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Foley for the Carribean - Studio Sessions (Part 2)


Our second session is where our real work was going to begin; while we had done some previous recordings in the studio, we hadn't sat through the whole clip with our spotting list in hand recreating specific sounds throughout, rather we'd only really just done a couple of sporadic recordings so that we could edit them in later. So now it was time to get in and start doing some real foley work. Most of our foley sessions were based around trying to get good impact sounds for the punches and general scuffling and body sounds, so while I will talk a bit about that, I'd rather focus on some of the more interesting techniques that we used. Our microphone choices for these sessions were a Rode K2 and an SM57, placed in various positions appropriate to the sound source.


Foley is Hard Work

I never thought I'd get tired just sitting on the floor playing around with different materials, but after 20 minutes of viciously rustling a heavy piece of material in front of a microphone, I realised how physically demanding some foley work can be. Trying to match the intensity of the fights in the scenes to make sure the cloth I was rustling around sounded like all of their clothes was a lot more demanding than I thought, although it was fun. I found that watching particular sections of foreground fighting on repeat while I was working with the materials was the best way to try and match every movement with the right velocity and timing. We also found that going through the entire clip a few times just to get an underlying track of clothing movements was a good approach, only a few little adjustments in volume using automation were needed to make it fit. I found that I didn't really realise how much of this kind of background sound we would need until I watched through trying to find bits where it was needed. Below are still from only a couple of sections that required the sounds of clothes rustling during a struggle.

We also used a similar method for all of the sounds where Jack is swapping hats with everyone, but what I thought was interesting was that moving the cloth in a manner that matched his actual movements on screen didn't translate well; I had to really over act all of my movements for anything to be considered in the foreground.

Some of my favourite moments during the physical recording process were for these two scenes;

For the scene where a man is seemingly pushed off a balcony, not only did we need ADR of him screaming (which I will get to later), we also needed the sound of him hitting the ground off screen. Our first few attempts at this involved me just throwing the heavy cloth we were working with onto the ground, which did sound fairly good considering all the clothes noise we now knew would go into that sound, but didn't really have the right kind of weight behind it. So I moved our microphones into appropriate positions (out of the way), and watched the clip for the right moment, then slumped myself onto the ground in the recording booth. Sometimes getting the right sound is as simple as recreating the action; which brings me to the second scene.

For this shot of two men fighting on the stairs, we needed the sound of the guy on the right being shoved into the wall. For this we tried similar techniques to the previous scene, such as the cloth being dropped on the ground and trying to recreate body impact sounds, but there was something missing. I told Ryan to maybe try just actually shoving me into the wall in the recording booth, and as unnecessary as it sounds, it worked really well. Not only did it provide a convincing "thud", we also managed to get an ADR element of the interaction as well. Anything to get the job done I suppose; needless to say, it was a pretty funny session.


Glass Smashes, Gunshots and Rustling Leaves

One set of foley sounds that I'm particularly impressed with are the glass smashing sounds. Ryan came to the studio well prepared with a technique for glass smashing sounds that would bypass the need to literally smash glass; which is preferable but a little disappointing. He came armed with a few different sized glass cups, a handful of keys and some cling wrap. I had researched using keys as a way of recreating glass smashes before but thought that it didn't really quite give the right sound we were looking for. Ryan's technique however was a little different; instead of just dropping keys in the cup, he would wrap the clingfilm tightly over the opening of the glass, and then throw a key through it and into the glass. The initial pop of the plastic was perfect for recreating that kind of pop you hear when a glass breaks, followed by the key jingling around in the glass in lieu of glass shattering.

The Rode K2 was sensitive enough to pick up all the intricate higher frequencies of this sound without distorting, so our

recordings were sounding fantastic. But it didn't quite have the layers you'd expect when you hear glass shattering. So I suggested that after a few takes of Ryan's method, we should drop a handful of keys into the glass without cling film, just so we could get that multiple impact sound of glass falling. With a few layers of sound up our sleeve, all that was left to do was to bring them all together to create a nice, full glass shattering sound. Different variations of these sounds layered together were used for the different bottles smashing throughout the scene.

The gunshot sounds were something we had both researched prior to this session so we would ready to try out a couple of different methods. We both were familiar with the idea of popping a blown up plastic bag for the sound of a gunshot, so we got stuck in trying it out. First off we blew up a regular plastic bag and popped it in front of our Rode K2, which resulted in a pretty low end sound "hwoof" rather than the "bang" that we wanted, but we still kept the recording in case we could use it. We figured that a big bag would probably foster the same result, so we trying blowing up bits of cling wrap that we had twisted into something that kind of resembled a small balloon. Popping these created a more defined impact, and after a bit of mixing these two sounds together, pitching them down and over saturating them we had a perfect gunshot sound. We decided to go for just the bang aspect of the gunshot rather than the techniques I had discussed in an earlier blog, just because it fit more to the original sound track.

The last scene we had to work on during this session was the couple of rustling sounds of the plant Jack is holding during the scene. The two sections where we would need this sound were at the beginning where Jack ducks behind a poll with the plant and where he pops it into a barrel near the middle of the scene.

This was probably one of the easier sounds to recreate, we had access to a big bundle of old cassette tape and just even slightly touching it creates a great sound that you could use for trees blowing in the wind, walking on a leaf littered floor or even rain! Just some precise movements to match the actions on screen and both shots had their leaf rustling sounds. The only extra thing we had to add into the section clip with the barrel was the sound of the plant hitting the bottom of the barrel, which was easy enough to create by carefully dropping the cloth mentioned earlier onto the floor. Getting it on the right angle and only letting some of it hit the ground created a thud that wasn't too heavy but still represented the sound we were searching for.


Most of our foley work was done, now we just had to line everything up, make a few embellishments and then get back into the studio for some final foley recordings and the all important ADR.


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