NFB Pause With Foley Artist Karla Baumgardner

NFB Pause With Foley Artist Karla Baumgardner

NFB Pause With Foley Artist Karla Baumgardner

Ever wonder what a Foley artist does, or how they do their jobs so well? Discover some tricks of the trade on this edition of NFB Pause.

This week on NFB Pause, we talked to Emmy-award winning Foley artist Karla Baumgardner. Karla came to Montreal to study as a mime but got a little sidetracked when she took a course in Foley art.

She’s now been working in the field for over 25 years, and has contributed to numerous NFB productions, including Freaks of Nurture, I Am Here, Bone Mother, and Threads. The Emmy was for her work on the popular animated TV series, Arthur.

Foley artists are the ones who reproduce all the sounds you hear on screen. When capturing sound on set, the focus is on dialogue. In order to appear as realistic as possible, sound is added in post-production to simulate things like footsteps, gunshots, breaking glass, etc.

Their work is mostly behind the scenes, and there are relatively few of them, but their contribution is essential to the films we watch every day, whether live-action or animated.

This area of film production might be new to some of you, but Foley artists have been around since the first picture with sound was produced. When The Jazz Singer was released, it included work by a Mr. Jack Donavan Foley, and a brand new art form was born… and named.

Each artist works differently, of course, but there are a few basic commonalities in the trade. Karla will screen a film and take notes. She will mark each place in the script where sound is needed, effectively creating a sound breakdown. She will then research the best ways to reproduce the sounds and ensure she has all the tools in her kit to do the job. If not, she’ll obtain them.

I found this part fascinating, and asked Karla if she would share the 5 essential items for any Foley artist. She gave me the following:

  1. A bag of fabric, various types and textures. This is great for reproducing the movement of clothing on a character in a film.
  2. A box with various pieces of metal. Ideal for creating loud noises, squeaks and thunder. A hinge is key – good for all kinds of sounds.
  3. A box of plastic and rubber. Perfect for stretching sounds.
  4. A tube of hair gel. You heard that right. Believe it or not, you can use it to recreate a melting sound, or anything viscous.
  5. A signature prop; something that’s all yours. Karla’s is the Om Wand – it whooshes through the air making an eerie sound like a laser beam in outer space.

See what else Karla has to say in this edition of NFB Pause.

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