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SONY PCM-D1 Digital Recorder On Location In Argentina For New Feature Film

By: Jorge Patrono
Producer/Composer/Sound Designer

I recently had the opportunity of visiting Peninsula de Valdes in Argentina to record nature sounds to be used in my music score of the feature film "Gigantes de Valdes". Peninsula de Valdes is the beautiful and unique habitat where thousands of Franca whales, killer whales, penguins, sea lions, and sea elephants among other animals live. Released in March, the film focuses on a businessman who, disregarding environmental repercussions, travels to Patagonia to convince locals to build a luxury hotel.

My goal was to record the sounds of the ocean and of the animals living in the region. The location represented a huge challenge because of the strong winds and because the animals are wild and difficult to approach. To deal with the weather, the rugged terrain and the potentially uncooperative animals, I decided to use Sony's PCM-D1, the perfect digital portable recorder.

The PCMD1 is a high resolution stereo digital recorder (24/96). It is very light. It has external microphones which are highly sensitive and a sound proof design thanks to an internal The new recorder is lightweight, free of all drive mechanisms, equipped with extraordinarily sensitive, built-in condenser microphones, and designed with circuits that process stereo sound with virtually no extraneous noise.

In order to soften the mild winds, The PCM D1 comes with a synthetic sponge to cover it and filter outside noises.

According to the location I had to use the volume filter or 20db pad to soften the input level of the sound, especially with the sounds of the ocean because the waves produce a high volume when they hit the rocks. The softener worked perfectly with constant high volume sounds. On other occasions, when the loudness was not constant but there were peaks of very high volumes, I used the internal limiter that worked very well. It recorded the sound at a very high recording level compensating the input signal each time it went over the 20 dB limit. This type of audio reduction kept the recording at its maximum level without distortion, while the 20 pad lowered the audio input evenly not only when there were high volume peaks. Both functions were very précised and a great help in such an extreme location like Peninsula de Valdes.

The PCM D1 also has a line input and an external microphone input. Both of them have a mini plug stereo.

It has an analog output and an optical output with only one mini plug connection. The unit is compatible with Mac (10.2.8 version or newer) and PC (Windows XP Media Center 2005/04, Windows XP y 2000) via USB 2 connection. It works as a hard disc. Once you connect it to a computer, it shows as an external disc and it allows us to surf the WAV audio files without any problems, as well as listen to them or copy them. The PCM D1 has two built-in VU meters that work simultaneously to see the audio stereo input: analog and digital.

We can see the analog signal in two circular volume readers with hands that are in the front panel of the unit under the microphones. The digital sign can be seen under the volume readers like in a DAT machine. It appears graphically on a nice screen where we can also read how much battery we have left, how much recording time we have left in the internal or external memory, the audio format we are recording and the output signal of the limiter, if it was assigned. We can manually adjust the recording input volume from 0 to 10.

Both VU meters have a background light that turns itself on and off according the user’s needs. I had to record on location several times at night and the visibility of the recorder was excellent. The PCM D1 is light, compact, strong and easy to carry. It has high sound resolution and it has been especially designed to be used on location, indoor/outdoor, concerts, etc.

It is very simple to use and it has great autonomy with the batteries, and Flash memories. The PCM D1 is a state of the art stereo recorder.

To contact Jorge Patrono email him at

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