The foley artist is the person who reproduces every "natural human sounds" of a movie as opposed to sound effects (sound design).This includes footsteps, fights, door shut, clothes sounds, pouring a glass, horse rides etc... whereas laser guns, dog barks, car engines or explosions are created by sound designers.
This is done during a "foley session" in a post production studio. It means that the foley session is not recorded on the set, and after editing, so quite lately on the movie production. Every specified sound is performed live and recorded while the image is projected. For that particular reason this job requires excellent synchronisation skills, a lot of "feeling" and of course the ability to reproduce a particular sound instantly. Sometimes it is very close to acting. Foley artists are devoted to find the right accessory to mimic the reality, that's why they are excellent "listeners" of everyday life sounds and perfectly know what material is needed. They also have very good notions of microphone placement to reproduce different levels of sound perception.
With all these qualities, a foley artist is a really time saver when properly directed, and a tremendous help in many situations.
First because of undesired sounds. Indeed as clear as a shooting set can be, there are always polluting noises that cover the original sounds that are to be replaced during the session.
Second because on the set almost everything is fake from the walls to the ground so that the original sounds need to be reproduced more realisticly for a deeper impact.
Third, when needed, original dialogues (polluted by unwanted noises) are replaced during ADR session (Automated Dialogue Replacement) to have a better sound. But when you do that, you create "sound holes" because there is no more "ambiance" (clothes sounds for examples), that implies that they recreate them to give the sound a taste of reality.
Fourth, almost every sequence is shot from several different angles in different places. So it becomes nearly impossible to have a complete sound coherence using the original recorded sounds, once more you need them.
Fifth, needless to say that they drastically improve the realism of the scenes when sound effect libraries are inefficient, and give your sound a true personnality.
To achieve all this, they have a tons of tricks and their equipment is a huge collection of everyday shoes, clothes, doors, plates, glasses, toys, tools, or even vegetables...
It seems to be magic when you see them work with all their secret objects, when you are a witness of their cheats to reproduce unexpected sounds, in order to give life to a movie.
Some interesting videos about their job and their performance
If you liked this page maybe you will interested in this one about sound effects ?
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My Favorite Funny Sound Design Video Of the Day...
www.youtube.com/v/rsPdLr5btow - No Longer Available Cheers. Al.