Foley isa rather specialized andprecise audioproduction process, with many inherent challenges. First, quiet is a must. Final, synched sounds often require several passes with several elements. As layers are created, background noise builds. Also, for footsteps,the signature sound that most people associate with Foley, numerous surfaces and shoe types are needed. Few studios can commit to sucha range.
Tovusound’s Edward Ultimate addressesthese problems by presentinga flexible, interactive, playable Foley artist inthe form ofa software instrument for Native Instruments Kontakt 5.Previous versions of Edward Ultimate requiredthe purchase ofthe full Kontakt 5, but Edward Ultimate SUITE can run onthe free Kontakt Player 5.
The SUITE includes one module set up for performing footsteps, witha selection of shoes and surfaces. The other module provides cloth sounds and props. Using any MIDI keyboard controller,these sounds can be performed in real-time, in sync with picture.
When creating Edward, Lara Dale and Josh Reinhardt, an accomplished Foley artist and Foley editor, respectively, recordeda wealth of footstep samples, fromfive shoe types recorded on dozens of surfaces. For each shoe/surface combo, samples of walking at various speeds, running and jogging, and climbing stairs were all captured, as were various stomps, scrapes, jumps and landings.
The sheer number of samplesused to create this instrument makes itunique; so doesthe velocity-sensitive, randomized triggering of samples to break up artificiality. The plug-in interfacemakes it incredibly easy to createnatural-sounding performances, witha GUI somewhat resemblinga pair ofturntables. Two “decks” are provided, and each can hostaunique combination of shoe type and surface.
Each deckhas controls for tweakingthe soundtofitthe character and scene. Because every performance was recorded witha Sennheiser MKH416 anda Neumann KMR 81i,a blend control allowstheuser to scalethe balance betweenthe two.A pitch control cleanly shiftsthe tonality of each sound, andathree-band EQ with fixed-frequencies is accompanied byhighpass and lowpassfilters.
Duringa performance, the modulation wheel onthe connected keyboard acts asa crossfader, for shifts and blends betweenthe two decks. This function serves multiplepurposes. For example,ifthe character crosses an asphalt road, steps up ontothecurb, two steps onthe grass, two onthe sidewalk, andthen back ontothe grass, it’s easy to adapt tothe changes. Alternatively,acustom blend of two textures or shoe types can be sustainedthroughouta performance, creating an altogether new sound.
All ofthe sounds inthe Edward Ultimate instruments are set up to be playable ona 25-key controller.Amap ofthe keyboard layout sits alongthe bottom ofthe GUI, spelling out which sound will be triggered bythe stroke of each keyboard note. For example,the low C andD produce slow steps, whileE andF produce medium-paced steps, allthe way up tothemiddleD andEtriggering stair-climbing sounds, with jogging and running atdifferent speeds in between. In most cases,the sounds are grouped in pairs likethis, for performing left and right steps with twofingers.
In some cases, it becomesa long stretch of thefingers from slow walking, up tothe stomp key, or from stairs down to jogging. Inthese cases, the pitch wheel is your friend. Inthe center ofthe instrument’s GUI,there are settings to program what will happenifthe pitch control isturned up or down. In each case, an alternate sound, or pair of sounds, withinthe same shoe and surface set can becued up. So,if walking sounds are being played, buta quick foot slide is needed,the pitch wheel could be pushed up andthe same keys will now create slides. There is also an integrated convolution reverb, includingimpulse responses of15 spaces, in both mono and stereo versions. “Distance” and“Size” controls seem to serve asa wet/dry ratio and decaytime controls, again allowingthe sound to be tailored tothe scene.
SOFTWARE FOLEY ARTIST
Ihave an M-Audio Oxygen8thatIuse for sound design, andIusedthat to controlthe software.I am not a proficient piano player, butI can play one-handed bass lines or melodies. WhenIfirstfired upthe Edward Ultimate instrument,I spent sometime getting comfortable beforetrying it with picture.
The samples sounded very good. There are great full lows and superb detail inthehighs. If listened to athigh volumes,a small bit of room tone was audible, butthis is almost alwaysthe case with Foley recordings.
Gettingused to Edward Ultimatewas like learning any instrument—a little clunky atfirst. Trying to performtiming and dynamics whileusingthe mod or pitch wheel tooka lot of practice. After regularuse, however,I could createthe soundsthatI wanted,matchingthe onscreen performance.
ThefirsttimeItried it with picture,I chosea scene where two men with similar shoes were walking ondirty pavement in an alley. Inatraditional Foley session,the artist would watchthe scene andthennailthe performance in one or two takes, subject toa little bit of editing. With Edward Ultimate, I wouldhave to practicea fewtimes,then tweak some settings,then practice again beforeI could doa take. But bythetimeI recordeda take, it wasusually spot-on.
If walking went on for a long while, atthe same pres- sure,the samples could start to sounda bit repetitive, but in most cases,the modulation wheelfixedthis.I would walk onthe same surface with two similar but slightly different shoe types and subtly rockthe mod wheel to create more variation. Alternatively,I could load asphalt on one deck, anddirt onthe other and dothe same rocking ofthe mod wheel for realistic textural variations.
Itried going big and worked ona scene wherea character clumsily scuffedhis way downahill.I wound up having tousethe pitch wheel toswitch between steps, slides, scuffs and stairs to geta good-sounding take. However,there was no way to do my mod wheel randomizertrick while also ridingthe pitch wheel. An actual Foley performance ofthat complicated sequence wound up sounding superior. Then again, howmany sound designershave access to professional pits?
Ifirsttriedthe Clothing andProps module in combination withthe footsteps instrument. Setting both to receivea signal fromthe same MIDI channel,the two synched up, withthe clothing simulator addinganice extra layer of movement tothe steps. The sampleshad a nice sense of decay, which continued to play afterthe key was released. One problem withthis method was,I couldn’t perform separate headturns or arm movement without simultaneouslytriggeringa footstep.
Changing upthe workflow and doing cloth and footsteps in separate layers provedthe only solution. In one case, to createthe sound ofaman ina suit,I pairedadress shirt witha peacoat, andthe sound was convincing enough. While quick staccato moves read well,I could never pull off long, flowing legato perfor- mances. For moredialog-heavy projects,the quick, loud sounds are all you need, sothis is no problem.
Overall, the biggest sounds were the most impressive. The creaky leather jackets, military armor and the backpack sounded convincing. The props were also successful. Performingsound fora character running witha machine gun and then stopping, drawing and aiming it, Edward Ultimate produceda preferablesound to the previously recorded Foley.
Foley artists needn’t feelthreatened by Edward Ultimate.I believe most supervising sound editors will choose real Foley when it’s an option. However, for sound designers with limitedtime or budget for Foley,this isthe best option I’ve heard. I’ma fan, and becausethe pitch and modulation wheelmake it,I recommend checking outthe full Edward Ultimate SUITE.
Foracharacterwalkinginacreaky oldhouse, load the“Carpet”or “Creaky Wood”ononedeck andthe “Creaks1”ontheother.The“Creaks 1″sound hasnoattacks, justlong creakingsounds.Usethemodwheel toslip insome creaks during walkingandthenpush alltheway tothe creaks deck for pivots, turnsand weight shifts.
PRODUCT:Edward Ultimate SUITE
PROS: Quick, believableFoley can be performed in an acoustic environment.
CONS: Complicated, subtle sounds might require supplementalFoley