Experience error-free AI audio transcription that's faster and cheaper than human transcription and includes speaker recognition by default! (Get started for free)
The 1980s was a remarkable decade known for its over-the-top fashion, music, and cultural touchstones. It was an era of excess and decadence, when everything seemed bigger, louder, and more extreme. This mentality extended to movies and television shows of the time, which relied heavily on exaggerated sound effects to match the outrageous visuals.
Foley artists were pushed to new creative heights dreaming up bizarre sound effects to accompany the wacky antics of characters in 80s comedies and action flicks. Slapstick humor was a staple, and Foley artists used props like football shoulder pads, slinkies, whoopee cushions, and doll heads to emulate the perfect pratfall or face smack. Even serious dramas embraced intensified sound design. The crack of bullets, crash of cars, and thump of blows were amplified and embellished.
Sci-fi and fantasy films offered the most freedom for imaginative Foley work. Audiences heard lightsabers, photon torpedoes, transforms robots, and a whole universe of strange spells and sorcery brought to life through clever sound techniques. Ghostbusters proton packs, Gremlins scrambling in vents, and the dematerialization of Back to the Future's Delorean combined familiar mechanical noises with otherworldly twists.
The Terminator's cyborg footsteps, menacingly inhuman, were created using a boombox playing ihard rock layered with the clank of laden metal trays. Eerie vocal effects for monster snarls and alien languages involved gargling, pitch-shifting animal noises, and blending human voices with music synthesizers. Foley joined forces with the electronic music movement permeating the 80s.
The click-clack of typewriter keys and the rotary dial's whirring spin were iconic sounds of office settings and telephone conversations in the 1980s. Foley artists relied on these vintage devices to evoke the decade in film and television soundtracks.
The typewriter was still a mainstay for everyday writing and correspondence in the 80s, before PC use became widespread. The mechanical clatter of typing was ubiquitously heard in background office ambience on TV and movie sets. Foley artists kept typewriter props on hand to perform insert shots capturing close-up key clicks timed to onscreen typing. Rapid-fire typing rat-a-tat during heated arguments and tense confrontations provided dramatic punctuation. The switch between lowercase and uppercase key banks for SHOUTING was exaggerated. Even sci-fi films set in futuristic eras used typewriter sounds to depict characters preparing reports or reading computer printouts.
Rotary dial telephones were common household and office technology well into the 1980s. Filmmakers incorporated the rotary dial's iconic off-hook receiver lift and unwinding ring tone into dramatic phone conversations. The rotary mechanism's spinning return provided audible tension during stressful or suspenseful calls. Foley artists had to handle rotary phones gingerly to avoid rattling and extraneous noises that would ruin the take. Cradling the handset gently against their shoulder, they mastered the art of smoothly turning the dial for accuracy and realism.
The frenetic buzz of game show buzzers was a ubiquitous part of the 1980s pop culture landscape. Foley artists had the crucial job of providing buzz-in SFX for the decade's most raucous TV game shows. Shows like Family Feud, The Price is Right, and Press Your Luck relentlessly used buzzers to cue contestants. The timing and handling of these buzzers required finesse to avoid miscues or inconsistent volume that could disrupt a show's energetic flow.
Buzzer sounds punctuated triumphant correct answers and exacerbated painful wrong guesses. Their punishing buzz meant a contestant just lost thousands in cash and prizes. The Price is Right amplified the buzzer's humiliating effect by playing a losing horn sound effect dubbed the "losing horns." Foley artists had to watch contestants' body language closely since they were tasked with buzzing in rapid reaction to a host's judgment of the contestants' responses. They had to match the buzz precisely to the instant a contestant made a poor bid without preempting the host's call.
On shows like Press Your Luck, the buzzer inserted viewer suspense, going off when a contestant hit the dreaded Whammy animation that wiped out their winnings. Foley artists had to time buzzers to coincide exactly with the reveal of a Whammy, buzzing only after it appeared but before the cartoon wrought havoc. Their work made the Whammy feel like a sudden ambush. For recurring games within shows, like Family Feud's Fast Money bonus round, consistency in buzzer tones and timing was mandatory to establish familiarity.
The beeps and blips of pushed buttons were a ubiquitous part of the electronic audio landscape in 1980s film and television. The booping and beeping of button presses on computers, cash registers, appliances, gaming consoles and other electronic devices provided useful sound cues that Foley artists creatively exaggerated.
In the pre-touchscreen '80s, physical buttons and keypads were still the primary means of inputting instructions and data. Simple push-button interfaces were used for everything from microwave ovens to ATM machines. The accompanied button presses and electronic beeps gave audio feedback confirming input actions. Foley artists heightened these pushing and beeping sounds to make them more prominent in the mix for clarity.
For computers and control panels, Foley artists needed to capture distinctive button clicks and electronic tones. They used musical keyboards or small custom-built rigs with banks of buttons wired to play different beeps and boops. Careful listening and consistency was key to mimic plausible computer activity and futuristic control panel operation.
Cash register and calculator button pushes were commonly used in office or shop scenes. Foley artists tapped and clicked real plastic buttons from vintage devices to capture characteristic sounds. Pushes were performed rhythmically to match onscreen typing and tabbing actions. For loud rapid-fire bursts, bundles of clicked pens or drumstick taps on surfaces provided the needed button mashing intensity.
Adding layers of button clicks, beeps, and other electronic bloops during tension-building activity like arming a bomb countdown immersed the audience. Foley reinforced the feeling of frantic urgency as characters rushed to input the right code before disaster struck. For horror and suspense, eerie sequences of unmotivated random button tapping and discordant synth tones built up unsettling atmosphere.
Whimsical bleeping and blooping accompanied interactive gaming and arcade machine scenes. Foley artists had tables littered with odd noisemaking toys, bike horns, and musical noisemakers to perform playful improvised video game soundtracks. They tapped out frantic button combos synced to the onscreen video game action. Their sound design celebrated the zany neon arcade era.
For sci-fi spaceship control boards, Foley artists concocted intricate panels of labeled buttons that triggered a medley of bloops and tones when pressed in sequence. Custom built to be ergonomic, these rigs enabled creating the illusion of smoothly operating complex futuristic technology through practiced button choreography. Their vivid sound design made audiences feel immersed in bold new frontiers.
The exaggerated speech patterns and expressiveness of 1980s Valley Girls produced some of the most hilarious and spoofed vocal performances in 80s pop culture. Foley artists and voice actors leaned hard into the Valley Girl stereotype when voicing these characters. Heavy use of guttural croaks, nasal whining, and airy vocal fry captured the quintessential blasÃ© drawl and vocal delivery that defined the clichÃ©.
Like, intensive use of the word "like" as a filler word became, like, a total trademark of how Valley Girls talked. Voice actors would, like, liberally pepper lines with like, with, like, zero regard for whether it made sense just to nail the caricature. Foley captured the smacking of gum and dramatic eye rolls that completed the attitude when paired with this speech pattern.
Vocal fry, where the voice breaks into a low guttural creak, usually at the end of sentences, also produced a key component of Valley Girl delivery. Voice actors intentionally fry their voice when voicing these parts, letting their tone crackle and bottom out to affect an ultra bored and disinterested mood.
Nasal whining was used to voice excitement and complaints. For enthusiastic high pitched chatter about social lives or cute boys, voices tightened into a nasal squeal. Whiny tantrums and fights employed the same pinched nasal tone to escalate the mocking absurdity.
For negative reactions, "gag me with a spoon!", "gross me out!", and "as if!" provided primes for the exaggerated gagging and disgusted sounds Foley artists used to punctuate Valley Girl repulsion or dismissal. Throaty gagging noises, sometimes accented with spoon clanks for the iconic catchphrase, oversold the desired effect for comedic payoff. These vocal reactions played up the faddish fussiness central to the persona.
Mouth sounds like smacks, clicks, and pops highlighted gum chewing, lip gloss application, kissing, and other habits associated with Valley Girls. Foley crinkled wrappers and captured sticky lip smacks to bring the image to life. Dialogue was peppered with pops to show bubble gum snapping. For scenes applying makeup or primping, fusses, sighs, and whines voiced frustration when the desired look couldn"t be achieved quickly.
The bombastic sounds of air horns and wailing electric guitars were the backbone of rock music in the 1980s. From the hair metal shredders ruling the Sunset Strip to New Wave icons blazing synthesizers across MTV, bold audio was mandatory. Foley artists and sound engineers crafted the larger-than-life sonic experience demanded by bands and fans alike.
Stadium rock groups like Van Halen, Def Leppard, and Bon Jovi built their sound around blistering electric guitar solos and muscular riffs. Their axe-slingers employed amp rigs turned to 11 to unleash pyrotechnic fretwork fireworks. Foley artists captured scratchy growl and searing sustain by overdriving guitar pickups through multiple amps. Close-micing the grinding overtones and fingerprints behind chords created a fierce facsimile.
For the biggest rock anthems, layers of doubled guitar tracks gave the illusion of dueling six-string warriors packed into the recording. Careful copying of each riff and solo ensured the multiplied guitar army didn't descend into chaos. Air horns and crowd chants mixed in added arena rock ambience.
In live shows, Foley artists stood ready with air horn sound effects to punctuate cue points and song climaxes. In sync with the band, they blew horns to interact with the performance and energize fans. The air horn's nasal blast cut through even the densest wall of guitars. Foley captured air horn blasts to recreate that live intensity for recorded albums.
New Wave groups like Duran Duran, A-Ha, and the Eurythmics built radio-friendly arrangements around throbbing synthesizers. Their stack of keyboards, rhythm machines, and early samplers formed a robotic substitute for traditional rock instrumentation. Foley artists expertly operated myriad control panels to mimic the pulses, stabs, bass, and melody lines from these electronic rigs.
To faithfully reproduce the synthesized tapestries, creative sound design was needed. Blending sine wave oscillators, modified electric organ, and bursts of white noise replicates the lo-fi timbre of early digital tone generation. Rolled filter sweeps and pitch bend effects captured the warbles and modulation as synthesizers responsive to knob twists and slider adjustments. Staccato taps on piano frame percussion bars provided the percussive transients sampling drums could not. Carefully timed fader changes accurately followed the musician's recorded mix tweaks.
Surf rock exploded onto the California beach scene in the early 1960s with artists like Dick Dale and The Beach Boys capturing the infectious, carefree energy of surf culture in their jangly guitar-driven anthems. Decades later, Foley artists keep the super gnarly surf rock sound alive by mastering all the subtle tricks that give this genre its signature style. The springy twang of surf guitar is essential for nailing that timeless surf sound. Foley artists play vintage guitars through customized amp rigs and effects chains to conjure the bright, punchy tone that cuts through even busy mixes. Guitars are never overdriven, but instead rely on lots of built-in amplifier reverb and tremolo for spacey ambience. Occasional whammy bar dives add warbling pitch swoops.
Double picking techniques like The Ventures popularized creates rapid-fire clusters of notes to mimic the chaotic flutter of surf drumming underneath. Since real drummers can't play that fast, this embellishment is mandatory. The drums themselves have a trashy, booming quality thanks to the liberal use of tom rolls and open hi-hat accents. Snares are tuned especially low and loose while cymbals have extra heavy wash added through triggered effects.
Beyond the instrumentation, applying dynamic fader moves makes the music ebb and flow like ocean waves. Volume swells timed to on-screen surfing action help sell the sensation of being pummeled by waves. Fading guitar lines under coastal sound effects like crashing surf and crying gulls makes the soundtrack mesh with the on-location setting. Gently panning guitar phrases back and forth creates a dizzying stereo field simulating the disorientation of being tossed around by swirling water.
Vocal hooks on surf rock songs relied on slapback delay, capturing a wet double-tracked echo effect perfect for evoking the open expanse of the Pacific. Generous plate reverb on the lead vocals makes them sound as if they're drifting in from far offshore. Backing harmonies include seagull and whale cries pitched and timed to complement the melody. This blend of man and nature gives that Beach Boys group vocal vibe.
For comedy surf scenes, chaotic piano glissandos, cartoon ricochet zips, and overblown brass hits exaggerate physical stunts like surfboard collisions and awkward wipeouts. Wobbling vibraphone and brass convey post-wipeout dizziness and discombobulation. Gurgling bubbles accompany shots diving under the waves. Foley adds splashes, belly flops, and surfer exclamations and grunts to complete the auditory picture.
The rise of electronic music and hip hop in the 1980s meant Foley artists had to master new tools like drum machines, synths, turntables, and samplers to recreate the groundbreaking new sounds defining pop music. Synthesizers enabled musicians to sculpt any sound. Drum machines rigidly locked in beat. Vinyl scratching and sampling injected snippets of found sound. This led to revolutionary new styles dependent on technology. Foley helped translate it all to the screen.
On synth-driven pop songs, Foley artists carefully operated banks of analog synths like the iconic Yamaha DX7, deftly tweaking knobs and sliders to match keyboard lines. The characteristic Hammond organ vibe of groups like Depeche Mode required modulating piano bars run through effects to achieve the right B-horror tone. Plinking out melodies on wine glasses with varying water levels captured the ethereal new age ambience bands like Enya pioneered. Foley artists needed deep knowledge of emerging music technology to convincingly mimic it.
When hip hop stormed mainstream culture, Foley had to scramble to recreate the radically new palettes of DJs and producers. For turntable scratching, they rubbed records on mobile platters that could speed up and slow down like real vinyl for that trademark wicky-wicky sound. Meticulously timed fader cuts were key to matching complex show-off scratch patterns. Stacked vinyl records flicked with fingers supplied the rapid record stops between phrases.
Early drum machines like the Roland TR-808 had limited built-in sounds, so Foley got inventive capturing their robotic rhythms. Banging on cardboard boxes and tapping chopsticks and pens on table surfaces produced the hollow synthetic percussion. Squeaking chair leans and drumstick clicks added rhythmic accents and fills. Creatively combining and layering everyday sounds gave it an authentically artificial feel.