Friday, December 9, 2016
  • Tuesday, Sep. 20, 2016
First-time documentary director deploys Sound Devices 664 mixer/recorder
Director Claudia Katayanagi (r) on location for "A Bitter Legacy."
  • SAN FRANCISCO
  • --

Claudia  Katayanagi  has  had  a  long  career  in sound  mixing and recording that  has taken  her on  location with HBO documentaries, including the acclaimed Food, Inc., Crude and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, PBS’ Frontline, and the BBC’s arts-focused Imagine  series.  She  has  also made  dozens  of  programs  for  San Francisco’s  public media station KQED, and worked on the second and first units of feature films.  

“I generally record dialogue for films, documentaries, and corporate shoots,”  said Katayanagi, “ But like all sound recordists on these types of projects, ambient sound is a delight to record. Surf sounds in stereo are always one of my favorites, as are bell towers and train stations all over the world.” 

A  convert to  Sound  Devices’  portable  recording  and  mixing  equipment  when  the  products  first appeared  on  the  market,  Katayanagi  owns  a  Sound  Devices  302  three-channel  field  mixer,  a 744T four-track audio recorder, and a 664 12 input, 16 track field production mixer.  Katayanagi bought the 664 mixer just a few months after it was first introduced, a decision made much  simpler  by  her prior exposure to the  brand. 

“Owning the previous Sound Devices  mixers made  for  an  easier  transition  to  the  664,”   she  added. “ I  knew  how  important  all  its  capabilities were  going  to  be  and  now  I  feel  as  though  I  have  a  mini  computer  in  the  guise  of  a mixer/recorder on  location. The  numerous permutations of  input to output selections  have  been invaluable for so many different types of shoots.” 

Her favorite Sound Devices gear is still by her side and proved instrumental in her first turn as a feature documentary director, a project she has worked on for the past five years. Her new film, A  Bitter  Legacy,  was  recently  awarded “ Best  Documentary” at  the  Women’s Independent  Film Festival. The project, recounts the concentration camps created by the United States government to  confine  Japanese  Americans  and  others  of  Japanese  ancestry  during  World  War  II. The  film focuses  on  the  lesser-known,  essentially  secret  isolation outposts  that  served  as  concentration camps   for  the   more   vocal  among  those   incarcerated.  These “ more   harsh  prisons,” said Katayanagi, were “for those  who  stood  up,  spoke  up  and  resisted  what  they  saw  to  be  an injustice.” 

Given  her  limited  resources  as  a  first-time  director,  Katayanagi  is  also  the  documentary’s producer and its primary location sound mixer. “During interviews, I would set up the boom and a  lav  mic  on  talent,  and  with  my  headphones  on,  I  would conduct the  interviews for hours  at  a time,” she  said. “Knowing  how  well  the  664  performed,  I  simply  had  to  trust  my  ears as  I directed the interviews, and several times, a re-enactment.” 

She particularly enjoyed hearing the final product as a member of the audience during the film’s screenings. “I recently got to see and hear my film played in a theatre with a THX sound system for the  first time and I was  so blown away  by  how good my film sounded,”  she said. “ I give a large  amount  of  credit  to  my  Sound  Devices  664,  and  to  my  sound  editor  and  mixer,  Philip Perkins.” 

A  Bitter  Legacy screened  in  April  at  the  Arizona  International  Film  Festival  and  Vail  Film Festival.