FSD: Foley is such a performance art. What dramatic shooting techniques evolved along with your experience on the stage?
AK: There are still plenty of days (and I've been at Sony for a long, long time) when I still feel like it's my first day on the job, when I feel uncoordinated or unsure, but for the most part, the biggest change in any kind of "performance technique" would simply be the general ease with which I do my job now... I know how to walk differently for a 300 lb. man than for a small child, without having to think about it or looking too hard for the right pair of shoes...
The best thing I've ever learned is that it doesn't pay to cheat the sound, even if you are in a hurry. The sound of a fork on an empty plate just never sounds the same as a plate with a big mound of spaghetti (or whatever magic thing we use to sound like spaghetti) on it, that fork pushing through the food to hit the plate. An empty glass will always sound like an empty glass, so just fill it up for Pete's sake, even if it takes an extra five seconds. In playback, your ears will thank you.
FSD: What is one of your favorite props? How often does it appear in shows you do?
AK: I love leather... wait, that sounds wrong. We have a leather tool belt that Anita brought in that I love dearly. It sounds great for anything, whether it's a cop belt, to add to the sound of, say, branches swaying in the wind on a spooky night, or to add to a great saddle that we have. We also have a real pay-phone that we got when they finished the final show of "Party of Five." We don't use it often, but when we do, there’s nothing like it. From the sound of the disconnect, to the latch-thing, to the sound of coins dropping into its belly... Nice.
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“When I started working on features,” says Walter Murch, “the idea of doing Foley was very exotic and nothing that we could afford. On The Rain People, Francis [Coppola] was shooting on location with the actors, and they were traveling across the country. At the end of the day, he would ask the actors to walk through all of the moves they made without saying anything. On THX [1138, George Lucas' first feature], I would put the Nagra somewhere and walk around duplicating the footsteps in a real space. We did versions of that on The Conversation and American Graffiti.
“On Godfather II,” Murch continues, “we'd figure out the rate at which the principal was walking, and we had a little portable electronic metronome, which we would set at that frame rate. I remember doing the footsteps for Fanucci where he comes up the stairs before he's killed by DeNiro [young Vito Corleone], and we found the marble staircases in the old Zoetrope building were very much like the staircases in that actual location. So, I set the metronome and I had my assistant at the top. I walked a couple of flights up, so you hear these footsteps coming from far away. They get closer and closer, which is the whole idea of the scene, and then I stopped, as Fanucci stopped, at the top. I said Fanucci's next line, and when we took the track and sunk it up, all of the footsteps sunk up. On the Foley track, you can hear my voice, and it exactly syncs with the lips of Fanucci.”
>> Excerpt from Foley goes to Sea by Michael Axinn Mix Magazine Aug 2001
by Blair Jacksob Sept 2005 Mix Magazine
One of the most critical, yet underappreciated links of the film sound chain is Foley recording. You probably know the basics. It was named after the great Universal Studios sound man Jack Foley and covers an incredibly wide range of sounds that are added in post-production: everything from car door slams to footsteps, to garment rustles, to jingling keys, sloshing water, furniture moving, sword hits; you name it. Basically, Foley is everything that isn't covered by sound effects or through the production track. Occasionally, the Foley department will also supply the base sound materials for effects editors.
And though the work may seem simple as compared to, say, recording the sounds of Sherman tank treads on location (an effects task), it's actually a very demanding and precise job that, when done well, adds immeasurably to the success of a film's soundtrack. Recently, Mix spoke with three of the best Foley artists in the business to get a sense of the demands and peculiarities of this important craft.
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