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At the time of recording, conditions were so severe on set that recording on-set foley was out of the question, much less getting clean dialog. Lo and behold, it's now May, all the snow is gone, and I still don't have my footsteps in the snow. I have some library effects, but I'd rather create my own.

I have heard that cornstarch makes decent snow sounds, as well as course sand.

What have you used to create snow-based foley effects without having the real stuff on hand?

6

It depends on the depth & form of the snow - nothing will replace the real thing, especially for deep snow... for footsteps & movement on 30 Days of Night we often used 3 layers: the initial impact was from rock salt that had been wet & left to dry so it formed a crust, then the deeper crunch was from a mix of rock salt & corn starch, plus the foley editor had a big library of real snow footsteps which he cut in sync with the foley performances... As it was summer in NZ when we worked on the project, we got a couple of sound recordists in Europe to go recording for us, which was essential especially for body falls & dragging etc...

  • I remember that.. very nice, icy sound to those footsteps. Another method to add to the experimentation. – VCProd May 3 '10 at 19:59
  • Love the rock salt technique, Tim, thanks for sharing that idea! – NoiseJockey May 3 '10 at 20:02
  • Indeed, very cool detail with the rock salt. Thanks for sharing - – Jay Jennings May 4 '10 at 7:21
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You're correct, corn starch is a tried-and-true substitute and has been used for years by many foley artists.

UPDATE: May I also suggest possibly contacting your local ice company? I have known of at least one film that took place almost entirely in the snow, and the foley artist arranged to have LOTS of real snow delivered to his stage for authenticity. May cost you a little more than the cornstarch but I'll bet you'd be much happier with the results, plus you get to build out your library with some great snow material.

  • That's what the SoundIdeas library said they did.. stage full of snow. I wonder if they could get me a bag of ice chips/shavings that might sound okay. Thanks for the idea! – VCProd May 3 '10 at 19:47
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+1: I've got a tiny ziplock of corn starch in a leather pouch, and just manipulating that sounds pretty good. Hands right in cornstarch works, too, but is messy. Depending on the scene, though, sweetening with styrofoam might add some icy-surface crunch if the snow's not recently fallen, or if the emotion demands a more aggressive sound.

[EDIT for the original poster: Photo below. I think the bag was originally from a wilderness signaling mirror, if I recall correctly. OK, it's, uh..."pleather," not leather, and yes, it looks like I'm smuggling contraband. But, sniff, no no it really works really, sniff, lifelikeVERYlifelikeOhYeahOhYeah...sniff...]

alt text http://www.noisejockey.net/stuff/cornstarchPouch.jpg

  • I've seen the "leather pouch" mentioned a few times. I'm assuming that's a thin leather. I just can't picture it sounding like snow, but I'll give it a try. – VCProd May 3 '10 at 19:48
  • I just added a photo above to help illustrate this method! – NoiseJockey May 3 '10 at 20:02
  • Oh, and talk to Michael of Sepulchra.com - he's got a great post with snowy footfalls. – NoiseJockey May 3 '10 at 20:03
  • Ah, that makes more sense with the picture. I have something like that at home already, plus some.. uh.. cornstarch to put inside. Thanks for posting! – VCProd May 3 '10 at 20:32
  • The leather pouch that comes with Sony 7506 headphones would likely work really well for this. – Joe Griffin Jun 22 '10 at 3:48
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wildtrack foley? :)

  • I have a little bit of that, and that was my last resort.. thank you so much for the track you sent over!! – VCProd May 3 '10 at 17:45
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I'm needing snow foley in spring too, and ended up filling a couple of balloons with corn starch. I've been able to get a variety of different snow qualities by varying the performance. It still doesn't have a true snow sound to me, but it's clean (so far), portable, and cheap.

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