7 Steps to Better Foley

I have learned a lot of things over the years, none that have stuck with me as much as the experimenting and hundreds of takes I have done in order to get better at performing, recording and editing Foley. Below I will share with you seven things I learned that make it easier, faster and sound better:

1. Wardrobe Choice

Image result for cosplay wardrobe

Yes. Your clothes (and shoes) are very important when recording Foley.  The microphones are super sensitive and usually have a healthy amount of gain applied to capture your movements in their full glory. Break out the leather jackets and heavy boots for battle scenes, and wear full lycra (if you can face it) if you need to record footsteps or something else quiet (for example, the scratching of a pencil) because it clings to your frame and doesn’t make any extra noise.

2. Know Your Role!

Image result for know your role

I cannot stress this enough – if you are going to be recording Foley as the artist or the engineer, watch the movie. Watch it all the way through so you know the story and emotions. Then watch AGAIN any action scenes or any scenes with a lot of movement. Then before you record watch the scene AGAIN. It’s really good practice to know what is happening on screen before it happens so you can be ready, to avoid too many takes and having massive sessions. Which brings me smoothly onto my next point……..

3. How Many Takes is Too Many?

Image result for confused maths

Four. Four is too many. My experience has taught me that the majority of the best sounds come in Take Two and Take Three, with a fair amount of usable bits in the first go around. This is because you are warmed up and ready to go after the first take, so give it your best shot in take two. The same with three. By take four, however, you are starting to lose energy from doing the same thing over and over. Trust me, if you don’t have it in three takes, do something else for a bit, then go back to it.

4. Different People Have Different Ears

Image result for Ear

In an ideal world, getting the very best out of a Foley session requires three people. One to perform, one to record, and a third person who comes in later to compile and edit. Being too familiar with the material can lead to bad decisions, because you know every little slip of the tongue, hand or foot.  These little mistakes are often edited out by a person present at the recording session, but often add a human quality to the sound that may be imperceptible to a third ear.

5. Pull a Jim Carrey

Image result for ace ventura

And OVERACT. Us people working hard in post-production are aiming for hyper reality. The things we do need to sound more like things than the actual things – for example, buffalo slowed down sound more like horses running than horses running. Go figure.

Anyway, overact. Enhance every footstep, hand smack, door close and stick swing. It’s easy to turn down the volume. It’s really hard to add character to a lifeless audio piece.

6. Hit It Like You Hate It

Image result for hit with stick

Similar to the previous point, but this one is more focused on the actual sound than the performance. In the TV show, feature film, documentary or video game you are doing sound for, the protagonist may be feeling angry, or scared, or preparing to take revenge in the name of his murdered mother/girlfriend/sister/dog. These moments lead to explosive action scenes, fight scenes and kicking doors down.  These are the best and most fun sound effects possible to record. Don’t waste your time, nobody wants to hear a gentle pat as Thor swings his hammer into whatever otherworldly villain he is vanquishing. Nobody wants to listen to ants walking on paper as the Rohirrim charge the Mordor Orcs at the Battle of Pelennor Fields. If it’s going to be loud and powerful on the screen, make it loud and powerful in the studio. Energy can be captured on microphone as well as sound!

7. Enjoy It!

Image result for thumbs up

Image result for thumbs up

Image result for thumbs up

Image result for thumbs up

Recording Foley puts you in the shoes of the protagonist and villain of the movie. Enjoy being Batman. Enjoy playing giant robots like in Pacific Rim or Transformers. Enjoy even more playing Godzilla or King Kong, because you get to stomp around and smash things. As previously mentioned, microphones capture energy as well as sound. If you’re bored, the viewer can sense it and will be bored too.


Rage of the Water Dragon

This obscure piece again uses 360 audio created in the FB360 Spatial Workstation. The sounds are built by layering samples.

The rain is created with recorded rain, plus a watering can on a patio, plus a thunder sample, plus some tropical birds. The different layers make it seem more “alive” and “natural” than just using rain.

The roars are a combination of two lions, two elephants and me screaming into a microphone. Everything is heavily processed, especially the scream which has been pitch shifted and filtered to remove most of the high end.

The panning is very simple in this clip. The rain is a stereo file, which is headlocked. The dragon roars then move around the listener as if circling their prey. I added in a sample I had in my library of sandpaper on rope, which I have used a number of times to simulate the sound of animal claws on the ground. This comes in between the roar sounds.

Please check out the audio file below!

Five Christmas Songs You May Not Know

When most people think of Christmas music, they think of irritating jingle bells, repetitive melodies and lyrics seemingly written to be as cringey and cheesy as possible.

What I think about is inbred, cannibalistic reindeer. Or Bob Dylan and accordions. Or heavy metal guitar solos.

Below is five alternative Christmas songs that you should consider adding to your playlist this festive season.

5. No Presents For Christmas by King Diamond

A heavy metal Christmas song from 1986 and it sounds like it! Heavy guitar riffs, long solo and shouty-screech vocals. If you want to clear your parents out of the living room to get the best seat for the after dinner games on Christmas Day, crank it up!

4. The Christmas Song by The Raveonettes

The Raveonettes are a Danish indie rock/pop duo with a very interesting sound due to the 5 to 10 effects pedals they each use for live performances.  The Christmas Song displays their intertwining vocal harmonies in a way that makes this feel like a classic Christmas song but also alternative and modern at the same time.

3. Happy Holiday by Enuff Z’Nuff

If you haven’t heard of Enuff Z’Nuff, check them out. Go ahead, I’ll wait.  Two of their songs actually charted – “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing”. This is glam rock power pop Christmas cheer!

2. It Must Be Santa by Bob Dylan

One of the best-selling artists of all time, Bob Dylan is better known for civil rights and anti-war messages than catchy Christmas tunes. But this accordion fuelled, up tempo song will have anyone singing along after hearing the chanty call-and-response feel of this one!

1. Fabian by Tripod

In the introduction I promised inbred, cannibalistic reindeer. Well, here we go. Tripod are an Australian comedy trio that I have been a massive fan of for about ten years. Their music is great, it makes me laugh and this song pokes fun at the classic tale of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with a dark twist!

The Surrounding Orchestra

As part of an assignment, I was lucky enough to help record Ramsbottom Choral Society and Orchestra at Bolton Road Methodist Church with their rendition of Handel’s Messiah.

We recorded a full orchestral performance at the rehearsal on the night before the concert, but were able to experiment with the ST450 Soundfield microphone at conductor position. The photo below shows where we were able to get the ST450 (directly in front of the conductor with a mono omnidirectional Rode NT-2A).


The microphone itself is a wonderfully useful piece of equipment that takes in audio and produces up to seven output tracks. Four, named W, X, Y and Z, can be encoded using the SurroundZone 2 plugin into 5.1, 7.1, Ambisonic format and many more. These produce a realistic spatial mix with barely any work! In the below audio clip, I experimented with these recordings with Reaper and the FB360 Spatial Workstation, a tool I am quickly becoming familiar with and enjoying more and more.

I have found that Reaper is an ideal program for working with 360 Audio, as it is a very versatile, flexible program capable of making a created track into any kind of track – need an aux? An audio track? A master fader? All just one track each!

The routing is handled all by the handy routing button shown below:

routing button


Within the routing options you can see how I laid out my tracks: The orchestra is operating from the soundfield mic in 5.1 surround but I also used the mono feeds from the same microphone (it’s a useful beast!) to fill in the frontal gaps. The L and R are from the stereo output of the ST450 and the C is from the NT-2A.

The crowd noises were taken from the W, X and Y soundfield feeds to form a semi circle behind the listener.


21st Century Pac Man

I have been learning to create 360 degree audio as part of one of my modules this semester. I used Cockos Reaper and the FB360 Spatial Workstation to edit and pan the audio for a 360 video I found on YouTube – a Pacman 3D experience uploaded by Andy Front Films in 2015 (seen here)

I first opened the panner and used write automation to follow each ghost (Which I named Pinky, Bluey, Reddy and Naranja) individually as they moved on the screen


I did this twice for each track, the first time recording the azimuth angle (left-right) and the elevation angle (up-down). The second time I recorded the distance from the player the ghost is, which attenuates the audio sample more if the source is panned further away. I then added a different ghostly moan sample for each of my four characters, which change pan based on the location of the ghost!

The music was a stereo electronic music track that i split into mono and panned hard left and hard right, with an elevation of 45 degrees to simulate the feel of an arcade machine around the viewer.


The “bleeps” as I called them, or the sounds of Pac Man eating things or dying, were headlocked to the viewer, meaning whichever way they looked those sounds didn’t change direction.


Finally, I ran everything through a severe compressor in an attempt to simulate the characteristics of an arcade machine audio system. It definitely adds punch!

Here is the “finished” product (I say “finished” because I’ll go back to it one day soon!)


Watch The Video Here.

Full Body Foley

My favourite genre to work with is Fantasy. You can do so much with the sound because it is based in a world that is only limited by imagination. Dragon roars, magic spells and epic battles give a lot of scope to sound design and are a lot of fun to plan and perform when adding Foley to a soundtrack.  The video below shows me putting down one take of the sound on a mountain top fight scene.

We used two AKG 414s, one aimed at the feet to pick up footsteps (cornflour for snow) and thumps on the wood, and the other further up to pick up the metallic jingle of chainmail. The belt pulls in the waist to create a cinch point, deadening the upper chest area for a more muted sound and amplifying the waist and thigh mail sounds.

Shoes are incredibly important when doing footsteps, as different sole patterns and thickness produces different sounds. For the bandit in this scene, I chose a running shoe has they have a thick rubber sole and deep grooves, to produce a more crunchy snow sound (as opposed to slippery or wet snow) and a heavier thud when stomping and jumping.

This sequence was used for a creative commons project I am working on at Salford University, putting down all the sound on a 7 minute film clip. We have opted for Sintel, made by the Blender Foundation, which is an epic short film about a girl who finds and befriends a dragon.

Noise Reduction Testing

I am always willing to help with something that benefits the health and protection of other people.  In this experiment at Salford University Acoustics department I was subjected to loud white noise with and without the hearing protection used on board helicopters.

The test was to determine the attenuation of the noise when active noise reduction was applied to the helmet.

The noise reduction system seemed to affect the frequency content of the noise, filtering out a lot of the low end, which would be incredibly useful for avoiding the sound of spinning helicopter blades.