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Paper backed recording tape?

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Paper backed recording tape?

Postby The Red Bladder » Sat Sep 05, 2020 9:56 am

Someone told me the following in an email -

"As you know when editing dialogue (Nagra, Studer, Bias London, levers Rich days) you always used white paper-backed tape, easy to write on and mark mistakes. The first tape recorder 1939 used paper tape. It changed to vinyl in the late ’40s. Even up to the 1990s editing was still done using paper backing. There was white vinyl tape available but vinyl stretches."

I have never seen paper-backed tape in my c.a. 60 years of playing with tape recorders and I have never heard of such stuff and nobody I know has either. I know such stuff existed as an experiment in Germany in the 30s, but that's about all I know.

Can anyone throw some light on this?
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:04 am

New one on me!

I never came across paper-backed tape or paper-based editing (sticky) tape in my 15 years of BBC tape editing.

I'm intrigued to learn more...
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby The Red Bladder » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:16 am

As I suspected, he talking gibberish. Just some old geezer rambling - that couldn't happen to me, now could it? :mrgreen:
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:19 am

Paper backed tape was used in the early days of tape recording. I have some live recordings here recorded in Dorking around 1950. I'm told they're quite rare these days even in archives.

In the late 1940's the US Brush Soundmirror recorders but also licensed to Thermionic Products for manufacture in the UK, used a paper backed tape. I believe these were the first domestic tape recorders available. The tapes were noisy because of the roughness of the paper backing and the low energy coatings used at that time. The machines also used DC or permanent magnet erase heads which only made matters worse. Poor high frequency response on the samples I have. They were superceded by plastic bases such as acetate and polyester.

Details and photo of Brush Soundmirror recorder and tape:

https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/brush_bk401.html

The radiomuseum entry incorrectly states that the recordings were full track. Actually they used a centre track, about 3.5mm wide, possibly to avoid the dropouts and dirt closer to the tape edges, but also probably because of differential expansion of the paper base, azimuth stability in full track even at 7.5ips would have been atrocious with terrible comb filtering on playback. It's bad enough as it is. Good transfer engineers capture the mono centre track in stereo, time align with a digital azimuth align tool and only then sum to mono.
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:22 am


Good photo allebaug of the paper tape on a Sound Mirror steel reel, and the info on the
excellent Philips site.
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby The Red Bladder » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:34 am

Thanks Tim - on a minor correction note to that website, Radio Frankfurt was in Bad Nauheim. There is no Bad Bauheim!
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:48 am

allebaug wrote:FYI

Yes, I know paper-backed tapes were used in the early years of tape recording. But I've only ever seen it at EMI's archive museum.

So I certainly don't dispute the quoted comments about the use of paper tape in the 40s and 50s.

What I would query, though, is the claim that:

Even up to the 1990s editing was still done using paper backing. There was white vinyl tape available but vinyl stretches

That just doesn't match my experiences of tape editing in the 70s (as an amateur), 80s and 90s (as a professional). I wonder, perhaps, if there's some confusion or misunderstanding creeping in?

We generally used matt-backed tapes which were easy to mark with Chinagraph pencils, and a white adhesive joining tape for the edits... I wonder if that's what he's referring to with his 'white vinyl tape'?
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Sep 05, 2020 11:46 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
allebaug wrote:FYI

Yes, I know paper-backed tapes were used in the early years of tape recording. But I've only ever seen it at EMI's archive museum.

So I certainly don't dispute the quoted comments about the use of paper tape in the 40s and 50s.

What I would query, though, is the claim that:

Even up to the 1990s editing was still done using paper backing. There was white vinyl tape available but vinyl stretches

That just doesn't match my experiences of tape editing in the 70s (as an amateur), 80s and 90s (as a professional). I wonder, perhaps, if there's some confusion or misunderstanding creeping in?

We generally used matt-backed tapes which were easy to mark with Chinagraph pencils, and a white adhesive joining tape for the edits... I wonder if that's what he's referring to with his 'white vinyl tape'?

Quite so! My experience matches yours precisely.

I'd heard of paper tape for recording before, and the infamous steel ribbon and wire recorders... infamous because if you got caught in the backlash of one of those reels breaking then it was a hospital trip to have the cuts stitched...
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:20 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
...We generally used matt-backed tapes which were easy to mark with Chinagraph pencils, and a white adhesive joining tape for the edits... I wonder if that's what he's referring to with his 'white vinyl tape'?

I have some old magnetic tapes onto which are spliced white paper leader and tail tapes on which is written in ink the programme recorded on the tapes. Maybe that's what he means.
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:30 pm

Possibly, yes.

I'm sure different institutions have different practices, and maybe some found it useful to write on leader tapes... But that sounds very fiddly to implement, to me and not very helpful since the labelling would be invisible once the tape was laced up! Not a problem if you only have the one machine and the one tape, but a nightmare if you have six tape machines in front of you with a stack of thirty tapes to play into a programme!

We (as in the BBC) used peelable adhesive labels on both the tape reels and boxes (or when speed was of the essence, sometimes wrote straight onto the reel in chinagraph!).

And we used different coloured leader tapes (white, yellow, green, blue) to indicate various key things. This varied a bit with different departments but typically indicated whether the tape was mono or stereo, or whether it was 7.5 or 15 ips. Important details to know in advance when throwing a stack of tapes onto machines in a hectic live programme!

Yellow was often used between items if the tape had multiple sections -- common in news programmes. And red leader always indicated the tail of the tape.
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby The Red Bladder » Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:16 pm

He says he has boxes of the stuff and will forward details. I shall keep a candle burning in the window for that.
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:21 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Possibly, yes.

I'm sure different institutions have different practices, and maybe some found it useful to write on leader tapes... But that sounds very fiddly to implement, to me and not very helpful since the labelling would be invisible once the tape was laced up! Not a problem if you only have the one machine and the one tape, but a nightmare if you have six tape machines in front of you with a stack of thirty tapes to play into a programme!...

It couldnt have been too fiddly otherwise it wouldnt have been done as on the 1/4" examples I have here.

It allowed people to identify what was on the tape without a machine to play it.

Tapes could become separated from their original reel and perhaps original box. The programme ID remained with the tape, independent of the reel or the box.

With mono two track it identified each programme side which immediately followed the respective leader.

Unlabelled recordings are a curse. Recordings have been throw away due to no visible indication of their contents. It's easy to assume that an unlabelled tape is a blank tape. With film we at least can hold it up to the light. With discs we can see the pattern of cut grooves.
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:34 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:He says he has boxes of the stuff and will forward details. I shall keep a candle burning in the window for that.

Does he mean paper leader tape for labelling, or paper backed magnetic tape? The latter could be an interesting find as they could be recordings from the late 40's to early 50's.

A couple of years ago Ted Kendall transferred some early live radio broadcast recordings of Kathleen Ferrier recorded onto metal discs by Kenneth Leech who had his own disc cutting lathe at his home. Apparently he made many recordings of other live radio performances as well (probably not recorded anywhere else) and many have survived.

This is the Ferrier CD:

https://www.somm-recordings.com/recordi ... membered/#
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Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Sep 05, 2020 4:35 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:It couldnt have been too fiddly otherwise it wouldnt have been done as on the 1/4" examples I have here.

Is this the 5-minute pointless argument, or the full 30 minutes? :?

I didnt say it was impossible, just that it sounds too fiddly for me -- with the background context of a broadcasting environment.

I can do lots of fiddly things... But where there is a quicker and easier solution I generally choose it unless there's a very good reason not to. I'm sure I could write quicker and more easily -- not to mention more legibly -- on a label than on leader tape.

It allowed people to identify what was on the tape without a machine to play it.

Sure.... And I'd do that by looking at the box and/or the label on the reel -- and I could still use those methods to tell me what the tape is even when it's laced up... :think:

Tapes could become separated from their original reel and perhaps original box. The programme ID remained with the tape, independent of the reel or the box.

True, but its still not foolproof. The leader tape can get damaged, break or fall off when the splicing tape dries out. All things that can happen just as easily as the tape getting removed from its original reel.

Given good operational practices, though, a tape shouldnt get separated from its reel or box, of course. And if the tape isn't being used with good practices, all bets are off anyway!

So each to their own, and all that, and I'm not suggesting writing on the leader is a bad idea... Just that I'm not personally persuaded to adopt or recommend leader-scribblng as a better technique over the other, arguably more conventional, methods mentioned.

Unlabelled recordings are a curse.

I'd certainly agree with that!
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