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A bit of sad news on a few fronts

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A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:40 pm
by fruitcake
I remember this fire. It was literally close to home. But what I find most depressing is that these ever fewer large companies take so little responsibility for their outsized positions.


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/us/m ... -fire.html

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:14 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
Yes, it was a real tragedy but we'll probably never be told exactly what was lost.

Archiving (done properly) is a hugely costly overhead with only small and infrequent financial returns in the short-term. So it's obvious why the suits cut all the corners they can to minimise the overheads.

We are lucky, I suppose, in that most of the obviously commercially valuable material has been released and so exists on millions of CDs and vinyls. And although arguably not 'perfect' at least those CD releases are pretty darn close to the original master tapes -- much more so than the vinyl pressings.

I'd like to think that the enormous hit on future sales potential from re-releases and remixes etc will have made the executives think much harder about preserving their archives properly... but I know that it really wont. :frown:

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:01 pm
by awjoe
"Jody Rosen, the writer of the article, described the successful effort to play down the scope of the loss as a “triumph of crisis management”

I suppose that's one way to spin lying and coverup.

"Archiving (done properly) is a hugely costly overhead with only small and infrequent financial returns in the short-term. So it's obvious why the suits cut all the corners they can to minimise the overheads."

Which is why archiving shouldn't be in the hands of for-profit outfits.

"We are lucky, I suppose, in that most of the obviously commercially valuable material has been released and so exists on millions of CDs and vinyls. And although arguably not 'perfect' at least those CD releases are pretty darn close to the original master tapes -- much more so than the vinyl pressings."

Exactly. The best way to preserve your stuff is to make it hugely popular.

Cue someone here to say 'and how's that working out for you, awjoe?'

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:31 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
awjoe wrote:Which is why archiving shouldn't be in the hands of for-profit outfits.

Tricky one that. While the archive has a commercial value no organisation will hand it over willingly to the 'state archivists'. But maintaining the archive itself is a massive cost; you really can't just put it on shelves in a big shed -- although that's what most tend to do!

It really needs to be in a secure, air-conditioned space with controlled humidity and temperature, and staffed by trained archivists who know what to look for in terms of media degradation and how to deal with it. I've been to both the BBC's and EMI's archives and they are very serious operations.

H

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:27 pm
by awjoe
Okay, so how much of what the BBC and EMI are doing archive-wise is driven by a desire to preserve the stuff simply because of its cultural value and how much by financial considerations? I don't want to come across all idealistic here, but I'd say any culture that doesn't preserve its heritage is losing its roots and therefore in trouble.

Next question: Anybody know about something like Library of Congress in the States? Presently, the copyright for audio recordings is secured with a digital version of the recording (easy to store, no shelves required except for the server farm) for a fee of, I believe, $55 for an album of songs (which is probably more than it takes to pay someone to process the registration and maintain the micrometer of disk space on that server). Isn't that a good way to do it in the case of digitized recordings?

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:15 pm
by James Perrett
A reply from Universal and comments from some of the artists concerned can be found at

https://completemusicupdate.com/article ... le-claims/

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:58 pm
by MOF
While the extent of the damage may never be known exactly
Surely there are computer/paper records not at the affected site that would show what tapes and films had been sent there?
I think this is the fire that destroyed all the original Ealing comedy films.

N.B. Quote from the linked article.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:03 pm
by James Perrett
MOF wrote:
While the extent of the damage may never be known exactly
Surely there are computer/paper records not at the affected site that would show what tapes and films had been sent there?

I think that there is quite a bit more information around than has been reported in that article. I'm currently following some discussions elsewhere from people who were involved in the subsequent attempts to digitise alternative masters.

Actually I've just realised that I may have made a very small contribution to the rescue efforts having digitised a few RCA production masters for subsequent release a few months ago.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:29 pm
by fruitcake
James, thanks for posting that link.

It seems the artists mentioned weren’t told that masters had been lost. That hurts the credibility of UMG on their other statements, even if there may be some validity.

While I have zero experience with the music side, I have had extended dealings with Universal as well as other entertainment companies. On the whole, the people working there are very professional and care very much about what they do. The problems come when the higher ups decide that it’s too expensive to keep them on to properly inventory and store whatever assets are left when a project finishes.
The fire itself was a tragedy, but it wasn’t necessary caused by gross negligence. Hiding the extent of the damage is standard operating procedure for Hollywood. Let the finger pointing begin.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:11 pm
by OneWorld
Oh no - Greats Ball of Fire.

I had a weird experience once regarding master tape. Cheapskate that I am, I bought some used Ampex tape that came from the BBC, one would assume it had been wiped, but either way, we were recording over it anyway. SO we had the track mixed down onto the Ampex and then a day or so later the recording studio chap called us in and said "well I have mixed it down but where did you get the tape from? listen to this"

As it happens the song was like a slow ambient jazzy thing about homelessness, and the tape rolled and it sounded great, but the mixman said "hang on keep listening" In the middle of the song there was a solo done on Spanish guitar, some nice 9th chords on the keyboards, real laid back, great sound.

Then a voice came in, it was an interview done on radio 1 about homelessness and young people, strange thing is, it sort of just fitted the music. Now the mixman said no, it was not him that had done it for a laugh, goodness me no, he was being paid good money to do the mixdown and he explained that sometimes you can get old well used tape and the magnetic 'image' just stays, even when recorded over.

From that point onwards I was never trusted to buy tape again! But what a strange coincidence, we're singing a song about homelessness and it just so happened that was the interview on the tape, sometimes I get to thinking there are strange dark forces about that we know very little of. Come to think of it, given the experiences I'm having lately, I think Win10 is one of them considering the grief it's giving me

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:06 am
by MOF
sometimes you can get old well used tape and the magnetic 'image' just stays, even when recorded over
Where I worked we had a bulk eraser, that plus the erase head used on subsequent recordings would have got rid of any old recordings.
I don’t think this tape was erased first and maybe the track you mention was never recorded to and thus not monitored during recording but heard during mixdown.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:38 am
by James Perrett
More likely the Ampex tape was shedding slightly so that the erase head wasn't making good contact with the tape. As the erase head is often the first stationary part in the tape path any loose oxide is likely to congregate on it first. The other possibility is that the playback head wasn't quite aligned with the record and erase heads so that it was reading a different part of the tape to that being recorded.

You can find all sorts of goodies on ex-broadcast tapes. I recently discovered that I'd had a 2" multitrack of a Michael Bolton performance from Central TV which had been sitting in my garage for the last 25 years. Whoever bought the next tape in the series would have had the multitrack to Dusty Springfield's last ever live performance (a duet of Ain't No Mountain High Enough with Michael Ball).

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 1:43 am
by MOF
You can find all sorts of goodies on ex-broadcast tapes. I recently discovered that I'd had a 2" multitrack of a Michael Bolton performance from Central TV which had been sitting in my garage for the last 25 years.
I left Central TV in 1991, we used to bulk erase all our tapes before letting them go to charities etc, I'm surprised your tape hadn't been erased.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 3:59 am
by Eddy Deegan
MOF wrote:
You can find all sorts of goodies on ex-broadcast tapes. I recently discovered that I'd had a 2" multitrack of a Michael Bolton performance from Central TV which had been sitting in my garage for the last 25 years.
I left Central TV in 1991, we used to bulk erase all our tapes before letting them go to charities etc, I'm surprised your tape hadn't been erased.

I bought a 2nd-hand rackmount server from a well-known company a few years ago. When I booted it up it asked me to login and although I didn't have any account details (and was going to wipe it anyway) I was curious. I broke out the Windows recovery process to get to an administrative shell, reset the administrator password and then logged in.

I found a wealth of stuff on the HD, including a spreadsheet with 200+ employees details on it. That spreadsheet had names, addresses, phone numbers, NI numbers, roles and salaries for all of those people.

I also found home directories for several dozen users (about 100Gb of pirated mp3s and videos in one of them), backups of Outlook offline mail files (encrypted, I didn't bother, although there are tools to break those) various financial and HR docs and more porn than one would expect to find on a corporate server.

Some people are so clueless it's terrifying :(

I looked up the CTO and sent an email to him. We had a lengthy chat about it on the phone, connected on Linked-in and I got some 'emergency' consultancy work out of it as a result. That particular company is unlikely to be making that mistake again.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 6:46 am
by Tim Gillett
The NYT article rightly says that first generation session tape and the mixdown from it are the highest audio quality articles, but IMO missed the opportunity to illustrate that with an audio example or two. How much of a quality drop is it from generation to generation? An example is worth a thousand words. People can hear the difference for themselves.

I'm a long time fan of Ray Charles and Aretha, both Atlantic artists. The recording engineer for many of their sessions was Tom Dowd, known for his great recordings. For years I couldn't work out why some of the rerelease albums of both artists which I'd bought in the 80's sounded dreadful. Noisy and/or distorted. One striking example was "The Genius of Ray Charles" (1959). From day one my vinyl reissue copy sounded dreadful. At the time I assumed a worn out stamper. Now many years later, I have the official CD. Just as distorted. Then I read about an SACD rerelease of the same album. I didn't dare buy it but read that it too sounds badly distorted. All YT versions of tracks from the album have similar distortion.

Then a few years ago I came across the Bill Holland article which mentioned the Long Point NJ fire which destroyed many Atlantic session and master tapes in '78. That seems like the answer to my puzzle at least over some Ray and Aretha tracks.

I wonder how many record buyers not knowing about the '78 fire and the implications for rerelease audio quality, innocently bought the CD and SACD versions hoping for a better sound.

It would be good if some record companies had a bit more transparency on this as eventually the discerning buyer finds out anyway, but sometimes only after they have shelled out the money for product sounding no better.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:51 am
by Hugh Robjohns
Tim Gillett wrote:The NYT article rightly says that first generation session tape and the mixdown from it are the highest audio quality articles, but IMO missed the opportunity to illustrate that with an audio example or two.

Most casual listeners wouldn't appreciate the subtle difference, and especially not with a data-reduced file embedded in an internet article auditioned on their phone while riding the subway to work...!

The kind of distortions you're talking about on The Genius of Ray Charles (which I agree does sound very poor) aren't the result of simple generation loss. There's a far more substantial cock up or serious incompetence involved somewhere in that production/mastering chain...

If you haven't already heard it, Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company album is superbly well recorded and I'd recommend it very highly -- I often use it as test material when reviewing speakers.

H

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 1:05 pm
by Tim Gillett
Tim Gillett wrote:The NYT article rightly says that first generation session tape and the mixdown from it are the highest audio quality articles, but IMO missed the opportunity to illustrate that with an audio example or two.

Hugh Robjohns wrote: Most casual listeners wouldn't appreciate the subtle difference, and especially not with a data-reduced file embedded in an internet article auditioned on their phone while riding the subway to work...!

I agree and maybe for some, it wouldn't be apparent even in good listening conditions. If it's a good transfer of a good sounding original, with not too much dynamic range, one generation's losses often aren't huge. But again, a decent representative comparative sample, with suitable bitrate, could illustrate just that point. A definite difference but it can be subtle and sometimes undetectable.

Hugh Robjohns wrote:The kind of distortions you're talking about on The Genius of Ray Charles (which I agree does sound very poor) aren't the result of simple generation loss. There's a far more substantial cock up or serious incompetence involved somewhere in that production/mastering chain...

Agreed again. It seems from more reading that this particular album has some puzzling audio issues. Steve Hoffman who was asked to remaster it in the 90's (and did but says he didn't charge for his work) wrote: " Great album, bad sound. Never have figured it out."

https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/ ... 950/page-4

Tim.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 2:20 pm
by James Perrett
Tim Gillett wrote:People can hear the difference for themselves.

The difference will be tiny and inaudible to most people unless the copy has had further processing applied. In my experience, the biggest loss is in the transition from live to the first generation of tape. Subsequent generation losses are smaller than that first loss in my experience.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:05 pm
by Watchmaker
Some things are precious because they seem permanent, some because they are ephemeral. Then again, some things become more valuable through the winnowing. fwiw, there's been a great deal more beautiful things "lost" because they were never documented/recorded/hoarded in the first place. Sometimes by design.

Re: A bit of sad news on a few fronts

PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2019 4:36 am
by Tim Gillett
James Perrett wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:People can hear the difference for themselves.

The difference will be tiny and inaudible to most people unless the copy has had further processing applied. In my experience, the biggest loss is in the transition from live to the first generation of tape. Subsequent generation losses are smaller than that first loss in my experience.

I think it depends on the dynamics of the live sound. For tape with 70db dynamic range capacity, a live dynamic of 90db wont "fit", hence the big losses. But from then on, the losses wont be as great, as the big damage has already been done. Whereas if the live dynamic was only 60db, the losses should be the same at each generation, I would have thought.