Sound Gun Episode #2: Foley

Taught By:

Kevin Senzaki


In this second installment of the Sound Gun Series, Kevin Senzaki explains why we record and use foley, and walks us through a basic introduction of how to capture and mix foley sounds well for your videos. This episode originally aired in December 2014 as part of our exclusive beta test series.

Lesson Plan

Haven't seen the Sound Gun short film yet? Watch it here!

Want to try foley yourself? Here is a scene you can download from the Sound Gun short. Give your own sound effects and mixing a shot! Keep in mind the things you saw in the video–-clothes and fabric rustling, objects being picked up, footsteps, etc. Get creative and click on the discuss button to share your foley mix with us!

What is Foley?

Foley are sounds created by subtle movements and motions from actors as they move and interact with objects around them. These are little realistic sounds that you don’t always notice in real life, but are distracting if you don’t hear them when portrayed on screen!

Why is it important?

Recording foley separately helps you even out your film and have a consistent level of believability from start to finish.

Why do I need foley?

There can be many reasons! Sometimes your production audio (what you captured on set) is not any good, due to bad background noise or wind. Sometimes directors will be talking over the take to give cues to the actor, and you’ll need to replace the sound. But, like any other part of filmmaking, ultimately foley is there to help the story. In the case of the Sound Gun, the gun itself was a very important prop, but that was put together in such a way that it didn’t make any real sound. But to sell the believability of the prop for the story, like the materials it’s made of and the “weight” of the sound gun, foley was created specifically for it.

Where should I record foley?

Recording good foley is really about having a good recording space. If you don’t have access to a professional studio, don’t worry! All you need is a really quiet space. Do what you can to minimize background noise, such as electronics, refrigerators and appliances, wind, traffic, etc. Foley sound are really subtle, and in order to get a clean recording, you need good signal to noise ratio.

What is signal to noise ratio?

“Signal” is the sound or signal that you want to record, and “noise” is anything else in the background that is competing with the signal you are trying to capture (i.e. bad noise that you don’t want). Do what you can to reduce noise as much as possible.

What tools or equipment do I need?

We often use cardioid condenser microphones to record foley onto a handheld mixer. But if you have a good recording space, you can use an on­board camera microphone or even your smart phone (even if Kevin is not a fan!) If you’re in a situation where wind might be hitting your mic, protect it with a wind screen.

How do I create and record foley?

Professional foley artists usually “perform” the sounds they are recording to playback, meaning they are watching the scene and they act out the sounds along with the performance in real time. However! You can usually get away with “recording as a series”, which means you can record a bunch of different versions of the sound several times in a row, and then pick out and edit the one that best fits the picture. It gives you a lot of options! Sometimes you can even combine a couple of the best takes.

Special note: a lot of foley sounds that you hear in movies are not actually what you’re seeing on screen! Gun handling sounds are often metal tools and wrenches, punches are hammers hitting leather or fruit. The reason for this is sometimes the fake sounds feel more believable than the real thing. And that’s always better for story.

Editing and Mixing

Keep in mind, this is just a primer and we will get into specific software tutorials later. We use ProTools for sound editing, but you can edit and do a general mix of your foley in most editing programs if you don’t have access to a sound editing program. Cut out the sound performances you like best from your recordings, and sync them up where you want them on the video timeline. Then adjust the audio levels to keep the foley sounds more quiet and less noticeable. Foley is more believable when it’s mixed down to softer levels.