Sound Designer David Kamp recently spent some time recording insects compiling audio for a new sound library collection entitled Insects & Swarms. The clue to what he was recording is in the name – thousands and thousands of flies, bees, mosquitos and locusts, some of which were recorded individually while others were captured as part of a large insect swarm.
Kamp, who records and designs sound for animation, art and museum installations, commercials, short films, games and VR, chose DPA d:screet™ 4060 Miniature Microphones for this project. His choice was based on their sound quality and because they were small enough to fit inside tight places such as bee hives and terrariums full of flies.
Here’s the interview with David in full:
Can you tell me about yourself – what is your background in sound recording, where are you based etc?
David Kamp: I have a diploma in electroacoustic music composition and sound engineering from Folkwang University of the Arts and for the last 10 years I have been working for my Berlin based company, Studiokamp, creating sound for animation, art and museum installations, commercials, short films, games and VR. My interest in sound recording started early in my childhood, but about four years ago I decided to Invest in the best mobile gear available and actively go out and hunt for exciting sound effects and ambiences to use in my project work. This newly found interest in capturing unusual sounds led to me forming a new company, Shapingwaves, that makes these sounds available to other sound designers as themed sound collections.
What is the background to this project – how did you come up with the idea of recording insects?
David Kamp: I needed a sound effect of a long continuous wing buzz for a project i was working on and I realised that my personal sound library did not cover this, so I began exploring ways to synthesise those sounds from scratch with my modular synthesiser. After some experimenting I got the sounds I needed, but the process made me want to try to record real insects, starting with individual insects like flies, bees and so on.
I decided to turn this into an Insect & Swarm sound collection for Shapingwaves, so I had to do it properly. I set out to record many different insects – single ones and swarms – at different locations and also created more variations with a modular synth.
In terms of logistics and locations, where have you been to capture these sounds – anywhere unusual?
David Kamp: It all started in my studio, but the next location was a beekeeper with big beehives in Germany. While I was in southern Greece I was lucky enough to capture very isolated cicadas in a remote olive groves.
The most unusual place was probably the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology here in Berlin. The facility houses massive Insectariums of Mosquitos in their closed off laboratories. With the help of a doctor I know there, I was able to record the sounds of individual mosquitoes, groups and swarms.
And what about the sounds of hundreds of flies etc – how did you get all those insects in one place?
David Kamp: Good question. The flies required some creativity: I bought a small terrarium (intended for reptiles), put around 100 fly pupae (bought at a reptile food shop) in the terrarium and waited a few days for them to hatch. Pretty soon I had a neat fly swarm in a box, buzzing away. Once I had my recordings I set all flies free in a nearby meadow – no fly was harmed during the making of the collection!
How exactly did you mic these recordings? And what DPA microphones did you use?
David Kamp: I recorded the flies inside the terrarium using two hanging DPA d:screet 4060 Miniature Microphones plus windscreen, positioned in the centre of the terrarium. I put the mics in place before the flies hatched so that they could be in the centre of the action without me having to deal with hundreds of potentially escaping flies in my studio.
I also recorded additional perspectives using two Neumann TLM 103 above the terrariums ceiling for a different, less close-up perspective. All sounds were recorded in 96 kHz and all microphones were running into either a Sound Devices 633 or a Sonosax SX-R4+ recorder.
At the bee hives I used the 4060s in many different places: on the exterior left and right of the entrance to get close pass by sounds, and between the racks containing the hives. Some of my favourite recordings were done by placing them Inside the hive’s box only inches away from the insects. It sounds like being in another world.
Why did you choose DPA mics for this project – were there any special reasons? Did they help solve any specific problems – and if so, how?
David Kamp: I’ve had good experiences using them for stealth ambience recordings for a Korean city sound collection I made in Seoul last year. I was happy with the recordings and the big advantage of the d:screet 4060 mics over the bigger condenser microphones I’ve used for other recording trips is their tiny size (capsule and cable). In the case of the insect sound collection this allowed me to put them in places like the terrarium, or for the beehive sound recordings inside the hives for some extreme close-ups and other unusual perspectives where many other microphones simply would not fit.
What are you planning to do with these recordings? Has anyone used them yet – and if so how have they been used?
David Kamp: The collection has only just been released, so I am still waiting to hear how my customers will use these sounds. Personally, I have used them on some animated short films. Shapingwaves customers include sound designers and editors working for Wim Wenders, Lars von Trier, Quentin Tarantino and others – so hopefully I’ll be able to hear the sounds in use somewhere soon.
Did you have any nasty experiences while recording these insects? Getting stung or bitten for example?
David Kamp: I have never been stung by any insect bigger than a mosquito in my entire life – and that is still true today. Bees are pretty friendly actually and not very aggressive, but a bit of protection does not hurt right?
Are you afraid of any of these creatures?
David Kamp: In the above protective clothing? No. In general I am not a big bug enthusiast though, so I am pretty happy to be done with it for now. While recording the bee swarms I had headphones on and monitored the interior mics. Hearing the insects as if they are RIGHT INSIDE YOUR EAR caused some hasty hand gestures, for sure.
What are your future recording plans – will you be adding to the library?
David Kamp: I do small updates to my collections, so if I find something that would be a good addition to the Insects and Swarms library I’ll add it. But my hard drives are full of recordings for upcoming sound libraries that still need to be edited, named and injected with soundminer and BWAV metadata such as descriptions, keywords etc – getting those released is a priority. Also, my list of exciting ideas, things and places I’d like to record and release as a sound library keeps growing at a scary pace… it seems I’ll be busy for the near future!
Shapingwaves – https://www.shapingwaves.com
Insects & Swarms Library page – https://www.shapingwaves.com/downloads/insects-swarms-sound-effects/
Shapingwaves Twitter – https://twitter.com/shapingwaves