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Listening to Coconuts

Take two coconut halves. Clap together. 
Movie-making requires something called foley.

"Foley" is basically the technique of adding sound effects to a movie... It's named for a guy called Jack Foley who helped transition the movie industry from the silent era to include all the sounds required by talkies.

Watch any movie. It was a foley artist who added the sound of footsteps as your favorite character as walks down a hall. It's the rustle of their clothes. Thunder. Sirens. Lightsaber noises. All of it was created in the post-production sound edit.

So, what do coconuts have to do with anything?

Watch that classic Monty Python movie and you'll see the coconuts in action as King Arthur and his knights ride their low-budget "horses". This movie gives the filmmakers a chance to poke fun at the art of doing foley.

Yes, there are some talented folks out there in movieland that make up the world of foley artists. These people are so talented that, not only can they can use two coconut halves to sound like horses galloping, they can also use a watermelon to sound like just about anything.

Yes, foley artists can get pretty creative when matching the sound to visual elements. There are lots of ways to create sounds. Here are some examples from
  • Arrow flyby
    Use a thin bamboo stick, such as the type used to hold up plants in a garden. Whip it past the microphone.
  • Car engine
    If you need a car engine sound, buzz into a brass mouthpiece – (tuba/baritone) or bassoon reeds – and pitch shift it down
  • Dog shaking itself dry
    Shake a wet mop for a very effective dog shaking itself dry effect. Don’t do it inside though, you tend to get water all over the place and a very unhappy wife.
  • Elevator door
    Closing a filing cabinet in conjunction with a hotel reception bell works well.
  • Walking on snow
    Salt in a bucket.
But there are other foley sources. We don't always have to rely on creating our own sounds. There are some great sound effect libraries. (A good one is called The Freesound Project.)

However, when it comes down to creating a sound that isn't in your library... You can always go back to things like coconuts. Just clap two halves together and you got the sound of horses' hoof beats.

[Photo by Sang Trinh]

This post first appeared on A Moon Brothers Film..., please read the originial post: here

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Listening to Coconuts


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