Hi team,

A question for all you foley/location/EFX recordists out there...

I recently spent an hour or two with a few balloons in my quiet room. Yes, microphones were involved... I recorded the entire time with an H4N and a large diaphragm condenser, blowing them up, squeaking, spinning wooden dowels around inside, &tc. This means that I have a stereo file from the onboard mics and a mono for the condenser, both of which are nigh on two hours long.

I didn't have a plan since I was just fooling around with a borrowed recorder to see what kind of sounds I could get. However, I've just spent the last half hour editing and now that I've looked up, I see that I've only cut 3 minutes worth of clean sounds so far and still have more than an hour and a half worth of raw stuff to go through. And it's not as if I can just eyeball it and skip to bits that look like they might be good; too many easy to miss nuances that sit way down with tiny waveforms.

My question is, how do I go organize my recordings so that I don't have to spend all of the rest of my life editing balloon squeaks?

When you're doing a foley or EFX session, do you have a particular order in which you do things? i.e./ Specific movements first (breaths, then squeaks, then spins), then move onto the silly/fun part trying to make it make weird noises?

Or does it take just as much time either way, so just have at 'er and worry about it later?

It makes sense to me to plan stuff out (at least have a general idea of what I want), but I worry that sticking too closely to a rule like that might miss opportunities to get great sounds. The problem with that is that I'm totally ADD and get sonically sidetracked/fixated really easily. I'm planning to do a day in the forest soon, and I know I'll end up with at least twice the two hours I did with balloons.

Also, on the editing side, how do you know when to stop? which stuff is actually likely useable, and what's not?

4 Answers 4


Follow the law of diminishing returns:

  1. Archive the unedited recordings into your library, so nothing is lost

  2. Split the recording into (compiled) sections based on the type of sound, and export it as seperate files.. Do not presuppose the future use for it i.e. don't do too much editing or mastering or whatever.... its source material for projects that dont exist yet.... In a near real time pass (with no editing) its not too hard to split out types of sounds to tracks below eg

    • track 1&2 = source material
    • track 3&4 = balloon pops
    • track 5&6 = balloon rubbing
    • track 7&8 = balloon air release
    • track 9&10 = balloon air inflate etc

FWIW two hours of source material is really not a huge amount (my Samoa trip generated 27+ hours of material) But you could easily spend an entire day on 30 seconds worth. Wait for a context/project to warrant getting that detailed with it.

Diminishing returns - don't invest time unless you have a specific planned use for it...

  • Sorry if I'm hijacking the thread here. Tim would you put the source material in and separate the tracks as you put above then use Metatag software to save the files? Mar 30, 2011 at 9:25
  • @Tim, excellent post. We are of the same mind here. Mar 30, 2011 at 9:52
  • @Adrian Whats Metatag? I'd do the editing all the editing/splitting/compiling in ProTools & use SoundminerPro to embed metadata, but thats just because thats what I have/own... whatever works is good ;)
    – user49
    Mar 31, 2011 at 4:11

I generally follow @Tim's Advice on Diminishing Returns, however... for smaller sessions I have a workflow set up that picks up where his advice about separating things onto separate tracks leaves off.

Depending on your speed, it's entirely possible to have 2 hours worth of recordings neatly edited, named and archived in about 1-4 hours depending how much variation is in the session.

I posted about it somewhere on here once before. It was in relation to batch processing V/O lines, but it applies here as well. It's all mostly understanding how to make Pro Tools do your work for you.

It breaks down into steps like this:

  1. Back up all recordings to a master folder labeled "Unedited" or "Original". Then create an editing session. Import/Copy all your files into your session.

  2. CLEAN: Run Noise Reduction on the whole file (if it's all in the same location/has the same noise floor) if you want to get rid of Ambience/Roomtone. This step is optional depending on several factors.

  3. ORGANIZE: Separate Sounds onto separate tracks according to noise type. Name your tracks after whatever the sound is. ie: Balloon_Inflate/Balloon_Deflate/Balloon_Squeak/Balloon_Pop (use singular terms if these are being chopped into singular sounds).

  4. EDIT: Run Strip Silence to have it do most of your topping and tailing for you.

  5. FADE: Batch Fade with the smallest fade possible.

  6. CREATE NEW FILE/RENAME: Tab + Shift Tab (with Tab to transient Turned Off) to jump from region to region and Consolidate the regions one by one. Shift+Opt/Alt+3) This will then create a new file (and not just a child region) which is named after the track and it will add a number to it every time you consolidate. Delete empty and unwanted regions as you come across them. Also perform additional top and tailing if you need more done. Strip silence won't get all of them perfect. Be sure to leave small handles/buffer space and be careful with sounds that have a long tail. You don't want to accidentally chop these off. So preview questionable sounds before you commit to a consolidation.

  7. CLEAN UP: Go track by track and select everything on the track and look in your look in your regions bin to make sure no child files are selected. If there are, select them one by one and delete them as you do not want these ending up in your master collection. Then with only the regions you want remaining make sure nothing is selected and hit Shift+CMD(mac)/Ctrl(pc)+U will select unused regions. Delete these from your session.

  8. EXPORT: Select all remaining Regions and hit: Shift+CMD(mac)/Ctrl(PC)+K and this will export regions as files. Create a new Folder next to the "unedited" one you created earlier. Name this one "Edited". This will place copies of all your new neatly cleaned, edited with baked fades, renamed and numbered files into a neat and tidy folder.

In addition, sometimes if there are hundreds of similar variations I might select a handful of the prime examples and delete the rest if they are that similar. Or, I might take a batch of 10/20 sounds and make one file out of those as opposed to hundreds if they are not too drastically different and are similar but not exact.

If you need further explanation, just ask.

  • @Syndicate, at this moment I am genuinely sad that I can only upvote once.
    – g.a.harry
    Mar 30, 2011 at 21:31
  • @g.a.harry It's ok man, I'm not here for the points. Just good conversation/info and networking. Hope that helps man. Mar 30, 2011 at 21:37
  • @Syndicate, very much so. Your description is exactly what I was looking for. I'd have got to it eventually, but only after a dog's age of fiddling and figuring out. @Tim, @Dave, @Utopia: Thanks guys!
    – g.a.harry
    Mar 31, 2011 at 18:49

The Sound Effects Bible actually hits on this... first, verbally slate EVERYTHING, so you know what you're looking for; second, do something loud to create a visible peak so you can see the separation on the waveform; third, always allow two seconds before and after the effect so you get all the nuances.


This is exactly why I got a Pro Tools controller (moveable computer stand with keyboard/mouse on a KVM switcher extension) for inside the foley room.

This way I can stop and start as I wish or put markers in as I go.

I hear tell that there is an app which can wirelessly control Pro Tools, but I haven't looked into it.

Marking and keeping track of recording sessions of this type is extremely important.

I went through a couple sessions like the one you described wherein I had no markers or notes on what was where and I figured out the best method for myself would be to have the computer next to me as I recorded so I could stop and start and even delete takes that were not needed. I also have had to work alone without a team pretty much my whole career and I do know that on larger foley stages there is a foley mixer who is in the control room while the foley artist is recording the actions and the mixer is compiling and noting all of the material.

This is in effect, stopping you from having to do your work twice, saving you time (read: money) in the recording and editing of a film.

Unfortunately this method won't work with recording on an H4n handheld recorder, but you could possibly take notes on where the timer is on each audio file you record and do it that way.

Clapping and verbal slates are also very useful, as Dave described.

(Edit: I also really don't hope you're serious about the ADD thing...)

  • 1
    @Utopia, when I'm having fun making sounds with the squeaky feet of a spinny office chair... kinda, yeah. Normal squeaks are boring, I want to make it sound like a monster breathing, or the tears of a robot.
    – g.a.harry
    Mar 30, 2011 at 10:44
  • 1
    @g.a.harry, I have no idea how you possibly make a squeaky chair sound like a monster breathing -- or tears of a robot for that matter --, not without post processing, but I like the cut of your jib. :) Another thing I learned from The Sound Effects Bible is never delete anything, even if a particular take doesn't make it into your library. Throw the session on a disk, label it in a way you can remember, and start a library. Mar 30, 2011 at 13:52
  • 1
    @g.a.harry I only stop and delete a take if I bump the mic or I did something wrong like induce clothing rustle or something on the recording. The rest of it I keep and either store in folders for later use or put into my library right away. Organization of libraries might seem like a long time-consuming process, but the more you organize the faster your work will be later on when you need to find things. That's the secret!
    – Utopia
    Mar 30, 2011 at 16:45
  • 1
    @utopia: thanks! @Dave: Monster = flip the chair over, grab a drumstick, find a place on the bottom near the base, jam the stick agains the metal and the wood, and rub, putting all your weight into it. It depends on the chair your using, but you should get a nice rasp from the wood on wood, and a shhh from the wood on metal. The chair I was using is one of those giant old '80s ones made of wood and stainless steel and upholstered with a really rough burlap kind of material. If you ever see one on the street, grab it and beat the hell out of it.
    – g.a.harry
    Mar 30, 2011 at 19:37
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    @Utopia the wireless app is V-Control for iPad by Neyrinck. There are others, but that one is the best according to those I know that have tried out several. neyrinck.com/en/products/v-control-pro Mar 30, 2011 at 22:02

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