Foley Project – evaluation

Initial Research 

Before I started this project I knew little about foley, so my research was very eye-opening. I was so unaware of how much of the audio you hear when you watch a film was foley and not recorded on set, and I was so unaware of how complicated foley can be, and how much noise there can be in one small section of film. For example, here is a screen-grab of a part of the of timeline from ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’, which I found on Bad Robot’s twitter, who are the comapany that produced the film.

star treck  timeline screenshot

Every single blue section is a piece of audio, and it all fits together to create a soundscape that probably only covers a minute or so of footage and will ultimately be glossed over by the audience, despite it being so intricately put together. So the first thing I learned from my research was that there were usually more sounds going on in a scene than I realised until I actually paid attention to the sound.When i looked at my own clip i was using the first time, i noted down only 6 or 7 sounds. Every time i watched it after that i added at least 1 new sound to my list than i did before. I ended up with about 18.

My research also taught me that you have to be good at thinking imaginatively when creating sounds and to have faith in your choices, because sometimes the sound on its own doesn’t seem like it will work (it doesn’t sound like the action or it seems too exaggerated and like it would stand out) but when it’s edited, layered up with other sounds and music/wildtrack is added it actually works really well. When I did my own project, if ever I was trying to create a sound, I had to think about how the other sounds were going to effect it. First time I recorded the boy’s footsteps they were so quiet they were drowned out by the sound of the stars moving under his feet so I had to experiment with different types of shoe to find ones that created a heavy enough noise to balance. I also had to choose less powerful music than I originally planned because the focus had to be on the foley. I also sometimes found I needed to use multiple sounds for singular actions, so had to think about which sounds would compliment each other best. For example, near the end of the animation, the little boy touches a star and it “pulses”. To create the pulse sound, I recorded a fork hitting a glass, rice moving around on a plate, and a piece of paper sweeping across a table, and layered it up to sound like one motion.


Originally my planning consisted of watching the same clip over and over with the sound on, writing down each sound i heard and trying to figure out a way to recreate them. This wasn’t a productive way of planning, because I was limiting myself. Instead of making it my own project, I was trying to make it sound the same as it did before, and some of them I wouldn’t have even been able to replicate with my limited time and resources. Luckily I realised this problem and changed the way I looked at it. I first took all the sound away from the animation and watched it like that instead. It gave me a much simpler starting place and made it easier to see which points really needed audio. It also gave me a lot more freedom, because instead of just hearing the sounds, I could instead imagine what they sounded like and think of ways to create them.

Another thing I found useful was to listen more closely to the world around me and make mental notes of any interesting, unusual, and potentially useful noises I heard. More often than not I wouldn’t know what the sounds I heard could be used for, and most of the sounds didn’t make it into my foley project, but I still think it was a good thing to do because it got me thinking more consciously about sound as a whole, and as Gary Rydstrom (a sound designer who’s worked on major motion pictures) says, “It’s very restricting to always use a library for sound effects. It’s much more interesting and freeing to go out and record new sounds because you never know what you’re going to get.”


I am fairly pleased with how my foley turned out all together, I think the majority of the sounds I recorded fit in well and there’s only a couple of faults that stand out to me when I watch it. The first problem is the background ambience. I didn’t feel the need to add any wildtrack in when it’s on the moon because in space there’s not going to be any noise, so i just added a low rumbling. But for a few seconds in the clip, the scene switches to showing a boat in the middle of the ocean, and here I think there should have been some sort of ambient noise. As an afterthought, I did add in in the sound of water lapping, but it’s barely noticeable in it, and it’s not enough to fill the silence so it’s unnaturally quiet. I wouldn’t have needed a particularly complicated wildtrack, just something where the sound of the water is stronger, there’s maybe a slight breeze and some very faint seagull noises or something to that effect. It just needed something to make the switch from the moon to earth more clear cut.

The other thing that bothers me when I watch it is the footsteps. They don’t sound too bad to someone watching it for the first time, and it might just be because I’ve listened to it too many times, but to me they sound too abrupt. I recorded the sound for the footsteps by stamping on the ground ten or so times to give myself a selection of sounds, then cutting up that long audio to get individual clips of each footstep. The problem I found was that the original audio was too quiet, but when I used audio gain there was background noise, and because it’s all cut up every footstep sounds very jolted. A solution would have been to go back to the room I recorded in and recorded 30 seconds or so of the same background noise and put this between to footstep audio clips. Even though it would have been noisier, it would have flowed better and wouldn’t have sounded so cut.

Editing was fairly fast because I knew in my head what I wanted it to sound like, but when I first sat down to begin editing, I made the mistake of not logging my audio clips beforehand, because I was short of time so impatient to start, and also because for my previous films, I had only been working with a small amount of clips at a time, so I hadn’t yet been able to appreciate the true importance of logging your rushes. But with this project I ended up with a list of about 18 sounds, and for each one I recorded between 3-7 variables for it to make sure I had more than enough audio to experiment with. With this much to deal with, it was impossible for me to even begin adding the sounds to my animation without naming them first, unless I was prepared to listen through the entire folder of sounds each time I wanted to find a specific one. Sitting there listening to and labeling every single sound may have been tedious work, but I was definitely very grateful for it during editing as I could immediately find the one I was looking for with very little effort. For future films, no matter how much footage or audio I have to manage, I must log my rushes, because if I get into the habit of it now, when I start eventually making longer films I will be able to edit efficiently because of my organisation.


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One Response to Foley Project – evaluation

  1. kendalcollegefilm says:

    Excellent, Kitty! I’m really pleased with this. The finished piece is strong, which is great, but your working process along the way has been terrific, showing a real commitment to experimenting with sounds and testing the results in the edit. You’ve done this in tandem with research into industry practice, which makes your entire process, from your imagination to the finished piece, really cohesive and detailed. You should be really proud of this workflow—it’s outstanding. I’m especially pleased with the lessons you’ve learned along the way—from the pragmatic need for logging rushes to the personal aspect of trusting in your own appreciation and imagination. Well done.


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