Foley recording and editing. Clothes.
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Hey! It’s Yuri from Foley First.
Some people on Instagram ask me how we work with the cloth and how much attention do we pay to this group of Foley. The group of Foley that gives the depth of the sound composition to the listener. Because highquality, dense, articulated, authentic in its texture and well-synced cloth tracks give the viewer the illusion of complete immersion in the film. Without moves track, the Foleys has an unfinished shape, and they sounding scanty.
I am happy to share the experience and techniques that we use when recording and editing moves tracks (or cloth tracks) here in Foley First.
When to do cloth pass?
I think this is a matter of personal preference when it is more convenient and effectually for Foley artists to do cloth pass. 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, will prefer to take care of moves track at the very last moment. There is no right or wrong decision — the whole thing is only in the personal preferences 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 be not only recorded but also edited.
After a long search for the optimal recording scheme for moves, we found out that recording clothes with audible footsteps in-sync keep the artist confident in dynamics, performance, and, most importantly, do the cloth pass as synced as possible. Which ultimately affects the duration of work at the editing. The Foley editor takes less time to work with this Foley group, unlike the classic recording scheme when the cloth pass has been recorded with the picture only.
Ideally, if the recording of moves is made by the same Foley artist who participated in the recording of the steps. But since our working 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 to keep large volumes of Foley in their hands, then this is not always possible.
How many tracks do we deliver.
Ideally one! Haha. I think that up to 4 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 to get a mess. It is enough to “catch” characters in the scene, depending on their actions and meaning.
Another thing is a theatrical feature film, where, say, 4 characters in a scene and the first two are dressed in leather and a parka, and the other two are in a jacket and a sheepskin. 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 4 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 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 to leave only one working option, which would not sound too sharp and fractured and would bring us fullbodied and cinematic sound.
Sometimes the square of cloth works just well enough, say, for cotton. But for leather and jackets, it is still preferable to shake the whole item.
What and how to record.
We do record everything that we can, especially on scenes based on dialogues and which has no footsteps. That fills the scene with the breath and gives the “tenacity” to Foley. Hand movements, head-turning, any small details in the movement of characters that you can prop up with rustles in “intimate” scenes — all this, it seems to me, can be useful to the re-recording mixer to give liveness the film. It is important to withstand the correct energy and dynamics in the Foley extraction and not fall into the noise floor. This is not great if you later have to apply de-noiser to moves track.
We found 1-1.5m mic distance as efficient and optimal for recording cloth tracks. Sometimes for textures such as a rain cover, this distance can be increased to 3 meters. Often I see on Instagram how artists put the microphone at a distance of 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 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 will prefer to stay sitting. In 90% of cases, we use the technique when 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 clothes on ourselves. This is especially applicable to winter synthetic fabrics.
On regular TV shows 90-minutes long, 12 hours for recording 1-2 layers of cloth tracks are usually enough for us to make 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 means the less pain the Foley editor will have.
What mic to choose for recording clothes? I found shotguns working just perfectly for this group of Foley. They allow the fabric to sound sharp, textured, very detailed to translate the slightest movement. And of course, shotguns like no LDC mics are best suited for budget studios with imperfect acoustic treatments.
Does cloth editing take less time than props and feet?
Actually, here at Foley First, cloth editing takes longer than the time spent on its recording. Even if the Foley artist has a lot of experience, then, as in recording footsteps, it is challenging to keep the perfect sync. In order to achieve maximum accuracy during the 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 of regions 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”) sounded 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. Musically it becomes much easier to fit clothes to footsteps in order to create a coherent combination. Quantize the bass to your kick and let your music play.
Cloth fracture. Clicks/Crackles removal. It is best to control and avoid this kind of artifact while Foley recording. But if you still had to work with such material, then it is better to try to cure it. Not always de-click and de-crackle processing can give a good result without making changes to the original sound. It is often the case that 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 make this job done.
Other artifacts. Not all Foley studios have ideal soundproofing and acoustic treatment for recording clothes. Sometimes we had to outsource this Foley group for recording due to high busyness. Low freq rumble, airplanes, subway, electricity wire hum, preamp, and Foley stage noise floor — all these problems which can feature in the recordings require correction and removal. Otherwise, the dubbing mixer won’t want the rustles to sound loud enough in the mix.
In summary, I can’t say that recording and editing cloth tracks are not important and can be done quickly. Of course, everyone has its different quality standards and project budgets too, 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 a breath.
How do you guys record and edit rustles on your projects?