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Sync Tanks

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different sounding surfaces on which the foley artist will walk in time to the one or more characters he or she is watching. Clothing rustle (another sound we never notice until it's missing) and the movement of props such as dishes are likely to be recorded here as well. Even kisses are foleyed. A steamy sex scene was probably created by a foley artist making dispassionate love to his or her own wrist. The foleycrew will include the artist or "walker," who makes the sound, and a technician or two to record and mix it.

Foleying needn't be a slavish duplication of the original object. The sound crew can characterize actors by the quality of the sounds they attribute to them--say, what type of shoes they wear. To attribute some subtle sleaziness' to Nicolas Cage's lawyer in It Could Happen to You, Michael Kirchberger's foley crew sonically added a squeaky shoe and rattling pocket change as Red Buttons walks around the courtroom. It's the opposite shoe of the one that squeaked in Jerry Lewis movies, says Kirchberger.

Usually the more exotic--less literal--sounds are created by the effects staff. According to Murch, "That's part of the art of sound effects. You try to abstract the essential quality of a sound and figure out the best way to record that, which may not be to use the thing itself but something else." Thus, some sounds have nothing to do with the original source--the real thing would be unconvincing. Mimi Arsham, who worked on Ben-Hur, reports that the sound of a whip cracking was actually a hefty steak being slapped on a thigh.

Most sounds need processing (fiddling with). The most common strategy is to start with a sound made by a source that is the same as or similar to what was photographed and then to distort it. One simple method is to slow it down or speed it up. Two other common processing tricks are to choose just part of the frequency spectrum or to run a sound backwards. As far back as 1933 the original sound man at RKO created King Kong's voice by playing backwards the roar of a lion he recorded at the San Diego Zoo. Today digital editing techniques have vastly expanded the possibilities: a sound editor feeds a sample of a sound into a computer, which can then manipulate it and provide a whole range of sounds from the original. One powerful tool is the Synclavier, which combines a computer sampler and a keyboard that can play a sound (or sounds) assigned to any of seventy-three keys with the stroke of a finger.

New sounds can also be created by mixing disparate sources. In order to accentuate the idea that the pen is mightier than the sword, the final close-up of the typewriter keys pounding out the Watergate expose in All the President's Men combines gunfire with the sound of clacking typewriter keys.

Many of today's sound effects are "stacked"; they are layers of

6/24/04 7:55 PM

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