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Trying to identify 16mm audio. 6-track optical sound?

Ryan Humphrey

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Hello all, I've run across an odd reel of 16mm and am trying to identify the type of sound track. It looks like the reel has 6 tracks of optical sound squished into the optical track, but that's absurd and ridiculous. Has anyone encountered this before or have a better idea what I'm looking at?


Assuming this is what it looks like, anyone know what sort of setup would have been used to create or or play it back originally?


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Wait what? Do you physically have that piece of film in your hand? If so, check the leader to see if there is any data on soundtrack.

Yep. A nice 600' roll of it. The still frame above just came off our scanner. A client brought it in. All they know is that it was professionally produced, although they are unsure of when. That's all I can find out of the providence of it. The leader was missing/damaged and there's no information there. It just starts with the typical 10-9-8... countdown.


@ Simon that's brilliant. Thank you very much

Edited by Ryan Humphrey
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16mm optical is mono. Always.


The way the tracks work, a light is shone through the film and hits a photocell that turns the variations in the amount of light hitting it into variable electrical signals. This is then turned into a sound wave (oversimplifying here, but this is the gist).


It doesn't matter how many tracks you see when you look at it, because they're all doing the same thing, and it's just about varying the light levels that hit the sensor. There are no discrete tracks that are read separately, it's all mushed into one, thus it's always mono.


Stereo existed in Mag audio, but that was more for output to video or blowup to 35. I used to have a steenbeck with stereo heads (which was a real pain, since my stuff was in mono. It worked, but there was a lot of unnecessary noise from the unused second track.

Edited by Perry Paolantonio
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We have ISO 7739, Two-track photographic sound records on 16 mm motion-picture prints, positions and width dimensions, a number of stereophonic prints, and a smaller number of projectors capable of reproducing in stereo.


From around 1969 on frequently in airplanes with Dolby noise reduction

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