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I have, from time to time, experienced opposition to my recording at a certain location. Anyone who has done any significant amount of sound recording probably has. The only way to get around this sometimes is to go through the right channels - getting permission, permits, etc... and sometimes that costs money and it always costs time. Sometimes I don't want to spend either of those, so I often find myself sneaking around with my recorder, hiding my mic to try to get certain sounds. This happens most often while trying to get certain ambiences, but sometimes while trying to get other things too. It has often led to some cool stories involving getting chased out of somewhere, getting dirty looks, accidentally ending up somewhere I wasn't supposed to be, etc...

I remember one time early in my career I was traipsing around Central Park in NYC with my recorder, mic, headphones and portabrace bag grabbing some ambiences for a short I was working on. I stumbled upon a row of 3 massive Paramount Pictures big rigs and some random crew. Curious, I followed a few of the crew members back to the set. There were PA's all around turning curious onlookers away and keeping the perimeter "safe". I had my headphones around my neck and my bag over my shoulder. I made sure my mic was visible, and walked over as if I belonged there. I nodded to the PA as I walked past her. She nodded back and I was on the set. I thought this was amazing, since I was 19 and had never been on a film set before. I spent the day there, and ended up talking to the audio guy (all Run and Gun that day), a few other crew members, and a bunch of the cast, and I snagged some crafty too! All in all, I learned a lot that day.

Anyone else out there have any cool stories about stumbling across something or a "gorilla" recording session?

  • I think you mean Guerilla, unless you plan dressing in a furry suit? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerrilla_warfare – Rich Seller Mar 9 '10 at 12:09
  • That's very funny. I didn't even notice... – Andrew Spitz Mar 9 '10 at 15:55
  • I most definitely did mean Guerilla... That's what I get for posting at 2am... – Colin Hart Mar 9 '10 at 18:06
  • Although, I'm sure recording gorillas would generate some great stories too... – Colin Hart Mar 9 '10 at 18:21
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There are a ton of folks on the Yahoo! Phonography list who do a lot of guerilla recording. Most, myself included, just try to focus on hiding lavs without muffling the sound, and having them between ear's width (for binaural) or shoulder's width (for more spaced-pair style) apart. Hats are popular hiding places; I use a very loosely-knit wool hat to hide lavs with windscreens. Mounting on the inside of jacket lapels is very subtle and works well if you can boost the mid-high freq's with different caps or similar.

I have this weird obsession with rigging lavs...some kind of weird ritual thing. Knowing how to hide a lav on an actor is very helpful for rigging lavs on yourself for stealth recording!

I'll freely admit that I've taken an audio recorder to dance performances, but what I was after was crowd walla and applause recording (and it worked great). I've never recorded live or recorded music performances, taper/bootleg style. That'd be pretty bad form. :-)

  • True, true - a lot of cool recordings come out of that list. – Colin Hart Mar 10 '10 at 21:05
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Just was reminded of the time I took my Korg MR-1 and a pair of binaural mics I made out of audio technica lavs on the "Dueling Dragons" roller coaster at Islands of Adventure in Orlando. I thought it'd be an awesome idea because I could keep the recorder in my pocket and the mics looked like headphones, so nobody would ask questions.

Got on the ride, hit record. Everything sounded awesome until we started to really move. The wind was overpowering quite quickly (not enough wind protection...). Not that it really mattered though, because the hard drive stalled after the first turn. Luckily, it saved what I had so far, so I got to listen to a bit of it. I went out the next day and bought a handheld flash recorder to replace it.

I'll try to find the recording. If I can, I'll post it tonight or tomorrow.

Here's a pic of the mics:

alt text http://colinhartonline.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/IMG00043-e1268160570841.jpg

  • Found the recording, but it's still in *.dsf format. I don't have my Korg Audiogate program anymore, so I can't get it into a listenable format. Anyone have Audiogate? – Colin Hart Mar 10 '10 at 21:05
  • You can now download AudioGate without having a recorder, you just need a twitter account (no idea why!!) I have a copy if you need help converting the file. – Si Charles Apr 17 '11 at 13:53
  • @Si Charles You can download it, but it won't let you open the program without physically connecting the recorder to "authorize" it. Unless I'm missing something? – Colin Hart Apr 17 '11 at 14:25
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I often pop my DPA 4060s in my hat. I have a hat with mesh sides that does the trick fairly well. I'll often wear earbuds and run the cables down the same path. It seems to do the trick fairly well.

I recently took them to do laundry and no one was the wiser:

http://sepulchra.com/blog/?p=904

M.

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About the only time I carry a purse is when I'm stealth recording, but for this function it works great! Rides right at my hip so it's easy to get into to fiddle with recorder settings. I don't go the lav route, as I like a fuller sound, but I can hide a mic right where the strap meets the body of the purse--doesn't work very well when walking but for still shots it's great.

Similarly, when infiltrating medieval or Civil War recreation groups a nice basket with a covering cloth serves the same purpose.

For the guys out there, perhaps one of those shoulder strap satchels would work?

  • I used a military surplus first aid satchel for a year or two...looked like any canvas murse (man-purse) and had a metric crapton of pockets. Even cut holes in it for cable routing. $15! – NoiseJockey Mar 25 '10 at 15:50
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A great friend and mentor of mine snuck his DAT recorder and binaural rig into a concert hall performance of Marcel Marceau "in concert". He ended up with the most extrordinary audience reaction, applause and laughter tracks, but in the process, had to hide the rig from several ushers and fellow patrons. I've also had some "issues" in the past doing playground and schoolyard recordings for various productions. Nothing looks more suspect than a guy hunched behind a tree wearing headphones and pointing a big stick at a bunch of 6 year olds! I've resorted to requesting a chaperone if I'm at a school, or taking my wife with me to temper the overall appearance of the situation.

  • This reminds me of how I took my girlfriend with me on a recent recording session of school yard sounds, to ward off any questions or problems. – bpert Apr 9 '11 at 1:12
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nothing like stealth mics ;) DPA, Core Sound, Church Audio, etc.

placement is an interesting topic though. backpacks? hats? what is your technique?

  • I've done the backpack thing quite a few times. Clip a lav to each shoulder and try to keep the cable runs into the pack as concealed as possible. Hit record and go. – user111 Mar 9 '10 at 18:19
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yes recording can get you some weird looks for sure

I've used the Microtrack before for guerilla recording.. placed in a coat pocket with the T-shaped mic sticking out, but of course you have to remain very still

Other times I've pretended its a cell phone, like I'm looking at it scrolling through messages, no one knows the difference :)

Or, walked into a store to capture ambiance and just placed it on a shelf behind some soap or whatever and walked away for a few minutes

Once I turned it on and put it in my coat as it went through the X-ray machine at the airport .. haha, came out the other side still recording, probably one of the only recordings of the insides of a working x-ray machine

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I have a satchel that I wear on my back with the strap across my chest. That strap has a pocket which is juuuust big enough for my Sony PCM-D50. The mics stick out, but they're covered with a homemade wind guard that matches the bag.

I often stick it in, turn it on, and take walks in busy areas. One time I walked by a bike/car accident which just occurred, and got some great eyewitness descriptions without them getting suspicious of my recording device.

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I have been using this Miniature Binaural Microphones for some time and I think that in general they are good, depends on what you want to record with them. ( but for the price you don't get wrong )

http://www.soundprofessionals.com/binaural_microphone.html

If you want some samples, contact me offline ;) Michel

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