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6 Tricks For Foley Sound Effects

6 Tricks For Foley Sound Effects

Foley artists are pivotal for any audiovisual project once it has been shot and edited, as they’re responsible for taking care of any possible missing sound, and, as described in a previous article, a crucial step in the audio post-production process is also what foley artists can do: perform and create sound effects to match the moving images being projected on the screen.

Common sound effects we always hear in movies for example footsteps, chewing, drinking, clothing movement, doors being opened, keys jingling, etc., are created through a set of different recording techniques and materials. Foley is more than simply manually editing sounds. In fact, it not only is more than that, but also more time efficient, and provides audiovisual projects with a much richer character and realism to other sounds in the film. Whenever a foley artist can’t create a sound in the studio, sound designers and sound editors will be always up for the task.

That being said, have you ever wondered what’s the best way to mimic or recreate the sound of a fight? The sound of fists going back and forth and hitting another body? Or how can you recreate the sound of footsteps in a snowy road in a recording studio? What’s the best way to mimic a sword fight? Here are some tips for coming with foley sound effects:


Wooden Creaks And Floors

People stepping on creaking wood and squeaking floors appear in practically every film you’ve seen. Footsteps on old floors or people walking over an old house porch are perhaps one of the most used scenes in films. Foley artists have at their disposal a sheer array of floors and objects to recreate these sounds. The advantage of using these accessories is that the sound, in this case, the creak or the squeak, can be to some extent controlled. Once Foley artists have developed a proper technique, coming up with these sounds and performing these creaks saves the picture a lot of time, as sound editors won’t need to edit all sounds on Pro Tools.


Fire is one of those sounds that also always appears in the vast majority of films. Foley artists often resort to accessories such as cellophane, potato chip bags, and even steel wool. The most common technique for recreating fire sounds is to scrunch up the accessory and then release it; the effect will be, of course, rather subtle, but when recorded with the mic closely a somewhat low-level fire sound will be achieved.


cash sound.jpeg

Money and stacks of cash have their own sounds as well. Traditionally, whenever a foley artist has to develop the sound of cash, they often resort to an old deck of poker cards or book pages. In order for foley artists to successfully achieve this sound is to use accessories, in this case, paper sources, with flexible and softer textures. In fact, the vast majority of the time, foley artists add actual bills in the middle of the paper roll, or on the top, or on the bottom, so they fingers actually brush its surface, creating the sound of cash.



Galloping horses is one of those sounds whose technique to achieve it has practically remained untouched. Foley artist normally uses coconuts to recreate horse hooves, and it’s probably the most well-known foley accessory thanks to Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Several foley artists suggest stuffing the half coconut with some materials such as fabric in order to get a more realistic sound. Then, hit a compact dirt or whatever surface the horse is running on with the stuffed coconuts.

Bird Wings

Just like with horses, in order to achieve the sound of birds flapping their wings or taking off, foley artists normally resort to traditional and really orthodox accessories such as a vintage feather duster or gloves. It’s also important to experiment with different materials and perhaps heavier textiles to create a much thicker sound for larger species. An old feather duster can create a terrific effect if the foley artist can find a nice sounding one and hit it against all kinds of surfaces and objects to create different sounds.


Inhaling A Cigarette

smoking sound effect.jpeg

Ever wondered hoy films record the sound associated with a cigarette inhale? Foley artists often use saran wrap and other light materials to get this sound. By using saran wrap, you can get a similar sound to the fire sound mentioned above; however, it’s more subtle. Nonetheless, it is produced the same way as you would produce the fire sound: compress and then release, but make sure to do it controlled so you don’t overdo it. Make sure to have the mic close enough so you can capture the desired level of subtleness; otherwise, you may obtain a totally different sound.

*The images used on this post are taken from

What is Foley?

What is Foley?

When we speak about Foley, we always refer to a sound effects technique for both live effects or synchronous effects. This technique was initially named after Jack Foley, a famous sound editor at the renowned Universal Studios. Basically, foley artists strive to match all kinds of live sounds effects with what is actually going on in the film. These sounds are done manually using inanimate objects and people.

This technique is an excellent way of adding the subtle sounds into the film, the sounds that often the production overlook due to all the intricacies involved during the shoot —the noise of the saddle every time a rider gets on his horse or the rustling of an individual’s clothing are just some example of those sounds that are not considered by the production up front, but those are necessary to provide the film, or any other audiovisual project, with that distinctive touch of realism. Otherwise, by using other methods, it would be rather difficult to achieve the exact same level of authenticity.

A good foley artist often takes the place of the actor with whom production is trying to sync effects, if not, well, the sound ends up lacking the necessary level of authenticity and realism to be convincing enough. Most foley artists, the successful ones, of course, are audiles —they can look at any inanimate object and picture what of sound they can get from it. A foley crew, on the other hand, includes several individuals. The walker, or the one who makes the sound, and a technician, maybe two, responsible for recording and mixing the sounds. The vast majority of foley recordings take place what other people would call storage areas —rooms full of laundry, pieces of metal, rocks, stones, a sandbox, metal trays, empty cans, forks, knives, broken guns, anything.

Foley artists start by watching the film in order to determine which sounds need to be added or replaced, which ones can be subject to some level of enhancement, and which ones they can get rid of. At that point in time, the sound on the film is composed mostly by the dialogue and sound effects crafted during the production of the project. These sounds are actually recorded on a guide track, often dubbed as a production track. Later on, technicians focus on other sounds that may be subject of playing a minor role in the film: crowd noises, the musical score, dialogue replacement (or dialogue re-recordings through ADR), other sound effects and, last but not least, sound designed effects.

It is not rare to have up to 80% of a film’s sound altered, edited or simply customized in some way once the movie has been shot. Some sound effects are easy to craft and can be added by resorting to pre-recorded and existing audio libraries; however, many sounds remain unique to every project. Think of footsteps, for instance. As foley artists watch the film, they identify which sounds they need to craft and create, and imagine ways to pull them off. Additionally, when it comes to noises, foley artists have to consider other factors such as the origin of the noise or who is making that specific sound and, most importantly, in what kind of environment. Some noises or sounds are too difficult for just one take, so foley artists must carefully combine different noises from different sources to perfectly represent the sound they are looking for. In some cases, foley editors can ultimately digitally alter these sounds to match what the film is projecting. In the foley studio, you will find all sorts of surfaces for simulating all kinds of footsteps, a splash tank, all kinds of chambers for simulating different variations of echoes, and the mixing booth where foley engineers record and mix everything. The process is quite simple: foley artists spend hours orbiting microphones and watching a huge screen as they try to synchronize the noises they are producing with the action being projected.

But why is foley so important anyway? Well, the vast majority of a film’s soundtrack is added during the post-production stage for several reasons:

Some situations are not real during filming

Think of swords in Vikings fights or punches that don’t make contact with the skin in fist fights. These sounds are, of course, added during post-production and have to really embody what the action requires.

fighting sound effects

Some CGI simulations are not from this world

The vast majority of CGI elements are ultimately not from this world: big monsters, lightsabers, flying vehicles, etc.

Some sounds cannot be recorded on set

Imagine recording on set, in just one take, the sound of a bird’s wings when it jumps into the air or a letter being taken out of the envelope. This sounds, even though we never pay attention to them in real life, are needed to provide the project with realism.

*The images used on this post are taken from

Sound Design:  Foley - How Movie Sound Effects Are Made

Sound Design: Foley - How Movie Sound Effects Are Made

Ever wonder why the intricate sounds in movies sound so clear and without microphones picking up all that direct sound? Welcome to the world of foley. Foley is the art of creating sounds that the characters on screen interact with. Everything from footsteps to clothing rustle to picking up and putting down objects is done on a foley stage by a foley artist.

What makes foley very interesting is that often times the sounds you hear on screen were created by using totally different objects. The video below shows an overview of the life of a foley artist.