How to Find The Best Props for Creating Sound Effects

We got a little challenge for you: Take a look at the clip below and tell us if you hear any sound in your head.

The animation above is silent. But the goal of this experiment is to show that as humans, it's easy for us to associate certain sounds with the images we see.


Now here's another challenge: Try to think of three ways you can recreate the sound of gnashing teeth using other items. Will it involve pounding two small stones together, closing a compact makeup mirror, or perhaps grinding a mortar and pestle?


Now tell us what do you have in mind!

Since stop motion is silent, it's our job as animators to create the sounds for our audience--and it's crucial that the effects we make closely match what people might imagine when they look at our clips.

In one of our earlier articles, we discussed the basics of foley art, including sourcing equipment and the process of recording sounds.


But this time, we want to delve deeper into the creative aspect of sound design and teach you how to create realistic sounds for stop motion using various (even unexpected) objects.


Before thinking of adding sounds, watch your stop motion clip first.


The first step to creating effective foley is watching your animation repeatedly.


Let's use the silent clip below for an exercise. Watch it a few times and imagine the sounds the objects make in the animation.



Now, what type of sounds were in your head while watching the clip? What did the monitors sound like to you when the hand swiped through them? Oh, and did you hear anything once the screens turned on?


List down the things that can replicate the sounds in your head.


To make it easy for you, start with the sounds that you can do without cheating. For instance, if you were doing foley for the sample animation we provided, you can record actual laptops sounds for the parts in the clip that involve a laptop. Make sound effects by sliding your macbook around and closing it just like in the animation.

But how about the portions of the video that don't have obvious sounds? Such the part with the revolving carousel of monitors? Now this is where you can apply your imagination.


Personally, the carousel of monitors in the animation reminded us of swiping a smartphone screen. That's why we thought it would be best to create sound effects that replicated phone sounds. (Later, you'll see what we thought was the perfect item to recreate that sound organically).

Think of things that you believe would be perfect for recreating the sounds you imagine. It's okay if the objects are random. It's even okay if you're unsure about how everything will end up sounding. For now, just focus on listing down the items you think you'll need for foley.

Bang, tap, and listen until you hear the sound you want.

Now that you have the objects you listed,gather them and place them on a table.


Once you have all the items you need, you can start making sounds by tapping, smashing, rolling, and sliding them around. There are no rules as long as you end up with effects you can use.


The beauty of foley is that you have the artistic license to try absolutely anything to create the effect you need. Of course, that's as long as the sounds you make closely replicates the real deal.

Keep in mind that that not every item on your list will end up creating the exact sound you want. If you're not satisfied with your selection, feel free to look for other objects no matter how random they may seem. Tap or smash them and listen to the sound they make!

Now press that button and start recording!


We taught you how to create foley, such as setting up the microphone and recording in our previous article. The process is going to be the same for any foley project. But this time, we want you to get into the habit of breaking down your animation into different sections.


Start at the beginning and focus on the sounds in that section that you need to produce. For our sample clip, it meant we needed to create soft thuds for the part where the monitors hit the surface.

Once we finished recording the thuds, we went to the next section that needed sound effects and recorded that part.

We always record sounds separately. That way, we have more flexibility with our recordings in the editing stage. We can move them around, add effects, and even change their volume independently.


The clip below is the final iteration of our animated clip complete with sound effects. Can you guess what type of objects we used to create the sound effects?


And the next clip shows how we created the sounds for our animation. Did you guess the props we used correctly?

Below, you'll find a detailed breakdown of the objects we recorded and the corresponding sections we used them for to create the sound effects.

Visual: Hand browsing portable monitors from right to left

Sound: Ceramic pestle hitting the grooves of a grill pan


Visual: Hand browsing portable monitors from left to right

Sound: Steel straw hitting the grooves of a grill pan

Visual: Portable monitors landing on a blue background

Sound: Small ceramic vase pounding on a foam pedestal

Visual: Finger lifting the monitor in the air

Sound: Ruler flapping in the air


Visual: Laptop sliding under a portable monitor

Sound: Small ceramic vase sliding across a table

Visual: Monitor attaching to the laptop

Sound: Carton box slamming on a ceramic cheese board

Visual: Monitor sliding open

Sound: The same monitor sliding open

Visual: Monitor clicking in place

Sound: Pounding foam pedestals

Visual: Monitor swinging at an angle

Sound: Stretching an inflated balloon


Visual: Cable attaching to the laptop and turning on the screen

Sound: Synthesized sound from a midi controller


Visual: Laptop and monitor rotating 360 degrees

Sound: Bowl sliding in a circle on a table


Visual: Monitor clicking close

Sound: Toy teeth clacking


Visual: Laptop closing

Sound: Lemon squeeze closing


Visual: Laptop snapping closed

Sound: A different recording of pounding two foam pedestals

So how did we decide on such random objects? For the most part, we already knew what particular items would sound like since we've been doing foley for quite some time now.


For instance, we know that the foam pedestals we usually use as props for photography create clean-sounding thuds, so that's what we used. We also worked with ceramic items because in our experience, they're great at creating heavy sounds.

But the Foley process also involves a lot of experimentation. In fact, we often find ourselves banging on objects a lot until we find the sounds we want to hear.


For instance, we couldn't figure out what sound the wire in our animation would make as it crawls towards the laptop. Out of desperation, we inflated a balloon and recorded it as we pulled it. In the end, the sound of the rubber stretching matched well with the crawling cable in the animated clip.

It's also worth noting that some sounds require a more exaggerated approach. For instance, we all know that laptops don't usually squeak. But we used a creaky lemon squeezer to create the illusion that the computer was making a sound as it was closing. Otherwise, that part of the clip would be dead silent.

In the last few months, we've also been using a midi keyboard to synthesize electronic sounds such as the one you heard when the laptop and portable monitor turned on. Of course, you don't need to buy a musical keyboard to create electronic sounds. You can always use online synthesizers to experiment with various effects.


Ultimately, it's your decision what types of effects to use. You can be as realistic as you want or experiment and exaggerate the sounds. But no matter what you end up doing, make sure the audio and the visuals jive when you watch them.

 

What makes foley fun is that you get to experiment with sounds. If you want to get better at it, collect random objects and listen closely to the sound they make. Keep doing that exercise in your free time because once the right project comes along, you'll know precisely what items you'll need to make the sounds you want.