Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

20 June 2022

Recording of the week: Footsteps on gravel

This week’s post comes from Steve Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary and Creative Recordings.

Tape loop in box

The tape box in the image above measures 90 mm x 90 mm. Inside, as you can see, is a short loop of tape. This is one of nearly 300 similar items from the Bishop Sound collection. Each one features a prosaic title such as ‘Crowd Cheering’ or ‘Dog Barking’. They are sound effects dating from the late 1950s, designed for ‘the stage, film, television, exhibitions, pageants, etc., and all users of sound effects’.

Some years before, company founder Jack Bishop had the idea of replacing mechanical sound effects and ‘their somewhat capricious results’ with recorded effects that could be relied upon to sound the same every night.

Digitizing this sample tape for this week’s blog post presented our audio engineer Karl Jenkins with a modest challenge.

Audio engineer Karl Jenkins with tape loop

Audio engineer Karl Jenkins preparing to transfer the tape

We did not want to cut the original loop and add new leader tape if this could be avoided. However, the tape loop was too short to fit neatly onto the standard hubs of the tape player in the studio.

The answer, as you can see below, involved the judicious placement of a screwdriver.

Audio engineer Karl Jenkins transferring the tape

Listen to footsteps on gravel

Quotes are from Sound Effects: A Catalogue of Cuedisc Recorded Sound Effects (Bishop Sound & Electrical Co. Ltd.; London; date unknown).

Thanks to Karl Jenkins, Audio Engineer, and Andrew Pearson, Maintenance and Repair Engineer, Sound and Vision.

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