While movies are primarily a visual spectacle, we all know how important audio and sound effects are when it comes to filmmaking. While our eyes take in the events unfolding on screen, that’s telling only half the story. Our ears are working just as hard, picking up on all the intricate details that assist in creating a scene and drawing us into a world.
For example, if someone is walking or running on screen, how distracting would it be if you couldn’t hear their footsteps, the rustling of clothing or their heavy breathing? The film wouldn’t feel professional or complete. These specific and small, everyday details, though often going unnoticed by general audiences, are essential for any film. They’re called foley sounds.
What are foley sound effects?
It may surprise you to know that everyday sounds like running, walking or the rustling of clothes aren’t necessarily captured on camera at the time of filming. Instead, they’re created in a recording studio during post-production, in sync with the visuals. These are foley sounds, and this process is known as foley art.
The history of foley art
Foley sounds are named after the sound effects artist Jack Foley, who developed the technique. During live radio broadcasts of plays and dramas in the 1920s, radio studios would hire sound artists like Jack Foley to create effects on cue. This was seen as a more reliable, higher-quality way of creating sound effects, in comparison to playing them from a phonograph which were much more unreliable and very low-quality. On the back of this success, Jack Foley transitioned into the film industry, pioneering foley art as it’s known as used today.
There are a few clips on YouTube which show foley art in action, like this one:
Why use foley sounds?
While sound picked up during filming (known as field recording) is often usable and works well enough, most filmmakers, like the radio broadcasters before them, opt to use foley art in post-production because the quality of the audio is so much better and more reliable.
Foley effects make a scene far more realistic and immersive. Ideally, an audience won’t even notice that they’re there! They just feel natural and blend into the world you’re creating. If you don’t have foley sound effects in your scenes, they’ll feel empty, less believable and potentially a little jarring to the audience.
How are foley sounds made?
Believe it or not, there was a time when foley artists would record their foley effects for a film in one non-stop take, with the film playing out in front of them. They’d have to time every single foley sound effect perfectly! As you can imagine, this was not ideal. Watch these foley artists in action for some very early Disney movies:
Nowadays, there are a lot of different processes when it comes to capturing foley sounds, but as a general rule of thumb, foley artists will watch the film in its entirety beforehand, making notes about what sounds they’ll need to produce for each and every scene. They’ll then go ahead and gather whatever props and materials are going to be needed to create these foley sounds, before recording in a foley studio. With the film editing techniques we have nowadays, foley artists are free to do multiple takes, and may even play around with their effects further, editing or enhancing them with sound editing software.
Sometimes, you’d be surprised what goes into making a certain sound! Take a look at this amazing behind-the-scenes for “A Quiet Place”, where there are some great foley sound examples. The foley artist uses all kinds of creative solutions, some of which you may never have thought about before.
How to find foley sounds in Artlist?
Finding foley sounds that you can use for your films is really easy with Artlist. If you don’t have the time or resources to create your own foley sounds from scratch, this is a great way to solve that. Simply navigate to the sound effects tab and then, on the left-hand side menu, select foley.
Our foley sounds are organized into several distinct categories that represent the most commonly used foley effects. Under the body hits and martial arts section, you’ll find body falls, punches, kicks and even voices sound effects.
Voices and body sounds includes kids, women, men, reactions and yes, even some classic bodily functions.
In fashion, you can find sound effects covering clothing, bags, jewelry, accessories and straps.
Additionally, on top of our specific foley sounds collection, Artlist is home to plenty more sound effects. We cover everything from bar ambience foleys and ASMR to stadium sounds and even specially tailored selections such as the winter sports SFX collection.
So, that’s just about everything you need to know about foley sounds. They may well go unnoticed 99% of the time, but if you take them away, your film will suffer for it. This small, seemingly insignificant detail of sound design is a crucial lynchpin that allows your audience to fully connect with and immerse themselves in the world you’ve created.
We’re looking forward to seeing how you can make the most of the foley collection on Artlist! Sign up today to get instant, unlimited access to thousands of high quality foley sounds.