Monday, January 15, 2007

SHEER FOLEY: ADVENTURES IN SOUND

Just finished a commercial and have also finished the animation for Animex (applying sound at present having scored the music for it). It's been a remarkably busy week already and it's only Monday.

This weekend I bought portable digital recording equipment and fancy microphones so as to build on my Foley library and have been recording the inside of my freezer, throwing water containers around a room, throwing bags of frozen peas at the wall, turning on taps, splashing about, jumping about, whooping, cheering, laughing maniacally, all the usual stuff that makes my neighbours wonder what I do for a living. The sound from these bouts of madness are then put through garageband, cleaned up, altered (bass boosts and pitch shifts for impact sounds etc), and filed in the library under files labeled as "Ambience", "Booms", "Running", etc.

I love Foley and sound design. It started as a hobby of sorts and now it's increasingly becoming part of my working day / weekend / life. I was about eleven or twelve when I bought "Sounds Effects Vol 13: Death and Horror" on vinyl. What I loved most about it was finding out that "red hot poker in the eye" (how could anyone forget a track title like that?) was in fact a red hot poker being squashed into a cabbage (if I remember correctly). I think cabbages were used for 'neck twisted and broken' too. Poor cabbages. Opening and closing an umbrella would provide the sound for a vampire bat, and if it was labeled as such then how could anyone argue? It wasn't the horrid nature of the record that tickled me, rather it was the ingenuity of the Foley artists, sound designers in coming up with all the gruesome and imaginative sounds that thrilled me, and still does. Wonderful stuff.

Ben Burtt is probably one of my sound design heroes, for having been the sound designer on some of my favorite movies, the Star Wars original trilogy. I think it was either Empire Strikes Back, or Return of the Jedi, one of the two, that I went to see in Leicester Square in London and watched it in one of the first cinemas able to handle the movie's sound requirements which today is commonplace (the sound of Tie Fighters flying in overhead as though it was right there in the cinema was an incredible thrill). Tie Fighters screeching past the camera were actually the modified sound of elephants, blaster sounds were made by tapping wires on a radio tower, and the sound of a lightsaber was a combination of a TV Set and a 35 mm projector.

I remember, round about that time, using a rather old cassette recorder to make my own sound effects tapes (raiding the refrigerator for vegetables, I've no doubt). I recorded my own Incredible Hulk radio play, doing all the voices myself, using the sound of unfurling (is that the right word?) sellotape for the sound of the transformation. So, this weekend certainly brought back one or two fond memories.

3 comments:

W J Kington said...

I N J Culbard, you have an interesting life.

I'm just doing a bit of recreational surfing, looking at some of the people's blogs who commented on my cardboard box music (I figured they might have similar interests). I particularly liked this blog entry.

A while back I got a little digital recorder and some sensitive microphones, and they have been great companions since.

I also create sound effects, but most of mine end up in musical pieces.

If you ever need a quirky
little piece of music made from sound samples, you let me know.

I. N. J. Culbard said...

Great to hear from you WJ, and thanks for visiting my blog. I really enjoyed listening to your cardboard box music (and recommend readers of this blog follow the links in your profile and do the same).

I noticed you like Steve Reich (likewise), and would like to recommend Steve Fisk's "Over and Thru the Night" if you haven't heard it already.

W J Kington said...

Aha, I haven't been back to your blog for a while, but see you have a listening recommendation for me. Good, I will follow that up!