I am fascinated by the way that films are made. There is so much going on behind the scenes to produce what seems so smooth and natural. I have posted many times about CGI and other visual effects but via David Pescovitz, I came across this short documentary about the production of sound effects in films. I had no idea that so much of the sound is added on later, and is not captured in real time by microphones that are hidden from the camera. In addition to getting the sound right, the timing is crucial.
I learned for the first time that the people who produce these sounds are called ‘Foley artists’, named after Jack Foley who pioneered this art form.
There are many stories in the film industry about Jack Foley’s genius, such as the time Stanley Kubrick wanted to re-shoot a Roman army scene in Spartacus to get the sound right — instead Foley jangled a set of keys into a microphone and got the desired sound.
Jack Foley never received a single screen credit for his work, although to be fair, neither did most other film workers during this period. Today Foley artists receive the credit they deserve and Jack has the last laugh by having them all named after him.
This article explains in more detail why attempts to capture these ambient sounds directly while filming the scene are often inadequate and what Foley artists do to correct the deficiency.
Noises on location often mask the dialogue which must be replaced in a recording studio later – an actor may have to replace an entire scene or just one word!
This process is called Looping or Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR.) The Dialogue Editor then conforms the ‘Production Audio’ (the live sound) and the ADR into a complete track.
However, the ADR segments are clean and free of noise – it doesn’t sound natural when combined with Production. And the footsteps are missing, as well as any other action on screen. Foley fills in the gaps between the live recording and studio ADR, smoothing out the sound and creating new sounds where they are missing.
It makes you realize that there are so many skilled artists working behind the scenes who are not only not recognized by the public but we don’t even realize that they are playing any role at all.