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Royalty-Free Sound Effects with Foley

Jennifer shows you how to make sound effects free of royalty and copyright problems.

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Video Transcript

Natural sound is all around us, but sometimes it’s so subtle we don’t even notice. We do, however, notice when it’s not there, and in movies, sound technicians add a special element of reality to every scene by using something called foley effect. Today we’re gonna show you a scene that we shot of my frantically arriving to work, late as usual, but we forgot to put on a microphone, so we had to actually add the sound in later, and we’re gonna show you the before and the after with our foley effects.

The term foley sound comes from a great Hollywood sound artist, Jack Foley. Foley sound is not sound effects, as some people think, but recreating the natural movements of people and animals. We shot this sequence using different angles for match editing, pacing and timing, and adding our musical and audio stings, it works okay, but it’s really missing some key elements; natural sound.

We tried matching some of the sound effects on location, but were interrupted by lawnmowers, heavy traffic and sirens. When you’re shooting for real sound effects, you want the audio to be as clean as possible. Any ambient wild sound or room noise should be added to the mix later to make the sound as distinct as possible. So we went inside for the controlled environment. Here, our sound effects mixer watches the video on a TV screen while trying to recreate the sound as realistically as possible.

Be patient when you do this. You’ll have to try it several times to get the pacing, timing and mood just right. The shoes I wore on this particular day were soft-soled and made very little sound, even when we slapped them heavily on the concrete, so we cheated by using a pair of high heels. High heels are great sound effects tools and can be used for many things other than shoes.

I had the usual jungle of keys and purse. Well, a video producer would keep it a purse. DVDs, mini DV tapes and of course keys and coins. When I dropped the purse, though, the sound would’ve been blended all together, so he recorded each item separately to layer on our time-line.

When editing, place each effect on a separate layer to isolate the sound so you can fine tune them individually. Even the walking or running sounds, place the left foot on one audio track and the right foot on another so you can move the sound closer or farther apart to accurately match edit each footstep.

Natural sound can sometimes come from some unnatural places. You’ve heard of the tricks of using coconuts to simulate horse hooves. A person running on grass is nearly soundless, so try this tip; place some shredded newspaper in a baggie and crunch it together close to the mic. Other tricks for making natural sound unnaturally; bone snapping, twist dry spaghetti. Bones breaking, break fresh or frozen celery. Body beaten, fill the gutted cavity of a frozen chicken, beat it. A stair creek, use a rocking chair. Walking in the mud, walk your fingers across a soaking wet roll of toilet paper. Wind, turn a bike upside down, place part of a nylon fabric or windbreaker jacket on the tire and spin the tire.

To learn more about foley and sound effects, look up these articles in Video Maker.

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