Location foley

Location foley

I had the forest to myself
I had the forest to myself

 

Have you ever done foley on location? I’m not talking about recording sound effects on location/field recording, but actually recording foley to picture on location. I feel that location foley can add something special to a project. I don’t do it for every project, but I like to do it from time to time.

I wrote about my very first location foley session in an old blog post. On that project we brought a laptop, an Mbox2 and a microphone and recorded straight to Pro Tools. The location was indoors and easily accessible, so recording to a laptop was easy. We had a power outlet nearby and we even had a table to set up the gear on. Not all locations are like this.

Currently I’m working on a short film with a lot of mountain hiking scenes. We decided to do some location foley for these scenes. I was not going to carry my laptop and audio interface for miles and miles and set it up in the forest, so I went for a lighter setup.

My weapons of choice are the Sound Devices 744T recorder with a Sennheiser MKH-60 to match the production sound.

 

Early morning. Getting ready to record after a long walk.
Early morning. Getting ready to record after a long walk.

 

On a project I worked on years back, we used an ipod touch to view the video while recording. This is a simple solution that works, to a certain degree, but you’ll spend a lot of time when you get back in the studio. Syncing the recorded sounds was a pain. I wanted to make this easier for myself this time.

Location foley video

My solution was to send the production sound from the video to a second track on my recorder. This way I had a guide for syncing when I got back to the studio. I used a wireless transmitter, but a wired connection will also work, of course. For this session I needed the freedom to move around while the recorder remained stationary, so wireless was my only option. Every time I hit record, I slated my actions as well as the time code shown on the screen. When I drop the recorded file into my session later, I can see where the production sound starts and place this at the slated time code location.

Below you see the waveform from one of the recorded files. Track one starts with my vocal slate. A few seconds later you can see the waveform of the production sound on track two.

Location foley waveform
(Click to enlarge)
Yeah, I carried several pairs of shoes with me..
Yeah, I carried several pairs of shoes with me..

I hope this will help some of you and save you a little time syncing your recordings. Check out Walter Murch’s metronome trick from The Godfather 2. It’s awesome.

Ambience Field recording Water

Sauna


My wife is of Finnish descent. She had, of course, made sure that we had access to a sauna during our Christmas holiday. I grabbed the chance to record some sound effects there.

This particular sauna is a bit noisy because of draft from the chimney, but I decided to give it a go and capture the sounds I could. I recorded ambience close to the stove first. Afterwards I started splashing water at the rocks on top of the stove. The recorder had to be positioned very close to the rocks to avoid the noise from the chimney. It quickly got pretty hot, both for me and my Zoom H2. I recorded for as long as I thought my recorder could take it. My H2 is getting old now and I often use it as an expendable recorder, but I didn’t want to destroy it for this. I got out of the sauna when the Zoom started getting dangerously hot.

The water splashes turned out pretty nice. I did have to roll off a bit of low end to get rid of the worst rumble noise from the chimney. I also had to fade out the sounds at the end when the signal/ambient noise ratio got too bad.

Equipment used: Zoom H2

Field recording Location recording

Voss Wind

A couple of months ago I had the chance to record (probably) the biggest fan in Norway. I was working on a reality show and we were filming at Voss Vind. Voss Vind is a company that runs a wind tunnel in Voss, Norway. You can read more about it here. The reality show contestants were competing against each other in the wind tunnel instead of voting each other out.

The fan was running non-stop, so dialogue recording was a challenge even outside the tunnel. Dialogue recording inside the tunnel was not possible. The wind speed inside was as high as 250 km/h, so a wind jammer wasn’t going to help much. The wind tunnel system also recycles the air. This means that any loose parts, like a steel mesh windscreen from a lav, would go through the system and return seconds later at 250 km/h. Not good. With wind at 250 km/h blowing in your face, chances are you’re not going to talk much, but focus on keeping your mouth shut. I decided to stop worrying about dialogue inside the tunnel and capture sound effects for post instead. The dialogue outside the tunnel worked very well and post was happy.

I was allowed to stand in the waiting area, which is a 3 m long hallway with an open door to the tunnel. I used a zoom H4n with two layers of wind jammer wrapped around it. The fan was super loud, but if I kept the gain at the lowest setting, it was possible to record without distortion.

The sample I’ve uploaded starts with the fan powering up. In the next part one of the instructors is flying as far up as he can an then diving down. You can hear changes in the wind when he passes by. Unfortunately, the audience is applauding a couple of times, even though I asked them not to. Well, you can’t have everything. At least I got some pretty cool fan recordings.

Equipment used: Zoom H4n

You can check out this video to see how the pros fly in the wind tunnel:

Voss Vind: dynamic 4-way competition from Lika Borzova on Vimeo.

Ambience Field recording

Room dryer

So, I haven’t had too much time for recording and updating the blog lately. Finally, It looks like I’m starting to get things under control again and the urge to record is returning.

If you’ve ever had a water leak in your house, you’ve probably heard a room dryer in action. Unfortunately, now it was my turn.. The room dryer is blowing hot air into the kitchen to dry out the wet floor. It makes quite a bit of noise and it can be heard throughout the apartment. I set up my Zoom H2 a couple of places to record the dryer from different perspectives. It turned out pretty well and I’m sure this can be used for some kind of industrial ambience later on.

Note: The whole kitchen is wrapped in plastic which you can hear moving in the breeze in some of the recordings.

Equpiment used: Zoom H2

Ambience Field recording

Cruise wind


On a recent work trip, I traveled by ship to Germany with my colleagues. Our schedule was pretty full, but I figured I would have at least a little time to record something.


My original plan was to spend my free time in the shopping and casino area. To record ambience, that is.. I set up my Zoom H2 a couple of different places, but I just could not find anywhere to record ambience without recording lots of music as a bonus. All the shops and restaurants were playing music a little too loud. I tried walking up a couple of floors to get away from the music, but still no luck.


After a while I found myself close to the sun deck on the top floor. I could not hear the music from the shopping area anymore, but I could hear something else: wind. I followed the sound to the sun deck door and found that this was a good place to record. I did not get any usable shopping or casino ambiences out of this trip, but I did get a nice wind recording.

Equipment used: Zoom H2
Wind, ship by ThomasAlf

Bonus: The toilet in my cabin sounded like this:
Toilet flush, ship by ThomasAlf