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Nagra or a DAT?

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I plan on doing a feature on film, and getting it telecined to DV to edit on final cut pro, which is a better system for audio? Nagra or DAT? I can get a used Nagra 4S stereo form Visual Product for 2,500, a DAT with time code goes for almost double that. The cameras wouldn't have Aaton code or Arri code, would a DAT without time code work just as well? I've heard that Nagras are old school workhorses that deliver the goods in different temperatures and humidity. But if I plan to shoot at 23.976 would a DAT be easier? Then again TCS makes an adapter for Nagras so they sync up with that.


Very Confused. Any help would be appreciatted.



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Don't go blowing $2500 on an old Nagra when you can buy a new non-timecode DAT machine for only $1200. Nagra tapes are $5 each for only 15 minutes, while DAT tapes last an hour for the same money. The sound quality of Nagras is excellent, but so is a professional DAT deck. Make sure to get a machine with professional XLR inputs like the Tascam DA-P1 or the Sony TCD-D10 and support it with a good PortaBrace bag, a good basic boom mike (Sennheiser ME-66 is great, Audio-Technica 835B is cheaper and still very nice), a nice 12' carbon fibre boom pole, perhaps a couple of wireless mikes, some battery packs and cables. This should set you back only about $3000-$3500 total and is a great basic setup.


You can do just fine without timecode as long as you're just doing your own work. If you were going to try to rent the use of this gear or get hired by others in a professional situation then you would really need a timecode machine, but you don't need it for your own work. Simply use a proper clapper slate to verbally and visually mark each take as was always done traditionally. Dump your audio into FCP and line up the sound of the clap with the image of the same. It's quite easy to do and you'll get a hand of it quite quickly. The issue of the running speed is called "resolving" and you don't have to shoot 23.976 to take care of it. There is a function in FCP and in Pro Tools to adjust the audio. Ask on a user's group and I'm sure someone can help you with the details.


The Nagra is a great old machine but I wouldn't spend serious money on one unless I was heading into the harshest of environments and wanted a backup machine. Go with DAT and you'll be fine.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am a DP in Toronto Canada. However, A good friend of ours, Keith Wester was a very well known sound man in Hollywood for many years until losing his battle with Cancer last year. He was also a respected member of the Academy. He did films such as Perfect Storm, Water World, Sea of Love, J.I. Jane The Rock and so on. He always said that athough he did a lot of research with the new DAT technology, he was never convinced that the binary represented sound would have the deepness of Nagra. Old school perhaps, however, I personally tend to trust the masters.


Have fun.


Toby Proctor

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I think this can get a lot into the digital vs analog thing. Audiophiles use tube gear due to the richness it provides because transistors can't do the same thing, technically. I was reading about a guy making an indie and after the shoot he took it to some sound transfer place where they did everything analog and, he said, you could detect a richness in the sound of others he didn't get with his dat machine.

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Guest Ultra Definition

Either Nagra or DAT will have a good enough sound. You should also try some pro music equipment stores or web dealers. There are plenty of new digital pro multi track recorders that are inexpensive and as good as the pro DAT machines. The multitracks use various media, like flash memory, hard drives, etc. You may even get some kind of XLR box and record directly into a notebook. The higher the sampling rate, the bettter the sound. Nothing else matters in digital. Just don't get anything with compressed sound like MP3 or Mini Disc.


If you record speech, it does not matter if you record digital or analog. Sure digital has its flaws because of low sampling rates, but unless you'll be showing your movies at IMAX and top conventional theaters, the speaker systems are not good enough for anyone to hear the difference.


But the difference is definitely there. Go to some good audio dealer and compare the same recording on CD and SACD. You'll hear the difference. If there would be an SACD recorder -- better than with any analog recorder.

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I plan on doing a feature on film, and getting it telecined to DV to edit on final cut pro, which is a better system for audio? Nagra or DAT?

Any professional field recorder will serve you well. If you go with Nagra make sure the transfer house still has equipment to deal with it and the person doing post can deal with it as well when they go back and grab original field audio for alternate takes, ambience and other stuff which probably won't get transferred.


All the analog vs digital stuff in this thread is stupid. The real bottom line for getting good sound is a good boom operator who rides the line and points the mic at the mouth of the person talking. I'd rather hear dialog that was recorded on a cheap cassette deck with dolby that was boomed well than one that was recorded on a Deva with a PA operating the mic. If you are the mixer and they give you a PA to boom, better to switch jobs and boom it yourself while the PA pushes the red button and fills out the sound reports. Come post time, audio turd polishing is very expensive and time consuming and all you will have is a polished turd in the end. I also think people would rather see a movie shot on DV with good sound than a movie shot on 35mm that sounds like poop.

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tomaras, i was just wondering what "riding the line" means. it sounds like a term for keeping the boom just outside of camera frame, is that it?


interesting what you said about visual quality vs. sound quality, in terms of "watchability" i really agree.

jk :ph34r:

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Also - if you're recording human voice on a mono mic you really don't need to go crazy. Mag sound and DAT can both handle it just fine. I have talked with sound guys who reckon 24 bit 48/96khz audio is noticeably better than 16 bit 44khz (DAT), but any of these tried and well tested solutions will do you fine, so go for price and convenience. This means DAT. If you can afford a HD recorder of course...


The other solution much discussed by indie guys is to use a laptop with a balanced XLR interface like the M-Audio mobile USBPRE. 96khz 24 bit for peanuts.


Go to a sound forum and propose this. They love it.

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  • 4 weeks later...
"All the analog vs digital stuff in this thread is stupid. The real bottom line for getting good sound is a good boom operator who rides the line and points the mic at the mouth of the person talking."

Let a sound recordist decide on the best equipment to use...after all, you wouldn't expect them to tell you what camera is best. Anyway a decent recordist will come with all the equipment they need.

You will be using a professional recordist and boom op won't you? If not it doesn't matter what it's recorded on,you are at the mercy of the gods. You will find it cheaper to hire the best you can on the shoot rather than to "fix it in post" (trust me on that one.)



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  • 3 months later...

Nagra (Nagra IVS -TC):

-still being manufactured

-created from the beginning as a professional machine

-will work in extremes of heat, cold, humidity & dust

-can drop it (to a certain extent of course) and it will still work

-non existent list of problems with unit reported on sound web pages and


-quality of sound recorded is warm & rich



-Fostex and HHB have discontinued their time code DAT recorders

-tape transport mechanisms are not manufactured anymore for DAT recorders

-created from the beginning as a consumer format that failed

-will crease working in extremes of climate

-if dropped, most likely will be unrepairable

-regular postings of problems on film sound webpages and newsgroups

-being 16 bit, the quality of sound is colder and more limited


Prices for Nagras and DAT's are coming down as the new generation of non linear hard disk/DVD audio recorders come out. (There are 10 machines from 6 different companies out or on the way)


Mike Borlace

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  • 4 weeks later...

Nagra's were the ONLY film sound field recorder for so many years. However, these days, you may find it increasingly difficult to find good tape stock. Keep in mind that unlike digital recorders, an analog tape recorder can only be calibrated for one tape formula. So you cannot switch depending on availabilty without having your machine recalibrated. Like any analog tape machine, Nagra's are also subject to tape path problems in high humidity environ's as well as high G's if you do moving shots.


You'll also have to digitize in real time, and deal with pull up / down, take notes, etc. in the field.


DAT, on the other hand is pretty well a dead meduim. Don't waste your dough. There amy be one company left making a field DAT recorder. However, if you find a used Fostex PD-4 or an HHB, they were very good and reliable 24 bit machines with time code options. They were used for many major motion pictures.


Currently, most pro's are using hard disk recorders. Currently, they are quite expensive, but there will be some relatively low cost options very soon. Zaxcom will be refurbishing their immensely popular DEVA II recorder /mixer from trade-ins. Sound Devices will be releasing their long awaited 722 & 744 recorders at a record breaking price of $1,000.00 per channel (2 & 4 channel).


A bit less expensive (and available now) is the Fostex FR-2 recorder which uses CF cards and PCMCIA hard disk cards at around $1300.00. It is a high quiality 24 bit recorder with a time code board available soon.


A rung lower on the ladder is the Marants PMD670 CF recorder for around $700.00


Digital recorders will store production info, tape info, etc. right on the tape as data and will export the files directly to your NLS editor.

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  • 1 month later...

My "I don't have any more money to spend" solution was to rackmount my PC and use that in conjunction with my Aardvark Q10 sound card. 8 channels at 24bit 96khz which is an awful lot better than DAT. Nagra is analog and has those benifits... but the Q10 has some of the best solid state preamps... I can buy tube preamps if I get the money and it's 8 channels (4 with phanton power) and has SP/DIF in/out with timecode in/out etc, etc, etc.


MOTU makes 24bit 192khz stuff which I've heard a lot of analog freaks say is getting really really close to converting them.


The primary downside is that it doesn't run off batteries :)

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I just finished shooting a doc where I used a dat recorder. It was easy to use and I feel good about the sound. I didnt use the time code, just did the synching myself. I got most of the synching done in a day and it looks fine. Again, easy to use and sounds great, although im not really a sound guy.



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