Creating Foley Sound to Polish Your Audio Mix

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    Adding great audio to your video is an easy way to raise your production value. Foley sound brings details into your mix to make your video sound more professional. We show you how to create footsteps, clothing rustle, breathing, and unique barn door sounds. With some ordinary items as props, you can create some extraordinary sound for your next project.

    Video Transcript

    Adding great audio to your video is an easy way to raise your production value.  While it helps to add music and stock effects to the sound that you’ve captured on the set, Foley sound brings those more details into your mix to make your video sound more professional.
    In this segment we show you how to create footsteps, clothing rustle, breathing, and some unique barndoor sounds to put the final touches on an audio mix.
    With some ordinary items as props, you can create some extraordinary sound for your next project.
    OPEN
    In the early days of foley sound, all the sound effects for a scene were recorded on a single audio track, and the foley artists would create the sound in one take using a host of props, physical movement, and other tricks of the trade.  Today, stock sound effects can cover many of our needs, but foley sound can get you those tough to get nuances that will match your scene perfectly.  Luckily, modern technology allows us to use multiple tracks and takes that we can mix together to get the right sound.
    This is a scene from our shooting day for night segment, even after adding music and some canned sound effects, our scene still sounds a bit empty.  Take a listen.
    [DFN SCENE with music and sfx]
    We’re missing sounds like footsteps, our actors sweatshirt, and breathing.  Of course, toward the end of the scene, we’re also missing the sound of the barn door closing and being barred. 
    Professional foley studios use high-end mics and preamps in rooms that are designed to isolate sound to capture every detail of a scene without adding noise into the mix. 
    The rest of us have to use the highest quality preamp we have, along with the best shotgun or large diaphragm condenser mic in our arsenal.  A mic with the lowest possible equivalent noise level is preferable.  The equivalent noise level is also referred to as a microphone's self-noise.  It basically tells you the operating noise level of a mic.  Decent mics should have a level under 15dba if measured on the dba scale, or below 30db on the ccir scale. Of course, you’ll also need a method of watching your scenes as you record. 
    For our setup, we used the AKG_perception 100, a large diaphragm cardioid condenser mic, and attached the shure x2u xlr to usb adapter.  Then we ran it into our HP elitebook and opened up adobe audition.  In audition, we were able to import our reference video track, and drop it into a multitrack timeline.  This allowed us to record multiple takes on different tracks that were synced to the video clip. To view the details of the scene better, we ran a vga cable from the laptop to a consumer HD tv.
    We started by creating the footsteps.  Our scene had three different surfaces we needed to recreate.  Dirt, gravel, and concrete. 
    A quick trip into the backyard and some spare cardboard boxes and we had our dirt and gravel ready.  For the concrete, we picked up two pavers at the local home improvement store.  Our boxes were a little too small to use both feet, so we alternated from one side of our foot to another in order to simulate steps from each foot.  This is an old foley artist technique. 

    Let’s take a listen to the sounds we recorded.
    FOOTSTEPS SOUND
    Next, we wanted to recreate the sound of the clothing rustle.  We tried a few different methods, and settled on simply rubbing a sweatshirt against itself.  It sounds like this...
    SWEATSHIRT SOUND
    As one more added detail, we recorded a bit of light breathing, then heavier breathing for when our actor begins to run. Here’s the isolated track.
    BREATHING SOUND
    With all the running sounds recorded, it was time to get creative and simulate our barn door sliding shut. We brought out a piece of a lazy susan, a metal grate, a 2x4, and even a light flag and starting experimenting. For a rolling sound, we used part of a lazy susan, which gave us this sound.
    LAZY SUSAN
    to add more depth to the rolling sound we used the corner of our mic flag, and ran it along the metal grate, then hit it against a small piece of 4 by 4 to simulate the door running along the tracks and hitting the other door.  Let’s take a listen.
    mic flag on grate hitting 4x4
    We wanted to add a bit of a rusty sound to the door closing, so we grabbed the nearest foldout table, and simply opened it up.  it sounds like this.
    sound of rusty table
    Putting all those sounds together makes a pretty convincing combination.
    sound of doors closing mix.
    The final sound we wanted to add was our actor barring the barn door.  we took a 2 by 4 and ran the flat side along our metal grate, then let it hit the mic flag which was placed with our 4 by 4 piece behind it.  Again here’s the isolated track
    sound of door being barred
    We recorded all our tracks at the highest possible volume for good fidelity, then we adjusted the levels to get a good overall mix. 
    Keep in mind, we’re not using high-end mics or preamps, and our studio isn’t as quiet as we’d like it to be, so there was more noise in our audio than we would’ve liked. Here’s what the foley mix sounds like.
    FOLEY MIX
    Luckily, in our case, there’s plenty of other effects and music to help hide the noise in our final project. We adjusted the overall level to mix in with our sound effects and music. Here’s what it sounds like all together
    FINAL MIX WITH FOLEY
    Adding foley sound takes a bit of time and effort, but the results can raise the production value of any video.  Plus it’s a lot of fun to create! So grab that mic, get creative, and put some polish on your next project.  Thanks for watching.

    For our setup, we used a rode ntg-3 shotgun mic, and ran it straight into a jvc hm600.  Then we ran our HP elitebook into a consumer HD monitor to playback our video.