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The term foley has an interesting origin, dating back to the early days of broadcasting. We will examine the definition of the word foley, where the term came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Foley is used when talking about sound effects, whether they are radio sound effects, television sound effects or movie sound effects. Studios insert foley sound effects in the post production phase of film-making, enhancing the ambient sound that a sound editor may pick up when recording on location. Various problems may plague the sound engineer on a film production. Perhaps an animal will not perform on cue. Editing allows a foley artist to insert a well-timed roar where it is needed, or to enhance the soundtrack of a film in other ways. A model train is more likely to seem full-sized when it appears on the screen, if realistic sound effects are inserted into the film.

The terms foley effects, foley artist and foley studio are named in homage to Jack Foley. Sounds effects were used during radio shows broadcast in the 1920s, but it was the 1929 motion picture musical, Show Boat, that really gave Jack Foley his start. Recording for the cinema was in its infancy, and ambient sounds had to be dubbed in after the main portion of the film was finished filming. Foley and his fellow foley artists watched the movie on a screen, adding ambient sounds using various props. Some props included cellophane, which Foley wadded up to simulate the crackle of a fire, coconut shells used to imitate the clip-clop of horses’ hooves, an umbrella which when quickly opened and closed resembled the flapping of wings, and old hinges left rusty in order to capture their squeaks. Foley’s filmography includes Dracula, Spartacus and Phantom of the Opera, he died in the mid-1960s. Today, most foley artists who work in cinema do not use props and a microphone, they mix their sound effects in a computer. The art of foley effects has been around for so long, many free sound effects are available online for use by the novice or amateur film-maker.

While it is hard to say when the word foley became a word used to mean sound effects and the process of creating sound effects, the term dates back at least to the 1980s. It is safe to assume that among film industry insiders, the word foley was probably in use before that time. Note that some render the word foley with a capital letter, as in Foley. The Oxford English Dictionary prefers to render the word with a lowercase letter. The word foley is an eponym, which is a word that is derived from a person’s name.


And here too is her early Foley Artist, in which the sound of lovers kissing or footsteps mysteriously disappearing in the dark is broadcast across the gallery in comic contrast to a small-screen vision of their origins: the eponymous artists kissing their own wrists or walking a metal tray in high heels. (The Guardian)

A Foley Artist follows a familiar narrative, celebrating an elderly master craftsman, whose idiosyncratic skill set is on the verge of extinction, as younger generations seem reluctant to embrace it. (The South China Morning Post)

Grab the kids and you, too, can learn about cinema and sound in a Foley studio, take an innovation workshop and dabble in tunes from inside a giant guitar. (The Mercury News)

ADR is the process of re-recording dialogue by the original actor after filming to improve audio quality while Foley effects involve the recording of reproduced sounds such as footsteps, the swish of clothing and smacks heard in fist fights. (The Gisborne Herald)