As I mentioned in my previous post on movie soundtracks with Ableton Live, a lot of people will frown at the idea of using Live for the foley track for a movie. But Live’s Session view offers a brilliant advantage here. When you’re working with “one-shot” sounds that need to sync to the picture over time (typically footsteps!), you need quick access to the individual hits. Enter Session view, which is otherwise quite irrelevant when you’re doing foley. I’ve recorded a selection of various shoes walking on various surfaces, so I had several long audio files of walking sounds. The workflow killer here is that you need to chop these sounds into one-shots every time you need them (footsteps lend themselves particularly well to reuse!)
It struck me that I don’t need to do this more than one time for each recording, so here’s what I’ve started doing now:
- Load the recording into a track in Arrangement view and turn warping off.
- Chop the audio clip into one-shots (click at the point you wish to split the clip and press ctrl+e (or cmd+e on a Mac); repeat for every footstep – yes it’s tedious, but you only have to do it once!)
- When you have chopped all the one-shots, select them all and drag or copy them into Session view. Delete the clips from Arrangement view; you only need them in Session.
- Give the track a descriptive name (like “Footsteps concrete cellar light shoes” 🙂 )
- Drag the track into a sensible location in the Places section in Live’s browser (I created a new folder in my foley samples folder). This will create a new Live set in that location and bring up a dialogue asking you if you want to copy the samples. I selected “don’t copy”, because I don’t want duplicates – the new Live set is in a sub-folder of the foley samples anyway.
That’s it! Now your hard work has been saved, and the next time you need access to the chopped samples, you can either expand the track from Live’s browser and drag the samples into Arrangement individually or you can drag the track into your current Live set and just spread the samples as needed.
This approach has the added bonus that you can play the footsteps like an instrument on your Launchpad, APC-40 or Push, so if you’re feeling a little uninspired by all the tedious foley work, hit record and try to sync the footsteps in real-time! 😀
Extra tip: I recommend using two tracks for each pair of feet (odd steps on the first, even on the second), as it makes it easier to avoid cut-off sounds when the on-screen feet move fast.