P + P – DESCENT – Footsteps, foley and less is more

(Outcomes – IN3 + GR5)

This is a quick blog describing how a small piece of advice can make a big difference.

Whilst I was working on the footsteps for the first kitchen scene in Descent, Ronnie Fowler stuck his head into the sound theatre. I was moaning about the job at the time, and he pointed out that there’s no need to slavishly detail scenes with incidentals like footsteps, and that doing so can actually be distracting. He suggested using fewer sounds, and concentrating on establishing movement or augmenting actions only, in the time-honoured fashion of less being more, echoing the advice of Wyatt and Amyes who point out that ‘Often in foley, less is more and lots of foley tracks running together can seem chaotic. The foley editor’s skill is in achieving a high degree of naturalism whilst focusing attention on those sounds that are actually important.‘ (Audio Post Production for Television and Film, 2004). [IN3]

An example of this principle at work is the first thirty seconds of this clip from Battlestar Galactica’s 2006 reboot –

Whilst you might at first argue that deciding what’s realistic in the context of science fiction might be somewhat complicated, Battlestar Galactica draws stylistic influence from gritty WW2 films such as Das Boot. Practically speaking, the central character’s feet are ruthlessly dropped in and out as required and are in no way consistent across a scene which is generally very busy in the audio dimension whilst other characters are given no audio presence at all as they pass the camera, and everything is subordinated to the dialogue regardless of the level of activity elsewhere in shot. [IN3]

Taking inspiration from this example and the advice referred to above, I revisited the foley edits for Descent and minimised my use of incidental foley wherever possible with much improved results. [GR5]

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Key Points

Advice and research into better implementation of foley FX – Research

  • [IN3] To better my understanding of sound design with at least some reference to the science fiction genre – (Sound Effects Editor)
  • [GR5] To produce soundtracks comprising of foley, SFX, dialogue, music and atmospheres to client specifications that synergistically support the other components of their films.

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