Foley is the act of reproducing sound effects that are added in post production to media products such as films or games to improve the audio quality. Most of these sounds are created within a studio environment and often replaces diegetic sound when in the production phase.
In video games, foley is often used to create sounds for certain actions such as footsteps, glass breaking, jumping noises and so on. When recording foley, certain techniques are used to create a sound that are often not present in real-life scenarios. Foley is added artificially to enhance the gameplay experience and also to fully immerse the player in the game in terms of audio.
Foley is often deployed during the post-production stages to obtain a personalised sound that correlates with the aesthetic and mis-en-scene of the game. For example, during the foley stages for “Cave in” we wanted natural sounds that would be expected when entering a cave and also the amount of spatial reverb that would be expected in one. Foley in character-lead first and third-person games are greatly improved in terms of putting the player in the game space and allowing the sound to embody the character the player is being.
For the initial research we checked out some references on in the internet on how certain foley sounds were recorded. For example we learnt that in an outdoor scenario, the microphone should be placed about three feet in front of the Foley Artist when the scene is outdoors and placed six to ten feet away when the scene is indoors. We had also found out the a technique for capturing walking sounds where the “heel / toe” action is used. where you must roll your foot from heel to toe, to create the sound illusion of forward movement.
Marblehead.net,. (2015). The Art of Foley – Feet. Retrieved 26 August 2015, from http://www.marblehead.net/foley/feet.html
Isaza, M. (2015). Andrew Lackey Special: Foley Sessions for Games | Designing Sound.Designingsound.org. Retrieved 23 August 2015, from http://designingsound.org/2009/12/andrew-lackey-special-foley-sessions-for-games/
For the sound recording aspects we had split the task between what sorts of microphones and recordings we wanted to use. For a full list of microphones we used in the recording phase here is a link to our production brief.
Dynamic Recording (SM57)
Since most of the sounds of the game involved a lot of heavy transient hits being recorded such as falling rocks or metal rods being clanged we decided to use a dynamic microphone in order to not damage the more sensitive condensers such as the AKG C414 or the Rode NT2A. Most of the recordings were captured in mono using a direct sound capturing method 20-50cms away from the sound source. The gain was also rather high due to the nature of dynamics not being sensitive enough.
An example of the use of dynamic microphone recording was the pickaxe noise. to achieve the sound we used a metal rod from the foley box which we hit the rock pile in the post production studio with varying velocities.
Another use of the dynamic microphone was a rock smash sound we used to emulate the sound of a huge boulder falling inside a cave. Several heavy rocks were placed into an empty container and thrown around. The box itself gave a very thick sound compared to if the the rocks were thrown in a free spaceThe sound itself was then reverberated and artificial sub-bass harmonics was added in using the EQ to add body to the sound.
Since we mostly done these mono recordings first, we did not have a guideline from the developers for how loud they wanted these audio files to be. We had also not known the audio capabilities of the Unity Engine in which the game was being created on and so some troubleshooting had occurred when most of our first recordings were very soft and could be cranked up. We remedied this issue with some dynamic processing mainly with compression and an adaptive limiter to make sure the audio would not peak.
We also did get feedback from our recorded sounds for being too soft and so the issue was resolved by compressing and limiting the audio to 0dBFS so that if needed, the loudness can be reduced using the unity engine.
For more of the finer and continuous sounds that was requested, we used a condenser microphone to capture more frequencies since the sounds were not loud transient sounds, it was appropriate to use them.
Quiet continuos sounds were all captured using condensers due to the fact that the sensitivity of the microphones were high enough to pick up tiny delicate sounds. One of the uses for the condensers was to capture fire crackling noises for the fire that were being dropped. Small shrewd up tape were rustled into the microphones to emulate crackling noises you would expect from an open fire.
Another interesting use of the condensers was to capture a chair-squeak sound to emulate the sound of climbing a ladder. The sound was then compressed and EQ due to the fact that the sound was rather quiet and could not be gained loudly since it picked up a lot of background and electrical sounds from the circuitry.
These were some other sounds that we recorded using condensers.
Stereo Recording (AKG C-451b)
For stereo recording we had used two pairs of AKG C-451b pencil microphones to capture in a stereo setting. We used several experimental placements but also used a spaced pairing to capture most of our sounds.
We had used an experimental way of recording the miscellaneous noises such as foot steps by using stereo recording. A method we used for stereo recording was by placing two microphones on the left and right side of the foley board. I sat down and pitter-pattered on the furthermost left and right side of the foley board so that the nearest microphone to my feet capture would capture more sounds than the other microphone which made for an interesting natural walking sound to be used for the characters walk cycle.
We had also used the same method to record the jumping noises for the characters in-game. Since there is no physical sound for jumping, we created an artificial sound by swinging a rubber pipe in between the two spaced pairings. Since the action of swinging is in a downward direction we wanted to capture the sound from the up-thrust all the way to the sound dying down at the bottom. The second microphone was also tilted downwards so that it could record the sound when the sound source is lower that the original position. We also layered a foot stomp sound in the end of the clip to signify the player has landed.
Recoding of the dialogue was mainly done in the Raven studio due to the limitations that the post-production studio had.
- The Raven provided a dead sounding room which was great for isolating vocals without being trapped in a tiny foley room which we found out had problems with sound being reflected from the glass doors.
- The Raven provided ample space for people to move around so that
- The lights in the post-production foley recording room gave off a very buzzy sound and picked up alot of noise from the C414 we were using. We couldn’t switch off the lights because the voice actors wanted to see each other whilst delivering lines.
The idea for recording the dialogue came as an after thought from the developers and was originally not meant to have any dialogue at all due to the mood direction of the game being set in a sad and sombre tone. However after having recorded dialogue with the talented voices of Joshua and Jordan anyway without their concern, they quickly adopted to the idea and included it in their game.
To record the dialogue for Cave in we used the AKG C414 condenser microphone that was set in a figure of 8 polar pattern. We wanted to use figure of eight due to the fact that we wanted the voice actors to face each other whilst talking so that it was more of a natural conversation and to save ourselves time from setting up 2 cardioid condensers.
The dialogue was then split into two tracks one for each character and reverb was post processed into them to emulate the space of being inside a cave. We had asked the game developers on how they wanted the sounds to be formatted
The assets were then shared into google drive once again where the audio was renamed appropriately for the ease of use of the developers.
The dialogue assets can be heard here.
(Terrible hillbilly accent warning)
Field Recording (Zoom Recorder)
We had also implemented field recording into our workflow for sounds that could not be achieved indoors or within a studio workspace. An example of the use of field recording for an asset was a glass smashing sound. The sound was recorded outside using a zoom recorded that had a cardioid polar pattern half a metre away from the sound source.
The sound was then layered with an existing sound we recorded inside the studio with the sound of a bottle being scraped. The sound provided a very high end metallic sound which layered with the lower frequency thud from the previous zoom recording made the glass breaking sound more fuller. The sound was further processed with a delay on the glass shattering noise to elongate the sparkly glass sounds to make it more convincing. The actual sound in game was used to emulate the sound of a lantern being crushed under a heavy rock and the sound we composed had achieved that criteria.
Here is a video of the field recording we did.