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JBond

Nagra Stories Sound-men won’t ever tell

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The Harvey TC display was one of my favorite things about that mod.    I think that Nagra III might have been painted black in the field, perhaps after being damaged in some way.  Nagras led hard lives back then….

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I know there were a few variations on the Nagra III. Would have to dig out an old price list to find out what they were. I do recall a BH designation, but don't know right off hand what it stood for.

-Scott

1958 Black Nagra III, the first one? Were they black? Anybody ever seen one?

Makes sense since I and II were black, brown and gray.

http://www.radiomuseum.org/r/kudelski_nagra_iii_b_bh.html

"I don't care what they're talking about, all I want is a nice fat recording".

Harry Caul "The Conversation"

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JBond   

Philip, I don’t think it was repainted, in 1958  they were different. 

The one I showed you in this link was serial number B5828 and it looked black because it was a poor photo.

 
The deck set up and heads looks more advanced looking than the Nagra III’s we know. Different as Jeff pointed out.
In the first link, the machine shows some type of experimental deck cover release on the side. Looks like they wanted just a twist of two screws to open it up. It makes it stick out more and probably why it was changed later to the plate with four screws.
 
 
There are three different Nagra III’s in the bottom link. I believe all 1958 at least two of them are for sure.
 
The first Nagra III in the link below has the same serial number as the one I called the black one in the in link above.
The caption is wrong, calling it 1961 it’s not it's 1958. For sure it's 1958
 
This serial number is the same B5828 if you zoom in (click on the picture, click twice) you can see on the corner the paint looks very factory, This is the first Nagra III paint scheme. With a clear aluminum deck lid (no paint on it) as shown in the pictures.
You know how nice the reel deck lid is on a Nagra III acid etched silk screened imagine no paint around the top edge like shown in all these pictures.
 
The Same type of wrinkle paint used as the Nagra I and Nagra II Not Nagra II c   You can see they were experimenting with paint in the early years. 
 
The last two pictures in this link shows another 1958 in very good condition, looks like mint condition with the same dark gray wrinkle paint. As near as I can tell serial number B5822
It also shows the power adaptor in the same color gray.
 
So I believe this last machine is 1958 # 22  B5822  At some point they changed the heads the paint and who know what else to become the machines we know. That is the date I'm not certain.
On a Nagra III, the first set of numbers is the date. I have a 1962 and 1967 
I have seen a serial number date for every Nagra III except 1959 
So either 1958 59 were the same or its just 1958 that looks like these three here.
A 1960 thru 1967 looks just the same as the rest with the total gray hammer paint top and bottom.
 
 
 
 
 

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Jeff do you still have any of your old Nagras to play with or look at now and then.

I lok at them often (even more so recently since you started this thread). The recorders I still have that are not in use at all: two Nagra 4.2s, 1 HHB Portadat 1000TC and 1 Sony DCD-10 Pro DAT machine. Probably if I look around there may be a few others, a Sony Pro Walkman, an older Sony cassette deck with a sync head (for use in double system Super 8mm filming) and a couple of mini DATman portables and a Mini-Disc player/recorder.

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, Tascams and Casios were obviously the same machine with different features.  

 

For historical accuracy:   The TEAC DA-P20 was an OEM version of the Casio DA-7 DAT.   The TASCAM DA-P1 was a complete ground up design.

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dolo72   

Does anyone know anything about a timecode mono nagra 4.2 ?  I have seen one in the past and it looked like the 'Harvey mod' because the TC display was front facing just behind the dust cover.

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Around the time that commercial production in the US went over to mandatory timecode recording (previously, timecode was not necessary) someone did develop a method of doing timecode on a mono Nagra. There were actually a couple of methods and there may have been a few people involved in doing this, all in an effort to continue using the mono Nagra 4.2 (and not be forced to buy the Nagra IV-STC 2-track machine when we didn't need a 2 tracks or a new machine). I know there was one method which was a little bit like the pre-cursor to timecode "stamp" we have in today's world of file based recording. When you went in to record, a short burst of timecode (audio) would be recorded and the same code shown on a display that the camera could photograph --- you could say that this was sort of a "smart bloop light" that utilized timecode. Another system actually recorded continuous linear timecode on the tape utilizing a modified neopilot sync head and somehow providing a timecode track that did not disrupt the mono full track recording. The last method that I remember involved replacing the headstack with a 2-track record head and all the associated and necessary circuits to make the mono Nagra actually a 2-track machine with program on one track and timecode on the other.

 

I don't think any of these systems ever got any wide acceptance and most people just bit the bullet and purchased a new Nagra IV-STC for $14,000.  

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The only mono Nagra timecode conversion that I am familiar with was built by Neil Stone. He replaced the whole headstack in a mono machine with Nagra stereo heads. He used a standard Denecke GR-1 to provide the sync signal. The GR-1 also provided the settings buttons to permit selection of rate and inputting the start time, etc. I expect that there were other internal modifications as well.

 

Regrettably, Neil is no longer with us but his son, Neil Jr., or Melinda, his daughter, might be able to provide additional information. And, no, I don't know how to contact either of them.

 

David

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Thanks, David, I thought Neil Stone had done one of the conversions but I couldn't remember the details. Neil was THE man in the day, lots of innovative things he created as well as providing top notch Nagra service and maintenance. I miss him.

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Did anyone on your side of the pond ever see the 8 track Nagra using half inch tape that David Lane (Rip) who was the UK's leading Nagra guru developed. There wasn't enough room inside for the eight sets of electronics so he built them into a separate Nagra box. I don't know what happened to the machine but was 8 tracks for film forward thinking or what?

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I had Neil Stone do about 3 of those TC-4.2 conversions about 1995 I think. I worked at a college and the instructor was Stu Fox.

I Iearned a lot from Stu.

It was a good conversion, and if I set up the GR-1 to Generate and Read 30fps, usually a student could plug it in and there would at least be code. But... had problems with that mod. Some really "smarter-than-I" student would decide on set...."we don't need no TC".... and make the decision to NOT plug in the GR-1. Yep.... a couple of projects with sound running wild, as there wasn't any other kind of sync after that mode was done.

 

And then there were the times I would get phone calls in the evening from students.....saying something like..."The GR-1 is saying 30FPS" and I would go "ok.. that's good".. and then the I'd get the, "ya, but we are shooting at 24fps".. and I would say "good to go"

and student would say, YA, BUT WE ARE SHOOTING AT 24! And my response was, "So, you learned nothing from Stu Fox's class, right?"

 

And then there was a time I checked a Nagra after a weekend shoot, and noticed some marks on the record head. I asked student who used it where the marks came from, and their reply was "I wasn't getting anything on tape, and I knew it was a bad connection to the record head, so I was tapping on it with a screwdriver"....back to that alley off Riverside drive to have Neil look at it and shake head ???. Neil was my go to guy.

 

And how about the time I went on set to check up on sound, and they would say...."everything sounding great... you can go"...and pushed me away......except for that bright-eyed sound mixer had closed the gate over the erase head, threaded the tape over it and pulled it away from the record head. Sound mixer listening on Direct only!  3 days worth. And they complained to me something was wrong with the machine. Took a look and there was a nice polished 1/4 inch area on the outside of the gate.

 

And now, my final Nagra story.. never told in print before, and I have been told to never repeat it. I am third party to this info, happened before my time.

A student director had a Nagra in the back seat of their car. Car broken into. Student files police report. College gets huffy and tells student this was negligent, left Nagra in plain view, thus the theft, and would have to pay for the Nagra. They go round and round. Finally student, in a meeting with the administration says, OK, I WILL PAY FOR IT.  BUT ONE DAY I WILL BE FAMOUS AND YOU WILL REGRET THIS!... all while pointing finger. And I think Nagra was about $10,000 then.

Turns out student director hit big. Never mentions this college that they went to. Sort of a Bad Boy.

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I came to Production Sound from 48 Track Music Recording. The Nagra 4.2 blew me away starting at the preamps and continuing to its incredible flexibilty. I loved everything about it but the 7" lid and reels where the take up would stop turning and tape would build up inside of the lid until I noticed it. i had to train the set PA's not to tell the First AD that there was a Sound Problem until the Sound Mixer declared there was a Sound Problem. Full Track mono rules.

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JBond   

Thank you for your stories Angelo Waldron, al mcquire and others,

Al you lost me on a couple of those sound-man code words. Pa's AD

But thanks for the story.

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dolo72   

Thanks for the mono nagra TC info Jeff Al and David. I have used the timecode burst method on a dat machine which worked quite well at the time.

The Interest comes from wanting to use my Stellavox SU8 (currently being serviced) with my Sonosax sx r4 for SFX recording. I have a stereo timecode head block but I prefer the sound of mono full track. I think I will just use the burst of timecode method. I was pondering using the neo pilot head for timecode but by the sounds of it the process is more complicated than just recording timecode into the sync head.

Lisala

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samsound   

JBOND - do you have one of these? 

 

"During my career I often worked for Mining Review, films made of and for the Coal industry by Data Films. The spring driven Maihak Reportofon MMK 3 was the only recorder allowed underground as safety regulations barred the use of electric motors on cameras or recorders. The spring driven Maihak with its pilot tone system was used in conjunction with a spring driven Newman Sinclair 35mm camera suitably fitted with pilot generator." 

 

http://www.filmsoundsweden.se/backspegel/wind_up.html

 

BTW 'respect' for your magnificent collection!

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One thing came to my mind - the Nagra and other such small footprint recorders could have come up only because of advances in battery powering technology. the dry cells like the ones used in Nagras came in the 1950s i think... 

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JBond   

 

On February 6, 2015 at 6:07 AM, samsound said:

JBOND - do you have one of these? 

 

"During my career I often worked for Mining Review, films made of and for the Coal industry by Data Films. The spring driven Maihak Reportofon MMK 3 was the only recorder allowed underground as safety regulations barred the use of electric motors on cameras or recorders. The spring driven Maihak with its pilot tone system was used in conjunction with a spring driven Newman Sinclair 35mm camera suitably fitted with pilot generator." 

 

http://www.filmsoundsweden.se/backspegel/wind_up.html

 

BTW 'respect' for your magnificent collection!

Thank you samsound

 

I do have one model MMK 6. I had it for 11years, it always had a nice spot in my case until the Nagras kicked it out.

 

 

yQEFGiD.jpg

 

Now it's stuffed way over in the end of this picture.

 

 

 

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dolo72   

One thing came to my mind - the Nagra and other such small footprint recorders could have come up only because of advances in battery powering technology. the dry cells like the ones used in Nagras came in the 1950s i think...

Wasn't Mr George Neumann ( mic maestro ) the inventor of the ni cad battery ???

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cmassey   

Hey JBOND.....magnificent collection and superb photos, thanks!

 

Not sound-man super secret acronyms...

 

PA....production assistants!  The youngest kids on the set tasked with, well, whatever.  Literally, PA's usually are many on a job and do many general duty kind of things.  On some jobs they may be assigned to a particular department, and even in my background of documentary and news sound work, I have once or twice had a PA!

 

AD...assistant director.  On a large production set, they run the place.  They are the organized, schedule keeping, practical appendage of the director!  It is usually the AD that calls, ROLL! 

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The joke with the Stelladat is that while the case was beautiful and the electronics Stella hi-fi, the tape transport came from the same 2 Japanese factories that made all the DAT transports, top-loader or other...

 

philp

The StellaDat used the same transport as the Fostex PD-2, which was actually very reliable. the problem with the StellaDat was in the power supply. This was later fixed by Sonosax after they bought the StellaDat company, but it was too costly and too late. The StellaDat-2 was an incredibly well designed machine with 4 audio tracks at 48K or two tracks at 96K, but it was too different and too late to make much of a dent in the market, which resulted in these discarded StellaDat-2 bottom plates.

 

Now, back to Nagras.

 

GT

post-124-0-15723300-1423270620_thumb.jpg

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I used all the pro DAT machines, field and studio, and none of them was what I would call reliable, finally.  At the peak I was running through many hundreds of DAT tapes a year on 7 machines and discovered that the decks (at whatever price point they were at) were "reliable" only when all the parts were new.  After they had some serious hours on them, even with good head + transport path cleaning, they ALL developed "personalities", quirks and strange intermittent behaviours that would probably not manifest themselves on a tech's bench but were sure to crop up again in the field, usually at a ticklish moment.  All the DATs everywhere should be dumped into a big pile and burned.  Good riddance.

 

philp

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JBond   
On 2/7/2015 at 9:36 PM, pverrando said:

It's kind of amazing even after all these years, you will never see a Nagra like that DAT in the last post.

One product hangs around forever another ends up like that.

Every single  part on a Nagra is worth $$$

Even the screws.

It's not the DAT is just a different format, it was also how cheap can we make it. I don't think Nagra and Stellavox worried if they can make it cheaper. You won't see a StellaDat like that either.

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Actually, a tons of Nagras were unceremoniously tossed in the trash. Glen Trew tells of seeing pallets, bins full of them in a Naval shipyard. When he inquired, he was told they were strictly off limits, as they were heading for the shredder. I have an IS that was recovered from a dumpster in Hilversum. 

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I'd be thrilled to take a sledgehammer to any DAT, including a Stelladat.  To me they were the worst of all--really really expensive and complex but with the same fatal flaw that machines a tenth of their price had.   I see really dead Nagras being sold cheap, but not being given away.  They are always of interest to prop companies and collectors.  But I do wonder if any new analog Nagra service techs are being trained anymore.  The two best I ever knew were largely self-taught and had big stocks of esoteric NOS parts, esp for Nagra III.  Both are now retired….

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