Reflective Journal: Recording Foley

Reflective Journal: Recording Foley

Recently I had the pleasure of working with Chris Ware on doing the music and sound design for two games and a TVC. As we performed these projects at the same time we decided to sit down and have a conversation about the processes that we went through and challenges faced. This is the third and final blog from this conversation.

Hearth / Transmutation

Ash: Those sounds worked really well, I was surprised. Hitting a cabbage with a mallet and mixing that with the squishy, gore sound from the Gak, all worked really well. I noticed we had started to get more creative with layering sounds. One challenge was not taking up too much of the one frequency range. Really taking into account that we need to fill in all these gaps and leave room for other audio, especially for the music. Which actually made the music a little easier to compose to as it was minimalistic, in the busy part of the song 6 tracks are playing at once, which is not many.

Chris: It's a massive sound regardless. When we were auditioning props for Transmutation, the impact sounds were a leg of ham, a pot and a broom. The pot sounds easy, get a pot, hit...It didn't work out like that.

A: Nothing worked, we did not consider the fact that pots were so thick and have no resonance. You hear foley so much in movies and games, that's "the sound" they make, right? You expect to slip on a banana peel, you get tricked by those conventions. The fry pan makes a "dong" because the foley artist made it that way.

C: So we auditioned a bunch of pots and pans, ended up choosing a cake tin. That had quite a bit of resonance.

A: Similar thing with the broom, you can't use a broom, it doesn't make a significant noise. Might as well just use a mallet, or a fry pan, they all sound pretty similar through a microphone. Nothing sounds like it should through a microphone.

C: For the broom we used these thick wooden poles.

A: But you had to hit them in the right way to get the right sound out of them.

C: In Hearth, the fire was all plastic?

A: Chip packet, wrapping paper, bubble wrap.

C: Another challenge was having options during the recording sessions. Never just bring one prop to record, you never know how it's going to sound through a microphone and having several microphones as well. We were using a MK416, SM7B and a NTG3. The 416 was transparent, NTG3 had a boomy low end. Both hypercardioid, great if we need to get close up and capture narorw sound. Also, some of the recordings were extremely quiet and we needed to turn the gain on the board all the way up, Hypercardioid offered us less reverberant sound. Then we had the 7B to capture the low end.

A: And insensitive, you could really smash something next to it and it would be fine.

C: I've never used anything more than my NTG3 for foley, so the selection was great to have as you mentioned earlier, fitting the foley into the mix was much easier.

A: It was good thinking about mic choices, what will give us the bottom end or using a 414 for any ADR and the guitar. I was surprised with my guitar choice, I used my old, shitty Yamaha guitar instead of my nice Maton Tommy Emmanuel signature guitar because it was too warm. The guitar track needed to be bright. The Yamaha even has a big hole in the sound board. It was nice for what we were doing, it wouldn't stand out and using the 414 to capture the high end as well. My experience recording layered guitars taught that using different mics mixed itself. Using the mic choice to mix the track worked really well.

C: Same for the foley, besides levels.

A: I did do a little mixing for the samples I made for Hearth to separate them from the fire. The fire was a challenge, you had the fire but because the other sounds weren't sitting right, I redid the fire when I redid the samples, then when I put it back into FMOD my samples sounded bad. But my processed samples sounded great with your original fire.

Myera

C: One thing we didn't make clear in our presentation was that Myera was commercial work. Part of Myera's online marketing campaign.

A: We had to be prepared for this one, we were taking the project on late and needed to punch out the foley in one studio session.

C: Yes, so we had to be prepared.

A: Having the director in the room with us was interesting, having an impact on what we were doing.

C: Levi was great about debating what he did and didn't like of the foley we were recording.

A: When he did debate something there was a lot of merit in it. He didn't push anything that wasn't necessary.

C: There was no dialogue in this TVC so what sounds we were producing were important.

A: Everything we had done for the games were completely atmospheric, you want someone to play the game and not comment in the sound. If they comment on the sound you've done a 'bad job'. You want it to blend in with the game as a whole. This TVC was the complete opposite of that, the foley is supposed to stand out. Complete of what we had just done. It was a good thing we had played around with layering foley before the TVC because when it came to splashing coffee on the bench where Levi wasn't happy with it, but we were able to layer sounds that did work and add on top of it, elements he did like.

C: Another point, Levi knew exactly what he wanted. A clear goal and the audio vocabulary to tell us what he wanted.

A: Yeas or he had examples.

C: He was also more than happy to go and find us props from around uni. He was really involved. It was intense for us in an 8 hour session.

A: And we had spent the first hour setting up a TV.

C: In previous sessions, we had been recording and performing the foley in the same room, the control. Which is not ideal for Ash as he has to sit perfectly still and silent while I performed and of course the noise floor was substantially higher in the control rooms. For this TVC session, we had a mobile TV setup in the control room, facing the live room. This was great once we got it working as it's integral for me to 'act out' the foley sounds with the scene.