When you hear a footstep on screen, it’s not the actual sound of an actor’s shoe hitting the ground, but rather either a recreation of realistic, ambient sound or augmentation of existing sound to enhance the auditory experience of a film or TV show. Foley effects replace sounds that were excluded during field recording and add richness and depth to the audio quality.
The foley team includes the foley artist, who creates the sounds, and the foley engineer or mixer, who sets up mics and records these sounds. The foley engineer needs to know how many microphones and where to set them up in order to capture the sound. Foley engineers also shape the foley artist’s sound as it’s recorded, altering levels and adjusting sounds where needed. This all saves time for the re-recording mixer. Foley engineers are part of the post-production sound team that works closely with foley editors and foley artists to assess, create, and record the ambient sound. It’s their job to provide a pre-mix for the re-recording mixer as well as create deliverables for an M&E track, the sound mix of a film.
At a Glance
Training in music recording is a good start and a way to gain skills in working with microphones, equalizers, and other plug-ins. Foley engineers need to have the tools to shape the sound they’re recording. Those who are more interested in applying their recording skills might also take jobs in production sound, as production sound mixers, boom operators, or utility sound technicians.
Most foley engineers either work for established foley studios or as freelancers. Often foley engineers get their start as post-production assistants and move on to an assistant position. The best way to break in is to work in a post-sound house or in the sound field in general, doing as much sound work as possible before segueing to foley work. Securing a job in a music recording studio is another avenue as microphone use is key to each field.
- Equipment expertise
- Sound recording
- Basic acoustics
Foley engineers must have a good ear for sounds and the ability to creatively mimic them. They possess critical listening skills, a good sense of rhythm and timing, attention to detail, and good hand-eye coordination. Patience and persistence is also key; much time is spent recording the same sounds repeatedly.
Foley work is intermittent, making it necessary to find other income sources between gigs. Most foley engineers find additional sound work in film sound, including editing in post-production. Working in a foley studio often requires long hours in a dark room.