What is the difference between foley and practical?

My guess is that foley is after the film is shot why practical sound is after a movie is shot.

  • 3
    I don't know of sound being referred to as practical [but I'm not a foley engineer]. On a set, any light in a scene that is "supposed to be there" for the characters - a desk lamp, stand lamp or a street light etc is known as a 'practical light'.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 6:30

1 Answer 1


Film Soundtracks are made up of 3 components:

  1. Dialogue
  2. Sound Effects
  3. Music

Each of these three components can be broken down into two distinct types:

  1. Production
  2. Post-Production

These types define when the sound was generated. This can either be during the "Production" phase of a film shoot, or during the "Post-Production" phase, after the principal and pick-up production shoots are over and the post-production team has taken over.

  • "Music" and "Sound-Effects" have a further break-down into the terms "Diagetic" and "Non-Diagetic". This refers to it's relationship with the picture.

  • "Diagetic" music has a direct relationship with the pictures in that it reflects what is happening on-screen and is placed into the 'space' of the film. For instance, a string quartet playing on-screen and in-frame, or a doctors waiting room where 'waiting-room' music is being played into the space of the waiting room and is obviously heard by everyone in the room.

  • "Non-Diagetic" music is 'soundtrack' music - music designed or composed specifically to assist with the emotional direction of the narrative. It is specifically not placed into the space that is visible on-screen and is not experienced by any actors or talent in the scene. It is only experienced by the audience.

"Diagetic" sounds are those sounds that appear to be directly related to action that is happening on-screen or is sound that is designed to be "in the world" of the story being screened.

Examples of non-diagetic sound might be:

  • A studio recorded voice-over
  • Soundtrack music
  • Designed sounds such as wooshes, transitions etc.

Examples of Diagetic sounds might be:

  • music or commentary coming from a television on-set
  • music being played by an ensemble on-screen

Diagetic sounds are always going to sounds as though they are being heard within the environment that is being viewed.

"Dialogue" and "Sound-effects" can be broken into a category which relates to the picture reference that is used during their creation. The terms used are "Sync" and "Wild".

  • "Sync" sound is sound that is recorded with reference to pictures.
  • "Wild" sound is sound that is recorded with no reference to pictures.

Typical examples of this are:

  • Wild Production Dialogue - Dialogue recorded on the production set after the principal filming of a particular scene is over, with no cameras rolling. This is often used in post-production to improve the dialogue edit or to correct extraneous noise that occurs during a shoot.
  • Sync Production Dialogue - Dialogue recorded on the production set during normal principal photography of a scene, with camerars rolling and all sound recording equipment synchronised with cameras - either with slate or Timecode.
  • Wild Production Effects - Sound Effects recorded on-set with no reference to pictures and no cameras rolling. This might be an ambient recording such as room tone, or a door being closed, or possibly footsteps.
  • Sync Production Effects - Sync Production Effects are a natural effect of recording on a production set - you record effects other than dialogue. The use of these recordings is determined by the dialogue editor who will choose which production effects to include and which ones to replace.
  • Sync Post-Production Dialogue is normally referred to as "ADR", where actors go into a studio to re-record dialogue in post-production. It is normally done to a picture or audio reference from the vision edit to a guide audio track. "ADR" stands for "Dialogue Replacement". The "A" is often subject to considerable debate in the film community. "Automated Dialogue Replacement","Automatic Dialogue Replacement"..... Whatever the "A" stands for, the dialogue gets replaced.
  • Wild Post-Production Dialogue is quite rare as by the time the post-production phase arrives, most actors have dispensed with the memory of their performance and will generally appreciate some sort of guide or reference to work from. Wild Post-Production Dialogue will be very difficult to sync to pictures, but it is possible if absolutely necessary.

Other Sound Effects can be broken down into:

  1. Foley (Post)
  2. Designed Effects (Post)
  3. Backgrounds (Post)

"Foley" is basically sound effects that have been created in a foley studio by a "foley artist" - either clothing rustle, footsteps, or other similar sound effects - doors shutting etc.

The main difference between 'foley' and 'production effects' is that "production effects" are recorded on-set, during production and "foley" is a "post-production" activity and is performed by a dedicated foley artist in a dedicated foley studio.

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