Jacques Dupont recording a Pygmy singer, Gandicolo (Middle Congo), André Didier, CNRS-CREM, CC BY-NC-ND
Using Sound And Images To Support Scientific Research

A ton of equipment

Noël Ballif’s idea to invite sound and image specialists to support the scientists’ research was quite innovative at the time and required substantial resources. A ton of equipment was needed for sound recording and filmmaking.

Transporting this equipment by plane, truck and pirogue was very difficult at times, as evidenced by photographs taken during the expedition. It included cameras, film reels and blank records provided by Paris-based production company Société d’Applications Cinématographiques (SDAC), which also paid for the development costs. The sound recording equipment however belonged to André Didier. 

André Didier recording musicians, André Didier, CNRS-CREM, CC BY-NC-ND
André Didier recording musicians, André Didier, CNRS-CREM, CC BY-NC-ND

Lacquer coated transcription discs

The original recordings were supervised by Rouget, Didier and Gaisseau using lacquer-coated transcription discs manufactured by French company Pyral, and transferred later to magnetic tapes. These transcription discs were used for the first time in a French ethnographic mission and produced much better results than the phonographic cylinders used earlier.

Some of these recordings were also intended to be used as soundtracks for Jacques Dupont and Edmond Séchan’s films. This was made possible thanks to a technical process based on synchronising discs and cameras; a process that was described in detail in 1947 by André Didier in a programme dedicated to the Ogooué-Congo Mission on French public radio.