Five Great Examples of Foley in Film and Music

Sound effects have changed since the days of cymbal crashes in cartoons. As we tell more complex stories, Foley and recording artists have stretched their imaginations to produce original sounds for a broad range of narratives. Using Foley in film and music is an integral part of the creative storytelling process.

People are often unaware that Jack Foley created the original concept of Foley sound effects back in 1960 for the film Spartacus. Despite never receiving credit for his work on any film, Foley fathered an industry-wide sound effects method that is still used today.

In honor of Jack Foley, we’ve put together a list of five times when unexpected items were used as Foley in films and music.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond (1975)

Playing wine glasses isn’t just a party trick. The instrument is known as the glass harp and it produces a sound that is stirringly beautiful with a surprising depth. Pink Floyd uses the instrument to great effect in the 13-minute song Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Before the guitar solos come in the intro to the tune sounds like the beginning of a fantasy movie. The glass harps tonality is similar to wind chimes or glockenspiels and it imbues the first few minutes with an ethereal haunting tone that carries throughout the entire song.

Dolly Parton 9 to 5 (1980)

Dolly Parton is a cross-generation icon and the song 9 to 5 is one of her most enduring hits. Before her bubbly voice comes in the song is driven by a clacking noise that gives it its poppy country vibe. That sound is Dolly Parton’s acrylic nails. In the 1980s, Acrylic nails were a part of the upwardly mobile working girl’s tool kit. In Dolly’s song, they produce a rapid clicking and tapping noise akin to almost a horse trot. Or more aptly a typewriter, fitting for a song about surviving corporate life.

Ice Age (2002)

Creating a sound for an animal in the world is straightforward enough. If you need a dolphin jumping in the water, you find a dolphin. But what do you do when the animal sound you need to replicate comes from an extinct animal? In the movie Ice Age, the Foley team had to create a soundscape for a world populated by extinct animals. A central character in the movie is Manfred the woolly mammoth. To make the sound of him walking the Foley team used a tree stump wrapped in leather dropped on pebbles and twigs and grass. The results were a deep thudding with the weight and heft of a big heavy hairy elephant. Proving that animated films geared toward children are as committed to realism as any other movie.

Wall-E (2008)

Sci-fi films have a rich history of Foley work. From lasers to robots to rocket ships, the genre is fertile grounds for creative sound makers. The main characters in the movie Wall-E are all robots that don’t speak. Because of the lack of dialogue each of the sound effects for the robots needed to function like voices, with unique expressions and personalities. The sound for Eve’s futuristic laser gun is made in part by stringing a slinky from floor to ceiling and hitting it with a wooden dowel rod. The resulting noise is quick zooming with a deep vibration. Once layered and processed the final sound was unique to the character and reminiscent of sci-fi movies from the past.

A Quiet Place (2018)

In a monster movie about a blind creature that uses echolocation to stalk its victims, sound is the most important storytelling element. To create a fully immersive scary movie, the central monsters had to communicate a lot of noise to the viewer while also being believable. In a feat of creativity, the Foley team used a stun gun on grapes to create the echolocation sound from the monster. The final sound for the film was slowed down to an ominous clicking heard to chilling effect.

Foley Replicates Real-Life Sound

Foley studio at L.A. Film School

Foley studio at The Los Angeles Recording School, a division of the L.A. Film School

Sound creation is the unsung hero of storytelling. The right sound effects used at the right time can add layers to the project and provide realism for the audience. And when done well, you won’t notice the inanimate objects replicating sound at all.

Want to learn more about what a Foley artist does? Find out about Foley artists.

Throwback Halloween-themed Music Videos

In honor of the haunted season, we put together a list of 5 Spooky/Fun Music Videos from the ’90s-’00s to get you in the Halloween Spirit. What are your favorite Halloween-themed music videos?

Backstreet Boys – Everybody – Backstreet’s Back

This is not a scary music video but it is a pop-culture staple. If the Haunted Mansion at Disney did a Halloween partnership with a boy band this is the commercial they would produce. In Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), the Backstreet Boys are implausibly forced to stay the night at a “haunted” hotel. As they sleep each member morphs into a different classic horror movie monster and from there the party starts. Director Joseph Khan and the Backstreet Boys have so much fun with the concept. Every set looks like a Party City Halloween section come to life. And each band member brings their own personality to their monster with the help of cartoonish prosthetics. Put it all through a fisheye lens and you have a hilariously silly Halloween-themed music video that has about as much scare appeal as a middle school dance. Perfect for the less spooky types who would rather party than be frightened.

Marilyn Manson – The Dope Show

The Dope Show is Marilyn Manson looking at his role in pop culture and the music industry as an outsider. There is so much going on in this creepy arthouse style video and yet director Paul Hunter is able to weave together a compelling, if not unsettling, story. Manson is a stark white alien-like androgynous figure that is captured and experimented upon by faceless forces. From there on the creepiness in the video never lets up. Marilyn’s performance is the centerpiece with his red contacts and unnatural halting movements. It’s all spotlighted under eerie white lights that blow out each scene making every frame as creepy as the last. This video premiered at a time when gender non-conformity was the most frightening thing middle Americans could imagine. Marilyn Manson draped himself in their fear, put it in a music video and shoved in their faces.

My Chemical Romance – Helena

Anyone who has experienced loss or grief will tell you that inescapable sadness can also be scary. In the goth-inspired Helena, a sea of black-clad mourners fill the pews of a church for the funeral of a young woman. Her coffin is placed before the pulpit as Gerad Way performs the eulogy and My Chemical Romance gives a wrenching performance of the emo hit. The haunting sadness reaches its peak when the departed emerges from her coffin to perform a ballet-inspired dance of longingness before collapsing back into her coffin to be interred. From the funeral program to the interior of the coffin to the ghostly visage of the dancers, the contrasting whiteness creates a coldness that envelopes the video like the specter of death itself.

Fall Out Boy – A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More “Touch Me”

A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More “Touch Me” is an encapsulation of the best trends from the Myspace era. The story is set in LA as seen in B-movies from the horror section of your local Family Video. We follow Fall Out Boy as vampire hunters who are seeking revenge against the vampire that turned one of their bandmates. In true b-movie fashion director Alan Ferguson employs some over the top effects to tell the story. Vampires bounce off of walls and do backflips while simultaneously playing music. Overly made-up faces peek out of the sinister shadows and everything is lit with otherworldly reddish and greenish glow. At times it takes itself a little too seriously (especially the acting), but its a romp. The video culminates in an all-out vampire street battle. Take your pick at costume inspiration: urban vampires, scene/emo vampires, or 1920s inspired vampires, with fedoras and all. No matter your choice you’ll need to get yourself to a Hot Topic immediately.

Rihanna – Disturbia

Rihanna is at her best when she embraces her dark side. What Disturbia lacks in narrative it makes up for in location and costuming. Set in what looks like an abandoned warehouse we see Rihanna in various creepy scenes throughout the decrepit space. Your quintessential horror movie tropes are all present, a man is chained to a wall, a woman is tied up, and Rihanna is covered in tarantulas. More contemporary elements amp up the sex appeal and the video straddles the line between horror and hotness. She’s tied to a bed (while wearing lingerie and knee-high boots), burned at the stake (while wearing a leather collar and artfully winged eyeliner), and locked in a cage (in lace playsuit and fishnets). Visual effects from director Anthony Mandler turn up the creepy factor. The sharp scene cuts of Rihanna and her dancers performing jerky and erratic dance choreography match the unpredictability of the video. That coupled with the kaleidoscope-like filming style makes for a fun video experience. So if you’re more interested in the scary aesthetic than using horror as a conduit to explore philosophical questions then this is the music video for you

Whether you’re the type who gets out the Ouija board to talk to the spirits, or the type who spend months painstaking crafting the perfect costume, or even the type who eat an entire bag of Halloween candy that you said you were going to save for trick-or-treaters—there’s a throwback music video for you.

*cackles spookily and disappears into the night*

The golden age of music videos was 1999-2010

Making the Video premiered on MTV in 1999. One of the earliest versions of reality TV, it offered a candid view of superstars across genres as they created videos that would define a generation. Every 30-minute episode was capped with a world premiere of the video elevating Making the Video into must-see TV.

We’ve compiled the top 5 hip-hop music videos featured on MTV’s Making the Video.


By Busta Rhymes

Fire shows us Busta Rhymes at peak Busta Rhymes. It’s fun, it’s chaotic, and it doesn’t make any sense. The video has a narrative, something about animals, a CGI tornado, a fire, and a mob of head-banging fans. But none of that matters because Busta with his signature dreads, breakneck lyrics, and wild dance moves is so magnetic he pulls all of the attention. Director Hype Williams plays to Busta perfectly, using close-ups and quick cuts to match the frenetic energy. The best scene of the video has Busta wearing an all-leather outfit dancing in a sea of flames projected onto a green screen. Do the effects look like a screensaver from a ‘90s PC? Sure, but that’s a part of the fun.

The Real Slim Shady

By Eminem

If you like South Park than you’ll love The Real Slim Shady. The video, directed by Philip Atwell and Dr. Dre is Eminem’s absurdist take on his role in popular culture. From a deeply problematic portrayal of a psychiatric ward to an equally upsetting scene at the Grammys, Eminem revels in his rudeness and the discomfort he elicits. The absurdity is heightened by the use of odd camera angles, and distorting lenses, the directors frequently positioning the viewer just too close to the cartoonish antics. Altogether, it’s a time capsule of the problematic things we let slide in 2001, so watch at your own risk. Eminem says it best himself, “Half you critics can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me.” And 20 years on, he’s not wrong.

Hot in Herre

By Nelly

On its surface Hot in Herre is a steamy music video. Like the song, the video is very straightforward. Nelly and his crew are in a nightclub, the nightclub is too hot, everyone takes off their clothes. Simple and relatable, who among us hasn’t been drunk and overheated in a crowded nightclub? But the true star here is the lighting. It’s not uncommon for Black people in film to have their features obscured due to poor lighting. Director X easily overcomes this and has fun with the lighting without distracting. Dark skin-pops under blue light and shines against orange backdrops. The lighting alone elevates the music video into something more than just 4 minutes of dancy club footage. And with the focus on clothes being taken off it actually becomes an ode to 2002 women’s clubwear.

Work It

By Missy Elliott

The only reason this wasn’t just a list of Missy Elliott videos is that she was only featured in 2 episodes of the series. Work It is just one of many wildly entertaining cinematic worlds Missy has created. The video is fast-paced and filled to the brim with references from the early aughts. Playing on the lyrics “Flip it and reverse it” the director Dave Meyers plays and rewinds scenes over and over again giving the whole video the feeling of a record scratching. But effects aside it’s Missy who’s the star. Even in the most ridiculous scenes like when she’s covered in bees or is being dragged by her foot through an abandoned playground, she still looks as cool as ever.

99 Problems

By Jay-Z

99 Problems is Jay-Z’s black and white tribute to New York City. With director Mark Romanek they tell the all too familiar story of a Black man in NY who (spoiler) gets gunned down in the end. The video takes us through the less glamorous parts of the city. From bodegas to jewelry stores, abandoned lots and basketball games, to underground dog fights and funerals, it shows the varied existence of life below the poverty level in New York. It would have been easy to tell the story in a way that encourages the viewers to take pity on the people. But instead, the people are all portrayed with dignity, the love for them and New York is evident in every frame.

The hottest craze from 1999 becomes dated in 2010 only to find new life again in 2020. When they reemerge they are then redefined by the new generation. As more performers look to the past for inspiration the reimagining of the golden era of music videos is going to be exciting to watch.

Stick a fork in it, we’re done!

Ambient Noise, Skeuomorphism and the way we perceive sound

Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Tune out your internal monologue (if you have one) and pay attention to the ambient noise surrounding you. What sounds do you hear? Someone coughing? The AC humming? A group of people talking?

These ambient or atmospheric noises set the tone of your surroundings by establishing a sense of location. If you hear the crack of a baseball hitting a bat and children cheering, you could assume the location is a playground or little league field. Ambient sound helps you visualize your surroundings without opening your eyes, and can even induce a dreamlike state.

What is Psychoacoustics?

Scientists study sound and its effect on how humans interpret and react to sound. In music production, you’ll likely benefit from knowing the basics of psychoacoustics.

Psychoacoustics is the scientific study of sound perception and audiology. This includes speech, music, and other sound frequencies that travel through our ears. Knowing the limits of human hearing is a good way to familiarize yourself with psychoacoustics. The human hearing range depends on both the pitch of the sound—whether it’s high or low—and the loudness of the sound. Pitch is measured in Hertz (Hz) and loudness is measured in decibels (dB). The audible human range of hearing is between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.

According to Daniel Dixon from iZOTOPE, the key to achieving a pleasing mix is an even balance of frequencies across the spectrum. He explains, “while simple in theory, this is often a challenge to pull off since our ears do not perceive all frequencies equally, specifically in the high mid-range (between 2500–5000 Hz) where we are most sensitive.”

Composers and sound designers use ambient soundscapes for film and video games to give the background texture and bring the visual environment to life. These sounds can even cause emotional responses that immediately convey affective information such as the spray of bullets across the battlefield in Call of Duty.

Is Skeuomorphism Still a Thing?

If you aren’t familiar with the term skeuomorphism, it’s a design concept that’s used a lot in UI and web design. Objects on a screen are made to look like their real-world counterparts such as the telephone icon on an iPhone.

Audio or non-visual skeuomorphism is another sound design concept that mimics familiar real-word sounds digitally. For instance, when you drag an unwanted PDF file to your trashcan on a MacBook, the skeuomorphic sound replicates an item being tossed into the trash. Or if you’ve ever read an e-book, you have likely heard the sound of a page flipping when you click to the next page.

The concept has had a resurgence with the advancement of voice assistant technology in recent years. This voice technology mimics human diction with virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. The voices, if done well, can sound humanlike and less robotic then they have in the past.

Understanding the science behind sound will help you create better music and effects in the studio. Knowing the basic principles of psychoacoustics and audio skeuomorphism can help you recognize human emotions and reactions to everyday noises. Apply those discoveries to your sound design/music to create a unique listening experience.

Just for Fun: Tasos Fratzolas hosts a TedTalk about how our brains are conditioned to hear sound.

For those who are fluent in AV-talk, this question might seem obvious. But for the people who aren’t familiar with the AV world, we’re giving you a glimpse of what AV technicians do for work.

What exactly is an AV Tech?

Google AV tech and you’ll find pages filled with job listings and annual salary reports. There’s very little on the topic of what AV technicians do.

The acronym “AV” stands for audio-visual and encompasses all technical components for both audio and visual. An AV tech is someone who sets up, operates and maintains audio and video equipment used to enhance live events. Any event such as a concert, sports game or large conference would need the support of an AV tech expert. They can handle anything from setting up the phone system for a conference call to installing the sound system in a home theater.

What’s the difference between an IT Specialist and AV Technician?

The AV field differs from IT in terms of software versus hardware installation. Often, people conflate the two. An IT specialist will work configuring a Wi-Fi network, while the AV technician will hook-up the hardware for the initial connection. However, as systems become more integrated, the two fields are beginning to blend. We spoke with an AV technician at The Los Angeles Film School who helps run the day-to-day technical needs on campus.

“As AV advances, the entire AV and IT workflows are slowly merging into one field,” explained Jarrod Giles, AV Tech at LAFS. At The Los Angeles Film School, the two entities merge into one IMT team, which stands for Information and Media Technology. They are the internal operational arm for all technological needs. Not only does the IMT team service the school’s staff, but also the students via the connect help desk.

“We’re like electricians, but in a broader sense. We have to know the hardware equipment that’s being used in each situation. So we don’t overload the breakers and amperage output,” said Jarrod. “Most people don’t realize the various situations that AV techs can be utilized in.”

What Classes Can I Take for AV?

The Audio Production Degree Program at The Los Angeles Recording School, a division of The Los Angeles Film School, offers a live sound class where students learn how to manage the front-of-house and back-of-house set up at the Ivar Theatre. Students practice on set compressors and adjust EQ (equalization) levels to balance frequency components with the electronic signals. The class sizes are small, so every student has time to practice on the boards and audio equipment.

Jarrod runs through a short EQ scenario for a live event set up.

For the full list of classes you can take with the Audio Production program, click here.