Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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Spiny Norman
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Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by Spiny Norman »

Now and then they appear on lostshows, "16mm film exists but soundtrack is lost". Some single episodes of Magpie, Animal Vegetable Mineral?, Sierra 9. I've also heard of one or two US examples. (Not counting filmed inserts obviously.)

So how exactly does that come to pass? The sound was once on the film strip I presume, optical or magnetic, but what happened to it?
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Bob Richardson
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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by Bob Richardson »

From my limited experience of usung the BBC FVTL for material I recall that many film recordings had sepmag tracks in separate cans. Often these were marked "M&E" (music and effects), presumably as an aid to dubbing in foreign languages for overseas sales. Sepmag also allowed better quality sound (or so I understand) than commopt or comag tracks.
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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by Brian F »

Yes the slower speed of 16mm and the minimum slit gap for optical recording and playback would have limited the frequency range on optical tracks (not so much a problem on 405 line VHF with AM sound). 16mm magnetic film would have had a higher frequency range and the capability for wider (better signal to noise ratio than 16mm stripe, comp-mag) and the space for multiple tracks.

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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by Spiny Norman »

Oh thanks, I see.
It certainly makes sense. Because on a related note, it did strike me in the past that the audio from telerecordings had its weaknesses. Particularly in the letter S. Very noticable.

Although, did that mean that the film was entirely without sound? No optical track just for backup because the space is there anyway?
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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by Bernie »

I filmed in Brentford a couple of times. I wish I'd kept a VHS and i could show just how huge the place was, and how much film there was. Just one corridor in the stacks would have hundreds, maybe thousands of cans. I would walk along and pick one at random, often thinking that I would mind seeing that again. Most 16mm films would have 2 cans - one for the film and one for the track - sepmag. Only bought in 35mm would be comopt, and there was almost no commag at all. The track on commag would make the film thicker at the edge so it didn't lay properly, and that would make it vulnerable. BBC made films were pretty much all sepmag, so amongst thousands of rolls, getting the pairs split now and then was very possible, especially if they'd been there untouched for lots of years.

Putting sound on the 16mm film had another disadvantage, that it took up space, and when the picture was pretty small in the first place you didn't want to make it any smaller.

Brentford held most of the tapes as well. Two inch tapes are big, so there came a limit on space pretty quickly. Which why when i was acting editor in promotions the lady from the library would arrive with a fat pile of fanfold computer printout and say "get rid of some of these, preferably lots of these"

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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by Bernie »

It strikes me, having written the above, that 35mm film recording might have been comopt.

I only ever got one 35mm film recording out to play back, Romeo and Juliet with Hywel Bennet and Kika Markham. It wasn't to see them, it was to see me. I was cable basher for legendary cameraman Jim Atkinson. Jim would let me do the odd shot here and there - in rehearsal he'd nip off for a fag. There was one particular shot on this play - I don't know whether he knew it was impossible. It was in the Capulet's party and it turned out that I could either be in shot down the stairs or along the colonnade. I picked down the stairs and hid myself, camera and cable as much as I could in the shadows. The director didn't notice, but I did, and twenty odd years later when I was a producer and could do these things I booked the film out and on a Steenbeck in the East Tower watched the 20 year old me . I expect it's still there another 30 years on.

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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by Brian F »

Also I have remembered from somewhere (old restoration team forum) that the 16mm film and sepmag were kept in separate cans (not one 35mm one) as the chance of vinegar syndrome was greater if they were in the same can.

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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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Bernie wrote:It strikes me, having written the above, that 35mm film recording might have been comopt.

I only ever got one 35mm film recording out to play back, Romeo and Juliet with Hywel Bennet and Kika Markham. It wasn't to see them, it was to see me. I was cable basher for legendary cameraman Jim Atkinson. Jim would let me do the odd shot here and there - in rehearsal he'd nip off for a fag. There was one particular shot on this play - I don't know whether he knew it was impossible. It was in the Capulet's party and it turned out that I could either be in shot down the stairs or along the colonnade. I picked down the stairs and hid myself, camera and cable as much as I could in the shadows. The director didn't notice, but I did, and twenty odd years later when I was a producer and could do these things I booked the film out and on a Steenbeck in the East Tower watched the 20 year old me . I expect it's still there another 30 years on.

B
The bizarre thing is that for you all that was probably just another day at the office!
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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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Spiny Norman wrote:The bizarre thing is that for you all that was probably just another day at the office!
Which? Romeo and Juliet or watching it back? Both were, I suppose.

Within a month or two of doing R and J we did Much Ado About Nothing, Theatre 625 - The Firebrand and Eugene Onegin, all in TC1. In between we did a few Jackanorys, Blue Peters, Playschools, Making Music, and an Adam Adamant. I wonder now how my parents saw all this, though I can't remember at the time talking about it much. I soon got past the "I saw so-and-so" phase, when I got home. I saw everyone. Television Centre and the other west London studios were a massive great factory for making tv, and still would be if not for politics.

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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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Bernie wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:The bizarre thing is that for you all that was probably just another day at the office!
Which? Romeo and Juliet or watching it back? Both were, I suppose.

Within a month or two of doing R and J we did Much Ado About Nothing, Theatre 625 - The Firebrand and Eugene Onegin, all in TC1. In between we did a few Jackanorys, Blue Peters, Playschools, Making Music, and an Adam Adamant. I wonder now how my parents saw all this, though I can't remember at the time talking about it much. I soon got past the "I saw so-and-so" phase, when I got home. I saw everyone. Television Centre and the other west London studios were a massive great factory for making tv, and still would be if not for politics.

B
Both, and walking along mountains of film cans. It's a pity they don't do tours anymore in London (not that the tours' content would have matched your description obviously).

Another bizarre thing is that back then it was new technology (perhaps not cutting edge but certainly, what, topical). For me, the film projector is/was at best proven technology. Perhaps later I'll be the envy of future generations for having casually handled backup tapes and DVDs. Oh well, life I suppose.
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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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Spiny Norman wrote:Another bizarre thing is that back then it was new technology (perhaps not cutting edge but certainly, what, topical)
Well, only 100 years old anyway. People only stopped using film at the BBC when the rest of the industry did, when electronic cameras and editing were good enough to make shooting on film silly. Personally I always disliked filming on 16mm. The stuff would churn through the camera costing a fortune,then have to go through endless different processes before you could get it on air.

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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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Bernie wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:Another bizarre thing is that back then it was new technology (perhaps not cutting edge but certainly, what, topical)
Well, only 100 years old anyway. People only stopped using film at the BBC when the rest of the industry did, when electronic cameras and editing were good enough to make shooting on film silly. Personally I always disliked filming on 16mm. The stuff would churn through the camera costing a fortune,then have to go through endless different processes before you could get it on air.

B
Oh I wasn't talking that specifically about film anymore. Although, it's not even ten years since cinemas finally stopped using 35mm film. How cumbersome was that... Literally a lot of waste of space putting widescreen films into 4:3 frames, for decades. But I'm sure most industries have things like that.
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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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Bernie wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:Another bizarre thing is that back then it was new technology (perhaps not cutting edge but certainly, what, topical)
Well, only 100 years old anyway. People only stopped using film at the BBC when the rest of the industry did, when electronic cameras and editing were good enough to make shooting on film silly. Personally I always disliked filming on 16mm. The stuff would churn through the camera costing a fortune,then have to go through endless different processes before you could get it on air.

B
The quality of BBC film deteriorated (in my view) over the years. Looking at the 35mm inserts for Quatermass & the Pit it's astounding how high the quality is, and the lighting is particularly good. Even the 1954 colour inserts shot for "Zoo Quest" are breathtakingly crisp with vibrant colours. And then we have the ropey old 16mm sequences dropped into various dramas and sitcoms in the 1970s and 80s which are often soft with muddy colours and murky shadows. Even worse are the clips of news film from 30 or 40 years ago, used in various documentaries and usually pretty awful, with dust, dirt, scratches and processing marks. I make allowance for the latter because I know they were TXd from the original stock after a quick processing bath, but some of the 16mm footage from the 70s and 80s just doesn't pass muster these days.
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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by Bernie »

i was told by an ex student at the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham that they are made, in 2016, to shoot a film on 16mm for which they have to pay. I think that must just be nostalgia on the part of the lecturer, reliving past glories.

If at all possible I would get a clean print and transfer it to tape as early as possible, preferably via Steadigate. One thing you sadly missed if you did that was the film editors, who were often excellent and would see things that you didn't. I once made a Wimbledon trail by shooting the Centre Court empty, and with the minimum of explanation of what I was trying to achieve an editor turned it into magic.

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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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Bernie wrote:i was told by an ex student at the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham that they are made, in 2016, to shoot a film on 16mm for which they have to pay. I think that must just be nostalgia on the part of the lecturer, reliving past glories.
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Oh, I'd have thought that film stock would be increasingly hard to come by.
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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by Brian F »

Harder but not that hard. Kodak is previewing a new Super8 camera with sound on digital card and the Ferrania project is planning new 35mm , 16mm and Super 8 reversal film. Latest mews here :- https://filmferrania.squarespace.com/news/

On the other hand there must be hundreds if not thousands of working 16mm projectors still, compared to how many working 2" or 1" video machines (should I include D3 with those by now?).

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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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Bob Richardson wrote:
Bernie wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:Another bizarre thing is that back then it was new technology (perhaps not cutting edge but certainly, what, topical)
Well, only 100 years old anyway. People only stopped using film at the BBC when the rest of the industry did, when electronic cameras and editing were good enough to make shooting on film silly. Personally I always disliked filming on 16mm. The stuff would churn through the camera costing a fortune,then have to go through endless different processes before you could get it on air.

B
The quality of BBC film deteriorated (in my view) over the years. Looking at the 35mm inserts for Quatermass & the Pit it's astounding how high the quality is, and the lighting is particularly good. Even the 1954 colour inserts shot for "Zoo Quest" are breathtakingly crisp with vibrant colours. And then we have the ropey old 16mm sequences dropped into various dramas and sitcoms in the 1970s and 80s which are often soft with muddy colours and murky shadows. Even worse are the clips of news film from 30 or 40 years ago, used in various documentaries and usually pretty awful, with dust, dirt, scratches and processing marks. I make allowance for the latter because I know they were TXd from the original stock after a quick processing bath, but some of the 16mm footage from the 70s and 80s just doesn't pass muster these days.
True. Outdoor scenes were always such weird interruption, even as a child I could notice there was something odd going on.
But the early film was probably really really expensive...
Eventually it looked good again in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. (I had no idea that that was shot on film.)
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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

Post by TK-JaKe »

I only ever recorded on the Marconi rapid pulldown 16mm machines,
they, by default, recorded the image and a com opt track;

there was a bank of 16mm magnetic recorders, one or more could be slaved to a Marconi recorder,
that sep mag would be used for in house work, especially transmissions.

All illustrated here http://www.vtoldboys.com/fr03.htm
In the bottom picture, under the clock, is the sep opt recorder for 'unmarried' prints!

The com opt was, obviously, replicated with every print struck from the neg and was, generally,
the only sync sound sold by Television Enterprises of a studio based production.

A production shot on 16mm was an entirely different matter,
they were often sold with both final mix and M&E to enable domestic language dubbing.

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Re: Telerecordings without sound - how come?

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During my years in BBC Pres (1978-1982ish) I remember an edition of Panorama introduced by Fred Emery which consisted of a number of film reports, all on the same topic (power cuts/strikes maybe). Very early on in the programme the sound slipped badly out of sync and Fred had to apologise while TK got the 16mm pictures synched up again with the sepmag. And then it happened again...and again...and again. Poor old Fred. It transpires that the pictures had been edited in the cutting room but the original mag track had been loaded in error. That's not to say TK were at fault - I think the cutting room had labelled the cans incorrectly. It was painful to watch...
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