The chief gripe with buying sound effects packs, is that the best ones are all too often over used. Not only that, but they can have restrictive licensing issues that can get pretty expensive. The free ones? Well, they’re also overused and are usually not exactly what you’re looking for. So why not create your own with a DIY Foley Space?
According to The Film Look, on YouTube, creating your own DIY Foley Space can be a fun way to add just the right sound you’re looking for, but in order to create them without any echo reverberating, it’s important to find the right room to record in. The smaller the room, the smaller the echo.
If you have a walk in closet with plenty of room, good news! You’re about 75% there. All your hanging clothes will act to dampen the sound and you won’t have to set up any additional sound proofing. But if you don’t have one, you need to go around your house and stand in the middle of each room and clap, listening for the echo.
There are several mobile phone apps that can measure the echo reverberating around the room, so that you can see in hard numbers which room will be best. The Filmlook tried App AcoustiC’s RT on the Google Play store for Android, while I found ClapIR on iOS. You stick it in the middle of your room, and then clap. The app will measure the “reverb” so you can see which room is best. You can also use it to gauge just how good your sound proofing is as you attempt to tweak it.
You’ll also want to choose a room with carpet, which will also help dampen any sound echoing off the floor. But if you have wooden floors, you can go to the local hardware store and pick up foam jigsaw panels, to lay out in the area you plan to use. Amazon Basics has a set of 6 24″x24″ interlocking foam tiles for around $20 plus free Prime shipping. You can also pick up a pack of 4 from Harbor Freight for around $8.
Next, you’re going to want to cover the walls with blankets, curtains, towels, anything that will dampen sound bouncing off the walls. A good place to get cheap packing blankets is Harbor Freight, they’re usually around $4-6 a piece, and they also usually have coupons to get a free one with purchase. Amazon is another good source. I found 12 for $60 with free shipping. Blackout curtains are also a good option, as they can be placed on a stand or PVC array to create a small cube inside your room. Again, Amazon Basics is your friend. DIY Perks also has a great tutorial on how to build an effective sound panel using old towels for under $5.
Next, you want to turn off any electronics or unnecessary lights, as they can betray you with background hums that will be picked up after you’ve done your sound proofing. Now, you move onto the Foley space itself. The Film Look recommends a large gardening tray, that you can fill with dirt, leaves, or other sound items, and keep things tidy. You can also lay several of them out in a grid with different textures to create different sounds for footprints.
Lastly, you want to take your microphone and place it on a mic tripod boom stand that has a retractable arm. This will give you the option to raise it up to any level, including extremely low positions (great for recording footprints). Then you’re ready to record.
While you’re shooting on location, always try to get a “scratch track” of how the audio is picked up in your location. This will give you a reference point towards mixing your sound in that area, including ambient sound going on in the background. Then you can mix it with your Foley track to get the right balance of ambient sound and sound effects.