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I have a question for you foley artists out there.

Let's say you received 2 films to shoot foley on.

One is a beautifully shot film, let us say for example it's "War Horse". Great cinematography, rich colors, sharp images and vast detail of the set and colors. It's got the mega-budget look.

The second one is a movie shot very gritty and handheld and more documentary-like. Let's say an action movie much like Hurt Locker or maybe even something like REC, where the image quality isn't as pristine as something like Avatar for instance.

Would the styles of shooting and cinematography of these 2 films affect the mic choices, placement, recording styles and your approach to the overall timbre of foley you were going to create for the soundtrack?

For me, it would absolutely effect how I recorded. I'd go for a more warm, rich tonal quality for the first example and for the second, I'd choose sharper, more "in your face" raw and gritty.

How would you go about it?

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When I do foley I rarely base such things on the quality of the movie as a whole. After all, first of all it can be hard to tell when I get a movie ungraded and raw how it will be in the end, and second I do not believe in adapting the sound to the picture but to the scene, the emotions it's supposed to bring, and possibly the quality of the dialogue track. And sometimes age if it's supposed to be old degraded photage of course!

The difference in my work from movie to movie, both in design, foley and mix, has, at least so far, never been so much in "the sound" (hope you understand what I mean, I know no other word for it...) but in composition. When I'm in charge of the sound for a movie I like to incorporate as much details as I can and keep the excessive parts held well back in the mix so it will not be confusing and chaotic, and as such I try to record everything as well as possible. This is as much to bring more life to the movie as it is to steer the audience emotionally. After all, it's easier to remove things from the sounds in the mix than to add.

That is if I am the one supervising it. If I'm hired by someone else, it's their decision and I'll adapt to that :-)

  • Maybe I should clarify that I think whether doing the foley in studio or on some kind of location is irrelevant for this question, as long as it is actual foley (ie: recorded in sync). I actually do most of my foley on appropriate locations with the fieldrecorder synced to a laptop for viduals, sometimes feeding video to my iPhone for more vivid motions. I do however still always try to get as much detail as I can so I can keep things more balanced yet distinct in the mix. – Christian van Caine Jan 14 '12 at 18:51
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I see what you are getting at, and it's something into which I put a ton of thought on each project. I tend to base my recording style on both the quality of the image and the quality of the production dialog recordings.

Typically, the more War-Horse-like films tend to have extremely clean recordings of dialog —— phrased a different way, it's strange to see sweeping, perfectly-choreographed camera moves with exquisite lighting when the dialog is roomy or slightly unclear. When presented with dialog like this, it's necessary to take a similar amount of care in presenting element of the foley with clarity (to match the precision of the dialog).

Now, The Hurt Locker presented everything very clearly while still retaining the quality of "grit" — probably why it won the academy award for best sound — but let's say for now that you, the foley artist, are presented with the shakiest scene from Hurt Locker with more documentary-style dialog. In this situation, it would be strange and inconsistent to present foley or ADR with the same clarity as you would in war horse. In these situations, I sometimes like to hit the field with my recorder and a couple of production mics (hypers, shotguns) and do some wild recordings in a natural setting. In my opinion, there is a lot of power in recording with imperfections — even for the untrained ear it invokes a feeling of reality, as though what is happening on screen was not planned.

In fact, I am a huge fan of recording foley elements on the actual scene with the same mics. Even if the recordings are roomy, they often match the production dialog exactly when you get into the design phase.

I hope this helps :). ~Matt

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I totally agree with ~Matt, especially on his point about wild recordings outside. Natural recordings sometimes just slot in perfectly saving time on balancing your backgrounds and Foley. I like to use my MS stereo shotgun which allows me some control over the background level. Whenever I'm out field recording I'll generally always get a few footstep recordings in, you can literally just hold the mic towards your feet and gather whatever surface your walking on. Takes a bit of upper body control to avoid handling noise and a selection of noise-supression trousers. Never going to be clinical but a great addition to my footsteps library. I don't bother editing each footstep, just pull out the usable steps and save them as a whole file. Has saved my life on a few time-constrained occasions. :-) Phil

  • To clarify this is only a method for building your sample library to use in tight situations. Wherever possible, syncing to film is the best way to proceed, @Christian has suggested some mobile ideas to do this in the field... – Phil Lee Jan 16 '12 at 10:07

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