Will Computers Generate The Demise Of Foley?

We are all familiar with the use of computer-generated imagery in modern movies, and such visualisations are becoming more widespread as they become more realistic. However, it’s not only the image that is being simulated…

Your Ears Can Deceive You

The vagaries of fluid mechanics have engaged engineers for thousands of years, but in recent times the sound of water has become a particular focus for Doug James and Changxi Zheng at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

More specifically, they have been working on creating realistic computer simulations of how water sounds – which is actually not a trivial matter.

Forever Blowing Up Bubbles

Sound is a surprisingly complex beast, and although a rough approximation of any noise can be synthesised, getting the details right is both extremely important and extremely difficult.

James and Zheng found that the key to accurate water sonics lies in small air bubbles between 0.5 and 5mm in diameter. The simulation of such particle systems is common in CGI, but the audio aspect has been somewhat overlooked.

The Sound Of Cinema

Foley artists are responsible for incidental sound details in films – the crunch of footsteps on gravel, the mulching of a head being staved in, the clink of ice in a tumbler, and so on.

Generally, this involves the use of props and a special sound stage, or the gathering of audio recordings from the external environment. For some good insights into the world of Foley, have a look at Tim Prebble’s Music of Sound.

The Future Of Foley

At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, the work of the Foley artist seems to be secure – CG sound effects are still a long way behind the visual department, and it will be many years before they become realistic enough to offer a valid alternative to the real thing. Even then, it would probably be more effective to retain the ‘human touch’ that no amount of programming could achieve.

Of course, even if CG is to be used in this area, those in charge of it would simply be Foley artists endowed with another creative tool, so I predict that the position of Foley will be around for quite some time to come…


Home | Canabrism | Guides | All Music Technology Posts | XML Sitemap