I wanted to start a thread where we could share small tips & tricks that we’ve learned along the way and hopefully improve our ability to perform & record Foley.
One thing which really improved my sound work was reading up on how to do footsteps. This article goes to rather great length explaining how to do them correctly. I’ve learnt to bend my knees, which seems to give me greater control over my movement, look at the shoulders as opposed to the feet, and have a heel to toe movement, in order to mimic actual walking, as opposed to walking in place.
What tips & tricks would you be willing to share, regarding either performing or recording Foley?
I don’t do foley that often, but there are two things that come to mind.
- Using one foot (sitting or standing), and moving it from side-to-side for each step is often easier than trying to walk with both feet. I also tend to be able to get a more natural sound that way. It also affords much more control over the nuances of the step, as balance is no longer an issue. I know and respect people that adamantly disagree with me on this, so mileage may vary. =)
- Related to the first: IMO, the one-foot method helps to avoid a problem that I hear in a lot of foley tracks, which is an exaggerated heel-toe impact. I can’t stand footsteps that have a very sharp, “clack-ey” sound to them, with no “meat” to it. When you think about a person walking: there is a defined heel impact, then surface friction, grinding noise as the foot rolls forward, followed by the toe impact, and lastly more scuffing, friction noise as the toe of the shoe slides and twists slightly as the person steps off from it. I hear (and used to record) a lot of foley where the artist steps down on their heel and then quickly transitions to the toe, resulting in a sound that consists of two sharp clacks and no real meat to it. Now keep in mind, it’s definitely a balance because you need your feet to cut through the mix a tad.
Just my two cents – I’m looking forward to hearing what others have to say!
Something I learned lately was to put part of the mic stand actually on what you’re making steps/drops/vibrations with. Goes against all what I usually think about setups but the idea is you reinforce the low end with vibrations from the mic stand. Works when you want to make something bigger than it is later.
Burning Cigarette: If you want to have a warmer sound for the burning cigarette, Pinch your hair and rub it between your fingers. It’s better if you use your sideburn hair since most of the time it’s more coarse, but better yet would be facial hair.
If you wish to have a harsher colder sound, rub coffee grounds or dirt. Do not record extremely close up when you do this because you will get hear the proximity effect and will sound unrealistic even if you apply high pass filter.
Burning Cigar: Same thing as above, but you can add some things to it… Roll up seran wrap and record it as it unravels it self. Edit that sound in to the initial burn as the character lights up the cigar.
To add some grit to a lighter, add some sparks to when the character is lighting it up.
Adding Movement to Footsteps: Before you put your foot down to create the sound of the footstep, create a slight / small / soft scuff using your heel as you “slide” into the footstep. This creates the sense of movement and to me sounds more realistic.
Keys in Characters Pockets: Do not record the keys actually in your pocket jingling around. Pinch the key ring in one hand and place your hand next to the dangling keys so your hand is placed against the keys… Then rub that hand back and forth. Very slightly after the footstep. (Apply Low Pass Filter)
Using Coffee grounds is a lot better than using dirt if you need to create a dirtier grittier surface and smells better too.
I do not use the heel toe method if a film needs to sound more realistic. Instead of angle the foot to make the sound of the heel then the toe… Come straight down softly which creates a soft heel sound and then the toe. This tends to sound a bit more realistic. I believe this is what the foley artist did for Band of Brothers.
I have found that using shotguns for footsteps is the best in my opinion. More impact, better lows, and easily can provide realistic distance.
Add Air: Record your foley with a distance. Do not record close up. If you are able to record in a bathroom if your film is located in a bathroom, it will sound a lot more real. If it’s outside, record wild tracks outside. “Air” might be hard to explain but try it out and you can hear the difference between that and close up recordings.
Adding dramatic clothing rustles and clothing whooshes to whooshes in a fighting scene can add realism.
If you are recording a jacket/coat that a character is wearing…. Do not wear it but hold it and perform it. This might be obvious to most but I did this for the longest time and I felt stupid when someone told me I should be holding it. hahaha