Think about the most iconic sounds in movies. Sounds like Darth Vader’s respirator, the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, Wolverine’s claws. Don’t forget the less iconic ones, too: the rev of an engine, breaking glass, an uneasy ocean.

What would movies be without these awesome sounds? Would Darth Vader be so scary if we couldn’t hear his mechanical breath? Would T-Rex be as magnificent without its famous bellow? Let’s be real: would Die Hard be as edge-of-your-seat intense if we couldn’t hear the glass shatter in Nakatomi Plaza?

The obvious answer is: probably not. And we have Foley artists to thank for these incredible noises.

Sound is vital

Sound is a fundamental part of the movie experience for audiences. And dialogue isn’t the only sound in a film. Foley artists work alongside production to create convincing landscapes of sound. These sounds can range from iconic (i.e. Vader’s mask), to the everyday sounds of bicycles whizzing by, or the chirping of birds.

So let’s talk more about the invention of Darth Vader.

The original script described him as a “dark being on a life support system.” During post-production, the now famous foley artists were directed to make a strange-sounding breathing. Specifically, Lucas wanted Vader’s breathing to sound mechanical and wheezing, suggesting that he was maybe either part-human or part-robot. Eventually they developed this regulated breathing noise that sounded like an operating room patient or an EKG.

That’s pretty important stuff, no doubt. It’s not a stretch to say that sound defines the genre of Star Wars. And it makes Vader the stuff of our nightmares.

And it’s so much more

Take this scene, for example: 

You probably notice the respirator and the lightsaber. But foley artists also created Luke and Vader’s footsteps, Darth Vader falling down the stairs, Luke landing after a backflip. There’s a lot of noise here that isn’t dialogue.

Moreover, foley artists don’t just make the apparent sounds happen: they make all the sounds happen. While good sound mixing curates the whole audio experience, Foley artists provide all the art to make it happen.

A brief history of foley

Foley artistry goes back to old radio programs. You know: the old-timey ones where they used coconuts to represent the clop-clop of a horse. And if you don’t recall ye olde times, you surely remember the great Monty Python gag.

When they first burst onto the scene, movies didn’t have any background noise. Think of those old Buster Keaton movies where there’s only a saloon piano as soundtrack. Jack Foley invented a unique method for performing sound effects live with a picture during its post-production. And with that he invented a new industry.

Contemporary foley artists use everything available to mold the sonic landscapes of movies. Objects like gloves with paper clips, ruffled dustbusters, sledgehammers. These noises convey emotion, direct action, and keep audiences invested in movies. Foley artists also use contemporary recording techniques to play with the audio and get the desired result. 

A sound idea

At ECG we can make the sound for your movie. Let’s suppose you’re developing a monster. How do you want it to sound? We have a state-of-the-art fully-equipped audio suite, complete with Adobe Creative Suite. We can mash up sounds to create out-of-this-world experiences. And we can make it more realistic with our extensive sound library.

Your project needs sound. And we can make it come to life. We mean it in the manifestation-of-your-project sense of the word, not the Frankenstein’s monster sense.

But truthfully, we could come up with some awesome sound effects for your Frankenstein’s monster.