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Foley in Phantom Menace

'We did everything that moved,' asserts Dennie Thorpe, who, along with Jana Vance, was one of the Foley artists on the film.
'You see, even if we're only going to use Foley in conjunction with sound effects or production effects, we have to be there

when all of the production sound gets stripped out for the foreign versions.'
[Read about foley at ]

Thorpe and Vance divided the main characters between them; the former taking care of footsteps and so forth for Anakin
Skywalker, Queen Amidala and Obi-Wan Kenobi, while the latter did the same for Jar Jar Binks, Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth


'With whatever we do, we always want to convey that there's a reason for us to make a specific sound,' says Thorpe.
'Obviously the actors are telling the story and there are certainly production effects and other sounds cutting in and out, but

we're all working together to create a sort of translation of what you're seeing into sound. For our part we had to deal with

plenty of wet, gushy sounds, metallic sounds, zingy sounds.

'For instance, there's kind of a cute scene between Jar Jar and another character named Sebulba that takes place in a
marketplace--Jar Jar sees all of this food, he gets hungry and wants to take something, and in sort of slapstick fashion there's

this iron grille that the food is hanging off. There's very little happening except for the characters' voices and what they're doing, and so we were happy to be assigned the squeaks of the iron grille, as well as other effects such as Jar Jar's tongue zinging out to grab a piece of food, the food then flying through the air and splashing Sebulba as chaos ensues. To that end Iwas crunching food, mashing my hand inside a cut orange for the sloshing sounds, and flicking a metal Slinky inside a box for some of the more zingy sounds. Added to that were the footsteps and all of the other background stuff that we put in, helping to make the whole scene come to life.

'By that time we'd already gone out shopping and acquired all of our props, because on this film we weren't completely set up
in the studio for everything. We looked at the film with Ben and with our sound editors and Foley editors, and then Jana and I

went out shopping to various junk stores and recycling places for all of the materials that we wanted. Then, in terms of the

recording, our top mic was a Neumann U87, and we used that in conjunction with a PZM and a room mic, and Tony Eckert

mixed those three so that we could get perspective on our sound. That's something we really like to do in Foley. We don't want it to sound like it's in your face all of the time, and so as the characters walk through the hangars and the palaces and the

courtyards their footsteps sound different on every surface.

'That worked very well for us, a large part of the solution being the EQ that Tony came up with.

Then, when the characters were shot up or blown apart, we'd use various old vacuum cleaners, jacks, drills and heavy pieces of iron, so that each head and arm and leg and hand and maybe torso had a sound of its own. Added to that were the sounds of the characters touching themselves or each other, and being that a lot of them are not people we would use pineapples or coconuts or even cantalopes for their skin surfaces.'

Dennie Thorpe also did Foley work on Return of the Jedi back in 1983, a film in which C-3PO had a somewhat more complete appearance than the skin-less, work-in-progress look that he boasts in The Phantom Menace.

'He had a whole different set of sounds in Jedi,' says Thorpe. 'For this movie we just ended up using a large stainless steel salad bowl with wires, whereas in Jedi--where you couldn't see inside of him--we manipulated ice trays along with some other aluminium, metallic sounds. There again, in both films his feet are complete, and so for those I used these really old-fashioned, 18-inch-long kid's skis that sound sort of like flippers when you put them on and walk on the various surfaces.

'Foley can be a bit mysterious when you're sitting up in the control room because you don't know what we're using, but then
when people come down onto the Foley stage and see us work it appears as if all we're doing is playing all day. They really like

that, while at our end we're sometimes wondering if our stuff is going to cut through. However, the sound effects department

always leaves room for Foley--we've worked with those people for quite a while now and they know what kind of things they

can leave to us.'

'We knew right from the beginning what effects could do and what Foley could do,' adds Tom Bellfort, 'and so the tracks
themselves were not as typically dense as on other movies. You know, what happens frequently is that everybody duplicates

everybody else's work and then you throw it out, but that rarely happened on this project.' 

Excerpt from "Soundings from The Phantom Menace"
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