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Foley Artist

The Foley artist on a film crew is the person who creates and records many of the sound effects, (these days many often associate the Foley artist with the job of capturing the natural/everyday sounds leaving the role of special (audio) effects to the Sound designer. Foley artists, sound designers, editors, and supervisors are highly specialized and are essential for producing a professional-sounding soundtrack suitable for distribution and exhibition.

Sound effects are rarely recorded at the same time as dialogue and action, since the sound mix is so difficult to balance; the Foley artist listens to the dialogue track for the (usually quite faint) sounds of, for instance, footsteps, a door slam, etc. and records them onto a new track (the Foley track) in synch with the action onscreen. Other sound effects are drawn from recorded libraries, but many directors prefer the direct involvement of the Foley artist.

The Foley artist also adds sounds that may not exist at all on the original track: for instance, thumping watermelons or cracking bamboo to create the sounds of a fight. Many Foley artists take pride in constructing their own sound effects apparatus, frequently using simple, common materials. Some "making-of" features show Foley artists at work. The contrast between the action on the screen and the down-home effects is striking.

The name comes from one of the original and well-known Hollywood practitioners of this art, Jack Foley, who got his start in the film business as a stand-in and screenwriter during the silent era and later helped Universal make the transition to sound. As the name is related to the person, a capital 'F' should be used.

Movies are full of sound and fury, and often the sound is just as much pretend as the fury. The ones who create the fake sounds are called foley artists. They’re named for Jack Foley, who gets credit for inventing the craft in the early days of sound. “The first function of the foley artist is to re-create sound effects that are directly related to human response or human physical action,” says foley artist Gary Boggess, “like walking, falling, or even kissing. The second function is to replace the [sounds created by] body gestures and movements. These are usually done by rubbing cloth. The third role is to create any sound effects for when a character is holding a prop. This would include things like picking up or setting things down, putting on or taking off a hat, or fumbling with a phone.” Any other sound, like the squeal of a tire or the ring of a bell, is usually pulled from a sound-effects library. “A bell is a bell is a bell,” says Boggess. “A foley artist doesn’t do that. A gun would not be a foley effect, because guns, once they’re triggered, all basically sound the same.” The art of foley lies in providing the walking and cloth sounds in a film. That’s because these are the most common things that characters do in a film. According to Boggess, adding these sounds can add a lot to a character and to a scene. “I’ve compared foley I’ve produced with the sound from the set,” he says, “and it’s amazing how much better the foley sounds. It’s more dramatic, and it helps you focus on the scene better than the actual sound of that scene could.” Boggess has enjoyed working on a wide variety of films, from “Batman and Robin” to “Puppet Master IV.” He encourages others to become foley artists, too. Anyone who wants to become a foley artist, however, should know how to approach the job. “You have to have a more musical approach to sound effects,” Boggess says. “Sound effects in film today are another kind of music.”


foley artist, sound effects recorder