A symphony of noise: More about live sound effects

Named for Jack Foley, one of the first sound effect artists in Hollywood, foley is the reproduction of everyday sounds that make film, television and radio sound more realistic by either moving the story forward with sound or creating the background for what is happening in the story.

Whether provided by a recording, a sound technician or actors, sound effects are incredibly important, especially on the radio since you don’t see what’s happening and rely on your imagination to create the scene. Many stories in radio need background noise underneath the dialogue to help the listeners understand what is happening in the story or to indicate the environment.

Sound effects artists usually work at a table filled with odd objects they might need to create ambient sounds and noises, such as blocks and whistles, gloves and shoes, cellophane and crumpled paper, and doors with different kinds of locks and hinges. To make the sound a bird taking flight, for example, they might lightly hit a table with the fingers of a leather glove. Other techniques include crunching cornflakes underneath shoes to create the sound of someone walking in snow, dropping a taped-up phone book on the floor for the thud of a punch or running a fingernail along a plastic comb to produce crickets at dusk. These everyday objects make a whole symphony of noises to create the world around you.