When working with analog film you will have to record your film and audio separately and then sync them by hand. In this article, the process for transferring digital audio to analog audio using a Mag Dubber will be explained. The Mag Dubbers are used to transfer audio to a 16mm magnetic film format used in Steenbeck editing. Follow this guide to achieve a high quality audio transfer.
The mag dubbers read, erase and write onto 16mm oxide coated stock that has the same dimensions and number of sprockets as 16mm film stock. The mag dubber can seem intimidating but is straightforward to use.
The main power switch is on the bottom of the machine on the left hand side. You will most likely not need the CD and cassette players above the gap in the mag dubber. Next on the machine is the input selector which you will need to use for the machine to read the audio off your digital device. The next section is the dubber control followed by the magnetic heads. The first head erases, the second records and the third plays back (reproduce). Above this you will place your take up reel and split reel with magnetic tape.
Preparing to Record
Preparing the Machine
The first thing you will have to do is make sure the mag dubber is fully powered on. There are three switches to power it on. The red main power switch on the bottom left of the machine, the black main power switch on dubber panel and the power to the speakers on top of the machine must all be on.
Now the machine is on, you will need to select the correct input. Using the input selector, set your input to correspond with your chosen source. If you are using a phone or a laptop select “Visitor.”
Put your source mag tape on the split reel and place it on the left hand side of the mag dubber with the sprockets on your side. The matte/record side of the mag stock should be facing the inside of your split reel, which will ensure that the erase, record and reproduce heads are able to write on the tape. Position the take up reel on the right of the machine. Pull the mag tape across the top of the take up reel so that it creates a straight line and wind the beginning of the mag tape onto it until it is secure.
Place your hand on the middle of the tape between the two reels and pull downward. Begin lacing your magnetic tape through the machine. The tape should come down, (hugging the record head) down the inside of the tension brackets and then round the outside of the silver dial, across the erase, record and reproduce heads and then repeated symmetrically on the other side.
You will need to lock the tape in place using the clamps on the record head once the tension is created with the tension brackets. To do this, simply line up the mag sprockets with the notches in the machine and push the notches against the record head.
Tension is extremely important when transferring audio tracks. Tension can be created using the black tension brackets. To create tension push the left hand side tension bracket all the way up against its stopper. Tighten the clamp on the record head to make sure it stays in place. Repeat with the right hand side. It is okay if there is still a little movement.
Make sure that your source is set correctly before you begin checking your levels. Click the ready button and listen to your audio through the machine. The input signal on the VU meter should read between -7dB to -3dB for the majority of your audio. Quieter sounds can be in the -20dB range. Louder sounds can occasionally hit the red but be careful that it does not happen too much or your audio will sound blown out.
Use the record dial to set your record level. Make adjustments while listening to find the optimal level for your whole piece. Pick one level that works throughout the audio and leave it there for the recording.
If your audio sounds too loud coming from the machine, remember that the dubber panel and VU meter are only showing you what will be recorded and not the volume. If it is too loud, you simply need to turn down the volume on the speaker above the machine.
Recording to Mag
Now that your magnetic tape is properly threaded and you have set your recording levels, you are ready to record! Turn the left knob to “A Wind.” Turn the bottom right knob to “Hold.”
When you are ready: turn the last knob on the top right to “Forward,” press “Record,” “Reproduce” and, finally, press play on your digital audio device to start your audio.
Let the mag run through until your audio runs out.
Once your audio has finished playing, turn all the knobs to “Off.” Once the machine has stopped, you can remove your take up and split reels together and move them onto a rewind table. Place your take up on the right and your split reel on your left. You may wish to mark the end of your audio before rewinding it back onto the split reel.
Do not use the fast rewind button on the mag dubber.