Sticky-Shed Syndrome (Or: How To Save Your Old Reel-To-Reel Tape By Baking It)

Sticky-shed syndrome — it’s not just a cool name for a punk band, it’s a real condition that affects old magnetic audio tape and prevents it from being played back properly on a reel-to reel. Without getting overly technical (because let’s be honest, we probably barely understand it ourselves), this is a condition where the binder that holds the magnetic iron oxide coating to the plastic carrier begins to absorb moisture and break down, causing it to separate. This can cause friction, meaning the tape speed will slow down when played back, as well as causing a build-up of residue on the playback heads and other parts of the machine that the tape passes through. This affects older tapes (mostly from the 70s-80s) when manufacturers produced tapes with this particular type of binder, before realizing the mistake and switching to a more stable formula.

Thankfully, some genius found a pretty simple solution, which Ryan recently had the chance to demonstrate in the short video above. Essentially, you bake the tape in an oven at a very low temperature (we have read the range should be between 120-150 degrees Fahrenheit) for anywhere from an hour to two hours. This drives out the moisture, allowing the tape to be played back without the oxide rubbing off and causing too much friction. As Ryan shows us in the video, he was able to do this using a small toaster oven, as well as a digital thermometer to make sure the temperature stays in a good range. We should note that the temperature of the oven does fluctuate up and down. This should be okay, so long as you don’t get it too hot where you begin to melt any plastic parts.

Some people report being able to play back their baked tape several times, or that a tape will remain playable for a couple weeks before it begins to absorb moisture again. However, we recommend transferring the tape to digital right away as to not take any chances. If all goes as planned, you should be able to get a decent enough playback to re-archive a tape to digital.

So if you have any old magnetic audio tape from this era that you are wondering if you can salvage, check out the video to see how it’s done. And for those of you who have been around the Pacific-Northwest for a long time, you may even recognize the old Fred Meyer jingle from the early 1980s.

What Does Your Audio Editor Do For You?

What exactly do we audio editors and mixers do for our clients?  As you may already know, it's a little more than just recording and setting levels.  The above video shows a time-lapse of a typical edit, cleanup, and mix of a simple 30 second radio spot.  In it you can see us edit together various phrases from different takes, adjust levels with volume dynamics, remove breaths, and mix with the music.  This is all standard work to be done when preparing audio for an ad.  However, editing can sometimes get a bit more complex.

The great thing about working in a program like Pro Tools is how detailed you can be in your editing.  If you don't like the sound of certain syllable or consonant - replace it!  If mouth clicks and pops can't be edited out, there's a special tool to get rid of them (in the video we used the pencil tool to actually redraw the waveform).  It's this fine-tuning that helps ensure that the voice over sounds as smooth and clean as possible.

Sometimes script changes call for an emergency re-edit.  For example, a certain word should have been plural, and the talent is unavailable to re-record.  We can find an "s" from somewhere else in the read (or in extreme cases, go into the booth and record it ourselves) and after a bit of finessing, make it sound perfectly natural.

All of this is just a snapshot of the basic tasks we perform on a daily basis.  There is of course a bit more that goes into it, but we won't bore you with technical details.  So the next time you run into an audio engineer, say "thank you!"  But make sure to say it three times in a row so they have choices to edit from.  ;)

The Foley Farm

When it comes to doing Foley sound effects, we're "all ears" (Get it? Because corn?). Sometimes when our effects library just doesn't have the right sound, we get to record our own. Just like we did in this video. Here you will see us creating these farm-fresh sounds and even get a short preview of how it all sounds when it's mixed in (minus the VO and final music). All to make this commercial sound "a-maize-ing." Okay, no more puns, here's the video and more details below:

Throughout this process we discovered, in spite of using the real product, sometimes the sound of shucking corn, doesn't actually sound like corn being shucked. During one of our early takes, we found that grabbing a handful of leaves and pulling them backed created a very squeaky rubbery sound. After some experimenting, we found that pulling just one leaf or even squeezing the loose leaves in our hand yielded a much more gentle and natural sound that you would expect to hear. Suffice it to say that sometimes the actual sound of the action on screen isn't always the best fit for your video.

In terms of mixing -- this was for a commercial, so these sounds will act as added texture underneath voice over and music. The goal here is to be subtle enough to not compete with the message of the spot, but to add a nice layer to the picture that really brings it to life.

Cheers to Twenty-One Years!

One of the many great contributions to culture that Portland, Oregon is famous for (besides lumberjack fashion and vegan-themed gentlemen's clubs) is its beer.  So it only makes sense that when your local PDX audio studio turns twenty-one, you celebrate with a pint of the hoppy good stuff from a local Oregon brewery -- and even better that we get to do so in our new custom glasses!

On April 1st of this year, ADS Recording reached legal drinking age, so we poured ourselves this Red Chair NWPA from Deschutes Brewery.  And although we can't officially condone drinking and operating audio equipment, we've been told this beer pairs well with a relaxed VO read over a bright and upbeat piece of music that reminds us that summer is just around the corner.


"His Master's Voice" And The Dog That Became A Legend

Many of you probably recognize the image above, or have seen a version of it somewhere. Some of you may even know the original artwork was titled: "His Master's Voice." But only a few may actually know the name of the dog - "Nipper."

A painter by the name of Francis Barraud originally depicted Nipper after he saw him listening to a recording of his master's voice. And after being used in a Victrola advertisement (and many other brands and products that followed), Nipper became an icon of the audio world.

Nipper has also become something of an unofficial mascot here at ADS Recording, and over the years our office has collected myriad versions of this audio idol. Everything from printed ads and reproductions, to sculptures and figurines. There are even many hidden Nippers in the pictures throughout our website (can anyone find them all?). We even have a framed illustrated explanation of the history of Nipper (see below). Although is it just us, or does Nipper look a little leaner in this version?

Special Visitor from Los Angeles

Today our regular voice talent Debi Mae West (pictured middle) happened to be in Portland, so she stopped by to record some promos for Nickelodeon and our weekly Fred Meyer session. Debi has voiced just about everything from video games and cartoon shows, to commercials and promos, and has been one of the voices of Fred Meyer for over 15 years.

ADS Recording 20th Anniversary

This past April, ADS Recording hit a major milestone- being in business for 20 years! We are very proud of this accomplishment and are thrilled that we have been able to provide quality audio services to our clients for so long. 

We decided to commemorate this event with a video- interviewing our "founding father" to find out how he got into this business, and what he feels is the best part of his job.

Check it out and let us know what you think!  And here's to another 20+ years of serving both our local, and national community.