Asbjoern Andersen


Sound designer Shaun Gallagher was brought in to handle the foley sound for Mortal Kombat X’s Story Mode. Mortal Kombat X is the latest – and fastest-selling – installment in the long-running series, and it’s being hailed by reviewers as a superb entry in the franchise.

Shaun’s foley solution was a combination of custom recordings, sample libraries, and midi. Get the details below, and be sure to check out the special video at the end of the post to hear the foley sounds in isolation. Here’s his post – reprinted with his kind permission.

 

When I began my contract at Netherrealm Studios back in July of 2014, Rich Carle, Netherrealm’s audio director, informed me that one of my primary tasks would be to “own the foley process” for Mortal Kombat X’s Story Mode over the next several months. Little did I know what I was in for…

The team decided to take a different approach to foley for this game.

The team decided to take a different approach to foley for this game. Typically in visual media (TV, film, games), footstep, cloth, and interaction foley is performed live to picture, and then cleaned up and edited in post, if need be. In my experience, the largest amount of time spent in foley is on footsteps. Timing, performance, and volume all need to be practiced multiple times to picture, memorizing the scene and its nuances, until you’ve hopefully captured your best take.

In games and animation (where production sound is absent and all audio needs to be created from scratch), a 7 minute scene with 6 characters, all needing footsteps (with varying shoe types) performed to picture can quickly grow to be time consuming with diminishing returns. Also take into account the nature of animation and game design. In film or TV, the visual aspects of a character are locked. For example, after picture lock, you can count on a certain character in a specific scene having the same shoe type, for it to not be raining, and for the character’s costume to remain the same.

In games, where dozens of people are simultaneously refining environments, effects, character models, etc., this is not the case, and any one item in the foley track in a scene may need to be swapped quickly to match something visual that has changed. Hopefully you can see how important time, energy, and flexibility were when creating audio for MKX’s story mode.

Our solution? There are currently a few companies offering MIDI solutions to our foley problem, specifically for footsteps. We initially decided upon 2:

• Signo SFX-Instruments
• Foley Collection

Both services provide the same thing: individual footfalls for a variety of surfaces and shoe types, performed at varying volumes and mapped to keys in custom patches that work in Native Instruments’ Kontakt. This allowed us the option to, say if a surface changed or character costume was altered, easily swap out the patch for an already performed MIDI region. Timing and volume remain the same, but our surface or shoe type could be altered on the fly. This still requires quite a bit of time, as footfalls need to be performed to picture in real-time.

However, unlike recording in a foley booth where if a timing or volume mistake was made for any one footfall, with MIDI this is no problem

However, unlike recording in a foley booth where if a timing or volume mistake was made for any one footfall, with MIDI this is no problem; you could finish your performance and open the MIDI region, nudge notes for precise timing and change any volumes on the fly. Hell, swap the patch entirely while all of the data that was needed to be performed in real-time remains unchanged.

As for cloth and interaction foley:

This was either created from foley recordings done in house, or designed using a mixture of the former and library material, and then edited and placed accordingly. Here is a picture of a typical foley session in Nuendo. Note the separation of scenes and Kontakt instances based on ground type and MIDI routing to group tracks for easy stem bouncing of each individual character:

mortal kombat x foley

And here’s a zoomed view of a typical amount of footstep patches in one instance of Kontakt, and the MIDI performances associated with each character and their footstep patch:

mortal kombat x foley sound 2

We later contracted John Roesch and his foley team at Warner Brother’s Sound Studios in Burbank and had them record additional footfalls and scuffs, which we then edited and programmed into our own Netherrealm Footstep Foley patches for use in Kontakt. This ended up being the go-to material for footsteps.

I believe our combination of MIDI patches for footsteps in conjunction with traditional foley recording and editing yielded a great result and saved a ton of time and hair pulling

In retrospect, I believe our combination of MIDI patches for footsteps in conjunction with traditional foley recording and editing yielded a great result and saved a ton of time and hair pulling, especially for the amount of times scenes changed throughout development. There were additional surfaces we felt we could have used towards the end, particularly raised wood and corrugated metal, but I was able to design something that sounded just fine.

Listen and judge for yourself!

This video highlights footstep, cloth, and interaction foley using the processes outlined above. Anything we classified as sound design (punches, characters breaking items, etc.) have been omitted. VO is included for context (warning: the video is graphic):

Video Thumbnail
A big thanks to Shaun Gallagher for letting me reprint his post. Want to know more about him and his work? Check out his blog here for details.
 

Please share this:


 


 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
  • Animals & Creatures Animal Hyperrealism Vol I Play Track Over 1300 sounds included
    Rated 5.00 out of 5
    $170

    Animal Hyperrealism Vol I is a library containing sounds themed animal vocalisations, from real to designed creatures totaling more than 1300 individual sounds in 290 files.

    The sounds were partly recorded with animals trained for media production, partly recorded in zoos and wildlife centers. The asset list includes but is not limited to: african lions, bengal tigers, horses, donkeys, cows, exotic birds, owls, bobcats, pumas, dromedaries, wolves, dogs, geese, lemurs, gibbons and many more.

    All the content has been recorded at 192KHz with a Sanken CO100K plus a Sennheiser 8050 for center image and a couple of Sennheiser MKH8040 for stereo image. All files are delivered as stereo bounce of these for mics, though in some instances an additional couple of CO100K was added to the sides.

    The resulting ultrasonic spectrum is rich and allows for truly extreme manipulation of the content.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
    Add to cart
  • Sci-Fi Sci-Fi Mechanics Play Track 301 sounds included, 17 mins total $14.99 $7.99

    SCI FI MECHANICS is a construction kit that features 301 unique, pristine quality, sound effects.
    Perfect for crafting sound for all sorts of robotic sequences, mechanisms and transformations.

    47 %
    OFF
    Add to cart
  • The “Screams & Shouts 2 – Monsters” sound effects library brings you over 940 shouts of pain and death, disturbing roars plus grunts of anger, struggle and attack from several monsters and zombies.
    Additionally you get 250 clean untreated vocalized human monster sound to create your own designed monsters with it.

    This is the go-to sound effects library to give your monsters an unpleasantly threatening, disgustingly haunting and ferocious voice
    All sounds have been edited precisely and cut clean for instant use in your projects. These sounds fit very well in any scifi, horror, action, fighting or fantasy game, movie or any other audio-visual production.

    40 %
    OFF
    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here
 
Sound Effects Sale
Land huge savings on 100s of excellent sound effects libraries in the special Summer Sale - right here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • ‘Magic Elements’ is a detailed collection of designed & source sounds of organic elements, actions, characters, items, spells & atmospheres in the realm of Magic.


    DESIGNED:

    In the designed section you will find 326 carefully crafted sounds.
    Volume 1 of this magic saga is comprehensively focused on 6 elements:
    Earth, Ice, Fire, Air, Black, and Generic.

    Each element comes with a variety of spells, actions/movements such as whoosh, impacts, atmospheres, projectiles, along with many variations in intensity and speed.

    All these sounds are carefully designed, edited and meta-tagged.

    The ‘generic’ category contains handy neutral go-to sounds that are useful for any project.

    SOURCE:

    The source folder is packed with 444 useful sounds that cover a large spectrum; thoroughly edited and meta-tagged. They will support your creativity with materials such as choirs, dissonant metal, creatures, papers, debris, drones, cracks, textures, friction, LFE sub sweeteners,…

    What’s inside:

    • Impacts, Whoosh, Air Swirls,
    • Fireball, Deflagration, Flame Thrower, Deep Sub Whoosh
    • Aura, Energy Stone, Old Grimoire, Healing,
    • Earthquake, Constant Debris, Falling Rocks, Ground Friction,
    • Haunted Books,Laboratory, Magic Box, Potion
    • Huge Ground Opening, Eerie Drones,
    • Dark Choir, Ominous Creatures, Dark Dissonant Metal Scrape,
    • Iceberg Destruction, Ice Scrapes, LFE Sub Sweeteners,


    Choose how you want your sounds!
    2 DOWNLOAD OPTIONS INCLUDED:

    • GLUED (Multiple variations of the same sound glued in one file)

    • SEPARATED (Each variations of sound are separated in different files)

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1532469600
  • Welcome to the sonic world of electromagnetic fields – sounds that are everywhere but rarely heard!

    This library consists of a collection of 82 sounds, with each sound ranging from 6 seconds in length up to almost 7 minutes, exploring the buzzing, clicking, and general weirdness that is found to be emitted in the electromagnetic fields of 21 devices. These include a washing machine, guitar effects pedal, Ford Focus, and a factory Security System.

    These recordings range from a variety of straight buzzes and hums to sounds the morph and change over time. They are be great for something as simple as adding a hum to a refrigerator, to creating more complex soundscapes for your sci-fi projects, or to use as samples for music. This collection has been put together using little-to-no processing so as to give you sounds that can be manipulated however you may need.

    33 %
    OFF
    Ends 1532296800
  • Foley Tactical Backpack Play Track 72 sounds included $7.99 $5.99

    Tactical Backpack is a collection of 72 carefully recorded and mastered backpack sound effects.
    Zippers, straps, buckles, handling, drops, pick ups, velcro straps and more!

    All audio files have been recorded at superb 96KHZ 24BIT, multiple mic positions to capture all the wonderful sonic details.

    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + Sennheiser MKH 8060
    EDITED AND MASTERED WITH: Pro Tools, iZotope RX (mildly).

    25 %
    OFF
    Ends 1532124000
  • Environments Hong Kong Ambiences Play Track 18+ sounds included, 75 mins total $49

    Welcome to the Hong Kong Ambience sound effects library (1 hour and 15 minutes long, 1.6gb compressed .rar file, 2.4gb Uncompressed). This package contains sounds of what the Cantonese people hear during their daily commutes and can be used for common Asian scenes, China Town scenes, etc. All 18 ready to use and loop-able stereo wave files were captured in 24 Bit, 96 kHz (each in 3, 4, or 5 minutes long), and include metadata.

  • Rock / Stone Rock Falls Play Track 42 sounds included $19 $15

    Echo Peak presents: Rock Falls: Recorded in the deserts of Southern California, this collection is perfect for anything from precarious cliffside action to superhero punches. Over 40 rock on rock impacts recorded with an MKH416 into a Sound Devices 788T.

    21 %
    OFF
    Ends 1531864800
 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER:
 
The A Sound Effect newsletter gets you a wealth of exclusive stories and insights
+ free sounds with every issue:
 
Subscribe here for free SFX with every issue

2 thoughts on “An inside-look at the Foley Process for Mortal Kombat X (with video)

  1. Foley Design? Really? Is that a real title given out these days or is it some made up name you give to a mid level effects editor who steels sounds from other Foley sessions and then hacks them into a new project?

    What the author is forgetting is that Real Foley is not just about footfalls. It’s all about Performance. And not just a performance by the Foley Artist but by also the recording engineer too.

    Yes, all the sounds in the demo are there but with no perspective, no emotion or feeling these scenes are as interesting as a hacked together 80’s dance track. What this is at best, is a demo of the authors effects editorial skills not Foley.
    As a Foley artist for over 25 years, after hearing this demo, I feel completely secure in my life’s work.
    So Please don’t call “Foley Design” Foley. In fact, Loose this tital completely. All this does is cheapens the craft and dummies down real sound designs and Foley artist world wide

    • I understand what you mean, in the sense that this isn’t a classic foley performance as such. However, I think your criticism is needlessly harsh. An analogy can perhaps be found in played/performed vs sequenced music – I think both types can certainly have artistic and real value as a craft. It’s just different types of music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.