When German company Ambient Recording developed a special recording system for the first ever commercial documentary to feature underwater surround sound, it cast Sound Devices’ 788T multi-track digital audio recorder in the starring role. Creating a specific underwater housing (SD-UW) for the recorder, Ambient Recording used it to capture the ocean’s unique noises.
Recorded offshore from the Caribbean island of Bonaire in November 2011, the documentary is titled The Cannon Crackers of the Pistol Shrimp. As one of the loudest animals on the planet, pistol shrimp live in colonies of up to 16,000 and snap their claws so fast together the water around them vaporizes. They also create bubbles, which implode with a loud cracking sound. The cracking noises, along with vibrant imagery of the shrimp, form the basis of this groundbreaking film.
“The underwater world is not a silent one,” says Timo Klinge, marketing manager, Ambient Recording. “Coral reefs are filled with millions of sounds just like a jungle or a summer meadow. We knew we wanted to use Sound Devices recorders when we created our complete surround underwater rig because they are extremely compact, very rugged and have excellent sound. We created the underwater housing in order for the 788T to operate efficiently underwater.”
The Ambient Recording housing, designed for all Sound Devices 7 Series recorders, is made out of hard anodized seawater-resistant aluminum, which is then PTFE-coated, giving it the highest possible durability and stability. The top is made out of 4-cm thick Plexiglas to offer a perfect sight on all meters and displays for all Sound Devices 7 Series recorders. Power, record, stop and volume functions can be controlled through the housing. The housing is waterproof up to 100m and weighs 10kg, including the recorder, but beneath the water its buoyancy is just slightly negative, which can be adjusted by additional buoyancy bodies depending on what you attach to it.
In addition to the two Sound Devices 788T recorders, Ambient Sound used a Sonar Surround RS5 underwater surround rig attached to the Sound Devices underwater 7 Series housing with four Sonar Surround DS30 directivity spheres, each equipped with an Ambient TC4042 hydrophone. Three Ambient TC 4013S hydrophones were attached to one of the camera housings and one Ambient TC4032 hydrophone was used to record far-off sounds.
Sound Devices high-resolution 7-Series family of digital audio recorders is the highest performance, most compact production recorders available. The two-track (702, 702T, 722), four-track (744T), and eight-track (788T) units record and play audio files with either 16- or 24-bit depth at all professional sampling rates, up to 192 kHz (up to 96 kHz on the 788T). Multiple storage mediums, analog/digital I/O, and high-speed computer connectivity make all 7-Series recorders stand out as world-class products.
“Selecting Sound Devices 7 series as the recorders to design our underwater housing around was definitely the right choice,” adds Klinge. “We have tested the rig over and over and Sound Devices' gear has consistently exceeded our expectations.”