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For the film I'm working on, the on-set recordist recorded some very nice and useful crowds and chants. But these where recorded in mono and with a group smaller than the films requires.

Currently I'm combining various takes and panning the sounds to different stereo fields. It's getting there, but it's not sounding as good as I'd like. I also tried Nuendo's MonoToStereo plug-in, but it doesn't sound so nice. Having even less luck with a chorus plug-in.

Do you know of any good techniques or free/cheap plug-ins to turn a small mono crowd into a full stereo crowd?

Thanks.

13 Answers 13

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There are a number of tricks you can use. The first is to make a copy of the original file chop it up and re-sequence it remembering to use cross-fades to hide the gaps. Copy it again and repeat, obviously each clip becomes shorter but the trick is then to time stretch them back up to the original length each time. You are altering the rhythm each time as well as the tempo. Keep on repeating this until you have reached a sufficient size, you can also apply a small amount of pitch shift at this stage. Use pan and EQ to simulate the effect that some of the crowd is muffled as they shout into the back of the crowd in front of them as well as increasing the ratio of indirect to direct sound for the tracks which represent the depth. The last trick is very simple add a 15ms delay to the left channel and a 35ms to the right and the two tracks will spread out a little bit. Good luck.

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Wow, my first thought was to forego plugins altogether and instead find recordings of bigger crowds to layer underneath what you have already. Assuming you have a library to pull from, the resulting sounds should be much more natural and rich than what you'll get from constantly processing the same batch of sounds over and over again.

Also, try finding sounds that aren't "walla" per se, but maybe the movement of people in a large space, ie. crowds on bleachers, people milling about before an event begins, crowds exiting an arena, etc. This would add size and movement without further muddying the track.

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I've worked on some scenes with massive crowds chanting and I agree with 'birdhousesound' approach of sweetening your recordings with real large crowd recordings.

Pan and lightly pitch all takes you currently have. Its good to have the 20-40 type crowd chanting for mid range body, then the close 5-10 layer also to help with clarity, but use multiple layers of this. Stack them up as much as you can and micro edit to keep the clarity of the chant.

I then used bounce this out and do an 'amplitude fit' with with a massive crowd recording. This would just sit under the actual chants and provide mass and body. On top of this you can pitch down some of the chants quite a bit and treat with some sort of verb, light saturation or resonance to become a deep layer. Put them all in the same slap or verb and bingo...

This worked for me anyways... Good luck.

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http://www.quikquak.com/Prod_CrowdChamber.html

I've remembered seeing this mentioned on gear slutz

The examples dont sound natural, but maybe it can sound not as "washy" with not as severe settings; i've never tried it myself

  • Those GUIs scare me. – sepulchra Mar 15 '10 at 14:52
  • Just tested the plug-in. Interesting, although it doesn't sound that good. It's a pity, cause it's a good idea. It just sounds too cheap. Thanks a lot for sending the link. – Andrew Spitz Mar 15 '10 at 15:39
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I know waves has some plugins that can do the trick, but I don't know satisfying I have ever found them. Do you have the time to get a group of people together and augment the crowd recordings you have? You will probably end up with more interesting results. If you need to go the plug in route, you might not need fancy plugins either. Have you tried sending the crowd to a stereo aux and using a stereo eq? If you eq each channel in slightly different ways you might get a similar effect. Maybe that Nuendo plug will sound different if you play with it that way?

M.

  • As you recommend, I'm definitely going to be recording a bunch of wallas in the studio. They should help sweeten up the recordings. The thing is I can't hire actors so the performances probably won't be as good as the chants that where recorded on set. I think that stereo EQ technique you're mentioning is pretty much what the Nuendo plug does (it adds a bit of delay too). Thanks so much for your input! – Andrew Spitz Mar 15 '10 at 15:57
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In this situation, I would suggest you to lay down different crowd samples, apply Unison effects which can be replicated by some Chorus filters, make small changes in the delay times of each and try to EQ them so that they are not overlapped and you get full use of the frequency spectrum.

For these kinds of "human voice fattening", I am using a free plug-in called "Clone Ensemble". Though haven't tried it with crowd samples, I think it has enough parameters to achieve a good result.

Good luck!

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I'd go with birdhousesound's reco, but also, consider this: if you have a crowd chanting, you can layer another (larger) crowd under it chanting something completely different and if you edit and balance correctly it will appear that everyone's chanting the same thing. There are some big chanting political rally crowds on Sound Ideas 6013 that might work layed under your on-set crowds to thicken them up.

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Hadn't heard of quikquak and clone ensemble - interested to try them out. On 'centurion' I needed to fatten up some crowds and basically got as much production crowd and crowd ADR that I could and layered them into Lcr tracks then in amongst these tracks I used Antares avox choir to make the crowd seem bigger. With any of these plugins you can't leave the results too exposed, they have to be mixed in judiciously to be most effective.

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First you can do the pitch and pan change as suggested by everyone else. Pan a copy of the master take left, pitch shift by 40 cents and delay by 15ms. Pan a second copy right, pitch shift by 30 cents and delay by 25 ms. Now you've got your main stereo field which you only need to make more dense and add depth.

Make more copies and apply pitch and formant shifts (I love Logic's vocal transformer for this) and pan them around and probably drop them in level too. Some EQ on each of these tracks might help clean things a bit.

Send all copies and the main take to a group channel (or Aux in Logic/PT). Drop a reverb plugin (a good IR would be nice) that can mimic the space well. Once you get this sound 'almost there' use a send on this group channel to send this signal to an FX Channel (Aux in Logic/PT). Drop a delay plugin on this FXchannel with around 10-15% feedback and delay time of 25-40ms (varying amounts on left and right). In Nuendo change the panner to the "stereo combined panner" and swap left and right channels. EQ and level this channel to 'taste'.

You can control the amount of density. This worked for me well just last week when we had to re create a crowd singing.

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hmmm, i would try to copy/paste the crowd i have recorded and put it in different pan/pot positions with a slightly different phase, eq, and reverb (each one) and see what goes best...

  • Been playing with that. It's working quite well. Thanks Nikos. – Andrew Spitz Mar 15 '10 at 15:58
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Added to that, some slight delay on certain tracks creates depth.

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While editing ''el secreto..'', we found ourselves in a situation like these...we needed the sound of 70.000 fans chanting at a football stadium, and of course, the actual wild track from the on-set recordist consisted in about 50 people chanting... We tried QuikQuak and obtained awful results... The final solution was to run the wild tracks + the sound of a stadium filled with people ( SFX library...it was just a kind of drone massive crowd noise in a baseball game) into a Vocoder. It turned out REALLY good. Plus, with different setups you could expand it to 5.1 easily.

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Having encounter the same situation, what I did was to layer different samples while keeping the original centered and at a decent volume. I've made a layer with a low pass filter using resonance to create biger spaces, a layer with stereo delay for spread, one with eq and convolution reverb set with a stadium impulse and layers for the hi freq air and presence.

After all was set-up I've mixed them and created loops for different levels of intensity

In my case, there worn't a lot of files to work with but this approach created big crowd ambiences mostly because of the low pass filter layer

Happy thoughts!

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