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What is a Foley Artist?

foley artist recreating sound

Of all the numerous roles that one can fill on a motion picture production, it’s an undeniable fact that one of the more intriguing positions both in the function and the name on set happens to be that of the Foley artist. The Foley artist has a distinct history in the film industry, and with that a set of responsibilities that many who fulfill the role will find utilizes everything they’ve learned in various visual arts and media production schools.

History Behind The Name

The “Foley artist” position takes its name from Jack Foley. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Foley made his way to California just before World War I broke out and got a job in the film industry as a stunt double and settled down in the mountains in a town called Bishop. Using his expertise, he helped the scenic town become a backdrop for many motion pictures.

As films moved from the silent era to using sound, Foley was called upon to help out with creating the proper effects for the audio tracks for these films. This began with Show Boat in 1929 which was first tapped to be a silent film but was changed into a musical by studio executives after the release of the first “talkie”, The Jazz Singer. That meant hours of work to make sure all of the effects would be recorded for one reel.

The Progression of Foley

As the years went on, Foley would mimic the footsteps of each actor and actress for each scene as he and his crew looked at the movie playing on a screen backstage. This was in addition to other tricks he would use such as sitting in a rocking chair to get the right sound of floorboards creaking. His work was revealed to the public through columns written by various Hollywood journalists, and Foley would press ahead adding innovations to the sound work in motion pictures until his passing in 1967.

The Foley Artist At Work

Foley artists are attached to motion pictures because the sound that they create is meant to either complement or replace the production’s field recording which refers to all of the sound that’s recorded during shooting. Many of the methods from the past are still in use to this day. For example, physical props are still heavily employed by these individuals to create sound effects that need a desired level of precision.

Different Types of Foley Artistry

All of the work that a Foley artist and crew does takes place when a film finishes shooting and goes into post-production. This normally takes place in a recording studio that has been rented out by the producers and the 1st assistant director. All of the sounds Foley artists create can be broken down into three categories:

Feet and Footsteps

This category involves any and all sounds that involve footsteps. Foley artists, for example, will stomp their feet on a marble slab in order to mimic someone walking down or up a flight of stairs.

There are studios that are dedicated to Foley artistry. These studios include multiple pairs of shoes that conveys footsteps for different actors. These places also have specially created floors and pits that contain gravel to give off the right effects of actors walking indoors and outdoors during scenes. These areas are known as Foley pits, and help recreate sound effects for visual media.

Specifics

This category involves how Foley artists use sound to help a viewer better comprehend the scenes that they’re watching. For instance, if a scene depicts action taking place in a large room, the Foley artist and crew in the studio crafts sounds to mimic that environment.

Moves

This Foley work involves the movements that are more subtle, such as when actors brush up against each other or hand things to each other. A Foley artists uses cloth or other materials for these scenes while recording in the studio.

Want to Learn More?

Being a Foley artist means that an individual can fully express and embrace their creativity behind the scenes to enhance a film’s appeal. If this sort of role is something that might be of interest you, take some time to check out IPR’s Sound Design for Visual Media Program for audio for post-production.

Contact us today to learn more about the Sound Design for Visual Media program and starting a rewarding career in the audio industry.