Thursday, October 29, 2015

Banging on a Bathtub

I've been doing a lot of research on sound design lately in order to be as ready as possible to record on set, foley, and then do our final mix. Arturo helped me by sending me some links to really cool articles and videos; one of them--that inspired the title of this blogpost--is below.

Foley is all about replacing, repairing, or enhancing the sound for a film. Ben Burtt was one of the first few sound designers to foley by combining sounds produced by real objects instead of using electronic sounds. His work in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope pioneered a new method of sound design in sci-fi films. One of the most well known sounds from the Star Wars films, Darth Vader's breathing, Burtt created by recording himself breathing through a Dacor scuba regulator.

I find this combination and editing of different (and sometime random) sounds so interesting. I don't understand how people even come up with some of this stuff. Even Burtt himself said that a lot of times you discover the best sounds by accident.

Foley artists seem to have developed a skill so unique, the only thing I can kind of compare it to lyrical dancing...but even that's a stretch. Foley artists usually work in pairs and they have to interpret a film completely in sound. Lyrical dancers have to interpret the lyrics of a song in movements. The equipment foley artists use is also very low-tech compared to the equipment other post-production departments use.

Greg Barbanell, a foley artist, at the Warner Brothers' foley stage. 
According to my research, most foleying can be divided into three parts: cloth, feet, and props. Foley artists will then playback every shot of every scene at least hundreds of times to get all the cloth, feet, and props in each one. It is very time consuming, and probably frustrating for a while until you develop the skill.

Foley isn't just used in fictional productions, though. Earth Touch is a global news network for wildlife and nature that focuses on education and preservation--even they foley sound in their films of wild animals. This is especially important for Earth Touch because it's dangerous for crew to get close to some animals. (This is the same reason they use HUGE zoom lenses). It is also necessary because the footage they collect may be from different parts of the day/week/month/year, which causes the ambient sound to change. When editing these shots together, the natural sounds are jumpy and jarring, so they add a different ambient track and then foley the sounds the animals make. This process of repairing and layering foleyed sounds enhances the film so it grabs the audiences attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment