Tuesday, February 08, 2005

One track, two track, red track, blue track

Interning...coming to the end of my training soon.

One of my exercises at the Archives including editing out tape recorder noise...as in when the tape recorder is shut off. Annoying sound. But we only edit it if researchers ask us to do that, and only with Mike's permission. That way we preserve the context of the entire sound on the recording that collectors have made.
I didn't quite get this, so I did it again.

Yesterday, I got to work on an original catalog record for this disc of Beethoven piano concertos played by pianist Richard Cass, conductor Paul Freeman, and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra (label: Tintagel).

I'm starting to understand track configuration on tape. Kinda confusing. Full track means there's only string or track or channel of information recorded on the tape. Half track means there's two tracks. Quarter track means four, etc...
Of course, the number of tracks doesn't mean something is stereo or mono, or how many sides.

Recorded full-track tapes have only one channel of information. Mono. (More on playback in a minute)

See, you can have a half-track with two mono channels, one assigned for each program. Each program would go in the opposite direction. After you get one side done, flip the tape over. There can be one program using two tracks for stereo. The first track would be the left channel; and the second track would be the right one.

Then, there's quarter-track. That means four tracks on one tape. Theoretically, you could have 4 mono tracks of all different programs. This doesn't happen that often. Most often is 2 stereo programs, using two of the four channels. Which 2 tracks do a stereo program use? Is it 1 and 2? NO! (well, yes for a cassette it is). It's 1 and 3. Track 1 is for left, and Track 3 is for right. But...for the other side, it's not track 2 for left and track 4 for right. It's track 4 for left and track 2 for right....Got it? :-) It's just the opposite of the other side.

Now, on playback...you should use the appropriate head for the tape configuration. If you're playing a half-track stereo, you don't want to use a full track playback head; or you'll turn the resulting sound into mono. If you're going to listen to something recorded in quarter-track stereo, and you've got a half-track head--all kind of bizarre things could happen. But, listening to an old 1947 full track recording with a quarter-track head could be a really good idea. It gets rid of a lot of noise, because if you turn up the input from track 3 (right) which is the center for the tape you'll get most of the signal. The center is where most of the signal lies in those old full-track tapes.

Analog media...in the midst of life, they are in death, as the Psalms tell us.


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