Friday, September 21, 2012

Foley Artistry

Picking Up Sounds

     I've written, before, about music technology, which touches on elements of both music and sound in different types of media. While I almost exclusively talk about music, for obvious reasons, there is another topic that has to do with music tech I'd like to write a bit about.
     Foley artists are those who create, or recreate, sounds for use in film. Foley is, of course, the sound effects used in the art. If you take a music tech course either in high school or college, you'll likely learn about the history of foley artistry. I won't go into too much detail now (as you should research on your own), but I will say that foley artists thrived in the 1930's. Anytime, now, that you look up a sound for a film you might be doing, from a YouTube video just for kicks, to a final for a film class in college, you've likely used some amount of foley that exists already on the Internet. While the Internet today gives us seemingly endless amounts of usable sound effects, it pays to look back in time and see that things weren't always so easy. Back in the early twentieth century, foley artists had to create all-new sounds themselves- from scratch. Some of the most recognisable sounds, those which first appeared in Star Wars, for example, were created by doing such things as plucking a tightly, vertically pulled slinky (this example gave us some of the laser blast sounds). From The Jazz Singer to the movie advancements of today, foley continues to be an important part of film making.
     But is it as popular now as it was then?
While there may have been a gap between the mid previous century and today, I feel strongly that there is an uprising of amateur foley artists. While pro foley artists have always been around simply due to their necessity in film making, the art of foley has become less known- an unfortunate fact, given that the art is most enjoyable.
     If you have even a decent recording mic and some software to manipulate audio files, you can try collecting and creating some of your own foley. If you're anything like me, you've been out in the world, and have heard a sound and wished you had been able to record it. It doesn't matter if you use them for anything, maybe not right away, but they're good to have and especially fun to create.
     In my case, I'd love to get recording some foley for my friends' videos that they create periodically. Like adding music to film, the right foley goes a long way to deepening the media. Most of what you watch on TV, be it a show or a film, has added foley. An example could be that, while shooting, everything was done perfect and went to final cut, however it was decided that a certain door opening wasn't loud enough. This is where foley recording might kick in.
     Probably the best part about recording foley is that you can be as creative as you want. It's an art for this reason. If you need to get the recording of a door opening, you don't have to record doors. You can find something else that has nothing to do with doors, yet produces the desired sound.
     I've only scratched the surface on foley artistry, especially for those who have never previously heard of it. I didn't go into details for two reasons: so that I wouldn't drag on and become a history professor, and that you might go research what it means to be a foley artist. Even if you don't look into the rich history, you can at least do some research into how you can get recording your own sounds today.

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