Asbjoern Andersen


Heikki Kossi is a renowned Finnish Foley artist who has worked on 100s of films – and in this in-depth interview, he shares his insights, workflow, and lessons learned from decades of doing Foley sound. The theme for this interview is ‘International’, and marks the first contribution from Doug Siebum.


Written by Doug Siebum, photos courtesy of Clas-Olav Slotte and Jukka Lehojärvi



 

Doug Siebum (DS): Hello Heikki, and thank you for agreeing to do an interview. First of all, can you tell us about your background and how you became involved in audio and films and what led you to become a foley artist and start your own business?

Heikki Kossi (HK): Hello Doug and thanks for asking for the interview. Back in the 90’s I worked as a professional musician for 6 years playing electric and upright bass with roots and blues bands. Between tours I would rent movies from the video rental shop downstairs and see a bunch of different films. So I watched a lot of films, but I didn’t have any idea that I was going to work with films one day. I was satisfied just to be able to enjoy the films.

Then I noticed that they started a new program in the studies of sound design for the radio and web at Turku Christian Institute in 1997. I became interested. During my first year I did sound effects by hand for radio features and later I heard about the art of foley. I became really interested in this way of creating sounds with my hands. Later I did all of my training periods at film sound studios. After I graduated in 2001 they started working on an animated tv-show called The Aristocrats. It was a 13 minute episode once a week, and as we all know, animation needs foley. Through that, I started to explore the art of foley and I’m still doing it today. At that time there wasn’t a full time foley artist in Finland.
 

DS: Our current topic is “international” and I understand that you’ve worked on films from many different places. Can you talk a little about how you became involved in the international film market and how you established yourself?

HK: From the network that I have now, there is an enormous amount of work, but also luck. Finding international contacts started step by step. First there were a few short films from Sweden, but maybe one of the most remarkable projects was BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO by Peter Strickland (UK 2012). Supervising sound editor Joakim Sundström got in contact with me and he mentioned that he had heard some good things about my work. Actually that is the main point. Every job you do needs to be your best at its time. Good work can produce more good projects. And every project is different.

Some of the International projects are co-productions which means that there needs to be some work in Finland, but most of the projects come because people want to work with us. I’m really happy about that! One very important step was meeting sound designer Peter Albrechtsen from Denmark. We have now worked together on over 50 projects and on one feature project called Danny’s Doomsday. I also met supervising sound editor Tim Nielsen from Skywalker Ranch who later invited me to work on The Little Prince.

Video Thumbnail

Video feature on the sound for The Little Prince

DS: Was it a lot of work to network and meet people? What has that process been like?

HK: The Film Arc project started in 2009 here in northern Scandinavia. The goal of the project was to strengthen the audiovisual industries in the creative industries in Northern Sweden, Northern Finland and Northern Norway. I was invited there by Anne Laurila, and we had really useful masterclasses and workshops about how to behave with colleagues and customers, creating a business plan, etc. Film Arc was a really big help in the beginning. The project didn’t give direct education on foley, but provided useful tools for understanding the international film industry. With the support of Film Arc I was able to invite re-recording mixer Dominick Tavella to come here to Finland for one week, and later I visited Sound One studios in New York. At the same time, I also met Jay Peck, foley artist of Sound One. I visited the C5 foley stage and met great Marko Costanzo and George Lara. That New York visit was very important to my understanding of the foley work flow.

For foley artists, one project is maybe one of 30 other projects during the year, but for the director or supervising sound editor it’s maybe only one, or one of the few projects during the year. That’s a fact I need to understand.

I have felt that the best way to keep flow going is to respect every project and every story. For foley artists, one project is maybe one of 30 other projects during the year, but for the director or supervising sound editor it’s maybe only one, or one of the few projects during the year. That’s a fact I need to understand. And I need to love and respect each story and other film makers.
 

DS: Did you do all of your work from Finland or have your traveled for your work?

HK: Most of the projects I’ve done at my own studio here in Kokkola. I’ve done just 3 projects during the last 10 years in Denmark, because of the co-production rules. I’m open for both options, but of course my own studio is the place where I have my own rooms and props.
 

DS: What are some of the various countries that your projects have come from?

HK: There are still a few local projects from Finland, but let’s say 90 % of our projects are international from countries like Denmark, Sweden, US, UK, Norway, Columbia, Iceland among others. A few years ago we also did one documentary from South Korea.
 

DS: Can you tell us about your workflow? What is your process on a typical film?

HK: My first step is reading the script. I want to be ready when the project starts. When it’s time to start the actual foley work, I guess our workflow is pretty much the same as other studios. Spot foley cues, walk, edit, premix and deliver to customer. Projects vary, so sometime I only walk for the foley cues that were spotted by the sound designer. Of course watching the earlier cuts of the film, if possible, is a great part of the process. One of the challenges that we are facing, is to be able to maintain the creative process. For me doing foley is art and part of the creative process which can really help the storytelling. So in the beginning, it’s also good to think about what we are able to do within the resources of each project. Every film is different, with different budgets, but still there are a lot of possible ways to tell the story.
 

DS: Can you talk a little about your work on films such as Birth of a Nation and IO?

HK: Both projects were such a great collaboration with Skywalker Ranch and supervising sound editor Mac Smith. These two projects were also quite different from each other. The Birth of a Nation was an epoch drama dealing with pretty heavy things concerning slavery. One of the main things foley wise was to make a sonic difference between slaves and white people concerning their feet, housing, everything. I tried to create different textures, which tells about the poor situation of slaves and how hard life was next to the cotton fields.

IO was quite the opposite, located in the future where sound wise there are memories from nowadays, but also textures that we haven’t heard yet. I really enjoyed creating some of the sound textures for the abandoned city, like rusty metal rattling with the wind. Also for ambiences. The texture of a location which is abandoned means dusty, dirty and rattling to me. At the same time, I need to be aware of the things which are not old and rusty. Like some additions for the future machinery.

Basically with both of the films it was the same challenge, tell the story with foley and give the sense of realism.

Video Thumbnail

Sound Featurette on ‘The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki’ which Heikki Kossi did Foley on

DS: Dealing with such emotionally heavy material as there was in Birth of a Nation, did you find it mentally or emotionally exhausting to work on the film?

My job is to go under the skin of the characters and the story.

HK: Yes, you’re right. Birth of a Nation was one of the heavy ones. And also the documentary Last Men in Aleppo as well, which took place in Syria in the middle of the war. And many many others. When I watch the upcoming project for the first time, I try do it without thinking about any foley. I just try to feel and carry these feelings with me through the project. When doing the actual work I use these feelings as my guide.

Once I read that Jack Nicholson has said that he has lived as many lives as he has had roles. I feel that it’s the same thing with doing foley. My job is to go under the skin of the characters and the story. Doing that is emotionally rich, but also hard sometimes. At the same time, it is almost impossible to do good foley if I’m not able to feel the story and the characters. And I have also thought that if I’m not able to feel the story as one of the film makers, it’s impossible for the audience to feel that way as well. I think that I’ve been blessed to see so many different stories and I have learned a lot about life.
 

DS: Can you tell us about your work on The Beguiled?

HK: The Beguiled was supervised by Richard Beggs. It was such a pleasure to work with Richard as well. I think it was first time in my career that we spent quite a lot time talking about the sound of cloth rustle. We wanted to make the sonic difference between characters with the different kinds of dresses that the main characters were wearing. And they should sound like the right kind of cotton, woolen and silk when needed. Not just generic rustling. I felt that The Beguiled was kind of a chamber movie with silent scenes, where there is room for many details. The feeling of a wooden house, which should also sound like a house where only women live, with no men around taking care of the daily things. War has taken all the men away. These kind of things are what I’m thinking about when doing foley.
 
 


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DS: The Distant Barking of Dogs has been very well received at film festivals. Can you talk a little about the sound for that movie?

HK: The Distant Barking of Dogs (DBOD) is one of my latest projects. It was also different because I was working as a supervising sound editor together with Peter Albrechtsen and Pietu Korhonen. Not just as a foley artist. Of course my angle to my sound designing side comes through foley. I love the way I can make sounds organic like foley and integrate foley with other sound FX. DBOD was also a special project because it was the first project that I worked together with Peter Albrechtsen as sound designers. Before this I did foley for more than 50 projects for him. All three of us sound designers were really happy about the collaboration. And one big thing was to be able to work with the great director Simon Lereng Wilmont, who is really into sound.

Here again, creating the sounds with DBOD, we talked a lot about the textures like the village where everything happened. The small village Hnutove is located in the middle of a war, in Eastern Ukraine. It’s like a ghost town. Only dogs are barking. Everything is rattling, dirty and broken. Life should sound fragile. Also there is great music on this film by Uno Helmersson and Erik Enocksson that sounds like that as well.
 

DS: Does your process or workflow vary from country to country?

HK: Basically not. I just try to adapt each project through the story. My job is to create feelings and I think feelings are universal.
 

DS: I see that you did the foley on The Little Prince, how does your choice of sounds in animation differ from a live action film?

HK: With animations we record more with closeup miking and mostly with one mic. Supervising sound editor Tim Nielsen made a really good spotting session, picking up great ideas and small details. One of them was to create the stop-motion world with two foley layers: naturalistic and paper layers. Animation requires quite often more characteristics and sweepy sounds. Exaggerating is also preferable. But as I said before, there are no rules. Every project is different and rules are for breaking.
 

DS: What is the most challenging film that you have ever worked on and can you tell us about it?

HK: This is a question I’ve been asked for many times. Or which is the most difficult sound to make? Sometimes projects where there is something you haven’t seen before, like something from the future, might feel challenging, but it can also be relieving. But really the most difficult thing is to make sound that fits what we see. And it fits with the story and characters. It’s a challenge that I love and I face it everyday.

DS: Do you care to share any tips or techniques for doing foley with our readers?

HK: Respect the story!
 

DS: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

HK: One of the latest projects I’m really happy about was to work with my French brother Nicolas Becker. He supervised an upcoming film titled Sound of Metal (directed by Darius Marder). Nicolas has his own personal way of doing sound, and that also related my foley work. Trying new crazy microphone techniques has been so inspiring. I would like to talk more about this after the film is out ;) Let the film and story talk first.
 

A big thanks to Heikki Kossi for taking the time to share some wisdom and knowledge with us – and to Doug Siebum for the interview!
Learn more about Heikki’s work on IMDB here, and find his company page here

 

Please share this:


 


Bonus: Learn more about the art of Foley:

 

Want to know more about Foley sound? Check out these excellent videos:

Meet the Foley team at Skywalker Sound:

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Inside the Pinewood Foley Studio

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How movie sound effects are made – with Foley artist Marko Costanzo

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Recording Foley Sound Effects for ‘The Night Manager’

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Foley Artists – How Movie Sound Effects Are Made

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The Magic of Making (Foley) Sound

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Uncover The Secret World of Foley – with Foley Artists Pete Burgis & Sue Harding:

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  • Environments Rare Winds Play Track 102 sounds included, 233 mins total $149 $74.50

    From all 4 earth’s corners, air streamlines the environment and shapes our stories. Discover the cinematic world of rare winds!


    This sound library is the ultimate achievement of a really ambitious project of recording winds from very remote places across the world.

    Included are authentic recordings from the Boreal region (North hemisphere: in Canada and Iceland), from the Austral region (South hemisphere: Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and the Last Hope province in Chile), on Islands in Mediterranean region (Thira in Greece), in the Sahara desert (Marocco), Isle-aux-Grues (Canadian winter), and more (see file list for more details)


    These were recorded either in urban settings, countryside, or complete wilderness.

    Included is a set of useful synthesized, tonal, and designed winds.

    The sounds are categorized into 3 folders: Designed, Indoor & Outdoor.

    WHAT’S INSIDE:

    • 102 stereo files
    • Highly focused and meticulously edited sounds
    • Ready to use Loop
    • Urban area and Wild area
    • Useful Designed & Synthesized Wind Sounds
    • Recordings from the Boreal region (North) in Iceland & Canada
    • Recordings from the Austral region (South) in Argentina & Chile
    • Recordings from Islands in Greece & Canada
    • Recordings from the desert in Marocco
    • Abandonned houses and shelters
    • Marina, lake, forest, car, flags, arctic, metal pole, prairie, street, mountain, grass, …
    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574463599
    Add to cart
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    This bundle includes 4 different libraries.

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    The Harbours Of Norway sound library features 25 files with ambients recorded in Myre, Sto and Nyksund, very small towns with direct access to the sea. Most of the sound effects were recorded at night, but since it’s a polar day time of the year, it was very pleasurable to walk and look for convenient places to set up my gear. Everything was recoded with ORTF setup built from two Sennheisers MKH 8040. Inside this library, you’ll find a lot of seagulls, waves crushing on the rocks and plants, windy ambients from the cliff, industrial sound from port in Myre with ship unloading the cargo, walla with steam engine boat and additional sounds from boat engine market and air cooling aggregates from food containers. Every file was recorded in 96kHz, edited (i removed any unintentional bumps, pops and unwanted sounds). I limited EQing to removing harsh frequencies, or enhancing a little bit the good sounding ones. At the end of the chain there is a small compression, for louder sounds.

    The Summer Ambients sound library contains 33 beautiful WAV files recorded with Sound Devices 702, Rode NTG3, two Oktavas MK012 in MS and stereo XY pattern. All sounds were gathered in different and beautiful places like forests, lakes, meadows or swamps. You can expect amazing ambients, textures, different birds, insects, forest during rain, calm and windy days. It’s a perfect library for designing background sounds. Everything was recorded in amazing Masuria in Poland.

    Summer ambients Update – library got 2x bigger and heavier than the original library. 59 additional files, 123 minutes of high quality audio recorded with Sennheiser MKH 8040 ORTF setup, Rode NTG3, Oktava MK012 XY setup plugged into SD702 and Sony PCM-10. It features ambients from the forests, ponds, swamps, meadows, lakes and suburbs recorded is very quiet locations, mostly just before the sunrise, during the day and before sunset far away from the cities.

    Water Flow sound library took me about six months to record, consumed about 15 thermoses of tea and 42 litres of gasoline to get to all locations. It offers 90 BWAV files recorded in different locations. Huge part of this library is based on the recording sessions on the rivers. Two completely different locations, recorded regularly for the last 5 months allowed me to create this unique sound library. Most of the recording sessions took place during winter just before the sun was rising to reduce the amount of unwanted sounds. Almost all recordings are completely clear and only few have birds in background, since it was my intention to record some location ambients with natural backgrounds.

    You can see the metadata and sound list below.

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574463599
    Add to cart
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    The Cars In Motion sound library gets you exterior sounds of cars driving at different speeds, slow/medium/fast/very fast pass-bys, reverse sounds, accelerations, braking sounds and a lot of additional files. You’ll find different engines, and cars with different character.

    From a small BMW 114i through to a powerful Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7 V8 with Magna Flow exhaust, up to a fast twin turbo BMW 640D F12. In addition to cars there are also files covering big machines like tractors and excavator.

    The library features 561 WAV files with total length of 340 minutes, recorded in 96kHz and 24 bits with a Sound Devices 702, two Sennheisers MKH 8040, Rode NTG3 and Sony PCM-M10.

    Here are the cars included in this library:

    • Audi A4 Allroad 2.0 TFSI – 73 files – 73 minutes
    • Audi A4 B8 2.0 TDI Avant – 11 files – 10 minutes
    • BMW 114i E87 – 20 files – 10 minutes
    • BMW 530D E60 – 55 files – 21 minutes
    • BMW F12 640D Gran Coupe – 87 files – 49 minutes
    • Excavator MF 860 – 30 files – 20 minutes
    • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7 V8 – 62 files – 51 minutes
    • Renault Kangoo 1.6 16V – 71 files – 32 minutes
    • Renault Master II 2.8 dTi – 21 files – 13 minutes
    • Renault Master F3500 dCi135 – 30 files – 12 minutes
    • Tractor Case II CX90 – 15 files – 10 minutes
    • Volkswagen Golf II – 26 files – 13 minutes
    • Other Cars – 60 files – 23 minutes

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Cars Hyundai Kona Electric Car Play Track 428 sounds included, 98 mins total $100

    An electric car sound library with a range of FX from the Hyundai SUV, Kona.

    The library includes numerous driving FX on both gravel and asphalt including pass-bys, take offs, corners, approaches and skids.

    It also contains a large range of interior recordings from driving at highway speed all the way to buttons and switches.

    Multiple FX on each track – recorded in Sydney, Australia

  • Cars Car Interiors Play Track 430 sounds included, 14 mins total $69 $38

    car interiors library is a great supplement for all the car engine sounds that you already own. That way the action on the inside of the car is not stale at all. Dashboard buttons, seatbelts, automatic windows, switches, switching gears, brake, clutch and gas pedals, vents, turning signals. They’re all here!

    Got a whole bunch of roaring car engine sounds but then realised that you’re not equipped with all of the boring stuff like:


    car door handles, seatbelts, turn signal, air vents, buttons and switches, seats, storage compartments, horns, windows, pedals (gas, brake, clutch), handbrakes wend

    and all other Car Interior sound effects? Well then.. look no further! This is just the pack for you.
    160 wav files with over 400 single sounds in total. Car Interiors will spice up that car interior scene with real, crisp sounds, recorded from over 6 cars in total!

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  • Destruction & Impact Cinematic Strikes Play Track Up to 4140 sounds included From: $119 From: $95.20

    ENORMOUS SOUNDING PERCUSSIVE HITS

    CINEMATIC STRIKES joins the BOOM Library Cinematic Series – and it focuses on big sounding drums. A whole world of cinematic percussive sound design lies a few clicks away: From devastating cracks and stomps over crisp swells and rolls to epic ensemble hits – you will be sure to find and build just what you are looking for.

    With the ultimate flexibility of different microphone positions, single and ensemble hits, flams and swells using various drums and beaters, you couldn’t be better equipped to design huge blockbuster and trailer hits – or simply place ready-to-use DESIGNED sounds into your timeline and feel the earth shake.

    CINEMATIC STRIKES – CONSTRUCTION KIT:

    FLEXIBLE SOUND DESIGN TOOLKIT

    The Construction Kit offers you one of the most comprehensive drum hit packages ever recorded. Carefully planned to satisfy and complement every spot in the frequency range, you will never run out of low end booms, aggressive cracks, mid-range body impacts, reverberant tails and excellent sweeteners to top it off.

    PERSPECTIVE & RHYTHM

    Not only are you able to produce impressive sounding hits, but also transition into, out of and between peaks. Control the attack and release of each sound, using rolls, flams, double hits and other meticulously performed techniques. Three coherent microphone positions make spatial adjustments a breeze.


    Files: 618 • Sounds: 3708 • Size: 13 GB


    CINEMATIC STRIKES – DESIGNED:

    MAXIMUM PUNCH – AND THEN SOME

    CINEMATIC STRIKES – Designed is what you get when layering and processing Construction Kit sounds BOOM Library style.

    From rumbling low-end BOOMS, soft and natural sounding WHOOSH HITS to aggressive, frontal CRACKS and PUNCHES, the Designed library showcases what’s possible, while saving precious time and budget on a tight schedule.

    This package is particularly useful for filmmakers and trailer sound designers.


    Files: 108 • Sounds: 432 • Size: 1.4 GB

    CINEMATIC STRIKES BUNDLE:

    THE BUNDLE – The best of both worlds at a discounted price.
    The Bundle gives you the full sound design power as it contains both – the DESIGNED and the CONSTRUCTION KIT edition at a discounted price.


    Files: 726 • Sounds: 4140 • Size: 14.6 GB
    Included sounds – keywords:

    BASS DRUM, BOOM, BOX, CAJON, CONCERT TOM, CRACK, CRASH, DAIKO, DOUBLE HIT, ENSEMBLE, FLAM, FOOT, GONG, HARD BEATER, HIT, JAM BLOCK, KICK, KODO, LOG, MALLET, BIN, PUNCH, ROLL, SINGLE, SNARE, SOFT BEATER, SPLASH, STICKS, STOMP, SWEETENER, SWELL, TABLA, TAIKO, TAMBORA, THUNDER SHEET, TOM, WHIP, WHOOSH HIT, WOOD PERCUSSION, WOODBLOCK
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  • Destruction & Impact Implosion Play Track 42 sounds included $100 $70

    Implosion is a sound effects collection of buildings being destroyed with explosives. It features 10 unique building implosions recorded across the country.

    Each implosion was recorded with 4 to 14 channels of audio. To offer multiple perspectives, mics were placed as close as 150ft (~50m) and as far away as 2000ft (~600m) from the various explosive demolitions.

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  • Drones & Moods Audible Silence Play Track 105 sounds included, 170 mins total $80 $64

    The eerie sound of wind resonating through wires, fences and abandoned buildings.

    Recorded using the JrF C-Series contact microphone, these recordings capture the metallic resonance of wind with natural ebbs and flows.

    All sounds were recorded using the JrF C-Series contact microphone stereo pair and Sound Devices Mix-Pre 6.

     

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