How sounds are made for reality game shows

  • Monique Reymond is an Emmy-winning Foley artist who has worked on numerous reality game shows.
  • For “Fear Factor,” Monique had to create the sounds of bugs being eaten, which she created by chomping on M&M’s and rice crackers.
  • To create an extra level of smack for impacts on “Wipeout,” Monique adds iceberg lettuce on top of foam pads that she hits with boxing gloves.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a full transcript of the video.

Joe Rogan: Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! Look at him!


That sound isn’t really the sound of a cockroach being chewed. It’s actually something much more familiar: the sound of crunching M&M’s.


You’d think the sounds in a reality show like “Fear Factor” would be, well, real, but they’re created by Foley artists like Monique Reymond.

Monique has worked on her fair share of reality competition shows, each of which has its own array of sounds, ranging from outrageous…


[water splashing]

to subtle.


But the real challenge is creating the perfect balance between realism and exaggeration.

Monique Reymond: How did that sound?

Narrator: Reality game shows use Foley artists to create their sound effects because it is often too complicated to record high-quality sound while filming those shows. And by using Foley, these artists can add dramatics to the show.

There are some instances, like with “Wipeout,” when exaggeration is actually the whole point.


Monique: We would, for each show, do every punching glove and every impact. And the thing is, something like that, with production sound, there’s probably no impact at all. The glove just probably comes out, and the person falls off into the water.

In order to make that a more entertaining journey for people to experience visually, we would add a little bit of smack to make it seem more funny and more dramatic and more interesting for people.

Narrator: To create that extra smack,


Monique adds leafy greens on top of the foam mat, creating an extra little crunch to each hit.

However, some reality game shows require Foley that is a bit more realistic, like “American Gladiators.” The foam-mat hits aren’t embellished with any extra crunch, and the clinking of metal harnesses adds some reality.


But in shows like “Fear Factor,” the fine balance between reality and dramatization really comes into play.

Monique: It’s almost as if, like, when you’re in a situation where you’re nervous and you can almost hear your heartbeat, you don’t really hear your heartbeat, but you feel it, right? Well, so that’s what we try to do with the Foley with these kinds of shows.

Narrator: Creepy bugs are a mainstay for “Fear Factor,”

[contestant yells]

so Monique had to figure out how to create an array of squeamish bug noises. Unlike crunchy cockroaches, a bowl full of worms is created by using an old car shammy.

Monique: So, we soak them in a tub of water. This is where the magic happens, because they get really soft. And once these guys get soft, they can take on a life of so many different handy things. And this is gonna be perfect for worms.

So, for when we do the worms just kind of gushing, we’re gonna just add a little bit of moisture, make them sound even grosser.


Oh, yeah, that’s nice.

Narrator: And even the same type of bug can make different sounds depending on the situation.

Creating Foley for a tub full of cockroaches is completely different from crunching a cockroach.

Monique: Sometimes you nail sounds immediately. Other times you just have to work with it. And with the aquarium full of roaches, the roach has kind of a firm exoskeletal situation. Like, what would sound like those shells? What we came up with rather quickly was pistachios, but then that didn’t really work. The pistachios sounded too small and almost too even. And so then we added Brazil nuts, then we added peanuts, and that wasn’t even quite it.

And then you think about it, and what is the most creepy part of being surrounded with bugs is having them crawl on you. So we were missing the creepiness of the crawling. And so then we experimented on a little pine cone so that we could get that feeling of being crawled upon, like these things are under your clothes.

Narrator: While Monique had figured out the noises for the cockroaches, something still didn’t sound totally accurate when the cockroaches were initially poured into the tub with a contestant. So she had to adapt her Foley once again to make sure that it sounded just right.

Monique: Since there’s somebody in there, if I just were to pour this into the plastic tub, it wouldn’t sound like there was a body in there. So I added some gloves in here. If that’s not quite enough, I might stick a leather jacket in, too.

[nuts clattering]

Narrator: Monique says that creating the realistic balance of these sounds for “Fear Factor” was especially difficult because sometimes she had no reference for what a noise sounded like.

Monique: There was a specific episode of “Fear Factor” where somebody had to eat sheep eyes versus Buffalo testicles. I don’t know what either sound would be, fortunately, but, I don’t know, if we were just to bite into something that was soft and gushy, that would probably be what it sounded like.

But to exaggerate it, to make it a little bit more horrific, we decided to use cherry tomatoes because there was that little popping. There was that skin on the outside, and there’s that little explosion of the tomato. We wanted this to sound a little bit more upsetting. And Foley grounds this in reality for people, because if it was all music and score, that might drive the drama of the situation, the suspense of the situation, but it’s not gonna creep you out.

Narrator: Now, game shows aren’t the only thing she’s worked on, but Monique has kind of developed a reputation as one of Hollywood’s go-to Foley artists for reality competitions.

Monique: I worked on “Mad Men” for a few seasons. What a beautifully written, acted, stylised show. Now, for Foley, briefcase, hats, glass of scotch, tinkle some ice. All fine and well, but there is no opportunity for imagining what a maggot would sound like. I have found creating Foley for game shows to be actually much more satisfying than I would have imagined.

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