Walking onto a Foley stage for the first time brings to mind one question: When was the last time someone picked up around here?! Hundreds of props, dozens of floor materials, chairs, swords, shoes, brooms can be found on the Foley stage. One look at a Foley artist working, though, and you soon see that there’s a reason for this creative clutter.
Named for Jack Foley, who in the early days of sound films introduced not only the idea of adding sound effects but also the method employed by Foley artists today, Foley is the art of physically creating sound effects to enhance the production sound track of a film. Every sound, from punching (hitting meat) to bones cracking (celery breaking) to the "whoosh" of an arm in a fight scene (wooden dowel swinging through air), are part of what Gary Hecker, lead Foley artist at Sony Pictures Studios, calls the "illusion of sound," or creating "audio tricks." The following interview with Gary, whose credits include SPIDER-MAN, CHARLIE’S ANGELS AND TERMINATOR 3, gives his first-hand account of the skills required to create sound effects that a movie-going audience just might take for granted.
What does a Foley artist do? How do the sounds you make become part of the movie?
When the filmmakers shoot a film, they have a production track with all the dialogue and production sounds - what they pick up with a microphone. We add sound to enhance the movie and bring out the drama, the energy or creativity. Sometimes a scary moment or an action detail needs to be intensified. When filmmakers make a movie, they’re concentrating on the dialogue of the actors, so you lose a lot of those natural sounds. We enhance the soundtrack and bring it to life.
On a normal day - and let’s just say it’s TERMINATOR 3 - I’ll go through and do Arnold Schwarzenegger’s footsteps first. They usually want those to sound big, so I’ll do these big-sounding footsteps with a pair of heavy boots. The mixer also uses an equalizer to beef up the sound. I have to watch the character, get into the rhythm of the character and match it in "sync." In other words, my footsteps have to happen at the exact time that they’re happening on the screen. After we’re done recording all the footsteps on a reel, we’ll go through and do the props. We make a sound for anything in the film that’s moving or making sounds - anything that your eye catches on screen that’s moving. If Arnold is fighting, we make the fighting sounds, his leather coat movement, his gun movement, crashing through walls, breaking the walls down, and all the debris.

Every prop imaginable is instantly available for use on the Foley stage.

A saddle is manipulated to exactly match the horse racing action on screen.