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How This Woman Creates God of War’s Sound Effects

Ever wondered how they make the sound effects we hear in video games? Meet Joanna Fang, foley artist for PlayStation Studios and master at creating sounds for movies and video games like God of War: Ragnarok. We step inside Sony's foley studio to see Joanna at work, turning plungers into running horses and manicotti into broken bones. Director: Charlie Jordan Director of Photography: Will Pupa Editor: Matt Colby Expert: Joanna Fang Creative Producer: Wendi Jonassen Line Producer: Joseph Buscemi Associate Producer: Brandon White Production Manager: Eric Martinez Production Coordinator: Fernando Davila Casting Producer: Nick Sawyer Camera Operator: Darren Kawasaki Audio: Warren Wolfe Production Assistant: Jon Brun Post Production Supervisor: Alexa Deutsch Post Production Coordinator: Ian Bryant Supervising Editor: Doug Larsen Assistant Editor: Andy Morell Special Thanks: John Bowen

Released on 03/29/2023


[horse clopping]

These are actually just toilet plungers.

[fist thuds]

[syringe clacks] [metal pings]

[melon thuds] [blade swishes]

[Host] Meet Joanna Fang,

foley artist for PlayStation Studios.

And a master at sonically translating our world

through works like God of War Ragnarök.

[rocks thudding] [wood planks clacking]

Let's step into my office.

Just watch your step.

I love my office.

This is my creative space.

This is the Sony PlayStation Foley Studio.

We have tons of really cool stuff.

We have like smashed iPhones.

So you know, if we need to like,

[iPhone thuds]

throw something behind our shoulders,

it sounds accurate to what a iPhone sounds like.

We have all sorts of weird props and things of that nature.

There's a saying in foley

that is never trust a clean foley stage.

My whole life I've been trained as a classical musician.

I'm kind of always passively listening to things

and passively recording in a weird way.

If I were to sum up all the times my body reacts,

like, Oh, that could be a foley or that's a cool prop.

I think I'm thinking about foley

13 hours a day. [keyboard clacking]

To focus on all these other characters

and literally to walk in their footsteps,

to walk in their shoes.

Everything else melts away.

Like, you don't exist anymore.

If you take this Indian para knife

and you pair it up with a torque wrench,

you get the sound of like an assault rifle.

[rifle clacks] You know,

you just kinda like shake it.

[footsteps clopping]

Using lump charcoal for snow.

It's got like all the cracking characters of ice.

Pistol holster, add manicotti shells to it.

You can get a really comprehensive bone break.

[shells crackling]

[melon squelches]

Gory viscera sounds.

We have to do our best divorce

where these props are from and where we could take them.

Like I can imagine this

sitting on the back of a horse.

[beads clopping]

Foley at its best is painting a scene with sound.

[melon squelches]

Not bad for the day.

[pole squeaks]

What we'll do is we'll sometimes take this

and pair it against the wood right here.

So if we have these dramatic doors

that have like creaks on them-

[wood creaks]

I always say that the best props are ones

that you can play like a Stradivarius.

Like, they just sing.

It's like weaponized ASMR, you know what I mean?

Like we're trying to get the audience to feel something.

[Host] These textures can completely change

how we view a scene.

So we gave Joanna a clip she had never seen before

and asked her to foley it as an action movie

and as a romantic comedy.

So in the clip,

there's a certain cadence going on with her footsteps.

In terms of textures,

I obviously see that she's got a leather jacket,

what appears to be two baguettes underneath her arms.

Just judging by the way her legs are spiking,

I'm gonna go ahead and say

that she's probably wearing heels.

Let me reinterpret the scene

as if it were like a romantic comedy.

[heels clopping]

Her leather jacket, if it were a rom-com,

probably wouldn't creek that much.

It's just, you know, regular leather jacket.

[leather swishes softly]

We'll do the baguette first

as if just normal baguette, right?

[paper crinkles]

If this is a rom-com, she has your standard-issue keys,

maybe like a wallet or something.

[bag crinkles softly]

Okay, let's just-

Let's just be creative.

Maybe she's an assassin.

And the baguettes are actually a cover.

We have these heels, they're-

It's a little darker.

Let's grit up the floor too, you know?

Just a little bit 'cause heels kind of over-accentuate grit.

[heels clopping loudly]

[leather swishing loudly]

[paper crinkling]

[bag crinkling]

Cool, so these are now the same exact clip visually

but sonically we've adjusted the foley to accommodate

for two different types of genres.

[whimsical music]

[footsteps clop softly] [clothing crinkle softly]

[footsteps clop loudly] [clothing crinkle loudly]

Everyone wears leathery in games.

So we have four or five different leather jackets.

If a character is like, a little bit evil,

maybe a little tense,

we wanna give that character that sonic texture.

This is our giant water pit.

It's actually one of the first things built

into the foundations of the room.

It's an incredible feature

and it's not something you see every day.

Car doors are an amazing prop.

Kind of gross-


But sometimes you're able to get it to like-

[window squeaks]

You know, get like some-

Some funny little characteristic squeaks.

So someone's like, sliding down a glass window.

We're just so rigged up to hear like-

[window squeaks sharply]

[Host] Joanna's love of foley runs deep

and she's always looking to educate people on her craft.

People tend to misunderstand foley

as if it were purely forensic recording.

I think most people would be very surprised

if they were to go to a foley stage

with the exact props used on set, the exact setups,

almost in a pure objective way, recreating the sounds.

They'll find that the foley that comes from that

is extremely lacking of all the things

that we've come to expect from a game or a film.

I remember the most challenging sound that I had to do.

It was the simplest sound effect and it broke me.

It was like, Whoopi Goldberg was sauntering up to a bar.

It just went to take 8, take 9, take 10.

And it was just killing me.

I think the reason why I was having such a hard time

with that cue

was just I didn't feel right in my body.

You know, I used Foley for so long

as this like, perfect art form

that helped me shake off frankly my gender dysphoria.

But for some freaking reason

that one cue made me hate everything about myself.

So not long after that,

I actually came out of the closet

'cause I was like, it got to the point

where I couldn't do my job anymore.

This is my entire array of shoes.

Well, not really.

This is the third of my shoe collection.

Dress shoes, heavy boots, men's athletic wear,

the squeakiest pairs of shoes

you've ever heard in your life.

[shoe squeaks]

So sometimes I don't even wear them for shoes.

Sometimes I use them as props.

This is like my fun arsenal.

[metal clacking]

An armorer friend of mine built these for me

and they're made out of aircraft aluminum.

They were tuned for a while.

They've had their fair share of use.

[blades swish]

They resonate in ways that you don't naturally

normally get with real swords

because of their construction.

[Host] All of these props and tools can come together

in creating a deep and layered scene.

To demonstrate this,

we've asked Joanna to recreate a segment

of the bar room fight scene from God of War Ragnarök

One of the concepts in this scene

that I really fell in love with

was setting up and paying off this bouncer.

Weapons aren't allowed inside.

We'll have to check 'em.

All right, Blake.

Can you cue me up for this sword off the back here?

Here we go. Cool, ready.

[blades swishing and clanking]

Could I just get a sweetener of the blades,

like zhuzhing a little bit after she grabs it?

[blades swishing]

[blades clanking]

And then Atreus here also gets his weapons.

[props thudding and pinging]

[props thudding]

[wood rattling]

They're not gonna let you in.

[blades rattling]

[weapons rattling]

We finally get to the middle of the scene

where all that setup pays off.

Atreus, he's forced off the second story by the bouncer

and the bouncer grabs him and tries to get him to stop.

[wood thudding]

[planks rattling]

My favorite sound in bar brawl is the sound of leather

as Atreus is struggling to break the grasp of the bouncer.

[leather squishing]

If Atreus doesn't hit that button enough,

the character dies and it's game over.

We got the strangulation sound of twisting leather

and the clank of armor

as the bouncer's trying to get him to hold still.

We do have actual armor. [armor clanks]

[armor thudding and clanking]

We're gonna hit the pillars now.

[armor thudding]

[wood cracking]

[armor clanking]

When you smash that button enough,

Mjolnir, the hammer, comes flinging through the air,

crushes the guy's skull

and we go straight into picking up Thor and walking him out.

After he's got his head knocked off,

let's just get that sound of his body just going like-

Relaxing back.

[armor clacking]

Okay, cool.

So, head smash,

we're gonna get real gross,

real fast with this one.

[water sloshes]

[lettuce squelches]

Manicotti shells, bone breaks.

[shells crackling]

[cans crackling]

[melon thudding]

This is a ax blink

that our friend Jeff provided the foley stage.

Blake's gonna record it and we're gonna reverse and flip it.

It's gonna get processed

and added with a bunch of different sounds

and it's gonna make up Thor's hammer.

[metal pings]

Hey Blake, if you don't mind

can we just play back everything all together at once?

[wood rattling]

[characters grunting]

[armor crackling]

[leather squeaking]

[hammer pinging & thudding]

[Joanne laughs]


On a sequence as complicated as bar brawl,

we're creating over a thousand assets, easy.

If you can imagine,

moments like these happen throughout the entire game.

Foleying a game takes months and months and months

because of the sheer density, attention to detail,

and contextual storytelling that we have to do

on the Foley stage.

[Host] Joanna's mastery of her craft is unique.

And even in the digital age,

she feels the role of a foley artist

is still vital to storytelling.

I can imagine a future

where machine learning aids us in foley,

but I do not ever believe

that it'll take away the simple and beautiful

performative nature of it.

I've often felt like when you watch a film

and there isn't much foley,

it feels like you're staring through a window.

It doesn't feel like you're actually there.

Foley, to me, is a very powerful performance art language

that connects the audience with the characters

and gets you to feel what they're going through.

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