Film Sound Transfer Suite

Sound transfer suite PP PAG Sep-Mag recorders PP




















Photos by Peter Poole, no reproduction without permission.

These photos are of the Film Sound Transfer Suite, G07, from the 1970s, at Pebble Mill. The machines in the lower photo are sep-mag recorders.

The following information was added on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Pete Simpkin: ‘Sep-mag was a boon to Regional TV news especially as it enabled proper independent editing of sound and picture at speed. The news stories were shot on cine film which had a magnetic coating along the edge onto which the location sound was recorded by the camera. After processing the magnetic strip, sound was transferred to separate magnetic film track, the same 16mm guage as the picture, and then the editors could drop in overlay shots whilst the sound was continuous on the sepmag. If there was time, dubbing and mixing of commentary and effects would be possible, but there was rarely time for this. As telecine operators, we had the challenge of ‘locking -up’ or synchronising the sepmag track and the picture film on the two machines for transmission. Time had to be built in to the programme running order for this to be achieved, but with things happening at speed, it was not unknown for the locking to fail and one of the reels could run wild and cause much mayhem! Happy days!’

Peter Poole: ‘Pete has described the sound process for regional TV news. Com-mag audio quality is only suitable for speech recording. Network and other regional TV progammes were shot on a crystal controlled film camera. The sound was recorded on a Nagra tape recorder. To ensure synchronization a pilot tone is recorded with the audio. In the transfer suite the pilot tone is synchronized and the audio is transfered to the Sep-Mag film. Sound transfer was originally carried out in the dubbing theatre record room. With the increasing film production this system became unable to cope. A dedicated transfer suite was set up in room G07. Pebble Mill was the first and probably the only one to buy PAG recorders. They were made in the UK and cheaper than the Perfecton recorders. The PAG machines had poor reliability. The breaks would often fail. Watching 2000 ft. of film being thrown across the room was not a good experience! They were eventually replaced by Perfecton machines.’

Andrew Godsall: ‘Those PAG machines had a meccano like quality about them. I turned up at Pebble Mill not long after GO7 was set up and it was just a conference room with equipment plugged directly together if I recall. It had domestic type cassette players and tape recorders as well as the PAG machines and a Nagra. But it was treated with respect and produced great results. Eventually the room was hard wired and connections appeared on a jackfield. It had a window on to the outside world and that could make it a good place to work.’

1/4″ audiotape – Charles White

quarter inch recorded on location, transferred to 16mm mag, then cut to bits. CW













Copyright, Charles White, no reproduction without permission.

A stack of 1/4″ audiotapes recorded on location, transferred to 16mm magnetic tape, and then cut to bits in the edit. The items here include Top Gear inserts, and Pebble Mill at One inserts on midwifery.

These were the master 1/4″ tape recordings from location, made from progs about 1986. The sound recordist locked sync on a Nagra using Crystal sync, and they matched the 16mm film, when it was transferred back in Sound transfer, by messrs Poole, Peissel, et al. We as assistant editors then locked the Mag and film on a 6-way Acmade using the Clapper board frame to synchronise. This could be done using the ‘front’ or ‘end’ board.

Thanks to editor Charles White for sharing the photo, adding the information – and for keeping the audio!

Sharon Pemberton using the Acmade. Photo by Peter Poole

Sharon Pemberton using the Acmade. Photo by Peter Poole













The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Peter Poole: ‘The transfer suite often worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week at busy times. Not the most exciting job but very good overtime!’

Alan Miller: ‘In Scotland we synced up using a device known as a Pic Sync, Does that mean it was probably actually an Acmade?’

Dawn Trotman: ‘We called them pic syncs too.. goodness that takes me back to chinagraphs keeping your hair up and splicers with your initials carved on them .. people also tried to steal a good one … Happy days when you had time to think!’

Nagra – photos by Ian Collins

Photos by Ian Collins, no reproduction without permission.

Video editor Ian Collins took photos of various pieces of post-production technical kit before the fixtures and fittings of Pebble Mill were sold off in auction in Autumn 2004.

These photos are of a Nagra audio recorder. They were used in the PSC (portable single camera) edit suites until the 1990s. They were very rugged and reliable.

Please add a comment if you can add information about how the Nagras were used.




The following comment was made by recordist Murray Clarke about location Nagras: ‘Of course the Nagra 3 and 4s were the standard sound recording machine for location recordists for many many years before DAT became more common. I bought my mono Nagra 3 in 1971 for a cost of around £3200. I took it up to Yorkshire for a couple of episodes of all Creatures Great and Small – and it rained solidly for a fortnight!!!. My ‘over-qualified’ boom op and assistant was Dave Baumber, then the Dubbing Mixer at the newly-built Pebble Mill studios.’

Christopher Hall adds the following information: ‘This is a Nagra T. T for twin capstan. They had a computer controlled synchroniser which could chase timecode from the VT machine in an edit suite at high speed. I went on a factory course for these in the late 1980s. We spent a whole day learning how to repair the motors, and when we asked how long they usually lasted for a discussion in French and German revealed that they didn’t know because none had stopped yet!’

Paul Vanezis: ‘I tracklayed 10 episodes of ‘Chalkface’ and 8 episodes of ‘Specials’ on a Nagra T…’

Peter Poole: ‘This must be the finest tape recorder ever made. I spent ages trying to get film unit to buy one for the transfer suite. It never happened. But after seeing the price I could see why!’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Totally agree with you Peter……I used one to great effect recording a nightingale for a Radio Birmingham programme in the 70s. The standard reporter’s Uher was not up to the job and the simple version Nagra gave level control, mixing of two mics AND ‘off tape’ monitoring!’

Refurbished Film Sound Transfer Suite – Peter Poole

Photos copyright Peter Poole, no reproduction without permission.

These photos from the early 1990s, show the Film Sound Transfer Suite which was a very busy area. Its main use was to transfer audio tapes to SEPMAG. The tapes were recorded on a Nagra tape recorder together with a pilot tone signal. This was needed to ensure that the audio was synchronous with the picture. At a latter time a DAT recorder with time code replaced the Nagra. The Transfer Suite also housed a collection of “Library  Music”. These discs were produced for TV and radio programmes and not commercially available. They had interesting titles such as “Links Bridges and Stings”. A full collection of BBC sound effects were also available.

Peter Poole