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Nagra Stories Sound-men won’t ever tell


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Thank you for your utterly interesting response Philip. The reason I enquired about the Nagra 7" lid and the Harvey Mod is that the one I have here is warped at the front as though the previous original owner had attempted to reshape the perspex lid to cover the front panel without success. If you have time might you post a picture of your specimen. I have considered invasive adjustment by trying to heat bend and reshape the lid back to its original form however I am apprehensive because I know I could destroy the lid completely....

This lid has a tinted finish rather than the clear ones that I have seen as well so I am not sure if somewhere along the line there was two types of 7" lids. Was the clear one shaped like the 5" lid toward the latch area? or was the tinted one lower profile toward the latch area meaning the Harvey Mod. panel couldn't fit properly. Hope that makes sense...

As always thanks in advance


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I will post  pic when I get back to the shop.  I owned my Nagra IV-SL (and used it nearly every day) for many years before it had the Harvey Mod, and I don't recall every having any issues with the lid (or hearing any from other users) re Harvey's timecode display.  The former owner of your machine may have bent or partially melted the lid you have.  I did have problems with the lid-hinges getting bent, which caused the back of the lid to come in contact with the reels (7"), which caused some nasty tape jams (and protracted motel-room repair + mod sessions).  Are you sure your issue is with the shape of the lid and not with hinges or etc?   I'd guess you could still buy a new lid from Kudelski, but it would not be cheap.  As far as I recall, all the plastic Nagra lids started out clear and then colored with age.  I think I recall the lid of my IV-SL being pretty much clear when I first got it, and it has much-yellowed as years have gone by.  Perhaps Mr. Bond knows if Kudelski ever tinted the plastic of the Nagra lids.....


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If I recall correctly, these 7-inch lids didn't start with Nagra. Individual owners made large lids for their own machines (or had them fabricated). The earliest example I know of was the recorder used by the husband-wife documentary team filming "An American Family." That example was written up in an American Cinematographer article at the time. I expect there were other examples. With custom work of this sort, there will be wide variations in implementation. 

Very soon thereafter Nagra began offering a large lid of their own. They recognized the demand and filled it. 

The hinges were prone to snag the reels and produce spaghetti. There was a remedy that involved reversing the way the hardware mounted to the deck but I don't recall the details. Dave Panfili might remember; I'll ask when I see him next. 


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I think you are referring to Alan and Susan Raymond, a great doco team. 

Yes--I recall the aftermarket 7" lids--Kudelski's was better.  We didn't reverse the hardware to make the reel rub stop, we shimmed the hinges out very slightly, as much as we could while still allowing the front catch to work.  On the 7" cover the reel hinges were kind of exposed--sticking out of the back of the machine and bearing all the weight when it was sitting on that side (in doco work, a lot of the time).  Eventually Portabrace made a Nagra 4 bag with extra filler pieces to take that weight, and eventually a lot of us ended up with after-market "legs" or feet bolted to the back of the machine so it could stand on its end without having weight on the lid hinges.  A lot of dumb esoteric oldschool info-sure, but it was a major deal to those of us using the Nagra over the shoulder at the time--those tape jams were extremely embarrassing show-stoppers!  

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22 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

Center Track Time Code.

Yes--I remember going to projected 35mm dailies for commercials and movie jobs--it was a nice tradition for everyone to see what we'd done together, on the big screen before it was cut.  It was a daunting experience for a PSM--your one Nagra track was going to get played quite loud and hifi for everyone: they were going to hear all your fader moves and mic position choices and how well your boom op followed the ball etc etc.   I attribute some of the loss of respect for location sound recording by other depts. to the end dailies projection: now the only people who hear our audio is us (plus a few folks on lofi Comteks) until it gets to the editors.  My buddies @ One Pass figured out that they could make a lot of money by doing video dailies with their new telecine machine and they sold all the agencies and prod cos on the savings and speed of getting to (1") video and into editorial, and that was the end of film dailies, at least for me.


Great thread! Jeez, it was amazing all the hoops we used to jump through back then.

Yeah, a lot of all that early timecode stuff was foisted on us by the post houses. A real PITA, and in many cases, totally un-needed (I remember the editors at some of the post houses telling me they never used the timecode anyway-just synched up to the sticks!)

So many oddball systems we used back then. I remember we had our transfer system set up to play the voice track that could be superimposed on the Nagra FM sync track (designed by a very bright engineer I used to do so some work with), and also used that for sync with a bloop oscillator, so it wouldn't interfere with the main audio tracks. For doc work, we set up our recorder with a dual track (EBU) 16mm head stack, which had the audio from the FM track on the sprocket edge.

And then there was the Aaton system, which imprinted TC numbers on the edge of 16mm mag. What a joy that thing was to deal with...!

And let's not forget the Soundelux TC system, which recorded TC on the balance stripe of 35mm mag stripe stock (I still have the custom head stack Jack Dimmers made for that. Cost us at least $2K or more-couldn't bear to throw it out).

Jeff; And speaking of throwing things out-I still have the manual from the Magna-Tech 4000 series "portable" recorder (if you call hauling around something the size of a small refrigerator portable!) we bought from you I don't know how many years ago (not sure if we still have the recorder itself though). At the beginning of the manual is an addendum (printed on a dot-mataix printer) for the setup of the portable recorder. Written in a manner that only someone who had worked for years in the film business could write it.

The part that still stands out relates to the handling and installation of the mag headstack, which I think read something like: "treat it like your girlfriend, not your wife". Words to live by...

One of these days I'll scan it and post it for posterity.




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The deal with CTTC tape sync in my area was not only avoiding the magfilm xfer but avoiding hiring an editor to sync the dailies up.  A machine room tech, already on staff to tend the online edit bay VTRs, could search the tapes by TC and the system would figure out the offset to the VTR edit code and execute an insert audio edit at the "in" point, and then drop out when the TC bumped at the end of the take.  In theory.  There were lots and lots of hiccups and late night calls and edit room visits....glad that's all in the past...  The head-height of the Nagra recording the TC turned out to be an important variable to manage...

No--that dubber is for a machine room.  There were "portable" magfilm recorders used for a period--heavy, awkward, noisy, cantankeorus machines that required AC power, looked like big tape decks.  The Nagra replaced them in the field--for obvious reasons.  We didn't have one as good as what's pictured--we had a Hallen, a US-made box of junk that pretended to record and play back sound while making your life a misery.


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20 minutes ago, JBond said:

Please don't tell me this is what you're talking about, Did a small Nagra replace this. This had to be used for something else, right!


The full size Magna-Tech pictured here (and many other models similar) were used in studio facilities to record sound on mag film. Prior to the Nagra, all sound for picture in production was recorded on magnetic film but not on studio Magna-Techs. One of the most common portable location magnetic film recorders was the Stancil-Hoffman (I'm sure I have the spelling wrong --- I will look it up) which was quite s bit smaller than the studio machines but still way bigger than any Nagra and far less portable. All of the post processes for editorial were still firmly based in mag film which is why when the Nagra (¼" tape) came into general usage in production there was the necessity of transferring the ¼" tape to magnetic film stock before any of the editing and post work could begin. There may have been small, portable Magna-Techs that I am unaware of, but the bottom line is that the Nagra replaced completely the use of magnetic film recorders for location production recording.



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The Magna-Tech shown in the eBay listing is a model 600 3 track 35mm recorder, which was one of their studio units. Looks like it may have been modified from an AC Selsyn version to stepper drive.

The model 4000 (and it's predecessor the 400) is about 1/4 the height. Amazingly, I can find no photos of one online. Will have to dig one up from the shop.

There were quite a few other "portable" mag film recorders made by RCA, Westrex, Magnasync, Stancil-Hoffman and a couple of other smaller manufacturers in the 1950's. The RCA and Westrex machines were built like tanks. The Nagra was a welcome change for the utility sound guys who had to haul those around! (except for the truck based units).


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Dear Friends,

Have any of you used the Nagra IV-SJ as an audio recorder? I have read alot saying that they were primarily designed for scientific purposes by Nagra etc. What was the sound like?

Were there any modifications made to the IV-SJ like the IV-S, such as the mods by H. Warnke and Ruck. Just curious....Also were there any other countries besides the USA where non-Nagra modifications took place on a significant scale. 

To Mr Bond, do you have any modifications to recorders, that are not Nagra based, in your collection that some how enhance a specific capability?

Best Regards


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The Nagra IV-SJ was intended as an instrumentation recorder for recording measurements (vibration, sound, actually any varying signals). There was a market for that, as there were no digital data loggers available yet. That is why the SJ had some additional features compared to the normal IV-S, mainly the possibility of real calibration (giving repeatability of measurements, as there were stepped attenuators in stead of potentiometers) and a very wide frequency range. However this wide frequency range came at a cost: F.ex. noise, dynamic range and distortion values were not as good as the standard version. It also lacked normal audio input connectors; it had LEMO input connectors, compatible with Brüel and Kjaer measurement microphones, which are very different from normal audio microphones. Thus there were no (known) audio-related modifications like the Warnke TC system, as the SJ was not used for film, TV or any audio purposes. But I have seen several strange Frankenstein-recorders, where custom built special purpose recorders were built around a Nagra chassis (f.ex. by Schlumberger). Some fine, some quite bizarre but all very different from the original Nagras...

However nice the IV-SJ was, it was not the perfect instrumentation recorder. "Real" instrumentation recorders (as the Nagra TI, various Brüel an Kjaer recorders etc.) were FM recorders, where the input signals modulated a signal, that was recorded. This made it possible to record DC signals and other very slowly varying signals, whereas the SJ had a minimum frequency of app. 25 Hz. But for audio range measurements and on location data recording it was great, as almost all other instrumentation recorders were quite bulky.

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What a great thread - owned and used several Nagras for a couple of decades before switching to DAT. One thing I haven't seen mentioned with Nagras sticks in my mind - the mass of D cells required to run them. Many gigs for ABC Wide World of Sports back when they were shooting film were hard on gear and people, Nagra never missed a beat. 

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Yes, the Nagras were very kind to the batteries... The IV-S used app. 270 mA in record mode, 110 mA in Test mode. I just checked the specs of the Portadat (just to pick an older DAT machine), and by a quick calculation it seems that it used 1-1.5 A in Record mode. And on top of that, it used the horrible NiMh-type battery packs (2 hours recording, then 2 hours charging. The first 6 months...).

Even the Nagra D actually ran on D size cells (although rechargeable, in a PAGMASTER 90 battery). But it was without mercy: If the internal battery is completely discharged, the recorder won´t start, even with the charger connected. It only charges the battery properly when it is switched on, in Off-position it just trickle charges with app. 50 mA, and gives a strange Catch 22-situation. So be prepared to wait for some hours before start working this day. I have an old PAG-charger to jump start the battery when I turn the D´s on once in a while. Just to see them work; they are things of great beauty...

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  • 2 weeks later...
On December 10, 2016 at 8:59 PM, mikewest said:

Yes Phillip

Film dailies were a forum at which all HOD's could jointly see (and hear) the results.

I gel noise or generator noise were present questions were asked and solutions found!




Dear Mr. Bond

Would it be possible to view your amazing collection?



Thank you

Edited by traut
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If you mean in person? I’m 3,000 miles from you, Not sure you want to see it that bad.  Any member can always reach me thru Jwsound, that would be the first step. Thank you Sir for your comment, I truly appreciate it.  I’ll post a current full picture soon.   Also I haven’t forgotten MarkC, I'll answer you also. 

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My wife and I just watched the end of Risky Business.  My wife says "can you believe this movie is 34 years old."  I said the sound for that movie was recorded on a Nagra.  "Oh really?" she says. "How do you know that."  Because that's what was used back then.  I said the soundman is most likely someone on Jwsound.  I quickly looked up IMDB and saw sound mixer, Scott Smith.  I said it's Scott Smith - he just posted on my thread last week.  See,  right there. How about that she's says  

Then we waited patiently for the credits.  There he is. I said the movie forever has his name on it.

No big deal for you guys but we thought it was pretty cool. 


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Peace and Friendship for New Year from Australia!

Maestro JBOND, I look forward, as always, to your intimate perspectives into Nagra-ology.

Even though P. Perkins confirmed this I am thrilled to say, "Yes, the 7" QSET Nagra accessory fits perfectly with my IV-S with Harvey Modification, X4S." 

Even though I will not be using my machine for film sound I wonder if having the tinted lid would have reduced the readability of the digital panel because it is so dark. 

It seems that every Nagra I have seen and read about is utterly unique. For instance, I have two 4.2s one from Australia the other from Switzerland, and they have vastly different rewind speeds, tape guides and lid latches. So so mysterious.

Both sound beautifully amazing with Kontrabass recording.




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11 hours ago, JBond said:

My wife and I just watched the end of Risky Business.  My wife says "can you believe this movie is 34 years old."


Shit, just when I was starting to think I wasn't such an old curmudgeon🙂...

Yeah, that was back when we at least did something approaching real movies, with real cameras, and sets that were semi-workable. Not like the cluster-fuck shooting style of a lot of current productions.

That movie ignited Tom Cruise's career. Also made a lot of money for Jon Avnet and the studio.

And yes, recorded on a Nagra IV-S stereo, with Dolby A noise reduction.


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The fact of “who you guys are" has always been a big deal for me since day one on Jwsound, as I have stated many times before in this thread. I’m proud to be posting and learning in the same forum as such accomplished, famous people as yourselves.

Of course, it's a big deal for you guys. I just meant you may be more accustomed to the fact of seeing your name in credits.  I’m still amazed every day when I look up what you all have accomplished.  I don’t always get the chance to fit my thoughts about it into a post like last night, without sounding all giddy and mushy as I probably do right now. 

So it's not said much.
But just know, I’m your biggest fan. Especially you “old” Nagra guys. (Not that you're old) the Nagra is. Where the hell is the smiley face when you need it? 


That was the next question I was going to ask. Which machine was used?

Now when I show my collection I can point to my Nagra IV-S and say Risky Business and many other movies were recorded on a machine just like this one.

Risky Business - sound mixer Scott Smith.  Just one of so many over the years. Very impressed Scott.  As I am with Jeff, Philip and everyone else on this site. You all have so much to be proud of.

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Mr JBond,

I could not agree more. This is my unit with a yellowed 7" lid. I am so thankful to have this. If the Michell Reference turntable was not used in A Clockwork Orange I wonder if the X4S may have been considered.

Your reference to the Apollo 13 is priceless.


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Dear All,

Did Nagra ever supply screw drivers with their recorders? If not, I am interested in buying some screw drivers to use that fit the flat headed adjustment screws properly. 

I would appreciate it if someone could share the metric sizes.

Kind Regards

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