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Using Reformer Pro to Perform Foley – An Interview with Will Morton

Will Morton is a director at Solid Audioworks and formerly a dialogue supervisor and senior sound designer at Rockstar North. He has been responsible for award-winning dialogue and sound design for many high-profile games, most notably the Grand Theft Auto Series and Red Dead Redemption.

Will recently started using Krotos Audio’s Reformer Pro for creating Foley on his projects and he kindly answered some questions about this for us.

How did you get into sound and what led to the formation of Solid Audioworks?

I got a Commodore 64 computer for christmas in 1986, and as soon as I heard Martin Galway’s music playing when loading Hypersports I had my heart set on being a game sound designer and composer.  It’s such a strong memory, I was only eight years old at the time!  I spent my teenage years learning to write and produce music, went to college to learn about sound technology, and in my early 20s I got the opportunity to go for an interview at Rockstar North (then called DMA Design), the creators of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.  I was spending my free time playing Grand Theft Auto 3 on my PS2 so it was a dream job for me – sound, music, and amazing games. After working on most of Rockstar’s games for the next 12 years I decided to leave and set up my own sound production studio – Solid Audioworks.

What was it like working on Grand Theft Auto?

As you can imagine it was an amazing experience. The Grand Theft Auto series really let us push the boundaries with what was possible with game sound.

 How did you get into the business of Foley?

I have worked on game sound for years, so have always spent time in and out of studios recording SFX and performing Foley for games, but after I left Rockstar I got the opportunity to record sound for a couple of independent feature films being shot up here in Scotland, and through connections made on those productions I got a taste of performing Foley for film. A little while ago, some local film-maker friends of mine, Chris Capaldi and David Izatt, asked me if I could help out with some Foley and sound design on their latest short film, One Last Dance In The Sun – based on the final scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Their plan was to get the film finished and submitted to festivals.

How did you go about planning the recordings?

We’ve got two Foley rooms at Solid Audioworks, but they were both in use pretty much all of the time on other projects, and my main studio isn’t best suited for waving fabric and dragging pits of sand and gravel around in. Even if one of our Foley rooms was vacant, my staff were engaged on our other projects. I wouldn’t be able to record from one room and perform in another. It’s definitely a job for more than two hands.

 

Did you hire a separate space instead?

No – the problem was solved with Reformer Pro. In a nutshell, Reformer allows you to take an audio input (either live or recorded) such as blowing into a mic at varying intensities, scratching and tapping the head of the mic – or even rubbing the head of the mic on clothing – and then ‘recreate’ this performance with new samples. In my case, I used it to give the two main characters Butch and Sundance, plus the enemy army, each their own signature clothing sounds.

And how did you do this using Reformer Pro?

I loaded in multiple types of sounds and then created a unique mix of those elements using the X/Y Pad.

Butch and Sundance used a mix of denim and cotton, whereas the enemy soldiers had leather added and the balance of sounds changed. It’s a really subtle way to give a unique sound to different characters, and all with the move of a controller. The first couple of minutes of the film has no dialogue and was a fantastic piece of film to let sound set the scene.

But did recording Foley in this way still sound natural and convincing enough for viewers?

Being able to perform with my microphone and end up with a very detailed, but extremely subtle cloth Foley track for two characters in less than half an hour was amazing; but when layered with the ambience, it really made that section of the film breathe.

It’s set in the dusty wild west, so I wanted to add character to the location with dust and dirt, so after analysing some dirt and sand recordings that I already had, I then went back to the film and did another pass, this time performing dust falling from a barn ceiling, making the floor sound dirty, and adding plenty of dust and dirt to the horses galloping outside the barn.

To sum up, what’s the best thing about using Reformer Pro?

It gives any audio designer the ability to be a one-person Foley team.

Find out more about Will Morton’s company Solid Audioworks here.