a sampler.

More interesting would be having a randomisation of the sounds, ability to use a real-time controller to vary the surface, speed and distance (keeping in mind that any of these may need to change instantly to accomodate a change of POV in the camera).

For non-footstep stuff the needs are often so specific that it would either have to be a vast library or in some way be highly editable whilst being quicker and cheaper than recording your own foley.

(Also I used to study at LMU, but that is before they started doing post-grad degrees in sound design).

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Did attempt something like this in Kontact to help with foley snow footsteps in deep snow. The time it took to set it all up and map it out was a killer and in the end I found that best way was if i layered the different snow FX and snow footsteps samples in Kontact and just played them out varying pitch, speed, length etc. I got a great run of variations for my footsteps to add to the existing foley. Still had to cut them all in though so probably not what you need.

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That's why I'm building K4 footsteps patches ;O)

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Hi Simon, I guess there's not much more I can tell you about this that has not already been said. But Kontakt is a great sampler if you have the time to fully workout how to use it. It can be immensely great for workflow especially for your scenario.

I too used Kontakt quite heavily for my final sound to film project at Leeds Met. Obviously it would be great if you could utilize the Foley room there with some Foley artists, because of the organic expression of the act, and the speed of workflow. But needless to say, if the studios at JG are too busy as they always where, using a sampled based library and a sampler is definitely the best option. Creating instruments like footsteps, spot effect, sword fighting etc.. it can save alot of time, depending on the complexity of your film.

Good Luck and always ask Richard Stevens & Nikos Stavropolous for a 2nd opinion on your work, they can be critical & harsh but great tutors who know their stuff and can offer great advice!

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Hi Chris! Yeah, i've used Kontakt to create sampler instruments before (of a stone Lithophone) but didn't really explore the extent of its very powerful features. Of course it will be utilized in a different way for this project. I need to get my head around the different scripts etc - lots to research on that! Thanks for the advice man! –  Simon Morgan Jul 11 '11 at 15:26
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Thanks everyone for the opinions and advice you have given so far! Keep them coming.

Thanks

Simon

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I may sound condescending and I do apologise but...loading sounds into a sampler is your final project for your masters? Also have you recorded foley before? I studied sound design and many of the people on my course didn't even touch film and tv.

I personally feel foley needs to be recorded to picture. A sword swipe will differ in every movement as will footsteps. Cheap foley recorded onto an H4N or even cheaper equivalent in a bedroom would stil sound better than library sounds being triggered off a sampler. The instrument in foley is the performer himself NOT what it's triggered off.

If you are adamant to do this though, then I think take into account what Matt said above about randomisation which you can do in samplers but even then it won't sound brilliant. Also layering as Bernard Signo is talking about sounds interesting, such as cloth chain muddy water footsteps for a soldier in a jungle... and maybe see if you can add reverb into the chain, record some IR's and throw that in. After all this is all about cutting corners, cost and the necessity for a sound designer.

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Hey Ed, Yes, I have recorded Foley before for the films I have been involved with whilst on this masters course (the uni thankfully has a very nice Foley room!). From the outside this project looks like it could simply be some sounds loaded in a sampler, but it will be much more than that. Its the functionality of the sampler instrument which is key to its success. With Kontakt scripting there's quite a few possibilities for sound manipulation and processing, gaining your input on how it might operate is where this project will succeed. –  Simon Morgan Jul 11 '11 at 18:09
    
It does, of course, have some obvious drawbacks too - all of which will be explored in the critique I submit with the project. Thanks for the answer! –  Simon Morgan Jul 11 '11 at 18:12
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Hi Simon! I think it's great you're trying this on. It's clear that sound for film is going to change its way of working and I think this is "the future", however not necessarily in foley. I think that a good foley sampler needs to be in some way incorporated with the imagery, much like in games. I mean, in a specific scene of a game you can set the "mood" of a space and get the footsteps to sound differently depending on the mood of that "level". Eventually, I think that way of working will come to movies as well. That would be handy for TV shows, etc.

But I read this and I instantly thought "This would be great for ambiances" It might be off topic, but the concept is the same. This would be great for ambiances in the sense that you can load different elements into an ambiance and change it just like that without having to load different samples all the time. I bumped into this issue as I was building a project that I had mixed in stereo and I wanted to make a 5.1 mix out of it. My first reaction was "sigh, now I have to rebuild the ALL the ambiances". But this project got me thinking that with a MIDI sequencer and a good sample patch I could be "painting" the ambiances real quick and easy. But then again I'm not really sure about that either, I mean let's say I wanted to listen to a scene and check out a specific piece of the ambiance, I'd have to retrigger the MIDI event, i.e from the start of the MIDI trigger. Could get frustrating, but hey! That could actually be a time saver.

I honestly think this is a good project, since it's a school project. I don't think it would make it to the market, but it's a way of asking: "Shouldn't we rethink the way we make soundtracks?" And there's always the budgetary reasons and what have you.

And sorry for the bad english, I hope you can understand some of it. :)

Looking forward to reading your progression on this! Take care

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Thats Olle! Your English is just fine :) Some great suggestions there. I was considering making the instrument geared towards ambiances originally so I may even follow this path instead or as well as the foley idea. I shall keep you posted on how the project progresses. Simon –  Simon Morgan Jul 12 '11 at 16:07
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Well the thing is that a sampler like Kontakt is a complex tool with a lot of possibilities and it's more sophisticate than some of you think. It's not simple as drag and drop in the sampler and triggered sounds straight to pro tools. The problem is that there is no good foley/sound effects samples libraries available on the market. K4 is a fantastic tool for the designer but don't worry, the foley artist won't disappear suddenly.

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