Foley artists in sync with filmmaking process

Post-production artists brings skills to screen


Post-production has many skilled specialties that make an artistic contribution to a finished show. Few can argue that they are actually performers, though, in the sense that actors and musicians are performers.

That’s one claim Foley artists make with confidence.

“We watch the screen and put ourselves in the actor’s body, so to speak,” says Foley vet Gary Hecker. “That’s what makes it organic, I like to think, because it does have a human element to it.”

From door slams to footsteps, key jingles to ice tinkling, swishing fabric to jammed machinery, Foley artists and mixers are charged with recording sounds from scratch, in sync with the action that happens on the screen, using props and tricks that sometimes look less like 21st century movie production than the contents of a child’s toy chest.

Yet while their props can be as low-tech as in the heyday of radio dramas, the hardware and software they use is some of the most advanced in audio post.

The biggest change has been the addition of nonlinear digital audio workstations (DAWs) like Digidesign’s Pro Tools along with sound-manipulation software that can alter audio in dozens of ways.

“(The process has) just been getting faster and faster,” says Phil Stockton, partner at C5 Editorial in New York.

Speed is just one of the benefits, adds Hecker. “This technology helps us create sounds and add depth to them. In the old days, we just had the props and a little equalization from the mixing console.”

DAWs also let Foley mixers record hundreds of passes during a session and to cut, copy and paste where necessary. That’s especially crucial while working on a film like “2012,” which boasted a soundtrack filled with hundreds of sound effects and Foley tracks…

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