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Mike Mulcahy

Recording walla?

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I've searched the site but did not find anything specific about recording walla; any advice or suggestions appreciated.

I am prepping to record walla for a number of scenes; some with just 2 BG actors, the largest with 6-8.

I did production sound for the film and had a sennhesier 416 or Octava MK-102 on the boom, and tram 50s on the actors. We will be doing the walla in the same locations

I am wondering about a booming technique; how closeup, setting a volume level. My plan would otherwise be to set a level as if I am micing them for dialogue, then pull the boom back to get a greater percentage of indirect sound.

I was also thinking of planting a tram on a mic stand and placing it several feet away, setting the levels as above.

And does anyone actually say 'walla" (or watermelon")? I think the director will have topics for them to talk about "in character."

Thanks in advance,



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I'm mainly a post production guy that dabbles in production sound from time to time, but in my world this is called "loop group" and is usually done in a studio with a trained group of actors who are very good at improvising. Doing it in the same locations is interesting, but may present a few challenges. 

In the studio we record walla a couple of different ways depending on what the supervising sound editor or the re-recording mixer want. Usually we use a single mono boom about 4-5 feet away from the actors and have the actors stand around it in a loose semicircle. We will do several passes for each scene so the mixer can layer as needed. Sometimes the mixer will want stereo tracks so we use two large diaphragm condensers about 5 feet from the actors. I've even had a few occasions where the mixer requests a very diffuse sound, so we use two shotgun mics aimed away from the actors, into the corners of the room. 

On location, I would be careful of getting too much noise and too much room sound into the recording. If you're too distant with the micing, there's going to be too much room sound to blend in easily with the production tracks that are already there. Keep in mind that this track will be very soft in the mix, and if it is too roomy once it's turned down too much it will just be unintelligible noise. 

If it were me I would probably try to get options for the mixer. I would record an overall room pickup in stereo, and a third mono boom track that's a bit closer to the actors for a better level and less room tone. Communication is key though - if you know who the sound editor or re-recording mixer is on the film, ask them how they want these tracks. I'm sure they'll be happy to offer opinions. 

Hope this helps!


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If it's a large crowd scene I will normally just roll between takes and ask boom op to get the pole high and point away from direct conversations.. Works great.. Usually can get a solid 30-40 second segments without AD's blaring away.. All told usually will roll for 4-5 minutes.. Make a note, tell the scripty and Post can usually do some damage with that..

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MobileMike and Mark LeBlanc's posts bring up and interesting question.  For years I've recorded walla like Mark suggests, but I've never asked the post guys if they've actually used those tracks. Maybe it's a waste of time on my part to do it. I try to get an overall din of the crowd with nothing specific. Mobilemike suggests that in some instances a more "clear", closer mic'ed perspective might be of more use because if it's too general or loose, the room sound doesn't blend with the dialog. Is a closer perspective easier to manipulate in post to fit the need?  

I get that the actual conversation of the walla people should not able to be followed, or understood, but what of the perspective? Closer or looser? I know it's a "it depends" situation but what do the post mixers use - my stuff or do they recreate it because it's easier to work with their stuff?

What are the Post mixers in this forums input on this? 


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Contractually, I believe, it's one thing to "steal" wide pickup group talking from extras while on set, but as soon as they are directed to say (or do anything) specific for close micing, rates start to increase. 

Narratively, it's also hard to get on set extras to improvise quality dialogue. When I've done make-shift, even organized walla, on set, the improvised things extras say really don't seem useful to the story at all. Those are times I want to hear the cacophony, not the specific speakers. 

But I think Mobilemike is correct that sometimes too wide probably isn't helpful in the final mix if the crowds in picture are small. I find a similar practice when I'm adding in a lavaliere from an actor deep in the background. I leave the boom up to "air" out the tight pickup of the lavaliere so the deep actor still sounds distant. But I need a tight pickup from the lavaliere to make that work with the boom. 


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