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Foley for the Caribbean - Studio Sessions (Part 1)


We decided to take a layer by layer approach to recording, meaning that we would try and recognise layers of sound in the clip that would need replacing. We recognised that there was a general soundscape for the background of the clip; being the crowd and general sounds of the bar fight that you don't necessarily see on screen, then the sounds of the background that you actually see on screen; so, more specific sounds for actions that you can see but aren't in the foreground, then the foreground sounds like the main characters fighting and moving, then finally the ADR at the very forefront of the clip. In terms of our layered recording mindset, we decided we would need a solid foundation of sound before we start adding things to the foreground, and so we started with the sounds of our crowd.


Creating the Crowd

Our studio was booked and our "crowd" was coming in to play their part, and by "crowd" I mean the 2 people that showed up out of the 5 or 6 we had invited. We weren't too worried though because Ryan and myself were more than ready to contribute to the soundscape. Our microphone set up was fairly simple for this recording, we put NT1A condenser mics either sides of the large live room, about a metre away from the wall, facing the centre of the room. This is simply to capture a stereo sound of our crowd; one mic used for the left channel and the other used for the right. Our session plan was to capture multiple tracks of our actors yelling, grunting and pretending to fight for the length of the clip. In an effort to add depth to our recordings we had our actors change the intensity of their performance from take to take, meaning that we would then have multiple takes of very loud yelling and fighting, slightly quieter fighting, and eventually sparse individual shouts and grunts. Once we had our mics set up and the Pro Tools session ready to go, I hit record and quickly ran out of the control room and into the live room where we all started yelling, screaming and running around the room. I wish I had taking a video of the commotion we were causing because it was probably the most fun part of this project; I'm sure people down the halls were wondering what the hell was going on. We achieved our goal of multiple clips at varying intensities just prior to one of our actresses arriving. We decided it was a good time to take a catch our breathes and start recording ADR for the scenes where Kira Knightly is fighting. Our actress stood slightly closer to one of the mics we had set up (as the sounds we were about to record we in the foreground) and moved the TV slightly in the control room so she could see it through the window and follow along with the actions on screen. We understood that it was a bit difficult for her to see the screen properly so we instructed her to take beats in her performance so that the shouts we captured were far enough apart for easier editing to fit timing. Once we were happy with what we had captured, we had our other actress move into the live room so we could do ADR for the two women tackling each other to the ground. Following the same process, we had the actresses roughly follow the scene and act out just the ADR. This was again pretty easy to achieve so we didn't spend too much time on it and consequently, had a bit more time in our session than we thought we would. We used this time to capture a few more layers of general crowd sounds, but this time with some females voices involved. Once again as a group, and then once with just the actresses so we would have a solo track to blend in.

After this session we had plenty of layers of crowd recordings to mess around with, as well as some of our crucial ADR elements. This gave us the foundation and soundscape we were looking for.


Starting Foley

Our next session was in the same studio, and marked the beginning of foley recordings. We didn't have a lot of time during our session so the plan was simple; we would try out a couple of different techniques for the sword hit sounds before we booked a proper foley recording studio. We also thought that while we were in there we may as well try and create some of the "whoosh" sounds for the bottles flying past the screen and possible the swords.

Our weapons of choice were a couple of large metal hinges, a paint roller without the roll, some metal pipes and a coat hanger.

Starting with the sword hits, we set up a Rode NT2A and started hitting some of the different metal objects together. The object we found best used as an exciter (something to hit other things with) was the paint roller as it was a thin piece of metal so it best portrayed the kind of sword in the clip. However, the metal poles rung out quite a bit when held loosely and didn't quite have the same kind of tone when they were held tight, the metal hinges also weren't ideal as they sounded too big and chunky for the sound we were after, and the metal spoon was made of a very thin metal so it too didn't sound any good. After exhausting all of our metal implements we thought we might try incorporating some of the furniture.

Ryan displaying some fine swordsmanship

The lamp that was in the room had a great sound and was definitely a winner. Now it was onto the whoosh sound and the reason we brought along a coat hanger. I remembered that a few weeks ago, a friend of mine demonstrated to me that quickly swinging a coat hanger created an almost comical "whoosh", so that's why we took it into the studio. And the results were perfect; you can get a similar sound swinging anything quickly from a wooden spoon to an extension lead, but something about the coat hanger just sounds perfect.

And that would conclude our session, not exactly a lot of work being done but we were able to capture some sword hits good enough to use in our final product, and of course the all important swooshing sounds.


Now that our foley and ADR skills are primed we're ready to move into doing some of the finer foley sounds throughout the scene. Our next few sessions will be in a studio built for recording foley sound so we're excited to get in there and start messing around. In regards to what was achieved in the session I've mentioned, I think I'm pretty happy with the results. Our crowd sounds are nice and full and almost fill out the scene completely, and our few foley sounds have given us some insight to the practical side of this project.



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