Nagra Tape recorders How many here actually have used them before digital.

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Posted

What kind of stories can you share about your work using them? It's truly hard to believe whole movies were recorded on them not for lack of quality but with using Tape.  It must have been so much more work using tape then todays recorders.

Any stories?  I don't think many collectors have the opportunity to ask the people that used Nagra recorders every day in their career in sound.  And another question - before the Stereo Nagra IVs and IVs-tc (time code), the sound was recorded in mono?

All movies before were in Mono that can't be?

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Posted

It wasn't more complicated than this at times. I mic, 1 nagra, 2 dashing young men.;~)

CrewC

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Posted

EVERYTHING was simpler! The whole process of recording sound for picture, technically, was less complex. Tape had nothing to do with it. As for having used the Nagra, many of the people here on JWSOUND used Nagra recorders for the a great majority of their careers. In my career, I didn't use any other portable recorder until 1989 when I started experimenting with DAT recorders. Before that, I had already done at least 30 feature films, hundreds of commercials and lots of documentaries. The Nagra recorders were the main machines used by everyone from about 1961 to the early 1990's. The only competitive recorder was the Stellavox which had very few people (in the U.S.) using it. Bruce Bisenz is the only mainstream sound mixer I knew who routinely used his Stellavox. 

 

There are stories to tell about the Nagra, for sure, but far more interesting stories to be told about our experiences on the job, using the recorder that we all used. The pure equipment-type stories, things you hear about today with corrupted files, low level iso tracks, sample rate conversions, timecode drift, none of these stories ever even applied to the Nagra. Also, in answer to your question about mono recordings, yes, the majority of production sound was recorded mono, 1 track, and even when stereo and multitrack release formats showed up, almost all sound was mono or manipulated mono, mixed to fill the theater in stereo or surround sound.

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Posted

It wasn't more complicated than this at times. I mic, 1 nagra, 2 dashing young men.;~)

CrewC

I had a visit with your colleague Bill on Thursday, Crew.

Best regards,

Jim

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Posted

I think these photos (you've seen a lot of them already) show how simple things really were.

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"Over the Shoulder" in Vancouver, Canada on a MOW (Movie of the Week). And no, that's not Don with me --- it is Rob Young, a Canadian sound mixer who boomed for me on that job.

 

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On "An Officer and a Gentleman" --- classic movie-making: 1 camera, 1 mic (in the hands of my dear friend and fellow worker, Don Coufal), and 1 track (mono Nagra 4.2). Where are the ISOS? What happened to the metadata? Why is the timecode on the slate 1 frame out?

 

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On "Bound For Glory" --- not a lot of equipment being used by the sound department on this. Nagra 4.2 and Sela Mixer sitting on my Sears soundcart, legendary boom operator Pat Suraci on the Fisher Boom.

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Posted

Hey Jim, I figured you'd see Bill as he's in your part of the world on a show. Great guy. Take care.

 I am the boom man as we were called back then. "Waco" Bill Macpherson is carrying the Nagra. The film was "The Milagro Beanfield War" 1986 I believe. 

 

Some of us kept the Nagras but we turned in all the tapes to those who paid us to record the work for them. No one has a tape from a show as far as I know. As jeff said it was a more simple workflow. 

CrewC

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Posted

Another shot, team work on "An Officer and a Gentleman" with Don Coufal booming and Crew cabling. I know some of these shots don't show the recorder (because I'm not in them!) but they are representative of the years and years of filmmaking with the Nagra.

 

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Posted

The strips of tape on the lid served as my temporary sound report. I could somewhat easily scribble scene, take and notes on the camera tape and then when I got back to the cart I would copy the notes off the lid and onto the sound report.

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Posted

Wait till you see Lightstone's pix.  

You have a low bar  for the famous ZippoReel. We recorded some of the famous but we were and are just work a day dandies at best. The tape is to write down the scene n take numbers until you could do it on a proper sound report. Sadly our memories are just a memory these days. The pictures help. Glad you enjoy them though.

CrewC

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Posted

I started with the Uher before I moved to the Nagra III.   Worst part was the battery weight.

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Posted

As you've heard, filmmaking was very different back then, as far as sound went anyhow.  Shooting film, recording on reel-to-reel tape, there were far more interruptions and the rhythm of the days revolved around mag and reel changes.  Movie sound people were MIXERS, in that most projects of any kind were recorded to a single mono track.  So however many mics you decided to use were going to have to be mixed down live, on location, as the actors spoke their lines and the film rolled.  It was hairy.  It was also very GREAT.   Production sound has come a long way in fidelity and flexibility, but it is often a lot less FUN than it was then.  Sorry.   Nagras are very cool things, they inspire confidence in a way that no other piece of gear I've ever owned has.  They were killingly expensive for a newbie to get ahold of, finally being able to purchase one's own Nagra put everyone on notice that you had arrived as a soundie.

 

philp 

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Posted

1973, "The White Dawn", with Nagra 4.2 on Baffin Island, near Frobisher Bay. Boom Operator, Norman Mercier, left edge of photo..

 

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Posted

great pictures! would love to see more...

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Posted

great pictures! would love to see more...

 

+1

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Posted

Before I could afford to rent a Nagra, I rented Uhers with pilottone. Before I could afford to own a Nagra, I owned an Arrivox (an under-appreciated machine). Eventually I owned a NIII, NIV, and NIV-S...   So yeah, lots of hands-on.

 

(During the Blizzard of 1978 - which effectively closed Boston for a week, and made this weekend's sprinkling look like dandruff - I started going stir-crazy. So I walked the mile to where the transit system was actually running, went into the studio, and spent the day aligning all my Nagras. Wonderful therapy.)

 

The biggest difference in film sound in those days - in fact, in all audio production - wasn't tape vs tapeless.

 

It was generation loss, followed as a distant second by noise buildup from multiple tracks. Consider that a release print was at least seven generations removed from the original (including two of optical)... it's a wonder things sounded as good as they did.

 

Pix suffered the same problems. Even on mainstream films, you could sometimes spot the efx by looking for the extra film grain.

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Posted

Check out "Blow Out"   ( not Blow Up)  John Travolta and Nancy Allen (1981) for a Hollywood version of cheap film making.

Love those Ampex 350s running too.

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Posted

I had a Uher 4000 for years before being able to save up enough to buy a used Nagra III.  The Nagra was a great improvement....

 

Here's some pix from 1982 of an early "TC on 1/4"" shoot--a Ford commercial being shot in the Napa valley.  It was taken from One Pass Inc's little brochure sent to commercial production companies and ad agencies about the wonderfulness of their shoot film/edit video system (they had the first telecine in NoCal).   We're using the Coherent TC system--the assistant @ right has the slate which was really just a reader and had to be hard-wired to a 9 pin connector on the back of the Coherent TC gen (UNDER THE BACK of the Nagra, thanks very much).  The system worked but soundies and ACs hated it.  Very quickly a variation came into use of recording TC on the Nagra but using an old-fashioned slate for the mark--this system persisted for years (Pilotone+TC on a Nagra IV-SL).  Much has been written about the stupidity of this idea, but when the TC worked it saved a lot of time and when it didn't (often) you still had the Pilotone.

 

The blow up of the pic is me and my little cart of that time--mixer+home made DA on top, wireless RX in the black box on the back, Nagra on the middle shelf.  The boom man is Steve Balliet.  Steve, this cart and I did several features with this system at that time, incl "Smooth Talk" (Laura Dern, Treat Williams, Levon Helm).

 

philp

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Posted

Thought I'd join the conversation here.

 

Here is a pic of a my brand new Nagra 4STC in 1985. It sits along side my mono Nagra on a record/playback job. Under the Nagras was my just released Sonosax mixer - I loved that mixer!

 

The cart is one I made from parts of the Ultimate Support keyboard stands and was very light weight. I still have the cart in my basement.

 

Maybe Jeff could add this to the gallery under an "Older Technology" section.

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Posted

I forgot how sexy that Sax mixer looked when it was new--too expensive for me always....are you still using it?  I don't think anything has come along that sounds better.

 

philp

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Posted

I forgot how sexy that Sax mixer looked when it was new--too expensive for me always....are you still using it?  I don't think anything has come along that sounds better.

 

philp

I still own it but a lot of the caps dried out and it got a bit noisy. I keep thinking I'd like to have someone overhaul it but that could be expensive. It has really nice EQ and headroom. I still use an analog panel though - Cooper 208D.

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Posted

My first 4.2 came with the 2 large knobs and the 1 black center (line) knob.

 

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Later, when I bought a second 4.2, it had 3 identical black knobs. I changed the 2 knobs on the first machine to the matching black knobs (though the black knobs lacked any sort of pointer indicator that you could feel). At one point I swapped the Nagra knobs out for old, vintage RCA knobs with a reall good pointer --- gave the machine a sort of retro look.

 

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Posted

I had almost forgotten how little was on our carts back then.  Now at wrap we just tidy up, unplug the cart, collapse an antenna, push to the truck and strap the carts in.  It use to be that when you got to the truck, all the gear came off and put into cases.  The only thing left on the carts would be pens, paper and a few loose cables.  The next morning you had to build it all again.  If I had to build and tear down my cart everyday now, I would be a rich man from all the overtime they'd have to pay me.

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With the cart shown above everything stayed onboard except the Nagra when we went to the truck.  But even a full breakdown wouldn't have taken very long, it just wasn't that much gear.  Many days it was just the Nagra working, without the rest of that stuff.  I only started using a mixer a lot of the time when I moved to a Nagra IV-SL when TC started to happen--the 4.2 had so much going on on it that I rarely needed a mixer with it once I had a KAT15 ext preamp for the line input (center knob).

 

philp

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Do you mean production sound dialog mics in use when the IV-STC was in use?  Schoeps MK41, Senn. 416/816, Neumann KMR82 and 81, at least these were what we used in CA at that time.  

 

philp

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Posted

Here's two of hundreds. First started with the Nagra III in 1975, followed by the IV-L, 4.2, IS, IV-S, IV-STC, IV-SJ, SN, T, and D.

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