A Month of Field Recordists: Colin Hunter

2015/10/05

2-1 Colin Hunter - Portrait

Field recordist Colin Hunter has a unique speciality: world sound effects. He travels across the globe capturing sound clips in dozens of countries in an effort to gather not only the unique, ephermeral sounds of distant places, but the story that exists behind every sound as well.

Hunter shares these tracks on his cool and stylized website, World Sounds, where you can hear clips from places ranging from Indonesia to Iceland to Nepal.

This is what makes Hunter’s gear choices interesting: he has crafted a high-quality kit that focuses on portability. I asked Hunter about the equipment he uses. He graciously shared his thoughts about his journey building his kit, including inventing a clever tool of his own, and its role capturing a rare, evocative nature recording.

Creative Field Recording: What is your favourite field recording kit?

My go to kit is a stereo pair of DPA 4060s and a Sound Devices 722 recorder. I use a homemade stereo bar to hold the mics in a Stereo A/B configuration. This will be either placed on a tripod (Manfrotto 5001B Nano), or onto a boom pole, depending on what I’m recording. When capturing nature soundscapes, I’ll often run a long (20m) 5-pin stereo XLR cable, so I can position myself as far away from the source as possible. I monitor on a pair of Sony MDR–7506 headphones (very comfortable). I carry all this kit in a Lowe Pro Fastpack 250 backpack.

CFR: Why is it your preferred kit?

It’s taken me quite a lot of time to arrive at the setup I currently use. Along the way I’ve used different mics, recorders and accessories. Ultimately, I have spent a lot of time trying to make my kit as compact and portable as possible, without compromising in quality. I record a lot when I’m travelling, so being compact and portable are really important.

Recorder: I love my Sound Devices 722. The preamps are good, and it’s quite a compact recorder. I bought mine second hand, and didn’t invest in this straight away – it took quite a few years before I bought it. Prior to that I had been using small, portable recorders – I’d started with an M-Audio MicroTrack II, then upgraded to a Sony PCM-D50. Today I use a Sony PCM-D100 as my portable recorder and, to be honest, I’ll often record with this. It’s ultra compact (compared to my Sound Devices 722 setup) and the quality is brilliant. But my go to recorder would still be the 722.

Sony PCM-D100

Sony PCM-D100

Mics: My aim is to capture stereo soundscapes of the places I visit. I started using the DPAs a year or so ago after having experimented with them during a Wildeye Recording weekend. Recordist Chris Watson, who was running the course, showed me various techniques he uses with these mics and to be honest, once I’d used them and listened back to the recordings I was so impressed I invested in a pair. What I love about the 4060s are the detail in what they capture, the low self-noise and their size – you can literally put them in your pocket! Previously I’d been using a Røde NT4. I do still use this mic sometimes, but it has to be used with a Rycote blimp (WS kit 4 modified with NT4 compatible lyre supports), and this adds a lot of bulk to my kit. It’s also a pretty heavy mic, again going against my objective of keeping things light and compact.

Stereo Bar: At first I was using a metal coat hanger, and attaching the DPAs on either side (stereo A/B config with the perfect distance between the mics). This was a technique I’d learnt from Chris Watson and really matched my criteria – light, compact, fitted easily into my kit bag. After a while I started to notice that holding the coat hanger whilst recording was susceptible to handling noise getting into the recording. So I started to look for alternatives. I was planning to 3D print a stereo bar that I’d mocked up, but whilst researching alternatives I found a dual-arm macro flash mount that worked perfectly – just needed to be modified slightly to hold the DPAs. This was compatible with both my tripod and boom pole.

Watch a YouTube video of Colin Hunter’s stereo bar invention.

CFR: Can you share a favourite project, experience, or a field recording captured on that gear?

Flamingo Mating Calls, Camargue, France. In January of this year I drove to the Camargue national park in the South of France to record flamingo mating calls. I’d visited the area a few weeks prior to my recording trip and was really taken aback by the sound of their mating calls. Anything up to 10,000 flamingos gather in the Camargue during mating season, and to attract a mate they perform a courtship dance and are very vocal. It’s easy to access the birds, as they gather in a protected area of the Camargue and there are a series of paths that take you through the park’s shallow expanses of water.

2-1 Colin Hunter - Flamingos

On arrival, I setup my kit : Sound Devices 722, DPA 4060s and my stereo bar / boom pole combo. This allowed me to position the mics over where the flamingos were gathered, getting quite close to the birds without disturbing them. I was really pleased with the results!

I guess to summarise, I really need my kit to be compact and easy to travel with.

Thank you to Colin Hunter for sharing his kit, and his experiences recording sounds worldwide!

Portrait and flamingo photos courtesy of Auriane Schwegler.

Quick Links: Colin Hunter’s Kit

Microphone:

  • DPA 4060 omnidirectional condenser microphone.

Audio recorders:

Accessories:

Other equipment mentioned:

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