Science

See the bizarre tools that make a movie’s sound effects

From whips to pine cones, these items give sound designers the most realistic ‘Foley’ for their films.Tuesday, July 16, 2019

By Catherine Zuckerman
This story appears in the June 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.

What would a scary movie be without the ominous creak of floorboards? Sound effects—called Foley—add crucial value to any film. “The challenge,” says Foley artist John Roesch, “is to create something in sync with the picture that is totally believable.” Step one: watching a scene in silence. “I hear the sound in my mind,” says Roesch. Then with his partners, Shelley Roden and Scott Curtis, he tinkers with countless gadgets and props at the Skywalker Sound studio in Marin County, California, to try to replicate it. To “Foley” an ice-skating scene, for example, he drags crampons across concrete. And if the plot should take a perilous turn? Squeezing a water-soaked chamois cloth, says Roesch, makes the perfect “blood gooshy” sound.

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