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Recording Sounds in the Sea Lion Caves

A little while back I had the opportunity to check out the Oregon Sea Lion Caves with a pair of Mikro Usi's and a Zoom H3-VR. I really did not know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in and heard the intense sound of sea lions roaring in a large cave. It was truly an experience for the senses. Unfortunately this experience also involves a terrible smell.


Rewinding back a bit. You enter the Sea Lion Caves through the gift shop where you are immediately greeted with the most beautiful view of the ocean. We were fortunate enough to come right as the sun was setting. It was breathtaking.


Here is a link to a 360 photo of the lookout from their website.


From there you descend a flight of stairs and enter the ocean lookout viewing area. While I was out there I stopped for a bit to grab this video and sound recording with the Mikro Usi's going into a Sony M10.

I really enjoyed how you could hear distant low frequency booms every time the waves crashed against the corner of the rocks. This was a bit of a tricky recording to get as the wind was strong, there was a bird making a rather weird clicking sound in the distance and I had to wait for the traffic of tourists entering and exiting the sea lion caves to be in a lull.


From there you follow the path to a rather large Elevator that descends into the caves.


As the doors open you are immediately hit by the smell. After you recover you start to hear the Walla of sea lions as it bounces all around the long hallway.


Down that hallway you finally see the look out to the caves. Here is a 360 view of the cave from their website. You cannot get too close to the sea lions for obvious reasons but the sound is more then loud enough to capture clearly from the viewing area.


Here is a sound and video recording I got from the viewing area. I was lucky that there was not a lot of tourists so I got a fairly good sound recording of the area. In this recording I used the Mikro Usi's going into the Sony M10 and the Zoom H3VR. I think it is nice to hear the differences in what each rig captured.

I think it is important to note that a pair of Omni Microphones or an Ambisonic rig might not be the best choice for a situation like this. A shotgun microphone or maybe MS (mid side) might be better fitted to get more of the direct sound rather then the atmospheric sound that these two rigs captured. Although MS might suffer from phase issues in such a reverberant environment, with sound bounce all around and off the hard surfaces. Since owning the Zoom H3VR I find it really shines when it is put directly in the middle of the action as it's reach is somewhat limited to about 6 - 10 feet away from it. Anything past that becomes a bit pushed back sound wise (not as detailed and crisp). The Mikro Usi's did good but would have been better with a bit less of a distance between them. These days I try to keep their distance around the standard ORTF mic distance of 17cm. But again they would preform better closer to the subject. The sweet spot of pick up that these mics have are better demonstrated in the next video.


On the other end of the Sea Lion Caves is a beautiful look out towards the most intense Ocean Waves. The waves smash against the rock walls producing stunning visuals and sounds. It is somewhat hypnotic. While we were there, water was dripping down the rock walls above us. The Zoom H3VR and Mikro Usi's definitely singled in on those water drips. This was an interesting demonstration on their sweet spots.

After spending about 30 minutes recording at the Sea Lions Caves we left to enjoy the sunset further down the road. I had a great time at the Sea Lion Caves. I highly recommend them.


Just brace yourself for the smell.

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