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35mm Magnetic Masters

Discussion in 'Collector's Corner' started by Rudy, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    I was always curious about some of the albums I have seen throughout the years that claimed to be recorded onto "35mm".

    upload_2017-3-2_13-28-41.png upload_2017-3-2_13-29-11.png

    At first (especially on albums like Esquivel's) I thought they were doing optical recording, but it turns out there actually was a 35mm magnetic tape format used in studios. The labels that primarily used it were Mercury, Command, Everest, Cameo/Parkway and Project 3. While it was not a popular format for rock or pop music, it was found more in classical and easy listening recording sessions. The "120 CMPS" designation on the Esquivel album above was a variation on the format where the tape traveled at a speed just over 47ips.

    Here is an excellent presentation about the short-lived format:


    The 35mm tape actually has sprocket holes in it, like 35mm film. The tape moves faster (approx. 18 inches per second, where many masters of the era were 15ips), and combined with the width, could result in greater headroom and lower background noise. The sprockets reportedly kept the speed a lot more constant than with traditional reels. As mentioned above, the variation Reprise used had a much faster tape speed.

    The format died out around 1970 due to improvements in traditional reel recorders. That and multitrack recording required tape widths as wide as two inches, and traditional reels were easier to locate and play back at specific locations on the tape. I would also think that editing might have been easier on traditional reels, since you were not limited to the spacing of the sprocket holes. (It is not really an issue with classical, but for pop/rock music where you often needed to splice a tape right at a beat in the music, that distance could make a difference.)

    Attached Files:

    Bobberman likes this.
  2. The concert sinatra lp was 35mm
    Rudy likes this.
  3. KentTeffeteller

    KentTeffeteller Active Member

    Very expensive format. The special heads with low impedance and 3 channels were big money, and the magnetic film was very expensive compared to normal 1/2" tape in general use then. The film ran at 18 IPS and had full track mono equivalent track widths. The thick recording film was immune to print through and very high S/N Ratios. And very wide response and inaudible flutter.
  4. JeffM

    JeffM Active Member

    Have there been problems with 35mm magnetic film masters developing "vinegar syndrome" cellulose acetate deterioration? I know the motion picture business has had problems with old magnetic track prints, such as those made for big roadshow movies in the 60's.
  5. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    35mm magnetic tape isn't quite the same as photo film. If I understand it correctly, I think all this is, is thicker tape stock but with sprocket holes. (It would need that added thickness to withstand going past the sprockets.) In other words, I don't think they have the same base "plastic" (if you will) that film has--instead, it would be more like a thick version of standard recording tape, but with the sprocket holes. It's been a few months since I read up on it.
    Steven J. Gross likes this.
  6. KentTeffeteller

    KentTeffeteller Active Member

    Yes, Magnetic film had vinegar syndrome issues, if it was stored in boxes it did fine, it had issues being stored in cans.
    Rudy likes this.

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