You are here

Paper backed recording tape?

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Sep 05, 2020 6:44 pm

Hugh: am I right that standard BBC practice was to store tapes with end-leader (as it were) outermost - ie you had to rewind before playing - or is that a misremember or something from somewhere else?

Thinking back, I'd have been trouble a few times if that had always been the case... etched in my memory are the occasions that I walked very briskly into the cubicle with a just-edited tape as the cue was being read live on air. :o
Mike Stranks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7445
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 1:00 am

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Sep 05, 2020 7:04 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:Hugh: am I right that standard BBC practice was to store tapes with end-leader (as it were) outermost - ie you had to rewind before playing - or is that a misremember or something from somewhere else?

Generally yes, and certainly tail-out for archiving. However, tape inserts for news programmes -- usually on 5-inch reels -- were often front-out, though, simply to minimise the loading times.

...etched in my memory are the occasions that I walked very briskly into the cubicle with a just-edited tape as the cue was being read live on air. :o

Yes... Always thrilling... :lol:
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 28330
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby The Red Bladder » Sun Sep 06, 2020 12:26 pm

Ah-ha! Found the damn stuff! Paper tape was indeed used and manufactured until 1945 by 3M under the 'Scotch' brand. It was apparently dire stuff, sounded dreadful and broke all the time.

Image
The Red Bladder
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2552
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 12:00 am
Location: . . .
 

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Sep 06, 2020 1:41 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:Ah-ha! Found the damn stuff! Paper tape was indeed used and manufactured until 1945 by 3M under the 'Scotch' brand. It was apparently dire stuff, sounded dreadful and broke all the time.

Yes the paper tapes I transferred broke easily (one tiny tear at the edge easily widened to a complete break) so multiples splices were often needed before a successful transfer could be made.

But in my experience they've been less of a problem than some of the recordings made a few years later onto acetate tape which over the many years has buckled and twisted dreadfully. The acetate sound quality was better but just getting the tape to physically play without wildly twisting and refusing to wind onto the take up reel was quite a job. Compared to those problems I'd choose paper tapes for repair and transfer any day.
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2212
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby The Red Bladder » Sun Sep 06, 2020 1:50 pm

I've got a large box full of old acetate tapes that I have not touched for about 50 years! Old logging tapes and things I recorded in my teens!
The Red Bladder
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2552
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 12:00 am
Location: . . .
 

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby MOF » Sun Sep 06, 2020 2:28 pm

Ah-ha! Found the damn stuff! Paper tape was indeed used and manufactured until 1945 by 3M under the 'Scotch' brand. It was apparently dire stuff, sounded dreadful and broke all the time.
Until 1945? I thought magnetic tape started to be used from 1945@ when the first tape recorders were taken back to the USA from Germany after the war and further developed by Ampex.
MOF
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1201
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2003 1:00 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Sep 06, 2020 2:46 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:I've got a large box full of old acetate tapes that I have not touched for about 50 years! Old logging tapes and things I recorded in my teens!
The acetate tapes may be fine. Hard to be sure from here. Acetate tapes when held up to the light let the light through.
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2212
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby ken long » Tue Sep 08, 2020 9:05 am

Horrible stuff, terrible freq response.

As for writing on the back of leader, I've seen this often enough on tape comped from field recordings. But never on paper.
User avatar
ken long
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3378
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:00 am
Location: Somers Town
I'm All Ears.

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Sep 08, 2020 11:58 am

ken long wrote:Horrible stuff, terrible freq response.

Yes not great, but at the time (late 40's) the Soundmirror paper tapes had some advantages over the existing disc recording formats: longer uninterrupted record time (over 30 minutes on a 7" reel), splice editing and of course erasing and reuse.

I have a special connection with such magnetic paper tapes. 18 years ago I had just placed an advert for an audio tape digitising and editing service. My very first customer threw me in at the deep end when she brought me five 7" Soundmirror paper tape reels of a live oratorio concert (Messiah) in which she had been the soprano 48 years earlier in England. The retired singer went on to employ me for many years digitising and editing many other old live recordings she had kept.

Before this recording, from 1948, the musicians had been paying contractors to record their live concerts onto multiple 12" acetate 78 RPM discs of 4 minutes per side, using two disc cutting machines. One of the disc recording engineers was a young Michael Gilliam whom I think went on to work for the BBC.

The early paper tape recordings had noisy background, very limited highs, perhaps nothing higher that 5kHz, and dreadful azimuth wander. But overall well recorded and listenable.

In my enthusiasm but also naivety I worked out the dimensions of the unusual centre track tape format and custom modified a half track tape head to read it, only to find the comb filtering due to azimuth wander unbearable. Reading the full width of the track with unsummed tracks 2 and 3 of a quarter track head gave a much better result, which I later learned was the standard way to transfer these Soundmirror paper tapes. The customer later gave me acetate tapes recorded on the same Soundmirror machine with the same centre track format.

Years later I learned about software Azimuth Correctors and was able to time align the "stereo" capture of the centre track before summing to mono, a much better result with the paper tapes.
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2212
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Paper backed recording tape?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Sep 13, 2020 12:22 pm

The Red Bladder wrote: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."

RB it occurred to me this "someone" may well know a lot more about the paper tape he was talking about and how it was used back then that all of our knowledge combined. Is he still around?
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2212
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Previous