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Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Mar 3

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3/3/2010 5:39 PM  RssIcon

Recorders Used for OSCAR-Nominated Documentary on Dolphin Killings in Japan

Sound Devices and The CoveBOULDER, CO — Sound Devices recorders helped the crew of the Oceanic Preservation Society bring to light the suffering and killing of wild dolphins in Taiji, Japan in its new documentary, “The Cove.” The film, which has been nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the Best Documentary Feature category, chronicles the annual round up of dolphins in Japan to be sold to the captive dolphin industry. Disguised and sold as more expensive whale meat to school lunch programs and as part of the general food supply around the country, the film stresses the health effects and environmental causes of consuming dolphin meat, which has extremely high levels of mercury.

An essential element of the story was, sadly, the audio which captured the sounds of the dolphins screaming and thrashing as dolphin hunters banged poles to frighten them and drive them into a secret cove where they would be hunted and killed.

“The sounds we captured were very disturbing,” explains Associate Producer on film and Director of Clandestine Operations Charles Hambleton. “We are proud that the Academy has nominated this film, as this will help to reach a much larger audience and make more people aware of the atrocities that are happening to these beautiful and intelligent marine mammals worldwide and how the dolphin captivity industry exists purely for profit - not education. Most recently, the unfortunate death of SeaWorld Orca trainer Dawn Brancheau illustrates this. ‘The Cove’ has also been drawing attention to the alarming levels of mercury and other toxins in all marine life worldwide - caused by humanity.”

In order to acquire all the audio and video that was necessary, the crew required recording devices that could hold up under a variety of environments, including some harsh conditions. For instance, some recorders were set up underwater or outdoors in areas protected by steep cliffs and high razor wire barricades to keep the public out. With their easy setup features and adaptability to any production condition, the Sound Devices 722 and 744T digital audio recorders, supplied by Wind Over Earth, were the right tools for the project.

“With this kind of operation you don’t really get a second chance,” adds Hambleton. “All of our audio was recorded in real-time so it was important to get it right the first time. Sound Devices 744T’s were easy to setup and operate. They were sturdy enough to capture the dolphins’ reactions under water and were easily interchangeable for any audio setup.”

For underwater environments, the 744T was placed in a modified Gates underwater video camera housing. The recorders were used in conjunction with Schoeps and Sennheiser microphones, Cetacean Research Technology C54 hydrophones, Sony XDCAM video cameras, FLIR Thermal imaging cameras, an assortment of Sony hard drive HD cameras, a gyro stabilized HD camera mounted to a radio-controlled helicopter, a 7-meter blimp painted to look like a whale, as well as additional covert recording devices.

Since these recordings were being done without permission from the Japanese government, the crew also required a means of recording for long periods of time with remote access to the recorders. The Sound Devices’ record timer, along with customizable feature selections, made the integration an easy one.

“We found that having the ability to turn off features not being used and entering ‘stealth mode’ allowed us, with our expedition battery setup, to record over 30 hours at a time at 48 kHz,” Hambleton continues. “The timer was also a great feature as we could set it to turn itself on just before the action happened.”

“The Cove” has recently won the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance film festival as well as taking home awards at 50 other festivals worldwide. The Cove is the first non-fiction feature to sweep all four Guilds Awards including Director's, Producer's, Writer's and Editor's. One of the biggest accomplishments of the film, to date, is securing distribution in Japan, as the film is set for release this April.

The Oceanic Preservation Society is currently working on several new projects that will incorporate Sound Devices technology into the audio capture side of the project. For more information on The Oceanic Preservation Society and its first film “The Cove,” please visit www.thecovemovie.com.

Sound Devices, LLC designs and manufactures portable audio mixers, digital recorders and related audio equipment for feature film, episodic television, documentary, news-gathering, and acoustical test and measurement applications. The eleven-year-old company designs and manufactures from its Reedsburg, Wisconsin, headquarters with additional offices in Madison, WI, and Highland Park, IL. For more information, visit the Sound Devices websitewww.sounddevices.com.

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