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


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Could one get a similar effect by rerecording everything through a Nagra instead of actually using it on set? It'd be an interesting post-production thing, I think...for certain films. I've read that this is sometimes done for picture. Shoot digital. Print the whole movie onto film with the lasers. Develop. Scan back into the computer. 


No, you'd want to avoid optical sound. I think it'd be pretty easy to degrade sound to make it sound like optical just with EQ, compression, filters, noise, and distortion. (Note that pictures are recorded to film using lasers, but the optical sound track is still recorded out with light valves. There are a handful of companies that have figured out a way to record optical sound on film with lasers (like NT Audio in Hollywood and Santa Monica), but these are few and far-between. 


In the case of bouncing digital tracks to analog and back, this used to be done quite often for music projects, particularly with drums, where they liked the effect of analog tape saturation, particularly for drums and percussion tracks. I know this was often done in the 1990s and early 2000s, but I think the practice has faded in recent years. There are Pro Tools plug-ins that can approximate the sound of analog tape, even different kinds of tape at different speeds on different machines:



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


attachicon.gifWhite Dawn 06_7301.jpg


Hey, Richard...


Sorry if this makes you feel old, but I played the kid in the camper during the motorcycle accident on Cronenberg's "Rabid." I believe you put a microphone in my Montreal Canadiens hat (which they made me turn inside out for logo trouble)...


Karl Wasserman

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This stuff never gets old. I hope you enjoyed the experience. This was David Cronenberg's second film.


Here's a photo from Rabid, 1976, with my Boom Operator Jim Thompson as we worked in the OR of Queen Victoria Hospital. The entire crew had to wear scrubs and masks




The budget was so cheap that myself and Jim shared a Winnebago with the star of the film, Marilyn Chambers, yes that Marilyn Chambers, ex-porn star in her first and only legit role. 



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I think I asked about the Sony machine one time years ago, and they told me the timecode version never came out in North America. The non-timecode version was out -- briefly. No 7" reels on that? Yikes...

Marc is the "Yikes" because of the lack of timecode or the lack of 7 inch reels?

I personally never felt the need of the larger reels on a Nagra.

Malcolm Davies A.m.p.s.

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Marc is the "Yikes" because of the lack of timecode or the lack of 7 inch reels? I personally never felt the need of the larger reels on a Nagra.


Yikes! We hated 5" reels in post on dailies... unless it was a commercial with 10 very short takes, or a music video playback!


But... it's all a moot point today. I assume nobody was using 15-minute DAT tapes when those were available...  "Yeah, here's the 42 DAT tapes for today's footage!"

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I'm new to the forum and just want to say thanks Jeff for putting together such a fabulous site.  As I was looking at varios forum topics I noticed this post about Nagra's and couldn't resist. I bought my first Nagra IV-L in 1981  from my instructor while still attending SAIT ( a tech school in Calgary that offered a 2 year film making course).  It was a package deal...IV-L Nagra, 415-T and  816-T Sennheisers and 3 Sony ECM-50 Hard wire lavs.  A Rycote came with the 816 and that was about it. My Instructor was a guy named Billy Nobles who worked for a number of years on a Canadian news-magazine type show called W-5 a la 60 Minutes.


A couple of years later I got a Nagra-4.2 in  another package deal and then a few years after that the IV-S stereo Nagra, which I later got converted to a T/C model at Topham in LA.  The mod cost $5,000 at the time as I recall.


I really loved those machines and I still have the IV-4.2 and IV-STC....I just can't seem to part with them. I also still have an old Uher 400.  They all still function perfectly and every once in a while I just have to fire them all up. I live and mostly work in Alberta, Canada around the Calgary area.  Lots of mountain shoots in extreme weather...really cold and sometimes brutally harsh conditions and thru it all my Nagra's NEVER failed me. Those machines were really well made and beautifully designed. On a commercial in the early 80's the shoulder strap on my IV-L actually broke ( where the strap bolted to the Nagra there was a plastic bit the bolt went thru and it just exploded ) while I was standing on a six-step ladder booming the shot ( the good old one man dog and pony show )  The Nagra fell a good 7 or 8 feet onto the concrete floor and landed so hard that it dented  the left back corner of the machine...and of course we were rolling at the time. Talk about get the blood pumping!!  Of course everything ground to a halt while the damage was assessed .  I rewound the tape...threw it into playback and to my surprise and everyone else's you could not tell when the machine hit the floor except for the yelp I let out when it happened which was clearly audible in the BG. I was fortunate to have a tech in Vancouver who used to work at the Nagra factory ..a fellow named Stan Fritsch.  Wonderful guy...great tech who managed to somehow get the dent out of the case.


As for recent movies that Nagra's were used on.  Jesse James and the Coward Robert Ford was mixed by Canadian Bruce Cawardine.  I'm pretty sure Bruce's mutitrack machine crapped out sometime during the first week of shooting and he finished the day on a Nagra IV-STC.  I remember getting a frantic call on set from Jesse's production office looking for 1/4" tape stock. I think Bruce finished the film with the Nagra but you would have to ask him to be positive.

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Great stories George, thanks for sharing and welcome to the forum!  There's a few Nagra enthusiasts lurking here from time to time, me included.  I now own a IV-S, 4.2, IS, and now the small wonder, SNN (this one needs some electronics troubleshooting to get it to work).  I use these for hobby recording, and am an admirer of this fine analogue recording machinery, the likes of which we obviously won't see again.


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Love the walk down memory lane, so hate to bring up negative waves, but using Nagras over the shoulder was a pain in the ass. There just was no elegant solution. It was awkward and heavy. It tweaked your back and the harnesses cut into your shoulder. The tape would bird's nest, but it always waited until you forgot to make sure it wasn't. I soon decided that I only wanted to mix cart jobs with it and turned down the OTS jobs. As much as I hated it for OTS, I guess it's worse for the poor mixers who pack mule even more weight today.


The nagra led to my writing My Worst Day in Audio, an article found at http://www.soundandpicture.com/wp-content/issues/Coffey_Files/Fall2009/index.html  In fairness, it was also part of my best memory too, found in the same issue.


John Coffey


Oh FFS John, ManUP!! It wasn't that bad, we were all in he same boat. 20lbs over shoulder. Not the 40lbs of today's bullshit TV with everyone wired in case they have a brain fart and say something...

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I grew up around Nagra's.My father,when i was a young child was a documentary sound recordist and my earliest memories are of him explaining to me that Nagra meant 'reliability'.His machine at that point was a Nagra 4.2 mono,although he also had his old Nagra III because he couldn't bear to part from it.He travelled the world with his Nagra,shooting 16mm documentaries in all sorts of climates,never once being let down by his trusty machine.I still remember the respect he showed that machine.


When i was 15 my dad had moved onto movies and commercials and i started going to work with him.By this point he had progressed onto a stereo nagra and schooled me in the art of 'split track' recordings.

The first time i saw him reload his Nagra i was blown away at the speed and accuracy of his reload.

At about 18 years old my father gave me his old 4.2 mono Nagra and showed me how to mark up a Pop song line by line for cue points with a chinagraph to prepare me for music video playback (known as pop promos then).I used to practise in my bedroom hitting cues from rewind and fast forward to prepare myself for my first job.I also used to practise reloading fast in the hope that i would learn to be as quick as my old man.


In my early twenties my father retired from Production Sound (to return 10 or so years later) and gave me his beloved Nagra IVS and told me i was ready to use it for recording.

Around that period the Timecode Nagra was invented and every commercial (which is what i was recording) wanted to use a Denecke Digislate and timecode.I couldn't afford a new Nagra T/C so i approached David Lane (RIP) who was a master technician on Nagra's and he converted my machine into a Nagra IVS T/C.The conversion cost around £3500 pounds which was a fortune for me then but when it arrived back,newly converted and i began to learn it's timecode functions i finally felt the machine was mine,not my dads.This wasn't because of the money i had invested in it,but because i had a new skill which i learned myself rather than being taught by my dad.I was very proud of my complete understanding of timecode and the menu of the machine.


Some years later,probably around 1995 i was co-erced into using a DAT machine (HHB Portadat) and noticed an immediate improvement in sound quality but the difference in build quality between the Nagra and the DAT was like comparing a Rolex Daytona to a $5 casio digital wrist watch.The reliability of the DAT machine was awful. (Hairdryer on the heads just to get them condensation free first thing in the morning anyone?).


I longed for my Nagra but could not afford at that time the legendary Nagra D.I was shooting low budget independents but knew some of my hero's like Ivan Sharrock and Chris Newman were shooting big movies on the 'D'.


A couple of years later i heard that Nagra were bringing out the Nagra V,a non linear 2 track machine.I ordered one and i believe i was one of the first in the UK to take delivery of the new machine.Alas,the machine was let down by the completely unreliable 'orb disk' delivery format.Luckily,as i was getting used to my Nagra V i was also running a safety copy on the portadat (how ironic......) and the number of times the Orb disk failed and i had to send DAT rushes to the editor was completely embarrassing.It was one day out of every four...........


Due to my continual moaning and i am sure those of my colleagues all over the world,Nagra finally saw sense and replaced the Orb Disk with a removable hard drive and then also an internal hard drive that would would record at the same time.


We used to have 5 hard drives on a 'merry go round' with Editorial much like we do now with CF cards.


I loved my Nagra V and after the initial Orb problems it was actually an outstanding machine.

I think the first film i recorded on it was Matthew Vaughn's "Layer Cake" and the post team really noticed the extra dynamic range of the 24 bit rate.I sat in the dialogue pre-mixs and the final mix on that movie and we spoke a lot about the 24 bit advantage.We had arranged before shooting to leave all the dialogue in the 24 bit domain through the whole production/post sound chain (until Dolby encoding obviously).


Finally,the Zaxcom Deva IV was getting a lot of fans,and other mixers were recording multi track onto DA88 machines and i was presented with a job that i knew would require multi tracking.But we were going to be shooting in the humidity of Thailand and a few weeks later in the Austrian Alps,filming ski-ing dialogue scenes.


What could i do?


I needed the Nagra reliability but in a multi track format,battery powered.


I approached Nagra UK's John Rudling and he supplied me with another Nagra V which we ganged together with my Nagra V,linking time codes and roll numbers.We tested with Editorial and arrived at a system with the metadata that would allow the media to be loaded into Avid in a trouble free manner and linked for any possible auto conform needs later by Sound Post.


We shot "Bridget Jones Edge of Reason" using this work flow of 2 Nagra V's giving us 4 tracks to play with.


Very soon after that the Zaxcom Deva V was released and unfortunately although my heart loved the Nagra my head told me what i had to do and i moved onto the Zaxcom (which incidentally i love and respect just as much as my Nagra nowadays).


I still use the Nagra V regularly for sending off with one of my assistants to shoot spot Fx or atmos's,and even sometimes if only need two tracks i use it over my own shoulder when i have to go hand held.



i hope you enjoyed my personal history with Nagra.




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Way cool Simon--I had never heard that you could gang the Nagra V that way.  I sometimes use two 744Ts in that manner, but as you know after awhile the two-machine thing gets tedious.  You are really lucky to have been born in the biz--your dad sounds like he was a great teacher and a great sound man. 




PS good comment about the diffs between the Nagra and the HHB (and all DATs).  I went through 3 HHBs, 2 Casios, 2 Panasonics, 1 Fostex and 2 Sonys and hated them all individually.

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@ Crew- My father collects Nagra's too.He has a III,4L,4.2,4STC.


@ Philip- My father was indeed a great teacher.He was very patient with me and didn't push me into the business in any way,he just gave me pieces of sound equipment to play with LOL.He returned to Production Sound after about 10 years off and i introduced him to DAT,digislates and timecode.He hated the DAT machines.


Here is a picture of the pair of us shooting together about 3 months ago.Relevant to the thread due to the fact that both of us are using Nagras (different models) to capture safety copies of the mix tracks while we shoot the master on our Deva's.


The picture was taken on the set of 'Kick Ass 2'



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