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Recording small, intimate Foley?

The last film I worked on called for some really detailed, intimate Foley in a few scenes. The director and I were going for a few hyper-real, intensified hearing moments in the narrative. But we didn't want the sounds in those moments to be big or "larger than life" if you know what I mean.

For example, I tried recording the sound of hair movement, hands clinching, a candle burning (with a little bit of water dropped on the flame to make a hiss), a single leaf moving across the ground etc.. I used a Schoeps MK4 capsule mic and a Neumann TLM103, a relatively quiet Grace Designs pre-amp, and did the recordings in a super quiet room.

Although I did use several of my recordings in the film, I wasn't super pleased with my results. I had to crank the pre-amp up pretty loud to get the tiniest bit of signal and I had to move the mics in pretty close. I also had to use some noise reduction to clean the recordings up afterwards. I also had some noticeable proximity effect on some of my recordings (I realize in retrospect that omnis probably would've been a better call for this sort of thing). I've also experimented with contact mics for this type of recording, but the object/movement always ends up sounding much bigger than I want it too.

I am wondering how some of you record smaller objects/movements etc.. I've heard some great intimate moments in films recently, moments where the audience feels as if it is listening through a sonic microscope.

I'm more interested in techniques than what specific gear I should run out and buy, although some discussion of gear would also be welcomed. I've read that Marnie Moore and Margie O'Malley use Neumann U87s modified by Klaus Heyne for extra gain. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can afford an 87 or the modification services of the microphone master quite yet. Any other suggestions would be much appreciated.

Justin Pearson

I'm not surprised you needed to use some noise reduction techniques, because the sounds you're talking (hair movement, for example) are extremely quiet, so quiet that you probably wouldn't hear them at all in a real life situation unless there was virtually no ambient sound and your ear was very close to the source. So, in order to easily hear them you are having to amplify them quite a bit, and that's where you get the noise. Some careful volume graphing before and after the sounds will help.

The Sennheiser MKH mics are among the quietest around, so you might try those. You probably don't want omni mics because they'll pick up more ambient sound. If you get proximity effect you should just roll off some of the lows. Most of the sounds you mentioned aren't going to contain significant signal below 200 Hz anyway, so you won't lose anything valuable by using a high pass filter.

You could also try recording "larger than life" props that were otherwise similar to the objects you're interested in, then eq'ing and volume adjusting to scale them back down to the size you want... the advantage being that the larger than life props will make louder sounds, necessitating less gain in your recording system, and therefore less system noise.

Thread "Recording small, intimate Foley? " started Feb 9, 2007at Sound Design discussion list

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