How to Record Sound Effects for Stop Motion

In some cases, creating stop motion animation without sound effects is perfectly acceptable. But sometimes, not hearing anything at all when watching a clip makes people feel there's something missing.


Just take a look at the animation you see below. You expect to hear squishing sounds, but since there's none, it seems incomplete.

Now let's play the clip with the appropriate sound effects below.

How does watching the clip make you feel? Even though you're watching an animation, everything feels more natural with all the sound effects, right?


Foley is the art of creating and adding sound effects to both live-action and animated movies. Foley is a nod to the sound effects pioneer Jack Foley who developed dozens of recording techniques now widely used in cinema.


So why is foley essential in movies?


When you record live video, you also capture all the ambient noise in the environment, including cars and people. In contrast, those noises tend to be more subtle when you watch Hollywood movies.

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Now, why is that?


The secret behind those clean sounds is foley. Apart from the dialogue, which is often recorded live, filmmakers often discard the noise they capture live on set and replace them with sound effects. So those footsteps and rustlings you hear in movies? They're artificial.


Foley is so crucial in animation because you don't even get to record live sounds at all! You'll have to create every single sonic element in your movie, and you have to make it convincing that people would think those sounds come from your characters and the environment.


If you're curious how professionals create sound effects, let's take a look at this short clip of Disney foley artists adding some wonderful (and surprising) sounds to animations!

Of course, you don't have to build those contraptions to make sounds. In most cases, you can use all sorts of objects you can find at home to create sound effects.


What are the essential tools for creating sound effects?


There are tons of high-end recording equipment out there specifically marketed to foley artists that cost thousands of dollars. But did you know that you can still record quality sound effects for cheap?

Now, let's take a look at some budget-friendly options for creating sound effects for your clips:


Smartphones

If you don't have any recording equipment, you can download a recording app on your phone and use it as a recorder instead.


Many phones (especially iPhones) have built-in noise-canceling technology that minimizes the ambient sounds around you. That's why it's perfect for making DIY sound effects.


You can also buy a microphone for your smartphone. That way, you have better control over which direction you want to record sounds.


Microphones


There are tons of plug-and-play microphones you can use on your laptop. If you want the cheapest option, you can buy a 3.5mm microphone (pictured below). Snap it into any standard 3.5mm jacks found in cameras and computers and start recording right away.

If you're thinking of recording outdoors, you can buy a shotgun microphone (pictured below) which you can also connect to your camera or laptop. It lets you record only what's directly in front of you so you don't have to worry about the peripheral noise.

If you want cleaner recordings at home, we suggest you get a USB microphone instead. The best (and affordable) option out there is the Yeti Nano. It records crisp, subtle sounds so well that even ASMR enthusiasts love it. The only setback is that you need a computer to use it. So it's not a great option if you want to record outdoors.


Field Recorders


You can think of field recorders as mobile studios. Apart from the fact that they're portable, they also have a lot of features that let you control the sounds you record.

Field recorders vary in price, but the cheapest options include the Zoom H1 and the Tamrac DR-05X. They have stereo microphones that allow you to create 3D soundscapes, which lets you hear sounds in different directions as you do in real life.


Preparing for Foley Recording


First, look for a quiet place. It should be free from all sorts of noise--including air conditioner and refrigerator drone!


In professional settings, people use recording rooms filled with acoustic panels that absorb sound.

But since not everyone has access to that, the next best place to record foley is your closet!!! All the clothes around you dampen the noise from outside. Apart from that, they also kill the echoes you might produce while recording.


Once you have a place to record, you'll need to gather the props for making sounds. In our case, we had to use a mallet, chopping board, and a couple of tomatoes.

Of course, you'll also have to set up your recording device (either a microphone or a field recorder) on either a tripod or a microphone stand. That way, your mic won't accidentally pick up unwanted vibrations from the table or the floor.


It's best to place the microphone directly in front or above the space where you'll be recording sounds. Also, make sure you use a pair of good headphones so you can monitor what you're recording. What your ears hear may be different from what the microphone records.


How do you record sound effects?


Once you finish setting up your microphone, all you have to do at this point is press record. But before you start making sounds, make sure you have a second or two of silence. You'll need it later for editing your audio files.


After a few moments of silence, start making the sound you want to record. Try to create three variations of the sound in the same recording. That way, you have plenty of options to choose from once you edit your animation.


Recording sound effects isn't always straightforward. In most situations, you capture sounds from the same objects you used in your clip.

For instance, to recreate the squishing sound from the tomato in our sample video, we used the same mallet you saw in the animation to crush real tomatoes.


But the beauty of foley is that it allows you to create sounds that are better than what you hear in real life.


Remember the whooshing sound from the swinging mallet? In real life, the whooshing sound produced by the mallet was barely audible. So, we used a ruler and swished it around to recreate the whoosh you heard in the video.

And the popping sound? We got it from blowing bubbles into a bowl filled with water! We kept recording until we captured a crisp pop from one of the bubbles.

Feel free to experiment with all sorts of objects to create unique sound effects. Tap things, swing them around, slide them along, or even break them!


The secret is to make sure that the sound effects you record closely match what you expect particular objects would sound like in real life. Otherwise, your audience will notice it right away.


Keep in mind that your recordings will have some low humming and background noise. It's inevitable, but you can quickly fix it once you edit your sound effects, which we'll discuss next.


How do you edit sound effects?


Just like with photography and movies, it's crucial that you also edit sound effects.


There are several options for you when it comes to sound editing. The most popular program is Adobe Audition which comes with an Adobe Cloud subscription. But if you don't have Adobe Cloud, you can use a free app called Audacity instead.


For this tutorial, we will use Audacity because it's the most accessible option for most people (since it's free!). Thankfully, you can easily apply what you learn using Audacity if you decide to switch to Adobe Audition down the line.


So let's start!


First, you'll need to download Audacity. Once you open it, all you have to do is drag your sound file into the app's editing bay. The clip will look like a graph below, showing the spikes that represent the sounds you recorded.

Once the file is in Audacity's editing bay, press CTRL + A to select the entire clip. If you do this properly, the grey audio tabs should turn blue like what you see below.

Next, go to the Menu bar and click Effect > Amplify.

Move the slider to make your recording louder. Don't go overboard because you don't want your audience's ears to bleed! Click Preview to listen to make sure your clip isn't too loud. When you're satisfied with your sound effect's volume, press OK.

Next, look for the flat area at the beginning of your sound clip. That's the two seconds of "silence" you recorded earlier. If you listen closely, it's not quiet. Instead, you'll hear some low hum which is present in most if not all microphones.


To get rid of the hum, you'll need to drag your mouse across the "silent" section. Make sure you don't include the part where the tall spikes start to appear. Otherwise, you'll end up with a muddled sound.

Once you highlight the silent section, go to Effect > Noise Reduction.

Next, click on Get Noise Profile. Doing so allows Audacity to recognize the noise and separate it from the rest of the clip.

After you get the Noise Profile, press CTRL + A to select the entire clip, now, go to Effect > Noise Reduction once more and click OK.

When you playback your clip, you should end up with a clear sound!


Sometimes, you'll find long sections in your audio clip where nothing is going on.


If you want to cut sections of the clip, you have to drag your mouse to select the area you want to remove. Then all you have to do at this point is press the Delete button, and you have yourself a shorter clip!

Once you are satisfied with your clip, go to File > Export. You can then select whether you want to save your sound effect as MP3, WAV, or other file formats. We often choose WAV because we find it has the best quality.


After selecting your preferred format, a dialog box will appear. Choose your file destination, rename your file, and hit Save.


Now that you've saved your file, you can drag and drop it into the audio tracks of Adobe After Effects or Premiere, and your animated clip now has sound effects!

 

Do you want to try adding sound effects to your animated clips but don't have time to record them? We uploaded our sound effects library on this website which members can access for free!


Our library features essential sound effects you may need for your project, including the ones you heard in our short animation. We update the collection every month, so watch out for new audio clips regularly!


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