Foley recording and editing. Clothes.

July 26 2020
8 min
1700
Author
Yuri Pridachin
Own and Operate at Foley First

Hey! It’s Yuri from Foley First.

Some people on Instagram recently asked me how we work with cloth and how much attention we pay to this group of Foley— the group of Foley that gives depth to the sound composition because high quality, dense, articulated, authentic textured, and well-synced cloth tracks give the viewer the illusion of complete immersion in the film. Without moves tracks (or cloth tracks), the Foleys have an unfinished shape, and they sound scanty.

I am happy to share our experiences and the techniques that we use when recording and editing moves tracks here at Foley First.

RECORDING CLOTHES.

When to do cloth pass

Ultimately, the most convenient and effective time for a Foley artist to do a cloth pass is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer to do this before starting to record the footsteps and props in order to carefully learn the film before recording the main groups of Foley. But most, I’m sure, prefer to take care of the moves track at the very last moment. There is no right or wrong decision — the best approach is the personal preference of the Foley artist.

We, like most, prefer to go through the clothes after the props and feet are recorded, with only one nuance — all the footsteps should not only be recorded, but also edited.

After a long search for the optimal recording scheme for moves, we have found that recording clothes with audible footsteps in sync keeps the artist confident in the dynamics and performance, and, most importantly, helps him or her do the cloth pass as synced as possible, which ultimately affects the duration of the editing work. The result is the Foley editor takes less time to work with this Foley group, unlike with the classic recording scheme where the cloth pass is recorded with the picture only.

Ideally, the recording of moves is done by the same Foley artist who recorded the steps. But since our work process is arranged in such a way that several Foley artists can work on one project in order to reduce the duration of the overall production period and keep large volumes of Foley in their hands, this is not always possible.

How many tracks do we deliver

Ideally one! Haha. I think that up to four is fine. If this is a indie low-budget story with office characters dressed in summer shirts and light jackets, then most likely one correctly chosen fabric should be enough to give liveliness to the mix. Since in such projects re-recording mixers prefer to send cloth tracks to the C channel, it does not make much sense to record each character separately and get a mess. It is enough to “catch” characters in the scene, depending on their actions and meaning.

However, it is another thing to work on a theatrical feature film, where, say, there are four characters in a scene and the first two are dressed in leather and in a parka, and the other two are in a jacket and in a sheepskin coat. Here it is important not only to record all of them separately, but also to do careful Foley editing to avoid unnecessary audible room tone in the pauses while all four tracks are playing.

Anyway, the more compact and organized cloth tracks and regions are delivered, the more comfortable it will be for the mixer to work with such material.

What kind of clothing texture do we use?

There are about 20 different types of clothes in our Foley studio, and they are periodically replenished. We can even combine several things while Foley recording to get the right volume or more accurate texture matching. Sometimes it is necessary to sort through several jackets before finding the one working option that won’t sound too sharp or fractured and will bring us full-bodied cinematic sound.

Sometimes a square of cloth works well enough, say, for cotton. But for leathers and jackets, it is preferable to shake the whole item.

What and how to record.

We record everything that we can, especially in scenes based on dialogue and which have no footsteps. This fills the scene with breath and gives “tenacity” to the Foley. Hand movements, head-turning, or any other small details in the movement of characters that you can prop up with rustles in “intimate” scenes can be useful to the re-recording mixer to give liveness the film. It is important to work within the correct energy and dynamics in the Foley extraction and not fall into the noise floor. It’s not great if you later have to apply de-noiser to the moves track.

We found a 1-1.5 meter mic distance is efficient and optimal for recording cloth tracks. Sometimes for textures like a rain cover, this distance can be increased to 3 meters. Often I see artists on Instagram put the microphone at less than half a meter. As a mixer, I’m pretty sure that it will be difficult for other mixers to integrate such material. The point is not only that the fabric itself will sound narrow and we may not feel its volume, but, above all, with such a short mic distance, the artist may be embarrassed to make well-articulated sound, which definitely gives a failure in dynamics. Put the microphone a bit far from the source, and you will feel how much energy you need to put into your hands to get an intelligible sound with enough energy.

I believe that in recording moves, it is essential not only to choose the proper texture of the fabric, but also to work with it correctly. The rustling should be clear, intelligible, and distinct. Otherwise, it will quickly get lost in the mix.

Personally, I prefer to do the cloth pass standing up so I can put all the energy of my body into rustling and shaking when it necessary, but many of my colleagues prefer to stay sitting. 90% of the time we make the sound from the fabric by holding it in our hands, but there have been cases where we got realistic sound and incredible Foley performance by dressing in the clothes ourselves. This is especially applicable to winter synthetic fabrics.

For regular TV shows (90-minutes long), twelve hours for recording 1-2 layers of cloth tracks are usually enough for us to get everything done and not to get arthritis, haha. For complex and more massive features, it may take up to three 8-hour recording sessions. The more attention is paid to the accuracy and syncing of performance on the recording, the less pain the Foley editor will have.

What mic to choose for recording clothes? I have found shotguns work perfectly for this group of Foley. They allow the fabric to sound sharp, textured, very detailed, and to translate the slightest movement. And of course, shotguns like no LDC mics are best suited for budget studios with imperfect acoustic treatments.

EDITING CLOTHES.

Does cloth editing take less time than editing props and feet?

Actually, here at Foley First, editing the cloth track takes longer than recording the cloth track. Even if the Foley artist has a lot of experience, as with recording footsteps, it is challenging to keep the perfect sync. In order to achieve maximum accuracy during recording, you need to look at the scene several times and remember all the little movements of characters. It is almost impossible to do this within one recording session, so most of the work falls on the shoulders of the Foley editor.

What is crucial?

Moves starts/stops. It is important to make sure the moves open and close exactly as the character moves, that fade-in and fade-out are in place, and that unnecessary noise in the pauses is cut off.

Internal phases sync. In any pattern of character movements, let’s say a simple walk, it is important that each amplitude of movement (we call them “phases”) sound organic and in time to the steps, not forgetting about the syncing. This is why we have found it essential to have the edited steps during recording and editing cloth tracks.

Cloth fracture; Clicks/Crackles removal. It is best to control and avoid this kind of artifact while recording. But if you have to work with such material, then it is better to try to cure it. De-click and de-crackle processing can’t always give you good results without making changes to the original sound. Often, manually removing clicks or replacing bad regions wins. It is especially important to pay attention to this for characters in close-ups where cloth in the mix can sound more obvious. And yes, it takes a very long time to get this job done.

Other artifacts. Not all Foley studios have ideal soundproofing and acoustic treatment for recording clothes. Sometimes we have had to outsource this Foley group for recording due to high traffic in our studio. Low frequency rumbles, airplanes, subways, electrical wire hums, preamps, and Foley stage noise floors — all these problems can feature in the recordings and require correction and removal. Otherwise, the dubbing mixer won’t want the rustles to sound loud enough in the mix.

CONCLUSION.

In summary, I can’t say that recording and editing cloth tracks is not important or that it can be done quickly. Of course, everyone has its different quality standards and project budgets, but it seems to me that this Foley group should be given at least as much attention as steps or props. The cloth is an absolutely equivalent sound instrument that gives your soundtrack breath.

 

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Thanks for reading!

Text edited by Rebecca Wilson Jones

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