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What is Foley?

Have you ever wondered how in film scenes you can hear the dialogue so clearly, while the background sounds add texture to quieter moments? That is thanks to the techniques developed by Jack Foley – known as Foley effects.

In film production, whether for movies, television, or video game cut scenes, the sound team try and exclude almost all sounds apart from the dialogue – this is the boom operator’s entire job. The idea is to get the dialogue clearly recorded away from all other audio distractions like road noise, footsteps, door creaks, clothes rustling, and more – so that it can be manipulated separately in post production and the engineers can make sure that the audience can always hear what is going on in the scene.

Clear dialogue is essential, but for people to lose themselves in the scene, the sound of their voices cannot sound like they are in a vacuum. For example, when two characters are playing cards at 7 sultans real money casino, the film-makers might want to have the shuffle and slap of cards on the table heard clearly at the start of the scene for context, but fade them into the background once the characters begin to talk. If all the sounds were recorded together, this remixing would not be possible. Instead, the dialogue is recorded live, but the background sounded need to be added back in during post-production in a separate audio track – and now the engineers have full control over how the sound in each scene is mixed and timed.

Without Foley, scenes can sound empty and hollow – not something filmmakers want when they are trying to immerse their audience in the story. It is Foley that brings the audio of a scene to life – and if it’s done well, the audience will never notice.

It is not only scripted video scenes that use Foley though, as modern documentaries also use the techniques to bring depth to silent archive footage, or even bring life to silent nature scenes. The BBC even made use of Foley effects for the latest Planet Earth II.

How does Foley work?

Foley is traditionally performed by specialised Foley artists, who have honed their skills in recreating the sounds of life in the studio with the help of a variety of props. Foley artists watch the scenes for which they are recreating the sound on a screen, and remake the sound effects in time with the footage on a specially designed Foley stage.

However, today it is increasingly common for studio engineers to have a digital soundboard of sound effects, which were originally created by Foley artists, and to use a keyboard to add these sounds when they are needed. This out-of-the-box Foley soundboard is much cheaper for a studio to use than employing a real artist, but it also lacks the flexibility and originality that real Foley artists can offer.

Photograph by Tico24

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