Private: Sound Designer / Foley

Sound designers and foley artists create precise custom sounds that enhance time-based work. 

While a sound recordist works on set during filming, sound effects, atmospheric noise, and music need to be created in a studio before they can be added to a piece. Sound designers create the sonic landscape of media projects, lending their audio expertise to film, theatre, and art. For conceptual projects with a complex soundscape, a sound designer may get involved early in the process, working with a director to determine the noises that might accompany a certain scene. In contrast, foley artists work almost exclusively in post-production, where they are able to match precise moments with the sounds they call for. Both of these roles occasionally call for the creation of sounds - for instance, a sound designer might compile different animal sounds to make background noise, or a foley artist may record footsteps on a creaky wood floor to enhance a tense moment.

Sound is essential to genre, but things tend to get lost in the mix - sometimes essential sounds literally aren't picked up by a sound mixer during filming. They may be unclear, quiet, or muddled by dialogue, so a foley artist will be called in to recreate them bigger and better than before. This makes it possible for editors to differentiate between different audio tracks when they start moving things around.

Work as a sound designer or foley artist may include...

  • Sourcing or creating sounds
  • Recording and layering sounds
  • Clearly reproducing specific sound effects
  • Using tricks of the trade to replicate certain noises
  • Editing recorded audio to match specific movements or cuts

Foley artists are specialists who may be called on to create sounds for all kinds of projects. They usually work on a project basis, spending time in the world and in the studio making precise noises as required. Some foley artists work in radio or even live television, providing good old-fashioned live sound effects to enhance atmosphere and drama. Many contemporary foley artists record an array of specific sound effects that can be licensed for use in film, just like music, and collect income from their use. These stock sounds are often used for commercials or independent film projects that may not have their own sound team. Sound designers work on film, theatre, or art projects, where their contributions can be used to further illustrate a narrative. These roles tend to be found by word of mouth, and sound professionals early in their careers might find it beneficial to volunteer their services to projects until they have a portfolio to share.

There's no direct path to foley work or sound design, though many sound professionals have backgrounds in film or music. Some theatre or music programs offer training in sound design, though many take either a directorial or compositional approach. Aspiring sound designers can benefit from lending their skills to student work, which can greatly enhance its effect on an audience. Those interested in sound creation occasionally pursue higher education, with one option being an MFA in sound art. Some foley artists work as sound editors, contributing their knowledge of sound creation to an array of projects and sometimes recording independently.

A career in sound design or foley effects can be highly satisfying for artists who want to harness the power of the senses.

The Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association is a professional membership organization of sound designers and composers for the performing arts working in the United States.

http://www.associationofsounddesigners.com provides a community for UK theatre sound professionals and students and works to promote theatre sound to the wider industry.

IATSE Local 700 - The Editor's Guild is a national labor organization and branch of IATSE representing post-production professionals.