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JBond

Nagra Stories Sound-men won’t ever tell

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22 minutes ago, Nick Flowers said:

That's interesting Jeff. I never met anybody who actually used the QRRT, I've only read about it. When the camera turned over did you get any indication - a beep in the headphones or perhaps the Maltese cross flicking? Or did you keep the Nagra running? or did the cameraman advise you?

You know, I don't really quite remember how it all worked. I seem to remember that you had to have the Nagra rolling and then when the camera rolled the QRRT system did its thing. I vaguely recall that there might even have been a way to leave the Nagra engaged, mechanically, in record and the QRRT would roll the Nagra using the remote roll feature. I'm going to do some research because I would like to make it clear beyond my fuzzy memory of this system.

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I never had occasion to work with the QRRT system with its auto-pen marking. I was aware of the capability - Nagra promoted it in their literature - but I didn't know of a shop with the necessary hardware.

I did work with a radio slating system on a few occasions. That was a difficult and often frustrating experience. The system actually worked quite well but it demanded discipline. Users had to refrain from doing something dumb or the advantages would be undone. In the field, that proved to be an impossibly high standard.

A radio transmitter attached to the camera would send a signal to a receiver whenever the camera rolled. The 16mm sync cameras of the day were already equipped with a "bloop" system that could turn on an internal lamp to flash the film. The lamp, if the feature were turned on, would be switched on when the camera rolled and stay on until it achieved sync speed, typically about six or eight frames.

A Nagra could be remote-rolled through one of the tuchel connectors (maybe the mixer connector?). One would set the main function switch to one of the roll positions (Record or Record-No Limiter) but the transport would not be activated until a connection was completed at two pins in the tuchel connector. The radio receiver would complete that connection on receipt of a "roll" signal from the camera's radio transmitter. The receiver would also trigger the internal oscillator on the Nagra to make a beep tone on the tape. 

In editing, one would sync up by matching the last frame of fogged film from the camera with the last frame of beep tone. This is essentially how the system worked with a cabled connection and the radio links just improved on built-in capabilities by eliminating the need for a wired link.

It's a pretty clever system and it worked very reliably.

Reliable, that is, until people actually became involved. In editing, it was often difficult to distinguish between "blooped" frames and the frames flashed by checking the gate. And few camera operators could control the urge to bump the run switch for some reason known only to themselves. Whoever was syncing materials often found that the number of camera start flashes and the number and location of start beeps was a mismatch. But, used with discipline and accompanied by occasional clapper slates to establish reference points, the system could be a great enhancement in documentary situations where slating and record keeping were difficult or impossible.

David

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Was it also possible to suppress the neopilot signal momentarily instead of using the tone generator on the Nagra when the camera turned over using the QRRT system? I have a vague recollection of this being mentioned. Presumably this was so the audio track wouldn't be spoiled if the camera started up late.

The slate numbers, IIRC, went from 00 to 99 and take numbers from 0 to 9. If the information was encoded in flashes of the bloop light in the camera gate and pulses on the 1/4", I wonder how long it took to relay the longest synch signal?

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"Was it also possible to suppress the neopilot signal momentarily instead of using the tone generator on the Nagra when the camera turned over using the QRRT system?"

Yes, that is precisely how the Nagra QRRT system worked.

Competing systems were just a tad less sophisticated.

David

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Note:  I am showing these vintage tape recorders as part of my collection only.  They are out of service and no longer used in the manner they were designed, but remain a part of audio recording history.  It should not be considered in any way as endorsing or promoting any activity contrary to applicable laws and regulations.  

 

fAh1WLb.jpg

Photos marked with RJW are copyrighted.  Any use other than private with or without the RJW watermark is strictly forbidden, without written permission from the owner.

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Many years ago Bill Ruck told me about the "black" version of the Nagra SN, basically that it was an SN with a Mu Metal body to suppress most of the signal leakage that enabled anti-spook equipment of the day to detect that a recording was being made close by.  He said that I could call Nagra and try to order one, but that if I did I would likely get a visit from some men in suits with badges who would want to know why I needed that recorder.   I didn't need the spy SN but the normal SN came in very handy several times, doing talent recording things that would be done with the Zax recording type TX or Tascam DR10 today nearly 40 years ago.

The pilot-suppression slate was a really useful method of conserving film on long doco interviews without interrupting the conversation for a slate or a blooper light etc.  It required the Nagra being cabled to the camera, but that wasn't usually an issue on this kind of shoot.  The shooter really had to be "in the game" though, listening closely and watching through the eyepiece with their finger on the roll button ready for "that moment" to come…and then shut off after to conserve film and keep disruptive mag-changes to a minimum.  Sound rolled on and on, sometimes with two Nagras tag-teaming.

p

 

 

 

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That was the problem with the SN as a spy recorder Phillip. It could be detected.   It wasn’t until Nagra developed the JBR for the CIA in 1984. Nagra was under strict orders not to reveal it for many years. The JBR could not be detected at the time and was unknown to anybody that was not in the intelligence business. 

 
This is my Nagra promotional picture of the JBR which was from a convention for the intelligence community. I was lucky to get it on eBay, same with the SN poster below same seller different times. I don’t think anybody knew what the picture of the JBR was.  It shows the tape cartridge with the cartridge taken apart, it can’t be used like that. It was taken apart just for the photo.
I guess Nagra wanted to remind people that it was still a reel to reel in hiding. I display mine like the photo and the reels are always falling off if I hit it. 
 
0k2wrJ5.jpg
 
 
wiRrNDS.jpg
 
The JBR is old now, but compared to all those little recorders in this pictures it was lightyears ahead. 
 
I6zz04u.jpg
All Photos marked RJW are copyrighted. Any use other than private with or without the RJW watermark is strictly forbidden, without written permission from the owner.
 
 
This JBR picture with the newspaper is also what gave me the idea to do the Nixon photo with the SN, I don’t smoke cigarettes so it was a fun experience setting up the shot. I still have not perfected what I was looking for. 
Between the smoke and the whiskey, I felt like I was at the bar. In fact, my house still smells like a bar.
 
Malcolm, you’re right, about the watch, it was my 60th birthday present from my wife and kids a couple of weeks ago. It’s a nice self-winding  Laco still made in Germany. The SN picture is supposed to suggest that the 18 minutes are not missing. So I added the watch. Nixon used an Uher and a Sony as recorders. “Others" used the SN at that time.  Even found a Watergate Hotel ashtray from the early seventies.  The updated picture will be better and have more smoke in it. 

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Note:  I am showing these vintage tape recorders as part of my collection only.  They are out of service and no longer used in the manner they were designed, but remain a part of audio recording history.  It should not be considered in any way as endorsing or promoting any activity contrary to applicable laws and regulations.  

 

 

At least now you see the smoke.  I also just noticed "AG" on the tape ... hmmm  - Agnew?  It fits with the rest of it.

 AG was on the tape when I bought  the SN

 

fAh1WLb.jpgAll Photos marked RJW are copyrighted.

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Nick, you’re no fun, I guess I can’t pull the wool over you old analog guys. 

That’s all right, the first picture was not that clear and didn't catch the cigarette smoke. So this next set of pictures I figured I'd put this mechanical pencil in it. Yeah, that looks good laying on the newspaper. Guy had to have a pen with him right. All done went through 50 pictures looking for the best one, smoke, no smoke, too much smoke, editing it watermarking it etc. Got it all done my prize picture, looking at it, wow, nice smoke, WHAT !! the headphones were unplugged and realized the pen I had in it was not around till ten years later.

Oh, yah, this is fun, light up those cigarettes again. Sun, where’s the sun? redo all the setting take another 50 shots, smoke different all the time. I ended up putting toy train smoke fluid on the burning cigarettes that worked better.

Some production designer I'm am? Or was...

Hey, at least I don’t have to do those cigarettes again, AG still fits, or AGFA even better now.

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15 hours ago, JBOND said:

At least now you see the smoke.  I also just noticed "AG" on the tape ... hmmm  - Agnew?  It fits with the rest of it.

 AG was on the tape when I bought  the SN

 

fAh1WLb.jpg

The watch in the photo is a German flight navigators watch from WW2 and a modern version is still available here in the UK.

 

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I was shown the JBR by a Nagra rep who came out to NZ the same time that the Nagra D was introduced.

He showed me that the whole mechanism could be lifted out of the milled metal case.

An interesting fact to was that the bias oscillator frequency chosen was that of quartz watches so that

and rf sniffers would not be suspicious of it's proximity!

mike

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The JBR experience.

Note:  I am showing these vintage tape recorders as part of my collection only.  They are out of service and no longer used in the manner they were designed, but remain a part of audio recording history.  It should not be considered in any way as endorsing or promoting any activity contrary to applicable laws and regulations.  

 

 

Thanks for the post-Mike. So they showed you it when the Nagra D came out, that would’ve been somewhere in 1992 unless you’re talking about the DII which was 1999.

I didn’t realize it was out of the bag by 1992? But it very well could have been, technology was changing super fast at that time. Digital was not just the Nagra D.  It was the SN and the SNST that were secret the longest.
 
The JBR was a very nice unit as you say, right down to how it was built. It's mounted on springs in the case the whole chassis floats.  It was so much more advanced than anything before it. It was probably as far as one could go with recording on tape.
What is even more interesting than the JBR itself was the Playback unit. 
I knew of the JBR at that time but never saw one or even a picture of one. One day about 13 years or more ago now ( damn how time is going by) on eBay a playback unit came up for sale. I knew what it was, I don’t think too many others did.
 I bid on it and won.  I think I got it for about 600.00  somewhere around that price without looking it up.  26,000.00 it was when new in 1986.  I thought I got a real good deal, mine is in new condition.
 
After having the playback unit for more than a year, I knew when I bought the playback unit It was only a matter of time and a JBR would be up for sale. 
About a year or so later someone contacted me thru eBay, he had a JBR for sale and would sell it to me for 1200.00 he was not going to list it on eBay but would sell it to me. 
Yeah, I was taking a chance. 
 
Playback unit new, 26,000.00,  JBR new 4,000
It was that price for a reason. 
Over time the new CBR  "Covert Body Recorder" the digital recorder that replaced it was I think about 12,000.00, but could be played back and manipulated on any computer. So 26K plus 4K could have been the reason for its short life besides it was tape in a digital world.
The CBR was since 2007, I can't wait till they replace it. It would make a nice addition to my other spy recorders.
But it will probably be a long time since it probably has the capability to update the software and could go on forever. 
There are no controls just turn it on. All the controls are on the computer.
 
In this picture below it shows the JBR (1984), The PS1 playback unit (1986) and what was used to playback the JBR tapes before the playback unit was invented. I bought that adaptor as new old stock.
 
The JBR was out in 1984 but without the Playback unit. The only way to playback the JBR tapes (for two years) was to use this adaptor shown together with the SNST, what is not shown is the flip down crank to rewind the tape while used with the Nagra SNST.
 
I’m very lucky to have this adaptor or any of this stuff. Most of it was destroyed. I have a x- xxx friend that has a Playback unit that was beaten with a hammer and thrown in a dumpster. That is what they did in the early years when they got rid of this stuff. Destroy it.
Included is a picture of the playback unit he has in his collection. I saw this picture before I bought the one on eBay.
So you can see why I thought I got a good deal.
 
I’m sorry for the added copyright stuff, but you have to realize you will not find pictures like this in a collection
anywhere on the internet.
 JWsound members are welcome to view and have the pictures for your personal use.
These pictures are exclusive to Jwsound members, this is the only place I post them. They are here if you are interested to view, if not, that is ok too. I think some of you are interested that is why I continue to post them.
 
The problem is the way I list the pictures, they don’t start as thumbnails that you have to click on and usually be a member to view them.  The problem with that is you don’t have to be a member or signed into JWsound to view them, so the viewers are not vetted by Jeff first. So anybody can view them.
 
I know some of you may be turned off by the RJW collection watermark on the pictures, like I'm making a big deal.
But what else can I do? I don't want to see my collection on others web sites,  as it's their own collection, no longer mine. It's a big world out there.
I'll go back and edit and correct the mistakes later.
 
vZaozYo.jpg
 
 

78PPb3L.jpg

 
Below is another picture of the adaptor, before I had an extra SNST to slide into it. The adaptor is made out of an SN frame and bottom cover.
The JBR mount on it swings out and locks in either position. The SNST slides and locks into the unit. 
 

w8mmX5x.jpgAll photos marked RJW are copyrighted.  Any use other than private with or without the RJW watermark is strictly forbidden, without written permission from the owner.

 

 

 

 

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An  email from Stefan Kudelski's daughter earlier this year after she put my collection on their Facebook page.
I posted the video earlier but not the email.
 
Dear 
 
Thanks a lot for sharing your "Nagra collection" It looks great!
 
I'm glad to know that these devices developed by my father more than 30 years ago are still alive. My father would have appreciate it.
I share with you a link that one employee of the company shared with us.
 
We see that the Nagra Legend is still alive.
 
Best regards
 
Marguerite Kudelski
 

 

Merci / Thank You

Meilleures salutations / Best regards

 

             Marguerite Kudelski

             Chief Technical Officer

  

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JBOND: Thank you so much for sharing your personal collection of recorders with us. That's amazing information, and I appreciate each post. I'm a big fan of reel to reel and I'm in awe of the JBR. I don't blame you at all for protecting your pictures. They're one of a kind and you go to a lot of trouble to present them in the finest light. It's history not many will ever see.

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Thank you Rachel very much.  It’s good to know there are some people like you that enjoy what I post.  It makes it worth sharing.

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My Nagra source, the story
Just want to share a story, and correct a story I posted earlier on this thread.
 
I was on Youtube watching a Nagra SN video a couple of weeks ago.  The video had 70,000 plus views.  I noticed a couple of comments  from others that didn’t make sense from what I know. So I replied to two of the posts. 
The first comment to the video I replied to.
The poster said the chassis is milled from a solid piece of titanium, and the SN could not be detected.
I said that he was confusing the description of the Nagra SN with the description of the Nagra JBR. 
I said the Nagra SN could be detected and that is why the JBR was developed.  He replied  that I knew nothing about Nagra and ended his post by saying Greeting from Switzerland. I guess because he is from Switzerland he should know.  I replied , I know quite a bit about Nagras and said View my collection on Nagra Audio. Not another post from him who ever he was. 
 
To make it easier to follow, My questions are in red.
The second  comment I replied to
 From someone else that said the SN was short for Small Nagra, Because in the video they called it “Serie Noire”   what SN stood for. 
I replied no it’s not.  SN means  Série Noire”,  in translation it means Series Black (this I know).
He replied he worked for Nagra. 
I said, you may have called it Small Nagra between the workers at the factory but it originally meant “Serie Noire”, this is common knowledge I posted.  
He replied
SN means Small Nagra, SNS means Small Nagra Slow SNN small Nagra Nab etc. and the IS meant Intermediate Size Nagra,
I thought to myself what is this guy crazy?  IS meant Idioten Sicher” translated  Fool-proof, or idiot proof this I also know.
I replied to him. Do you know what the ISS is? (thinking I would shut this guy up also)
He replied yes I do, its to playback SN tapes,  The ISS - Intermediate Size SN, he went on to say he retrofitted the ISS to playback the stereo SNST tapes.
Wow! Oh boy I thought,  if he knows about the ISS he is someone very important that I want to talk to.
I replied can we talk out of the public? I posted my email address on youtube and asked him to contact me.
Then I promptly deleted the youtube post with my email address in it.   Just in case anybody is wondering, if you post a reply to someone on youtube they get an email of your reply. Not your email address, unless its in your reply.
If you delete the post on youtube the person you replied to, still has the email with whatever you said. 
 
So he contacted me.
We spent that last couple of weeks emailing back and forth. 
I can tell you he has been on the ground floor when all of these items were developed:  the Nagrafax, the IS, JBR, T- Audio, Time code IV-STC  SJ and the VPR-5.  He became the leader in the service for the FBI and all the other agencies. The JBR’s, he was the man in the know, trained at the factory, he new what all the problems were and what the fix was etc.  
He knows the behind the scene stories like- the one of the "first JBR" unit being hand delivered as the plane landed in the US, handed off to a waiting agent at the airport for a on going investigation . The agency was waiting for this NEW device that could not be detected.  He told me the JBR’s were delivered with absolutely NO means of playback of the tape. 
 
He is well aware of the JBR SNST playback adaptor that I have and talked about in the last post. He was actually surprised I had one.  He has told many stories that I would like him to tell on this site.  I’m sure some of you probably even know of him. He has made many trips to Nagra in Switzerland for weeks at a time to learn about these “NEW” (back in the day) products and how to service them.
 I asked if I can tell some of these stories on this site, there are many more  but this one is a contradiction of what I posted earlier on this site and wanted to clear it up for the record. 
 I like to keep what I post as accurate as I can.  
One of the first questions I ask him was, What came first the IS or the ISS ?
His reply
The Factory never had any intention to make a ISS for SNST playback. The FBI Wanted one but the PU-1 (that was never made) Was Supposed to Fill That Need !!  When the PS-1 was Finally Delivered, the Bureau Wasn't Happy it Only Played JBR tapes !!!
As for ISS being developed and the IS-LT 1/4” being a afterthought, As Far As I Know, NO !!
The 1/4" IS-LT was developed as a result of taking a 4.2 and a QGB and resizing it into a small package. What upset the Market was the reel size limitations !!!!
The IS wasn't popular and didn't sell well. The few that were sold had technical issues !!!
One of my first items I was given to service was a IS-LT. I found the problem was in that Pre-selector push button assembly. If you look at a Service Manual, you will see a couple of different versions of that assembly !! 
When I started working for NMRI-NY, they had three service technicians. None were capable of Servicing the New Generation of Nagra’s, TI, TRVR, T-Audio, PS-1, JBR, VPR-5 etc.
Sometimes it’s hard to put into words to tell the whole story.
What about the other IS for SN tapes the ISN? I read somewhere? I thought that was for SN playback and the ISS was for SNST playback ? 
His reply :
Honestly, I No Longer Have My Service Manuals or Notes. I Have to Rely on my Memory !!
My Memory for Names is Bad, but my Memory for Details is Very Good !! However, I'm about to turn 62 and I left Nagra (NMRI) in 1989 !!!  But I Was Passionate about my Job and my Job was to Teach !!  Teach for Service, Teach for Sales !!!  As I told you Rumors of potential products would hurt sales.
You keep on thinking the IS Family of Nagra's was developed for the SN !!  No it Wasn’t !!!!
The IS Family consisted of a couple of Variations, mostly 1/4" transports !!! Their was One 1/8" transport, the ISS in Mono Only for SNS recordings. The FBI wanted a Stereo ISS but it Never Existed !!   The FBI paid us/me to make 2 Stereo ISS’s !!
Parts: Reproduce Head from PS-1, 2 Audio Reproduce Circuits from the SNST And You Still Needed the DSP for its "Expander" Circuitry !!!
The IS Service Manual Contained ALL the different variations in one manual !!!
The ISN is the NAB (USA) standard 1/4" recorder Synch or Non-Synch. Their was a European IS (CCIR) Standard. I don't exactly remember the different hyphens!!!
Again, Their Was Only One ISS (Intetmediate Size SN) Mono !!!
NEVER WERE TAPES PLAYED IN COURT ON A ISS !!!   NEVER !!!!   Always played on the same type it was recorded on !!!!  Especially, The Fear Of Erasure !!!!
It's virtually impossible to erase or record over an Evidence tape on a SNS OR SNST !!!
JUST UNPLUG THE MICS !!!  What the FBI would do is remove the Bias Oscillator and record circuits on DEDICATED PLAYBACK MACHINES !!!!
On the ISS it is very easy to Erase a tape !!!   Never used !!  Only for TRANSCRIBING !!! 
 
I am very please I was able to get it touch with this man,  just by a fluke posting on Youtube. I enjoyed the many stories told, that otherwise I never would have known and I’m sure he enjoyed bringing back some of his own memories.
 
So on post  #177 reposted below,  I said I thought the ISS was developed first and the IS was the consumer model developed from that. 
As I have Now been told above the IS came first and the ISS for SN use came later.  By the way my source did not know about this site, my collection or any wrong information posted until I told him about it.  
 

 

On 4/2/2015 at 10:43 PM, 480sound said:

 

 

Enthralling history for anybody interested in sound recording, I heard that Kudelski got into making custom spy and satellite communications equipment. He made so much more money than with manufacturing Nagras, so he moved on. Wasn't there a rumor out there that Nagra had an updated stereo analog machine about the size and weight of the IS that they had prototyped and were thinking of making. We all know that the analog recording will always have its special place in history. Too bad it can't be carried on. Look at what Kodak is doing to keep Film alive.  

Pretty good info there 480 sound

Though not a prototype. Some people think the IS was made lightweight for ladies, Ladies don’t need a three motor recorder with an advanced braking system. The IS was a by product of the ISS.

The ISS shown below is a 3 motor with shuttle dial for finding a spot on an SN tape. Sn tape is spliced together on a 5 inch special reel. Notice the SN hubs on the reels.
Can you imagine listing to hours and hours  of recorded spy info with a hand crank rewind? They needed a small light weight recorder to play back the tape. One you can say what was that ? and shuttle the tape back and forth to find the spot. 
Yes they do exist.  A ladies recorder? right. Thats a good one.  These are the stories sound-men won’t ever tell. 
This is also just my opinion and not fact that I can back up. You be the judge. 
Notice I have no watermark on these photos, I wish it was mine. This is my missing link.
The holy grail of recorders.
 
AQGlnUq.jpg
 
Oz1myCu.jpg

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