I am trying to gather facts for what might be a web page maybe an article about the short but
exciting fad of using 35mm mag-film as the original recording/mastering medium for music records
back in the late 50's and early 60's. I have a bunch of good information on Everest, Mercury Living
Presence and Command but would like to know more details about the few other studios that deployed
35mm and also if there were any record companies beyond Everest, Mercury, Command and later Project
3 that used this technology as a featured part of their marketing.
This guy in Japan did a pretty good job collecting references to most of the Mercury Perfect
Presence Sound series:
[BTW, the PPS series was different from the Living Presence use of 35mm in that these were multi-mic
studio production albums probably set up to compete against stuff like Command's hifi-extravaganzas.
Living Presence 35mm records were made like all the rest -- 3 mics to 3 tracks, editing on session
tapes and mastering to LP with a live 3-2 mixdown so the LP master was one generation away from the
session recording. The three Fennell albums were the only time Mercury classical-marketed albums
were done with many mics in a studio-production type atmosphere. The Victor Herbert and George
Gershwin albums were done on tape at Fine Recording in Manhattan. The Cole Porter album was done at
Fine Recording Bayside (former Everest studio) on 35mm.]
Note that not all PPS series albums were done on 35mm, but from this discography (which is basically
lifted from Ruppli), it appears that 35mm albums were done at Fine Recording, United Recording (Bill
Putnam) in Hollywood, Radio Recorders in Hollywood and maybe -- but it's not clear -- Universal
Recording in Chicago.
Later, in the mid and late 60's, Enoch Light's Project 3 made 35mm-master recordings at Fine
Recording and later at A&R Studios in NY.
I don't know if this fad was ever wider-spread -- that's what I'm hoping other listmembers might
I'd also love to know details about the 35mm recording equipment and techniques at the Hollywood
recording studios mentioned, Universal Recording and A&R. For instance, at Fine Recording the
Westrex recording and playback EQ curves were tweaked to produce flatter extended treble response
for music recording. I don't know if Hollywood in the early 60's operated on a standard EQ curve for
35mm recording or if Westrex machines had one curve, RCA had another, etc. Did other music-album
recording studios tweak their film machines to have an extended/flatter top end?
Finally, in case I do a web page, discography info about any Mercury albums not detailed on the page
above and anything that was not on Mercury, Command, Everest or Project 3 that is a confirmed case
of 35mm original recording/master.
Thanks in advance. This fad ended up pretty short-lived among the record companies due to the high
cost 35mm and the limited number of studios using it. But, the sensation definitely raised the
quality bar on regular magnetic tape. Several Ampex veterans have told me that Ampex's extensive
re-thinking and science research of magnetic recording that led to the MR-70 was because corporate
and marketing people panic'd about 35mm's perceived superiority. The MR-70 was by all accounts an
amazing piece of engineering and capable of superior sound to all other tape machines of the time,
but was priced too high for the market and thus was a monetary/business failure. Once solid-state
technology matured a bit, Ampex was able to produce the same superior electric specs and nearly as
good mechanical specs at market-bearable prices with the AG-440. Research for the MR-70 led to
numerous AES papers which expanded the knowledge and science of magnetic recording and tape recorder
design. I'd be curious to know if there were other similar indirect fall-outs from the 35mm fad.
-- Tom Fine
PS -- for those interested, John Frayne of Westrex wrote an article for the AES Journal in 1960 that
gives a lot of detail about the original Everest setup. And there was a 1967 Popular Science article
detailing step-by-step a Project 3 session recorded to 35mm at Fine Recording, then taking the album
thru the editing, mastering and manufacturing process.