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Foley or Sound Effects?

Foley is a motion picture term, named after Jack Foley, where sound effects are created by a foley artist as he or she watches the projected film. Foley sounds are primarily those created to accompany the noisemaking movement of actors in real time. 1 Even if the item in question would or could make it's own sound during the filming, it is standard practice to replace the original sound with one created after the fact in a foley studio by a foley artist.

So what does this have to do with audio drama?

In the era of Old Time Radio (OTR), sound effects were created by sound effects men and occasionally women. One of the earliest crews was the husband and wife team of Arthur and Ora Nichols. 2




sound effect props

  PHS sound effects performed

Lovett Middle School SFX

ARTC Queen of Spaceways SFX

The sound effects technicians collected an enormous array of objects all used in the creation of live sound effects.

While recorded effects were first used as early as 1928, most of the sounds heard were created live.

The Starr Piano Company of Richmond, Indiana began issuing sound effects records on the "Speedy-Q" label in 1928, so they were in use *very* early. At the local/syndicated level, recorded effects were in use before 1930, and were certainly in use at the network level by 1932. 4

For OTR, the approach to using sound effects was one of requiring the effect to have a definite function. No sound should be included for the sake of adding sound. It is better to err on the side of using too little rather than too much. 3 Sound effects were also considered to be background with a few exceptions.

Fast forward to the 70s and beyond. As the technology and equipment improved over the years, and the decline and all most death of radio drama in the USA. Modern radio drama (MAD) producers followed the lead from Hollywood and began creating sound scapes for their mind movies. Sound effects were added, beyond the minimum needed to tell the story, creating a film like sound track. After all the new drama was competing with film and television, but without the picture. Our audience had become far more sophisticated and expected more. The audience had also all but lost the ability to sit and listen with nothing for their eyes to fix on.

Modern Audio Drama began to use the principles and techniques of, if not actual, foley artist. The term foley slowly crept into the language of audio drama. While the purist will argue that foley is strictly a film term, in the mind movie mad creates, it is foley. Adding all of the sounds that are missing from the steril studio recording.

Some times you will see the term table top sound effects applied, mostly in the area of live theatrical performances before an audience. The term obviously comes for most of the effects being performed on the table top.

Which ever terms you use, sound effects or foley, it is a performance art that when done right is hardly noticed and when done wrong, is all ways noticed. It is also the part of a live show (that is before a live audience) that often gets more applause than the actors do.

So go out a make some noise.

1 Sonnenschein, David. (2001). Sound Design. Studio City, CA: Michael Wioese Productions.
2 Mott, Robert L. (1993). Radio Sound Effects. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.
3 Crews, Albert (1944). Radio Production Directing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
4 McLeod, Elizabeth. (Nov 7, 2001) First recorded sound effects. E-mail to Henry Howard.

See also: THE ART OF SOUND EFFECTS by Ray Brunelle
Jack Foley, feet of the stars

See Also:
Pictures of   Foley (1)  Foley Doors (2)  Other Devices (3)  and more (4)  Breaking Glass  Creakers

A Foley Studio
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