Recorders Used for Documentary on Dolphin Killings in Japan

BOULDER, CO — Sound Devices recorders recently 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 Rising”(working title). The film chronicles the annual round up of dolphins in Japan to be sold to the captive dolphin industry or inhumanly killed and 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 will also stress the health affects and environmental causes of the high levels of mercury found in the dolphin meat being sold and consumed.

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. In order to acquire all 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,” explains Assistant Director Charles 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 easily interchangeable for any audio setup. The sounds we captured were amazing and are being analyzed by the top marine mammal researchers—very disturbing stuff.”

For underwater setups, 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 Oceanic Preservation Society has plans to introduce “The Rising” as a cinematic release in early 2009 and is posting project updates on its website . For more information on Sound Devices’ products, visit

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 nine-year old company designs and manufactures from their Reedsburg, Wisconsin headquarters with additional offices in Madison, WI and Schaumburg, IL. For more information, visit the Sound Devices website,