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ARSCLIST  July 2007

ARSCLIST July 2007

Subject:

The 35mm fad

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 10 Jul 2007 21:31:06 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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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:
http://microgroove.jp/mercury/PPS.shtml
[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 
know.

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.

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