Sound film - Wikipedia A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, or sound technologically coupled to image, as opposed to a silent film. The first known public exhibition of ...
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Sound film - Wikipedia A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, or sound technologically coupled to image, as opposed to a silent film. The first known public exhibition of ...
Sound film - Wikipedia 1908 poster advertising Gaumonts sound films Columbia Pictures Cartoons Volume 4 Animated The Chronomégaphone designed for large halls employed compressed air to amplify the recorded sound 1 A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound or sound technologically coupled to image as opposed to a silent film The first known public exhibition of projected sound films took place in Paris in 1900 but decades passed before sound motion pictures were made commercially practical Reliable synchronization was difficult to achieve with the early soundondisc systems and amplification and recording quality were also inadequate Innovations in soundonfilm led to the first commercial screening of short motion pictures using the technology which took place in 1923 The primary steps in the commercialization of sound cinema were taken in the mid to late 1920s At first the sound films which included synchronized dialogue known as talking pictures or talkies were exclusively shorts The earliest featurelength movies with recorded sound included only music and effects The first feature film originally presented as a talkie was The Jazz Singer released in October 1927 A major hit it was made with Vitaphone which was at the time the leading brand of soundondisc technology Soundonfilm however would soon become the standard for talking pictures By the early 1930s the talkies were a global phenomenon In the United States they helped secure Hollywoods position as one of the worlds most powerful culturalcommercial centers of influence see Cinema of the United States In Europe and to a lesser degree elsewhere the new development was treated with suspicion by many filmmakers and critics who worried that a focus on dialogue would subvert the unique aesthetic virtues of soundless cinema In Japan where the popular film tradition integrated silent movie and live vocal performance talking pictures were slow to take root In India sound was the transformative element that led to the rapid expansion of the nations film industry Contents 1 History 1 1 Early steps 2 Crucial innovations 2 1 Advanced soundonfilm 2 2 Advanced soundondisc 2 3 Fidelity electronic recording and amplification 3 Triumph of the talkies 3 1 Transition Europe 3 2 Transition Asia 4 Consequences 4 1 Technology 4 2 Labor 4 3 Commerce 4 4 Aesthetic quality 4 5 Cinematic form 5 See also 6 Notes 7 Sources 8 External links 8 1 Historical writings 8 2 Historical films Historyedit Early stepsedit For more details on this topic see Kinetoscope Image from The Dickson Experimental Sound Film 1894 or 1895 produced by W K L Dickson as a test of the early version of the Edison Kinetophone combining the Kinetoscope and phonograph The idea of combining motion pictures with recorded sound is nearly as old as the concept of cinema itself On February 27 1888 a couple of days after photographic pioneer Eadweard Muybridge gave a lecture not far from the laboratory of Thomas Edison the two inventors privately met Muybridge later claimed that on this occasion six years before the first commercial motion picture exhibition he proposed a scheme for sound cinema that would combine his imagecasting zoopraxiscope with Edisons recordedsound technology 2 No agreement was reached but within a year Edison commissioned the development of the Kinetoscope essentially a peepshow system as a visual complement to his cylinder phonograph The two devices were brought together as the Kinetophone in 1895 but individual cabinet viewing of motion pictures was soon to be outmoded by successes in film projection 3 In 1899 a projected soundfilm system known as Cinemacrophonograph or Phonorama based primarily on the work of Swissborn inventor François Dussaud was exhibited in Paris similar to the Kinetophone the system required individual use of earphones 4 An improved cylinderbased system PhonoCinémaThéâtre was developed by ClémentMaurice Gratioulet and Henri Lioret of France allowing short films of theater opera and ballet excerpts to be presented at the Paris Exposition in 1900 These appear to be the first publicly exhibited films with projection of both image and recorded sound Phonorama and yet another soundfilm systemThéâtroscopewere also presented at the Exposition 5 Three major problems persisted leading to motion pictures and sound recording largely taking separate paths for a generation The primary issue was synchronization pictures and sound were recorded and played back by separate devices which were difficult to start and maintain in tandem 6 Sufficient playback volume was also hard to achieve While motion picture projectors soon allowed film to be shown to large theater audiences audio technology before the development of electric amplification could not project satisfactorily to fill large spaces Finally there was the challenge of recording fidelity The primitive systems of the era produced sound of very low quality unless the performers were stationed directly in front of the cumbersome recording devices acoustical horns for the most part imposing severe limits on the sort of films that could be created with liverecorded sound 7 Poster featuring Sarah Bernhardt and giving the names of eighteen other famous artists shown in living visions at the 1900 Paris Exposition using the GratiouletLioret system Cinematic innovators attempted to cope with the fundamental synchronization problem in a variety of ways An increasing number of motion picture systems relied on gramophone recordsknown as soundondisc technology the records themselves were often referred to as Berliner discs after one of the primary inventors in the field GermanAmerican Emile Berliner In 1902 Léon Gaumont demonstrated his soundondisc Chronophone involving an electrical connection he had recently patented to the French Photographic Society 8 Four years later Gaumont introduced the Elgéphone a compressedair amplification system based on the Auxetophone developed by British inventors Horace Short and Charles Parsons 9 Despite high expectations Gaumonts sound innovations had only limited commercial successthough improvements they still did not satisfactorily address the three basic issues with sound film and were expensive as well For some years American inventor E E Nortons Cameraphone was the primary competitor to the Gaumont system sources differ on whether the Cameraphone was disc or cylinderbased it ultimately failed for many of the same reasons that held back the Chronophone 10 In 1913 Edison introduced a new cylinderbased synchsound apparatus known just like his 1895 system as the Kinetophone instead of films being shown to individual viewers in the Kinetoscope cabinet they were now projected onto a screen The phonograph was connected by an intricate arrangement of pulleys to the film projector allowingunder ideal conditionsfor synchronization However conditions were rarely ideal and the new improved Kinetophone was retired after little more than a year 11 By the mid1910s the groundswell in commercial sound motion picture exhibition had subsided 10 Beginning in 1914 The PhotoDrama of Creation promoting Jehovahs Witnesses conception of mankinds genesis was screened around the United States eight hours worth of projected visuals involving both slides and live action were synchronized with separately recorded lectures and musical performances played back on phonograph 12 Meanwhile innovations continued on another significant front In 1907 Frenchborn Londonbased Eugene Laustewho had worked at Edisons lab between 1886 and 1892was awarded the first patent for soundonfilm technology involving the transformation of sound into light waves that are photographically recorded direct onto celluloid As described by historian Scott Eyman It was a double system that is the sound was on a different piece of film from the picture In essence the sound was captured by a microphone and translated into light waves via a light valve a thin ribbon of sensitive metal over a tiny slit The sound reaching this ribbon would be converted into light by the shivering of the diaphragm focusing the resulting light waves through the slit where it would be photographed on the side of the film on a strip about a tenth of an inch wide 13 Though soundonfilm would eventually become the universal standard for synchronized sound cinema Lauste never successfully exploited his innovations which came to an effective dead end In 1914 Finnish inventor Eric Tigerstedt was granted German patent 309536 for his soundonfilm work that same year he apparently demonstrated a film made with the process to an audience of scientists in Berlin 14 Hungarian engineer Denes Mihaly submitted his soundonfilm Projectofon concept to the Royal Hungarian Patent Court in 1918 the patent award was published four years later 15 Whether sound was captured on cylinder disc or film none of the available technology was adequate for bigleague commercial purposes and for many years the heads of the major Hollywood film studios saw little benefit in producing sound motion pictures 16 Crucial innovationsedit A number of technological developments contributed to making sound cinema commercially viable by the late 1920s Two involved contrasting approaches to synchronized sound reproduction or playback Advanced soundonfilmedit In 1919 American inventor Lee De Forest was awarded several patents that would lead to the first optical soundonfilm technology with commercial application In De Forests system the sound track was photographically recorded onto the side of the strip of motion picture film to create a composite or married print If proper synchronization of sound and picture was achieved in recording it could be absolutely counted on in playback Over the next four years he improved his system with the help of equipment and patents licensed from another American inventor in the field Theodore Case 17 At the University of Illinois Polishborn research engineer Joseph TykocińskiTykociner was working independently on a similar process On June 9 1922 he gave the first reported U S demonstration of a soundonfilm motion picture to members of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers 18 As with Lauste and Tigerstedt Tykociners system would never be taken advantage of commercially however De Forests soon would Newspaper ad for a 1925 presentation of De Forest Phonofilms shorts touting their technological distinction no phonograph On April 15 1923 at New York Citys Rivoli Theater came the first commercial screening of motion pictures with soundonfilm the future standard a set of shorts under the banner of De Forest Phonofilms accompanying a silent feature 19 That June De Forest entered into an extended legal battle with an employee Freeman Harrison Owens for title to one of the crucial Phonofilm patents Although De Forest ultimately won the case in the courts Owens is today recognized as a central innovator in the field 20 The following year De Forests studio released the first commercial dramatic film shot as a talking picturethe tworeeler Loves Old Sweet Song directed by J Searle Dawley and featuring Una Merkel 21 However phonofilms stock in trade was not original dramas but celebrity documentaries popular music acts and comedy performances President Calvin Coolidge opera singer Abbie Mitchell and vaudeville stars such as Phil Baker Ben Bernie Eddie Cantor and Oscar Levant appeared in the firms pictures Hollywood remained suspicious even fearful of the new technology As Photoplay editor James Quirk put it in March 1924 Talking pictures are perfected says Dr Lee De Forest So is castor oil 22 De Forests process continued to be used through 1927 in the United States for dozens of short Phonofilms in the UK it was employed a few years longer for both shorts and features by British Sound Film Productions a subsidiary of British Talking Pictures which purchased the primary Phonofilm assets By the end of 1930 the Phonofilm business would be liquidated 23 In Europe others were also working on the development of soundonfilm In 1919 the same year that DeForest received his first patents in the field three German inventors Josef Engl 1893–1942 Hans Vogt 1890–1979 and Joseph Massolle 1889–1957 patented the TriErgon sound system On September 17 1922 the TriErgon group gave a public screening of soundonfilm productionsincluding a dramatic talkie Der Brandstifter The Arsonist before an invited audience at the Alhambra Kino in Berlin 24 By the end of the decade TriErgon would be the dominant European sound system In 1923 two Danish engineers Axel Petersen and Arnold Poulsen patented a system that recorded sound on a separate filmstrip running parallel with the image reel Gaumont licensed the technology and briefly put it to commercial use under the name Cinéphone 25 Domestic competition however eclipsed Phonofilm By September 1925 De Forest and Cases working arrangement had fallen through The following July Case joined Fox Film Hollywoods third largest studio to found the FoxCase Corporation The system developed by Case and his assistant Earl Sponable given the name Movietone thus became the first viable soundonfilm technology controlled by a Hollywood movie studio The following year Fox purchased the North American rights to the TriErgon system though the company found it inferior to Movietone and virtually impossible to integrate the two different systems to advantage 26 In 1927 as well Fox retained the services of Freeman Owens who had particular expertise in constructing cameras for synchsound film 27 Advanced soundondiscedit Parallel with improvements in soundonfilm technology a number of companies were making progress with systems that recorded movie sound on phonograph discs In soundondisc technology from the era a phonograph turntable is connected by a mechanical interlock to a specially modified film projector allowing for synchronization In 1921 the Photokinema soundondisc system developed by Orlando Kellum was employed to add synchronized sound sequences to D W Griffiths failed silent film Dream Street A love song performed by star Ralph Graves was recorded as was a sequence of live vocal effects Apparently dialogue scenes were also recorded but the results were unsatisfactory and the film was never publicly screened incorporating them On May 1 1921 Dream Street was rereleased with love song added at New York Citys Town Hall theater qualifying ithowever haphazardlyas the first featurelength film with a liverecorded vocal sequence 28 There would be no others for more than six years Poster for Warner Bros Don Juan 1926 the first major motion picture to premiere with a fulllength synchronized soundtrack Audio recording engineer George Groves the first in Hollywood to hold the job would supervise sound on Woodstock 44 years later In 1925 Sam Warner of Warner Bros then a small Hollywood studio with big ambitions saw a demonstration of the Western Electric soundondisc system and was sufficiently impressed to persuade his brothers to agree to experiment with using this system at New Yorks Vitagraph Studios which they had recently purchased The tests were convincing to the Warner Brothers if not to the executives of some other picture companies who witnessed them Consequently in April 1926 the Western Electric Company entered into a contract with Warner Brothers and W J Rich a financier giving them an exclusive license for recording and reproducing sound pictures under the Western Electric system To exploit this license the Vitaphone Corporation was organized with Samuel L Warner as its president 2930Vitaphone as this system was now called was publicly introduced on August 6 1926 with the premiere of Don Juan the first featurelength movie to employ a synchronized sound system of any type throughout its soundtrack contained a musical score and added sound effects but no recorded dialoguein other words it had been staged and shot as a silent film Accompanying Don Juan however were eight shorts of musical performances mostly classical as well as a fourminute filmed introduction by Will H Hays president of the Motion Picture Association of America all with liverecorded sound These were the first true sound films exhibited by a Hollywood studio 31 Warner Bros The Better Ole technically similar to Don Juan followed in October 32 Soundonfilm would ultimately win out over soundondisc because of a number of fundamental technical advantages Synchronization no interlock system was completely reliable and a projectionists error or an inexactly repaired film break or a defect in the soundtrack disc could result in the sound becoming seriously and irrecoverably out of sync with the picture Editing discs could not be directly edited severely limiting the ability to make alterations in their accompanying films after the original release cut Distribution phonograph discs added expense and complication to film distribution Wear and tear the physical process of playing the discs degraded them requiring their replacement after approximately twenty screenings33 Nonetheless in the early years soundondisc had the edge over soundonfilm in two substantial ways Production and capital cost it was generally less expensive to record sound onto disc than onto film and the exhibition systemsturntableinterlockprojectorwere cheaper to manufacture than the complex imageandaudiopatternreading projectors required by soundonfilm Audio quality phonograph discs Vitaphones in particular had superior dynamic range to most soundonfilm processes of the day at least during the first few playings while soundonfilm tended to have better frequency response this was outweighed by greater distortion and noise3435 As soundonfilm technology improved both of these disadvantages were overcome The third crucial set of innovations marked a major step forward in both the live recording of sound and its effective playback Western Electric engineer E B Craft at left demonstrating the Vitaphone projection system A Vitaphone disc had a running time of about 11 minutes enough to match that of a 1000foot 300 m reel of 35 mm film Fidelity electronic recording and amplificationedit In 1913 Western Electric the manufacturing division of AT&T acquired the rights to the de Forest audion the forerunner of the triode vacuum tube Over the next few years they developed it into a predictable and reliable device that made electronic amplification possible for the first time Western Electric then branchedout into developing uses for the vacuum tube including public address systems and an electrical recording system for the recording industry Beginning in 1922 the research branch of Western Electric began working intensively on recording technology for both soundondisc and soundon film synchronised sound systems for motionpictures The engineers working on the soundondisc system were able to draw on expertise that Western Electric already had in electrical disc recording and were thus able to make faster initial progress The main change required was to increase the playing time of the disc so that it could match that of a standard 1000 ft 300 m reel of 35 mm film The chosen design used a disc nearly 16 inches about 40 cm in diameter rotating at 33 13 rpm This could play for 11 minutes the running time of 1000 ft of film at 90 ftmin 24 framess 36 Because of the larger diameter the minimum groove velocity of 70 ftmin 14 inches or 356 mms was only slightly less than that of a standard 10inch 78 rpm commercial disc In 1925 the company publicly introduced a greatly improved system of electronic audio including sensitive condenser microphones and rubberline recorders named after the use of a rubber damping band for recording with better frequency response onto a wax master disc37 That May the company licensed entrepreneur Walter J Rich to exploit the system for commercial motion pictures he founded Vitagraph in which Warner Bros acquired a half interest just one month later 38 In April 1926 Warners signed a contract with AT&T for exclusive use of its film sound technology for the redubbed Vitaphone operation leading to the production of Don Juan and its accompanying shorts over the following months 29 During the period when Vitaphone had exclusive access to the patents the fidelity of recordings made for Warners films was markedly superior to those made for the companys soundonfilm competitors Meanwhile Bell Labsthe new name for the AT&T research operationwas working at a furious pace on sophisticated sound amplification technology that would allow recordings to be played back over loudspeakers at theaterfilling volume The new movingcoil speaker system was installed in New Yorks Warners Theatre at the end of July and its patent submission for what Western Electric called the No 555 Receiver was filed on August 4 just two days before the premiere of Don Juan 3539 Late in the year AT&TWestern Electric created a licensing division Electrical Research Products Inc ERPI to handle rights to the companys filmrelated audio technology Vitaphone still had legal exclusivity but having lapsed in its royalty payments effective control of the rights was in ERPIs hands On December 31 1926 Warners granted FoxCase a sublicense for the use of the Western Electric system in exchange for the sublicense both Warners and ERPI received a share of Foxs related revenues The patents of all three concerns were crosslicensed 40 Superior recording and amplification technology was now available to two Hollywood studios pursuing two very different methods of sound reproduction The new year would finally see the emergence of sound cinema as a significant commercial medium Triumph of the talkiesedit In February 1927 an agreement was signed by five leading Hollywood movie companies Famous PlayersLasky soon to be part of Paramount MetroGoldwynMayer Universal First National and Cecil B DeMilles small but prestigious Producers Distributing Corporation PDC The five studios agreed to collectively select just one provider for sound conversion The alliance then sat back and waited to see what sort of results the forerunners came up with 41 In May Warner Bros sold back its exclusivity rights to ERPI along with the FoxCase sublicense and signed a new royalty contract similar to Foxs for use of Western Electric technology As Fox and Warners pressed forward wi