Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Baking" Reel-To-Reel Tapes

Recently, I accepted a job to transfer some 30-year-old reels - Polish radio dramas, stored and never heard since their original broadcast. It is important, of course, to preserve this type of obscure stuff.

Opening the package, I first noticed the brand of tape: "Shamrock". This rang a bell for some reason, so I did a quick search for some information on Shamrock tape. Evidently, this is about the very worst tape that one could record on, being super-susceptible to what is called "sticky-shed syndrome". They weren't trying to confuse customers that this was Scotch brand recording tape, were they?

In the late 1970's, most tape manufacturers changed the binders in their tape formulations (the binder being the glue that holds the rust on the plastic tape) due to health concerns. Unknown to them, this hygroscopic compound would, over the course of years, pull moisture directly out of the air, and get somewhat gooey, allowing the recorded layer to separate from the plastic tape. This is not only bad for the recorded media, but also for the equipment that it gets played back on.

So after a bit more research, I purchased a wonderful device which would remove the water, and render the tapes playable. It is compact, and holds the exact temperature needed for "baking". It can also make banana chips - it's a food dehydrator! This is one of those times that the DIY mentality has given us the absolute perfect solution to our problem.

The tapes played back perfectly, with great fidelity. The only problem was that they were all in Polish, which is all Greek to me! It seemed to me that since I could hear the actors moving around the recording space, interacting with each other, yet heard no pages turning, this show was memorized and blocked out the way a stage play would be. Very impressive - it lent a sense of realism to the entire production! I hope to get a bit of a translation soon.

HERE is a little snippet, some of the opening. The couple seems to be doing some pillow talk...not really discussing the barking dogs that introduce the scene. Well, that's what I hear, anyway. Let's hope it's not too off-color!

1 comment:

P-Addy said...

Never knew how much Polish sounded like French. Does he say something about Zorro?