4-sounds-you-can-create-at-home Voice Acting

4 Sounds You Can Create at Home – Just Like a Foley Artist

Have you ever watched a film only to realize that the sights you are seeing and the sounds that you’re hearing aren’t necessarily the same thing?

What Does a Foley Artist Do?

Foley artists are members of a film crew responsible for making sound effects! Foley artists work behind the scenes, making soundtracks more realistic and professional. The Foley artist may work alone or amongst other Foley artists, depending on the film and project requirements.

What is a Foley Artist?

Foley artists are responsible for recreating sound for a variety of applications such as animation, film, audiobooks, video games and more. While some of the more complex sound challenges require specialized equipment, you’d be surprised how much you can get done on your kitchen table or in your home studio.

Foley artists create all sorts of sounds. For instance, the squeaking of a wood floor or the rustling of leaves. Other sounds that we often take for granted in films include the sound of horses galloping, doors being knocked on, the slamming of doors, the clashing of swords, the striking of a match, and so on.

Did you know that the crunching of grass or leaves is created by the Foley artist using balled up audio tape?

Where did the name Foley Artist come from?

The name Foley comes from the master Jack Foley, a great practitioner of this art, and an instrumental person who helped Universal transition from Silent films to those with sound.

In some instances, voice talent are also called to be vocal Foley artists. A voice-over may require you to go beyond the normal boundaries of speech into a world of sound effects, created using your own voice but in a different manner.

Performing character voices or narrating an audio book are perfect examples of where the voice may phonate without words, that is to say, create specific sounds or utterances foreign to natural vocal production regarding speech.

Edge Studio Visit

Take a step with me into Edge Studio to get an appreciation for how sound is made in today’s post. When on a tour of Edge Studio in New York’s Times Square, I happened to meet Matthew Polis, a sound designer, busy at work making new and wonderful sounds.

The film on the screen was a period movie set during the American Civil War. One of the scenes was in a barn. A spider featured prominently on a wooden beam making the sounds that one might associate with creepy crawlies. I asked Matthew if he created that sound, and sure enough he had.
Turns out, the spider sound was made crinkling a plastic candy wrapper. Isn’t it amazing how something so simple can be so effective?

Why Does Foley Matter?

When speaking with David Goldberg, Chief Edge Officer and owner of Edge Studio, he revealed, “As a voice actor, it’s helpful to understand what happens to your voice over track after it’s recorded, so that you can better communicate with your clients and engineers. The more well rounded you are, the more experienced you appear, and the more likely you are to be rehired because there is a comfort factor.”

After chatting about how the spider’s audio was made, David went on to describe some of the neat opportunities for Foley he’s observed when working on voice-over productions.

1 – Under The Sea

David shared, “Many things we hear are not real, yet when we hear them with visuals, our brains think they are real. Think about this. When you watch an underwater nature documentary on fish, the fish are usually shown swimming around and you hear bubbles, swishing, and water sounds as the fish pass by. Yet the sounds are usually sound effects which have been added. This is because, even if you could capture the true sounds mentioned above with an underwater microphone, they’d be extremely muted. So artificial sounds are added to create a better audience experience.”

2 – And, They’re Off!

Televised horse racing is another arena where audio engineers play a special role. This may come as a surprise but the constant sound of horses galloping around the track is somewhat fabricated. Usually people can’t hear horses from a quarter of a mile away, but on television, you can. The clippity-clop of equine hooves is recorded in advance and looped over and over again resulting in the low end rumble that adds sheer excitement for TV viewers.

3 – Kibbles and Bits

No doubt you’ve seen commercials on television for pet food. Everyone is familiar with the sound that each morsel of food makes as it hits the bowl. But do you know how the sound is sometimes created? In one instance, the Foley for dog food being poured into a bowl at Edge Studio was actually plastic coffee stir sticks being released slowly into a ceramic mug. This is definitely a sound you can create at home.

4 – Hit The Road, Jack!

Last but not least, what would you do if you had to orchestrate the sound of lobsters running away from a chef that’s about to cook them up for dinner? In a commercial produced for a seafood restaurant, the task was to create the sound of lobsters running off. What did the sound designers do? A lady’s fingernails (both hands) tapping hastily on the flat part of a computer laptop served as the sound of a crustacean getaway.

Have You Ever Tried to Recreate Sound?

Whether you’re a Foley Artist by trade or you simply enjoy experimenting with sound design, you’ll love this neat array of sonic moments you can create easily at next to no cost. While some Foley engagements – like recording fish underwater – might require specialized equipment, there’s still plenty you can do on your own to create that unique sonic dimension.
We’d love to hear more about a particularly memorable sound you recreated and how you did it. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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  • Avatar for Carol Knizek
    Carol Knizek
    December 2, 2014, 11:45 am

    I Love, Love, Love foley sound effects and adding music to my demos!!! I enjoy being my own editor, and engineer!! Thank you for this motivating article!! I added some foley effects on my “Home Alone” spot, I knocked on a hard book, to use as the door, covered my mouth to sound muffled, and walked in place for the effect of walking up to the door. I had a lot of fun recording it in my home!
    Thank you for all of your wonderful information, they keep me inspired, and motivated!! Keep up the Fantastic work!!
    Many Blessings,
    Carol Knizek

  • Avatar for Cal Koat
    Cal Koat
    December 2, 2014, 12:36 pm

    I was working as production manager for a small station out in the sticks and had to create the sound of superman opening a telephone booth door for the presto chango into his tights and cape. I had a portable recorder with varispeed but no phone booth anywhere near the studio. The station van had a big sliding door on the side so I recorded that (which of course sounded to big and heavy). But, when I sped up the recording it sounded just about right. Another time I was working with reel to reel tape and had make my announcer sound like he was underwater. I wrapped some scotch tape around the capstan (spinning post attached to the machine’s motor). I made sure to rough up the tape a bit and voila! When I played it back it sounded like he was at the bottom of the pool.

  • Avatar for Howard Ellison
    Howard Ellison
    December 2, 2014, 4:57 pm

    A film editor working with the legendary BBC dubbing mixer, Pat Whitaker, wanted the sound of airport PA. Plenty in the library of course, but all in specific languages. This would have indicated a location and spoiled the plot. Instead, Pat pulled up the sound of a cobbler grinding leather shoes, EQ’d it and added echo. Perfect! You can imagine the laughter and applause in the dubbing suite!

  • Avatar for Adam Witmer
    Adam Witmer
    December 16, 2014, 10:41 pm

    This is a fantastic post! I love how innovative some people can be when it comes to sound effects. It is amazing how our brains just expect these sounds to be correct, when, in fact, they are often fabricated to enhance the experience.
    Thanks for the great reminder that we too can be innovative without necessarily needing to hire the pros.

  • Avatar for Emma Smiley
    Emma Smiley
    December 22, 2014, 9:32 pm

    This is an interesting post. I once used a sheet of paper to create the sound of birds flapping their wings. It’s amazing how some sounds are generated.
    Emma Smiley