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Discover the Fascinating World of Silent Movie Props

Jourdan Aldredge

Dealing with annoying audio quirks? Check out these inventive and practical silent film props that keep sound mixers happy.

You’re on set — today it’s a crowded pool hall — and you’re preparing to capture an intimate conversation between your two leads. The lighting, the atmosphere, the props, the costumes, all of it is perfectly authentic.

And only seconds after you call action, you realize that you’ve got a serious problem: Your audio is completely cluttered due to the constant clicking, clacking, and banging of pool balls in the background. So, now what?

Completely silent pool balls, that’s what.

Welcome to the surprisingly vast world of silent movie props, first introduced to the mainstream by TikTok user/dad-joke extraordinaire Scott Reeder. Let’s take a closer look at this “why didn’t I think of it first” on-set solution and explore a few ways you can order or make some of your own for your next production. Trust me, your sound mixer will thank you!


Introducing Silent Props


 

In the TikTok above (shot in the warehouse where he works as a prop master for film and television),  Scott Reeder introduces a new generation to the weird and fascinating world of silent film props and their on-set benefits.

The first example Reeder showcases is a vinyl “paper” sack that eliminates the crinkly, crunchy, conversation-killing noise that occurs when handling grocery bags. It’s a situation that happens on screen more often than you might think (usually involving a nice, long baguette), and, according to Reeder, the vinyl helps cut down prop noise by up to 90%.

In the same video, he shares a surprisingly practical solution to a long-held production problem — the noisy pool balls we mentioned up top. Instead of asking your background extras to pantomime playing pool (which makes authenticity a challenge), Reeder suggests a smart, staggeringly simple fix — paint some rubber racquetballs. Genius!


Purchasing Silent Bags and Props

Silent Bags and Props

Silent bags and props available for purchase. Image via PROP TRX.

For something a lot of people are just finding out about, silent props are pretty easy to come by. The vinyl bags introduced in the video above are available for purchase from a company called Prop Trx.

And Prop Trx doesn’t stop at grocery bags. They offer a wide array of non-paper paper products, and most are available in multiple styles — lunch sacks, wine bags, crime scene bags, manila envelopes, and even silent gift tissue paper and cellophane. Prices vary (depending on your bag needs) but most hover right around $20. Seems pretty reasonable to me, and it’s about what you’d spend on time and raw materials if you were making them yourself. Speaking of . . .


Make Your Own Silent Props

While buying industry-specific props might be ideal for bigger-budget productions, you can actually use a lot of the same noise-reduction principles and tricks to make your own everyday props more silent.

As you can see in the video above (via The Film Look), simply adding some neoprene rubber to your props — shoe soles, plates, cups, pretty much everything — can reduce noise significantly.

Neoprene fabric sheets can be purchased in bulk from any hobby or supply store, and the video actually goes into how to make some custom instant stick clips you can quickly apply to any film props you may need.


Other Practical Film Props


Continuing his series on TikTok, Reeder shows off some custom-designed film props that can be used as weapons in fight scenes — including metal pipes, wooden two-by-fours, and even cast-iron frying pans — all made out of rubber and safe to use in contact. You can browse and buy some of these options from online stores like Barkode Props.


Reeder also demonstrates prop weights — including some used in the production of Friday Night Lights — made out of dense foam that can be utilized in gym scenes, as well as some bendable rubber versions for fight scenes. You can get a number of these fake weights online from a store called — wait for it — Fake Weights.


And finally, everyone’s favorite film prop for maximum impact in barroom brawls and fight scenes, the infamous breakaway bottles and coffee mugs. And, while it’s important to note that these breakaway props can still be very dangerous and should be used with the utmost care and professional supervision, they can also be purchased online from one of the biggest names in film props — New Rule FX.


For more filmmaking tips, tricks, and insights, check out these articles below.


Cover image by Stokkete.