Tucked into a fascinating article about veteran Foley artist Gregg Barbanell, highly skilled in creating realistic (yet not distracting) ambient sounds for films, TV shows, and video games, is a rundown of how he achieves The Walking Dead’s most bone-rattling noises. The “tools” he uses are shockingly unshocking.
They’re also items you just might have ... in your kitchen, like nuts and vegetables:
For “breaking bones,” big, full stalks of celery are employed — not merely individual stalks, mind you, but HUGE bunches capable of producing layered, complex snaps. “They give you this huge, sinewy stringy sound,” adds Barbanell. “It’s very effective.”
For sharper, harder sounds like “crushing skulls,” Barbanell relies on whole walnuts. “I’ll hold two in my hand and crush them, or very gently crunch them with my feet,” he says. “It sounds exactly like the crushing of bones.”
For, uh, wetter effects, Barbanell — whose 500-plus credits also include non-horror entries like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Little Miss Sunshine; he did do The Cabin in the Woods and multiple Breaking Bad eps, though — uses a unique combo of cloth and poultry.
For “gushy, squishy sounds” like oozing blood, Barbanell uses chamois (a leather cloth made from the skin of mountain sheep). “You soak it, then lay into it, and it just oozes — it’s something you can control really easily,” he says. “And when you put pressure on it, you get these amazing, gory noises.” Sometimes, when that extra oompf is needed, he’ll go out and buy a whole, raw chicken to stuff the chamois inside of.
As the profile also points out, Foley artist is one of few remaining low-tech gigs in the entertainment biz; as yet, there’s just no way a computer can recreate sound effects accurately enough, and it requires a great deal of physical and mental coordination.
Barbanell generally assembles his own props (he has over 100 pairs of shoes he uses for footsteps), and he prowls Craigslist and garage sales to find objects that’ll deliver just the right nuance of whatever sound he needs. The selection process is a mix between a “sixth sense” borne of 30 years of experience, and a little science knowledge, too:
A lot of it has to do with physics — especially sonics and resonance. Being able to get the right resonance out of something and being able to manipulate it — it’s too woody, it’s too “metal-y” — you can change that. You can know how to do that by having a good sense of the world, but it’s also about learning the physics.”
[Image via Shutterstock]