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Obviously this depends entirely on what sound you are trying to create. Sometimes sounds will be made by using both sources. But i'm interested in what makes people decide if they are going to head out into the field to capture the live sound itself or use the foley studio to recreate that sound?

Which way are you usually most pleased with the outcome?

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It depends on the sound I'm trying to create ;). Pragmatically, it also depends upon the availability of a quiet, reflection-free outdoor spot vs. a foley studio — both of which can be hard to find (or afford).

A project that calls for a more stylized foley track might best be served by a foley studio with an enormous assortment of props, shoes, pits, cloth, etc. Some of the magic of movies like the Lord of the Rings series came in the incredible detail and sense of heightened-reality in the foley track, with swords and armor that produced huge impact sounds in battle, to the delicate sound of parchment pages in the old books.

For a project like True Grit, which takes place primarily outdoors in desert and forest landscapes, I would hit the field to create a realistic, gritty (pun intented) foley landscape. The advantage of recording in the field, to me, lies in the accidents that happen and the sounds that you stumble upon. With a prime location, good micing technique, and a little luck, you can get field recordings that sound so clean that you'd never know they weren't done indoors. Plus, with a fully-charged ipad you can still record a foley performance to the film.

Field foley definitely works better for louder sounds, too — I would probably not record my cloth tracks in the field, but footsteps work fine. If you're not hiking too far, it can't hurt to have a couple mic stands and some thick blankets to help with outside noise and any reflections.

Best,
~Matt

  • Add'l thought on footsteps recorded as field foley: I collect outdoor footsteps as often as I can, making it not foley per se, but it can build a nice effects library quickly. I hike with a 1/4-20 threaded collapsing hiking staff just to throw my Sony PCM-D50 on the end and stick down at my feet. Set up the capsules as crossed 90° XY and start walking on the juicy surface of your choosing! – NoiseJockey Nov 10 '12 at 18:10
  • @ Matt, I'd love to hear more about your Ipad setup? Sounds like a great technique. – Mark Durham Nov 10 '12 at 18:13
  • @NoiseJockey, that's one of my favorite things to do with my PCM-D50 on hiking and backpacking trips, and the results are the best. Mark, it's fantastic, especially since the ipad is completely silent. It takes a bit of setup, but it pays off. If I know I am only working on a couple of clips, I'll export them separately and load them onto the ipad through itunes — otherwise I'll stick to whole film on there. I'll strip each video file of its sound and insert a 1kHz 2-pop at the beginning and end of each foley sequence. When I'm ready to do a take, I'll roll my SD 702 and slate the ... – Matt Glenn Nov 10 '12 at 18:21
  • ... take with the timecode (and name of the video file) and then hold the ipad up to the mic with the volume up all the way to record the 2-pop. Then I can just perform away. I haven't needed it yet, but if there was a situation where I needed both hands I could imagine bringing one of those cheap, folding metal music stands to set the iPad on. – Matt Glenn Nov 10 '12 at 18:23
  • Thanks for sharing that - sounds pretty good and I can imagine with a bit of practice it can work well for foley - you're going to have to fit it anyway so as long as it's slated well I imagine all's good. I thought for a moment though that you were performing and recording from the Ipad.. like an all in one solution. I'm sure that will happen before too long, even an 8 track extension of Protools on Ipad would be great for this. – Mark Durham Nov 10 '12 at 23:53
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To build on the excellent answer the Matt posted, I'll throw in a few other considerations.

Is the setting for the sound I need to edit into the film an indoor or an outdoor one. It doesn't necessarily make sense to record sounds for indoor scenes outdoors. That's typically the biggest deciding factor for me. Then again, there are some things you just can't get into a foley studio, and that means you've got to go out in the world to get them. That could mean recording indoors or outdoors (depending on what you can find) at a location that has what you need.

One factor that always enters into the equation is time. If there is time in the budget, and time before the deadline, I'll definitely try to get outside to record those sounds I've identified as "desirable to record oustide." If time is tight, I'll only get target the most critical "outdoor" sounds. It typically takes more time to set up for recording in the field, and sometimes the schedule just does not allow for it.

Moral of the story? You have to be creative within the restrictions you're given.

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