My Thirty Seconds of Silent Movie Foley

Here I do perhaps my favorite d1s106 audio assignment. We made it part of The You Show Unit 4 to give people an appreciation of and an experience creating sounds for a movie. What most people (including me) do nto realize when we are watching a film is that just about all of the sounds beyond the dialogue are added later by these crazy cats called Foley Artists.

Based on an idea via a Skype call from Scott Lockman, I did this first as an in class activity in 2012 and continued into later online classes I taught in DS106.

It’s simple. The original film is silent, but that does not mean there is no sound. It’s music. Imagine if you could redo the audio track for a 30 second segment of this film. Plan it out and figure out how to make foley sounds for slamming doors, running feet, a sleeping lion, an annoying dog… that is the real assignment, trying to make sounds out of objects you have at hand.

I provide this 3 minute clip

and assign a 30 second segment based on the month of your birthday. I’ve done this one a few times for the 4th segment, so I chose the 3rd one, from 1:01 to 1:30. Here is how I approach it.

I first watch this part of the clip a few times, and make some notes of what I think could be created sound effects, and when they occur in the clip. I then rummage around my room, kitchen, garage, for objects I think I could use. This is the list I came up with yesterday:

Planning my Foley activity
Planning my Foley activity

It’s not out of bounds to create the sound with your voice. There are no rules at all.

I assemble stuff I think I can use- I have a harmonica (to muffle blow through for the lion sleeping, did not quite work out), a fuzzy sweater to rub to represent the Tramp ruffling his hair), a wooden box and a pot to hit with a metal (to represent the dog jumping agains the cage and The Tramp hitting the cage with his foot), and a wrapper from a tea bag to rip to represent the dog tearing at his pant leg.

Items I used on my 30 seconds of Foley fame
Items I used on my 30 seconds of Foley fame

Then I run the clip a few times from my laptop with the audio turned off so I can do a few practice runs. It’s probably better if you aim for doing about 5 sounds. I had a lot of repeated dog barks in this segment. I did about 2 practice rounds.

Then I turn on recording in Audacity, press play on the video, and try to match the sounds to the clip. The goal is to it without stopping, one take (it’s a goal).

I’ve done this a number of times, and got close enough on my second take. Okay, my recording was about 5 seconds long, so I actually deleted a few silent spots in Audacity to batter match it.

Again, it is not about being perfect, but trying. Here is my Foley segment for the 3rd segment of the clip (1:01 to 1:30):

I also ask to put these on SoundCLoud and to use a specific tag (mine is chaplin-lion-03) — this will come into play when we have later video activity.

I have seen an amazing response to this assignment. Students have posted on their blogs that their spouse/partner/kids joined in. That they stayed up late making noise in their kitchen. That they started listening more closely to movies to try and figure out what might have made the sounds they hear.

Foley is an invisible world, and once you experience it… movies are never the same.

About cogdog

I bark about and play with technology and web stuff. Harmless. I have my shots.

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