When a bird swoops by a character’s head in a movie, it certainly seems like you’re hearing a real winged creature flying by, but what you’re really hearing is a feather duster being whipped in someone’s hand. Well, not just “someone,” but rather a highly skilled and experienced professional whose job is to make all of the sound effects for your screen.
In this fun, short video from Wired, we get to meet John Roesch, a foley artist (the title for someone who makes many of the sound effects for your favorite films, shows, and video games) inside the sonic studio he works from at Skywalker Sound.
A veteran of the craft for nearly 40 years, his résumé is massive (no, we mean massive massive), and includes movies like Inception, Gone Girl, The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Roesch says that his profession is made up of such a small group that there are actually “more astronauts in the world than foley artists.”
The building Roesch works in was specifically designed for the job. Beyond the enormous amount of stuff that makes it look like an abandoned old department store, it has a floor that goes down to the earth in order to produce more solid foot sounds, and it also has a splash pool. So when you see a character encounter some horrible sea creature or some beautiful mermaid, it’s really just a rake being pulled through water that you’re hearing.
A good foley artist’s work should never be noticed, but it’s cool to watch this scene from Back to the Future imagining Roesch rolling around his little piece of wood to create the sound of the skateboard.
Somewhere right now there’s some five year-old constantly banging pans and making a ruckus with household objects, whose exhausted parents have no idea he or she is already on their way to a very cool, very fun (but sneakily tough) job.
What sound effect from movie history would you like to find out how it was made? Sound off in our comments below.