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SFX / Foley tips

Michael Bichler:
I could use some tips on recording and creating good custom sounds.

For the film I am working on, I need the following:

1. Wooden stair creaks - these should be ominous and foreshadowing.

2. A knife being removed from its sheath (leather).

3. Liquid in a beer bottle.

4. Bottles (beer) rolling across hardwood and tile floors. These should sound clinical, empty, hard, sterile, etc.

I was hoping to get some tips, recording and plug-in, that may not be obvious when first looking at this list. I am aware from theory and experience here at my school that not all "real" sounds come across as believable in film. I am particularly interested in creating the first two sounds on this list.

Like most students, time and money are a factor. However, I do have access to above average equipment and recording environments.

Randy Thom:
My advice is to find appropriate surfaces and props in the real world and record them yourself. FORGET PLUG-INS!!! These are all sounds you can find or manufacture in Vancouver. Do some location scouting... find old buildings with creaky floors or stairs, etc.

Cory Hawthorne
For wooden stair creaks, never underestimate the value of a good old creaky wooden kitchen chair that you can get at value village or the salvation army thrift store for ten bucks. Useful for all kinds of creaky sounds and you can control the action by kneeling on it and manipulating it. Don't be afraid to look insane trying out wooden chairs in the store to get just the right one. It's worth it. Old pallets that you can uh.... Borrow... from the back loading bays of many of Vancover's finest warehouses are also good for creaking stuff.

For the leather sheath/knife thing, just think of the elements that you would like to include in such a sound. They may not actually include a knife but there are many other metal objects that could produce such a sound.

In my (limited) experience the best sounds have come out of raw recordings with very little manipulation via plugins other than to EQ or compress them a little maybe.

Good luck and have a great time recording!

Coll Anderson:
I was trying to record the sound of something in a deep fat fryer and no matter what, frying was not doing it... But pouring lentils into a plastic piece of tupperware mixed with my bathroom sink on full blast worked better than perfect. I am just wondering what are the best unlikely sound links you guys have found?

Sara Bader:
Some of my favorites:

Overloaded horse drawn carriage with a squeaky wheel:
old metal roller skate with some bell chimes loosely taped to the top of it (for the horse's bells), matchsticks taped around one of the wheels (to give it that uneven feel), being pulled across sand-strewn marble while a friend did the clip-clop of the horse with two hollowed-out coconut halves.

waving rusty squeaky hinges back and forth.

The poor man's version of the Tibetan singing bowl:
use a metal mixing bowl from your kitchen and run a knife or a penny whistle around the outer rim.

You should check out Richard Turnbull's Radio and Television Sound Effects book and Robert Mott's Radio Sound Effects Book. Both brilliant!

Cory Hawthorne:
Oh. And I should add, it sounds like you have an emotional element to your sounds that you'd like to convey.

Adding sounds in underneath the principal sounds can add to the emotional impact of it. For example, adding a quiet animal growl to a creaky wooden door opening can subliminally make the viewer uneasy. It's been done but it's effective.

The viewer wouldn't recognize the growl but they'd FEEL it. So use your imagination as to what sounds "ominous" to you and try adding some of those elements in underneath your sounds. Adding reverb during the mix phase can also add an element of creepiness, loneliness, isolation as well.

One of the things I love about good sound design is the manipulation of the viewer's emotional state.

Kris Fenske:
Those are all fairly straight-forward sound effects and it shouldn't be too hard to find the props and locations you need. My suggestion would to be to always try and go for the "real" sound first. The focus should not only be on getting the right prop and location space, but also equally as important is a good performance.

I always make a list before I go out and field record that contains all the props & locations I need as well as the various perspectives, and different performances I need (fast, slow, singles, multiples, etc..).

You should also note that a Sound Designer is only as good as his library and you should not only focus on what the needs of the particluar project you're working on requires, but also plan on logging away some stuff that might be good material for projects further down the road. Also a common mistake in the early years is to take things a little too literally.

Often what works dramatically is a "heightened" sense of reality and so you have to be sure to bring lots of different props (of various sizes, remember you can always pitch things), as well as different microphones and (if you have the time), different spaces. I always try to break things down to the elements of nature, and adjectives/adverbs. You're wooden stair creaks might be also thought of as - I need something wood, creaky, higher-pitched, slow, and reverberant.

Thinking in this way helps steer your mind away from the literal "wood stairs" and will (hopefully) open up the brain to some alternate ideas.

Thread "SFX / Foley tips " started an 17, 2007 at Sound Design discussion list

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