I'm sitting outside Starbucks coffee here at Hollywood and Highland on a rare day off thinking I was going to get some good crowd walla with a couple of binaurals, stealth-like.

But, there is one problem. My recordings are being ruined around every corner by Lil' Wayne and T.I.

By all means, crowds with indistinguishable music in the background are valuable, too, but I was looking for more along the lines of isolated crowd ambiences.

Is there any fruitful source of large crowds around (where I am able to close-mic, i.e. walk through the crowd with binaurals) without my rap buddies following me?

(Chuck, I know you were the one who originally told me that ambiences around a city were tough to do due to music, but surely you found something around town?)




try any of the following:

  • museums
  • libraries
  • govt buildings
  • college campus hallways
  • hospitals and medical buildings

also check out organized high school events like band recitals and graduations. They're never heavily produced, and there are often large chunks of time where you can get great walla as things are setting up or tearing down.

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Great suggestions above. When I lived in LA, I remember having luck recording music free crowds at:

  • The Venice Boardwalk
  • Beverly Center
  • The Hollywood Farmer's Market
  • Pasadena Flea Market
  • UCLA
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Pretty much any non-hipster restaurant, since the trendy ones have DJs...
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  • Hey cool - yeah I should have gone to the farmer's market!!! Thanks for the suggestions! – Utopia Feb 21 '12 at 2:55
  • I actually went there a long time ago, got an epic busboy kitchen washing station ambience sitting next to the doorway. I'll have to re-visit it sometime. – Stavrosound Jun 22 '12 at 9:11

The Barnes and Noble cafe at Union Square in NYC has an upstairs area full of din and without any music. I was kicking myself for not having my H2 with me the day I did Christmas shopping..

Anyways, a bookstore might work!

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I've had some success at the SM Pier like Justin. Funny cuz I just did a show with a long scene taking place at that pier and my field recordings from there was the only thing that really fit the bill as the primary crowd layer in the BGz.

Hollywood & Highland is a pretty good place too where I've had some success, especially in the Plaza next to the (former) Kodak Theater - but even inside that hallway there's cool reflections too for crowd washes!

Griffith Observatory, fantastic outdoor crowds with great acoustics, indoors there's nice activity too albeit slightly verby in a lot of places, but pleasant sounding nonetheless.

My favorite though is the Getty Center, ridiculously cool crowd murmurs and shuffle that are hard to arrange a mock session for. And all of the rooms in the wings sound so vastly different. There's an awesome room there that's dampened so much and so well you'd think it was a sound editing suite, but the nearly-dry foot shuffles/scuffs on wood and whispers are priceless. Go Saturday nights after 5, when admission is free and it's usually packed to gills with people. We ought ot make it joint sound recording filed trip - I need more source from there too ;)

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  • Hah! Awesome!! Yes, we should do that! – Utopia Feb 22 '12 at 6:32
  • Definitely! When the schedule clears up I'm all up for it. Also other places to check out are the AMC at the Burbank Town Center, and there's usually a farmers market on Sundays in La Crescenta/Montrose if you're willing to venture that far - lots of people, walking up and down the street for 2-3 blocks, perfect for the style of recording you're shooting for. – Stavrosound Feb 22 '12 at 6:36
  • Yes, the Getty Center is good call too. Museums/Galleries provide some of the best bgs if you ask me...one of the only place where you can find a lot of people moving around but not yapping. The only place in the SM pier that will give you problems is the carnival area...I was kicked out of there for holding a zepplin once; "no filming" the security guard said. – Justin P Feb 22 '12 at 17:45
  • @Utopia @Stavrosound, call me up for that trip too! – Steve Urban Feb 23 '12 at 16:59
  • @Steve Urban 10-4, Roger that! – Stavrosound Feb 23 '12 at 17:56

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