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Anyone do this? We're looking to tweak our chain somewhat, and one of the more obvious things is to go ahead and compress some of those quick transients out on the cut side of foley and footsteps.

This could potentially keep some of the more interesting subtle stuff in a better spot relative to the harder peaks and make it easier/better on the mix side.

We already cut through a bit of a highpass and sometimes a little expansion, and we tend to have the mic at a relatively far distance (sometimes 3-5 feet away) in order to get perspective and tone right.

What's your foley chain? What's your experience with using compression or limiting on the input chain?

thanks!


edit: I'm cutting in a very quiet space. my mixer is the one encouraging the compression.

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Well I don't record much foley other than an add track or prop here and there, but I've certainly cut a bunch of it.

The decision to use compression IMHO should depend mostly on the tastes of the Sound/Foley Supervisor and for what medium (I.E. Film vs TV). I'd check with who is receiving/cutting/mixing the foley first.

Some supervisors/mixers will appreciate the compression to level out transient material a tad; especially if they're working on TV (something with a tight mix schedule and a medium with less available dynamic range). Film on the other hand, allows for more dynamics in something like FS, so a bunch of compression would probably be less desirable and best left to the re-recording mixer.

I say go for compression while tracking transient material, but only 2:1/3:1 with a gentle threshold to catch peaks etc.. That being said, props/bodyfalls/impacts etc can really benefit/beef up sometimes from heavy compression/limiting. I've heard some props that look ugly on the DAW (crushed like a Britney Spears track) but sound awesome, powerful, and cut through a dense track.

If you have a quiet, nice sounding room, I wouldn't be afraid to use the space even more to match perspective, further than 5 feet. The air in front of the mic also tends to level out the dynamics a bit. I've seen foley stages that blend a room mic 12 feet away from the artist. Andy Malcolm and his team are masters at this.

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What kinda of room are you cutting your foley in? Is it a very dead foley stage or does it have a live quality?

I typically like to get out of the studio for recording foley, simply to find more interesting sounds (even if I sacrifice some control in them mix). The problem with compressing field-recorded footsteps, of course, is that the compression boosts up any background noise in the recording. This applies just as much to a studio recording of footsteps where the mic is a few feet back.

One of the most helpful tools I found for giving footsteps a body is to record with 2 different mic positions. For instance: I was recording steps on carpeted wood stairs that lead to the second floor of my old house. Directly beneath these stairs was another set of stairs that led to the basement. To capture the size and context of the steps. I set up one mic on the top steps facing my feet and another on the bottom steps, facing the ceiling beneath the floor of the top steps. The top mic captured the definition of my foot movements, while the bottom one captured the resonance and natural decay of the steps on the wood floor. Together, they create a depth that one mic could not easily capture (not to mention flexibility in the mix for creating different perspectives).

The chain I used for these recordings was just an EQ and a gate, by the way ... no compression needed, just a lot of volume automation ;).

  • +1 on recording multiple perspectives (if you have the time for it). also, you can use compression/limiting to control the transients of a sound without increasing the background noise...and i think this is what @Rene is referring to. just don't increase the make-up gain, and you aren't increasing any signal. – Shaun Farley Sep 9 '11 at 18:48

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