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Perth (08) 9375 3902

Aust.Wide 1300 4 PROCOPY

Melbourne (03) 9015 9508

Postal Address:

ProCopy    Po Box 991,

Morley, WA. 6943

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Tuesday
May032016

Nothing lasts forever - especially audio reels

Today we've seen probably the worst case of tape degradation to-date. 

Among a series of reel to reel tapes brought in for transfer this tape below has shown the worst case of failure that we've experienced.

7 inch Reel of 1/4 inch    

 The tape oxide has litterally shredded off the polyester tape backing as it's being played

Tape shreds while being played

Surprisingly it's not the oldest tape in the batch either, being a backcoated tape. probably manufactured between the mid to late 90s going on the programme content.

The tape had needed baking before it would play properly anyway, which was the first sign that this tape had problems.

Fortunately the content was located at the start of the tape so we recovered it all before the tape starting falling apart. 

Tape Close Up

 

 

Destroyed 1/4inch reel to reel tape

 

So here's the warning - just because the audio reel isnt that old and looks ok, doesnt mean that it will play and it's without problems.

Unfortunately at the moment we're seeing an increased number of reel to reel tapes that are requiring extra work to get them transferred and it's likely that this issue will continue to get worse.  

If you are considering getting some archived material digitised our recommendation would be to do it sooner rather than later.  Contact us on 08  9375 3902 or 1 300 4 PROCOPY for further details.

Monday
Apr252016

Phone Recording Enhancement & Tips for better recordings

A popular source of recordings that we are asked to analyse or enhance are mobile phone recordings. Due to the convenience of mobiles being close onhand they are often used to record situations that are later needed to be enhanced or are used to try and resolve disputes.  They are similar in nature to digital dictation recorders and are not always ideal.

We always go through an assessment process with these types of recordings because the problems can be of various types and each individual case is different. Luckily the file sizes are generally small enough to be easily sent to us electronically for the assessment process.

Due to the nature of mobile phones we find a number of different problems. Like dictation devices the microphones are omnidirectional, that means they pick up audio from all around.  This can be both an advantage and disadvantage, but in recording circumstances it means that a lot of unwanterd audio can be picked up including background traffic noise, airconditioners and other people as the mic is not picking up only the specific wanted audio.

Some phones also have automatic level controls which try and bring up the voice when it goes quieter, This can result in increased backround sounds making the wanted sounds harder to hear.

Interference problems such as clicks, thumps. pops. outdoor wind noises, mains power noise and hums, lighting buzzes and other technical problems will also affect the intelligibility of the audio. (many of these issues are worse on the older style micro cassette recorders)  At times when recorders are hidden in clothing the fabric will rub directly on the microhphone causing a great deal of unwanted noise

Another common issue we find is that the device can be placed a long way from the source of the sound, in an adjacent room, down a hall way, in the back of a car, or in a cupboard hidden from sight.  Again this makes the required audio very low in comparison to other sounds (which are often not focussed on at the time).   Another problem is introduced which is the compression algorythymn that the audio is recorded with by the phone. (typically low resolution mp3s or m4a formats) Often these have artifacts at low volume levels and these can even be misinterpreted as people talking at a very quiet level.  Also increasing the distance from the source will reduce the treble in the voice, again making the diction less easily understood and improving the quality even harder. 

The final area of recording problems is where the sound source or other sounds in the location are distorting the microphone on the device or the volume of the recording has been turned up too loud causing the audio to be heavily distorted.  Distortion is difficult to remove although in many instances it can be reduced significantly. 

All of the above problems with recordings can be addressed and often improved signicantly. To get the best results a number of different processes are often used and this is where the time can come in to an enhancement project. Simply raising the volume will not give the best result and may not be possibly if the volume already "peaks" at 0dB.

Unwanted background sounds that are unheard at low levels will be brought up along with the rest of the audio .  Hums. buzzes and random clicks and pops may also prevent the audio from simply being brought up in volume (these may all have to be addressed individually)

 

If you have a recording with any of the above issues then contact us for details of the assessment process where we'll be able to give you an idea of what we can do to improve the quality of your recording.

if you are trying to record on your mobile device some of the following tips will help to improve the quality of the end result.

1/ Try to balance the voices in recording by finding a suitable place to put the recorder that is equidistant from both talkers. 

2/ If you can control the environment where the recording is taking place. Turn off any loud sources of sound, including, TVs, Radios, Airconditioners or motors such as in a vehicle.

3/ Try a programme such as Rode's RodeRec app for Iphones that bypasses the codec in the phone and produces a much higher quality recording.

4/ Try not to cover the phone with anything that will affect the recording quality.

5/ Try not to hold the phone or place it in a pocket or bag while recording.

6/ Set up the recorder in advance and check the level settings. 

7/ Try to avoid outdoor recordings where you have no control over random sounds such as cafes, restaurants, vehicles or wind.

 Don't forget you can contact us at info@procopy.com.au for further information on our audio enhancement services.

 

 

 

Thursday
Oct232014

Tips for drying Magnetic Media - Reel To Reel tapes

Courtesy of Airshow Mastering & The Minnesota Historical Society here are some tips for drying & salvaging magnetic reel to reel tapes.

Download the PDF

We're happy to discuss any issues you may have in preserving or digitising your analogue audio and video content. Email enquiries to info@procopy.com.au 

 

Wednesday
Aug062014

Digitising a Flexi Disc 7 inch Record

Remember these? Floppy discs? well Flexi records actually -- these were records that were often inserted in to magazines for promotional purposes or carried children's stories. Made of soft flexible vinyl they were first produced in the early 60s. We recently restored this one for Whiteman Park Railway Museum.    If you have further questions please call or click the Contact Us link above.

Flexi Record

Flexi Record & Booklet

Due to the nature of these records they are often in poor shape due to wear and tear over the years, some might have creases in them as they've been hidden inside booklets like the example above or have excessive pops & crackles. All these things makes playback difficult. They require care when digitising to get the best results.

If you've found some at home, drop them in and we'll assess the quality of them and transfer them to CD so that you can listen to them again.

If you'd love to learn more about these hard to find items there's a great article here: Flexi Disc Article

Saturday
Jun212014

What causes wobbly sound on audio cassettes?

Audio cassettes generally last a long time. (we have many in our library that are more than 30 years old) however we're starting to get a few come in for digitsing that are exhibiting problems. Before you throw them away - let us see what we can do with them. Usually the tapes will play ok in our professional cassette decks but every now and then we'll have to explore the problems more deeply to get a good quality transfer. 

Ampex audio cassette

We recently received a tape of an oral history project that was recorded in 1985. During the assessment process we found that it would play for around 3 minutes and then start to play back erraticly, eventually slowling to a stop. You can hear the effect here and it might be something you've heard before and then thrown the tape away. Sometimes people think the tape has "stretched" in fact tape is very robust and that's a rare occurence.

There are a couple of possible reasons for this playback problem and with some careful work we've been able to retrieve the audio. With this particular tape it  was a one-off recording, no other copies exist so it was of great importance and we had to do our best to get a good copy. 

Could this cassette tape be exhibiting a problem we usually find only with reel to reel tapes called "sticky tape syndrome"? We've only just started to find cassettes with this problem but it was certainly old enough to be a candidate.

We have a special temperature controlled oven for "baking" audio tapes to stabilise the tape surface. (Warning: Please do not attempt to do this yourself as you may ruin the tape permanently) When we've gone through this process it gives us enough time to do the digital transfer of the tapes. In this case a few hours in the oven stabilised the tape surface enough for us to be able to make a copy and then go through our audio restoration processes to improve the audio. 

You can hear the result of the new transfer here.

The client was fortunate that this tape was caught in time before it became completely unplayable and we've been able to retrieve the important interview contained on it.

If you have a library of tapes that are approaching 15-20 years old it would be a good idea to have them checked and transferred to another format as soon as possible,

Call us on 9375 3902 if you'd like us to assess your audio tapes.