Richard L. Hess

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This section presents a series of articles and other documents on media history and archival practices. If you would like to see your article presented here, please email me.

Authors Title Init. Pub. Last Rev.
Abstract / Comments

Hess, Richard L., Joe Iraci, and Kimberley Flak Canadian Conservation Institute Technical Bulletin 30: The Digitization of Audio Tapes 2012-12 2012-12

This document provides information to the small-to-medium-sized archive that wishes to preserve their analog audio holdings on their own. Technical jargon is kept to a minimum. Simple explanations are provided and specific equipment is mentioned as being representative. This is a hands-on guide. It is available for purchase for a nominal fee from the Canadian Conservation Institute at the above link.

CCI Abstract: Many archives and heritage institutions possess audio tapes that are the only record of culturally significant information. Unfortunately, these analog audio storage formats have a finite technology lifetime. If the information is to remain accessible, it must be migrated to new technology. This Technical Bulletin provides information and procedures for digitizing cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes. It is intended to assist small to mid-size heritage institutions that lack the funds for professional digitization. Note that the procedures discussed in the bulletin are intended primarily for oral history collections; they will not capture all the fine details extant in high-fidelity recordings.

Hess, Richard L. Tape Degradation Factors and Challenges in Predicting Tape Life 2006-10 2008-10

From about 1950 through the 1990s, most of the world’s sound was entrusted to analog magnetic recording tape for archival storage. Now that analog magnetic tape has moved into a niche market, audio professionals and archivists worry about the remaining lifetime of existing tapes. This article, based on the author’s presentation at the 2007 ARSC Conference at the Ward Irish Music Archive, Milwaukee, WI, defines the basic tape types and the current state of knowledge of their degradation mechanisms. Conflicting prior work is reviewed and correlated with current experience. A new playback method for squealing tapes is described. The challenges in predicting future tape life is discussed. Illustrations of various types of tape degradations and a survey of many of the techniques used for tape restoration are included. Suggestions are made for further research and archival practices.

This paper was originally presented at the Audio Engineering Society Conference in San Francisco, California, 2006-10 and was published as preprint 6970. A version of this was presented at the Association of Recorded Sound Collections Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2007-05. The linked file is the version published in the ARSC Journal 39:2, Fall 2008.


Chris Juried History of Recording Website 2011 ongoing

Chris Juried, whose father was a recording engineer, is assembling an extensive website dedicated to the history of recording--all aspects including equipment, people, studios, and other information. This is well worth a look and if you have something to contribute, that would be great!


National Association of Broadcasters Tape and disc standards 1964 1976

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has kindly provided permission for making available their obsolete standards for cartridge, cassette, and reel tape recording as well as for disc recording. These are not as comprehensive as the IEC standards but provide useful data for engineers and restorers attempting to understand what went into making the recordings that they are currently restoring.

Each of the four standards are presented in two different formats: searchable scan and formatted text and graphics. The searchable scan is generally the most useful, but the formatted text and graphics shows the OCR errors (which are hidden in the other version) and would be useful if you wish to quote a portion of the document in a research paper.

Please note that while I have permission to make these available in their entirety, these standards are still under copyright by the National Association of Broadcasters. Thanks are due to Janet Elliott and Graham Jones of the NAB Science and Technology Department for arranging for the permission and for the clean scans from the NAB library.


European Broadcasting Union Review of existing systems for the synchronisation between film cameras and audio tape-recorders 1973-02 2006-03
In 2005, someone sent me a poor fax of a portion of EBU Tech 3095 Review of existing systems for the synchronisation between film cameras and audio tape-recorders. I asked the EBU for a copy and permission to post it. They opted to make it available on their web site. This is an important document to aid in understanding synchronization systems when "double system" film sound recording was in widespread use utilizing magnetic audio tape (as opposed to sprocketed film).

Hess, Richard L. The Jack Mullin/Bill Palmer Tape Restoration Project 2001-07 2001-05
This Project Report in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society outlined the work done by the author of these Web pages to reproduce tapes that Mullin brought over from Germany in 1946 and were used for recording shows such as Philco Radio Time with Bing Crosby and The Burl Ives Show (also sponsered by Philco) until a domestic supply of tape could be secured. After Mullin started using new tapes, his partner Bill Palmer used some of these tapes for industrial film soundtracks. This work was funded in part by a Grammy Grant.

Engel, Friedrich Karl and Peter Hammar A Selected History of Magnetic Recording 2006-08 2006-08
A brief history of magnetic tape from the BASF Historian and the founding curator of the Ampex museum.

Engel, Friedrich Karl, ed. Oberlin Smith and the Invention of Magnetic Sound Recording 1989-06 2006-08
An Appreciation on the 150th Anniversary of the Inventor's Birth

Engel, Friedrich Karl Walter Weber's Technical Innovation at the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft 2006-08 2006-08
Walter Weber (1907-1944) was one of the highly innovative engineers at Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft (RRG, German Broadcast Company). Judging from today's standpoint, his most im-portant contribution to the development of audio technology was the implementation (not the inven-tion) of high frequency biasing in practice. Thus at a single stroke magnetic recording became the most favourable method in sound recording, both in terms of reliability and quality. Subsequently, Weber combined magnetic tape recording and stereophony. Thus the state of recording technology at RRG was ahead of its time.

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