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A quick guide to recording foley effects

Whether your project is a short film, feature production or even video game, you'll lose a lot of the impact from your shots if the sound effects aren't up to standard. Most actions in the real world emit some kind of audio, be it a swoosh, splash, whack or something else entirely. However, even with quality sound recording equipment at your disposal, you likely won't be able to capture all of the sounds as you film, or it won't be very audible or dynamic.

This is why we add foley effects in post. They give that sense of realism to a picture, even if the sound is something non-existent in reality (such as a sci-fi phaser gun). When it comes time for you to record your own, we recommend reading through this quick guide to start you off the right way.

Foley FX add that sense of realism to a picture, even if the sound is something non-existent in reality (such as a sci-fi phaser gun).

Set up a decent sound stage

Many of the same principles of recording dialogue indoors apply to recording sound effects, too. Your room needs to be well-insulated and designed to suit sound recording, which means having no shiny surfaces, empty walls or wooden floors. You don't need to try and match the same echo that a video scene has, because you can add this in post - it's best to have clean audio to start with.

Consider hanging lots of drapery around the walls to absorb excess sound, or even furniture removal blankets. Also, make sure the floor is carpeted! 

Next, you will need different 'noise makers' in the room to produce the necessary sounds. This could mean pits of gravel to stomp in, blocks of wood to knock together, small tiled areas to squeak on and everything else you can think of. At the bottom of this article, we'll let you in on some examples of what objects make for great sound effects, but before that, you will need a microphone. 

Foley dirt !!! #foleyartist #foley #studio #rodemic #rycote #blimp #ntg2 #sound #rlfosound #postaudio

A photo posted by Rodolfo Piedras aka Bko (@rlfo_sound) on

Purchase quality microphones for recording

You may require various types of microphones to capture the best sound, depending on your location. Premium Beat recommends using an extremely sensitive condenser mic for indoor sessions, as it will be capable of picking up the softer, more subtle aspects of each piece of audio.

As for outdoors, consider instead using a similar style of shotgun mic to the ones that soundies use on set. We recommend something along the lines of the RØDE NTG4+, as you need a super-directional mic in order to ensure no disruptive noise is captured from elsewhere in the area. A RØDE Deadcat or Blimp may also be required to reduce wind noise.

Finally, you will want to have a monitor on-hand with a copy of each video clip you are recording sound for. This is so that you can match your work to what is required for the image, saving you time having to piece together little sounds in post (imagine trying to lay each individual footstep on a scene where a group of people is walking down a long corridor...).

Examples for you to try

Now that you have both a studio and the right recording equipment, it's time you got out there and started making noise! Try these examples to see if they fit your project.

  • Swoosh: Use wooden rods or bats
  • Fire: Crunch cooking paper
  • Body hits: Punch red meat, whack something with a newspaper or crack a whip (for a more comic effect)
  • Horse hooves: Coconut shells clapped together
  • Bones breaking: Snap pencils, twigs or celery sticks
  • Soft clothing noise: Cross/uncross your legs, rub specific fabrics together
  • Footsteps: Find shoes with a similar sole material and step on a surface of a similar type (e.g. dirt, gravel, tiles)
  • Snow footsteps: Put corn flour in a leather pouch and squeeze