What Is The Difference Between Foley And SFX?

If you’re into audio production of any sorts, words like SFX and Foley are something you’ve probably come across.

Most people new to the world of audio production usually have so many questions surrounding these two things.

Having a working understanding of both is not only important but key if you’re somebody that looks to work in the sound engineering or audio production world.

This post will explain the difference between Foley and SFX which is simply sound effects…primarily because it is a question I run into often.

With that said, What is the difference between foley and SFX?

Foley is the production of everyday sound effects while sound effects or SFX are the artificially recorded sounds that are usually used in film or audio production. An example of foley would be dropping a glass on the floor, the sound created by the glass breaking, would be a sound effect.

Foley is created by the sound artist imitating the actual sound source in front of a microphone.

In most movie scenes there are a lot of little sound effects that happen in any scene, and recording them all can be time consuming…

Which is why Foley can be pretty much summed up in 3 categories which are: Feet, moves and specifics.

Feet

This category utilizes the sound of footsteps.

To make the sound of walking down a staircase, Foley artists stomp their feet on a marble slab or other material while watching the footage to match it.

With feet foley, artists have to rely on the use of secondary objects like a slab in order to record and try to mimic the sound of walking down a flight of stairs.

Different kinds of shoes may be utilized in such situations as well as various floors (aka foley pits) or objects that can create the desired effect.

Different variations of foley pits are also used which can be marble squares, sand, rocks, gravel etc. Depending on what is looking to be accomplished

Moves

The moves category in foley art pretty much makes up the subtle sounds that can be heard in movies.

They can be as subtle as the sound made when two people pass each other…

The foley Artists therefore have to be creative when it comes to mimicking real life sounds of this nature.

For example to recreate the sound of two people passing each other, foley Artists can rub two pieces of material together depending on the desired end effect.

Specifics

When it comes to specifics,  these are sounds like a door slam or the sound of an alarm, door bell, gunshot etc..

You can find such sound effects in most digital audio workstations as stock sounds.

People in film often times just use stock sound effects and then a sound editor can precisely edit them in accordance with a specific scene.

Sound Effects

A sound effect is simoly an artificially created or enhanced sound, or sound process that is used to emphasize content of various media such as films, television shows, live performance, animation, video games, music, ads etc.

In the old days they were created with foley.

In motion picture and television production, sound effects are used to present and make a specific narration or creative point without relying on the use of dialogue or music.

In professional motion picture and television production, dialogue, music, and sound effects recordings are treated separately as individual elements.

Dialogue and music recordings for example, are not referred to as sound effects, even though the processes applied to them can be referred to as sound effects.

The recording of sound effects

The most realistic sound effects are mostly from original sources… for example, mimicking a machine gun can only be probably done by getting an actual recording of a machine gun.

However, real life practice does not always meet theory. In cases where real life doesn’t sound real enough on playback, foley may be used to create a more accurate and realistic sound.

For example, the realistic sound of bacon frying can be the crumpling of cellophane, while rain may be recorded as salt falling on a piece of tinfoil.

Less realistic sound effects are mostly synthesized  digitally or sampled and sequenced which is having the same recording played repeatedly using a sequencer.

When the producer or content creator demands for higher quality sound effects, the sound editor then must try to improve his library with new sound effects recorded in the field.

When the sound effect is very small and specific such as footsteps or a shirt being torn… the sound effect has to be recorded in a studio under the right conditions by a process I earlier described called foley.

Obviously “big” sound effects cannot be recorded inside a studio, such as explosions, gunfire, and vehicle or aircraft maneuvers etc…

These effects must be recorded by a professional sound/audio engineer.

What happens when recording such big sounds is that professionals have to be called up to help the audio/sound engineer record these sounds.

For example, the recording of an exploding building will require a demolitions expert that can create a sizable explosion that can then be recorded by the audio technicians…. or the demolitions can invite the recording crew to one of his demolition jobs.

If the producer requires the sound of gun shots, a gun expert may be hired in order to fire guns safely so the sound can ne recorded.