Jason Knowles, a new assistant professor in the Department of Communication, is capturing the imagination of today’s audio production students — and their audiences — with an age-old technique: Foley sound effects to bring a radio story to life. 

Their classroom: a stage with microphones. Their learning materials: random objects and a folding table. 

Senior Vanessa Tapia used an empty bottle to produce the sound of wind, while senior Braiden Turner used boots and the table to create the sound of footsteps, and senior Bailey Noland dug in a box of sand with a wooden spatula to mimic the sound of a shovel digging a grave.  

Inspired by the legendary 1938 radio classic by Orsen Welles, ‘War of the Worlds,’ his class brought to life their own original radio plays. In a bit of irony, they used modern technology to record the show so that it could air on Gorilla Radio. 

The technique dates to the early 1920s, when sounds were added to live broadcasts of radio dramas, Knowles said. When the technique progressed to film, it had to be perfectly synchronized to the actors’ motions.  

Knowles, who joined the department in August, tasked his students writing the scripts for the shows as well as figuring out what objects to use for the Foley effects and doing the narration. They invited an audience of PSU students, faculty, and staff to attend their live recording on, appropriately, Halloween. Knowles and his students said they’d like the project to become an annual event open to the public.