WRITTEN BY TESS FOURNIER
SOUND EFFECTS & FOLEY EDITOR, BOOM BOX POST
Traditionally, Foley--or footsteps, cloth movements, and the handling of small props--is performed and recorded live to picture and later cleaned and edited to be sent to the mix. While this traditional approach will always be necessary for certain projects, in recent years, with the development of new technologies, Digital Foley is now available as an alternative to traditional Foley. It is with a combination of these two techniques that Boom Box Post team covers the footsteps for many of our current projects.
The Process of Digital Foley
There are several Digital Foley instruments on the market today (such as Edward: The Foleyart Instrument highlighted in the video to the right) which offer randomized footsteps on a variety of surfaces. The bulk of these instruments are fairly inexpensive at less than $100, and most can run though Native Instruments Kontakt.
While we have dabbled in using pre-constructed Foley instruments at Boom Box Post, we choose instead to create our own custom patches of individual footsteps for our characters. The types of patches we create vary depending on the needs of each project. For instance, one current project I work on features toony characters with very rhythmic and distinct gait patterns. For this show, creating patches from our extensive library of footsteps and playing them in a very rhythmic and snappy beat has proven to add to the humor and overall sound characteristic of the show. Alternatively, I also work on the Foley for Disney’s The Lion Guard, which requires a more natural and realistic sound. For this project, a foley artist performed the original footsteps on a stage and those recordings were later edited into patches with the artist and mixer’s permission.
After the patches are created, we trigger them on a MIDI keyboard through Kontakt, just as you would with the Digital Foley instruments I mentioned earlier. The performance aspect of playing the keyboard live allows for the human element to still be present in our recordings; similar to how a Foley artist would walk live to picture, we walk using our fingers along the keys.
We record straight into Pro Tools, which allows us to edit on the fly. Being able to perform, record, and edit the Foley in one pass cuts down on time, which is ever precious with our tight schedules in post production.
The Benefits of Digital Foley
Speed is not the only benefit digital Foley offers, however. Having the various surfaces and shoe types at our fingertips eliminates the need for a Foley stage. Also, the entire Foley process can be completed by a single person, rather than the artist, mixer, and editor used in traditional foley. These cut down on costs and manpower.
The biggest benefit, in my opinion, is the ability to retroactively change a multitude of parameters incredibly easily. Because Digital Foley is recorded with MIDI, you can easily edit that MIDI information to sync with your picture, and then re-record that performance with any alternative you could want. For instance, if I am unhappy with the volume or pitch of a certain performance, I can adjust those parameters on my instrument and re-record it using the MIDI information I already laid down. As an even more drastic example, I can replace the patch altogether with an entirely new sound. This especially comes in handy for animated media, in which surfaces can change between different versions of picture.
Foley is a key component to any soundscape and it’s exciting that we now have Digital Foley as an option. Whether you choose to utilize Digital Foley due to its highly customizable nature, or simply because of budget or time restraints, it’s clear that it has the potential to leave a pretty huge footprint in the audio industry.
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*Main image credit to Geralt