T he Coming of Sound in the film industry L ate 1920 completed a decade of significant changes in the Film Industry L ead innovators included Warner Brothers Pictures and Fox Film Corporation A ll companies moved en masse to convert to sound before and during 1930 B y 1931 all Hollywood movies were “talkies”. T he Coming of sound leads to one of the more lucrative ears in U.S. movie history I t took about 30 years to go from film with no sound, to the complete integration of sound technology across the film business.
S ound Technology = Film Profit T hree phases of Technology I nvention I nnovation D iffusion
S ound for Film - Early Major Events 1 890 - beginnings of experiments in combining phonograph records with moving pictures 1 895 - Thomas Edison introduced the Kinetophone (non sync musical background sound only) 1 902 - Leon Gaumont introduced the Chronophone in France ( one of the first attempts a sync sound) T he Chronophone linked 2 phonographs to a film projector by a series of cables. A dial adjusted the speed and synchronization of the film. 1 913 - Gaumont offered a new improved mechanism utilizing an advanced compressed air system for amplification and a slightly improved sync capability. L ike Edison and Gaumont, other inventors and companies had very limited success since no one had truly solved the 3 major problems of sound for film. 1 . Cost 2 . Amplification 3 . Synchronization 1 877 - first recorded sound by Thomas Edison
S ound for Film - Early Major Events 1 913 - Edison announces the second coming of the Kinetophone - This time it worked. This time, the sound was made to synchronize with a motion picture projected onto a screen. A celluloid cylinder record measuring 5 1/2" in diameter was used for the phonograph. Synchronization was achieved by connecting the projector at one end of the theater and the phonograph at the other end with a long pulley. N ineteen talking pictures were produced in 1913 by Edison, but by 1915 he had abandoned sound motion pictures. There were several reasons for this. First, union rules stipulated that local union projectionists had to operate the Kinetophones, even though they hadn't been trained properly in its use. This led to many instances where synchronization was not achieved, causing audience dissatisfaction. The method of synchronization used was still less than perfect, and breaks in the film would cause the motion picture to get out of step with the phonograph record. The dissolution of the Motion Picture Patents Corp. in 1915 may also have contributed to Edison's departure from sound films, since this act deprived him of patent protection for his motion picture inventions. S uccess was closer, but 2 problems still existed 1 . Cost 2 . Amplification
S ound for Film - Early Major Events 1 927 - It wasn't until the film industry noticed that their boundless profits were slipping in 1927 - 1928 that they again turned toward the commercially novel technology of sound for films. At least in America… In Europe things were progressing nicely.
At the turn of the century, other than live accompaniment of dialogue, music and effects,
the challenge of sound for film traveled along 2 parallel paths:
Linking film motion to the phonograph
Sound on film
The use of the phonograph, as the first technology aggressively applied to the problem,
lands broadly in one of three methods, i.e., post-sync dubbing, mouthing and miming to
playback of a pre-recorded phonograph record or simultaneous live recording of image
and sound.All of these methods shared the same technical obstacles of short recording
times available, insufficient amplification and the problem of synchronization during
both recording and playback.
S uccess was closer, but 2 problems still existed 1 . Cost 2 . Amplification
By the early 1900’s the synchronization issue, far from over, had at least been accomplished. But we still need to resolve the volume of playback in the theatre and reduce the cost of implementation. 1904 - Daniel Higham practiced his invention of the mechanical friction amplifier. Known as the Higham-A-Phone reproducer . His design utilized a rosin wheel and friction shoe with a tensile link to the reproducing diaphragm resulting in very loud mechanical amplification. Columbia immediately snapped up Higham's design in 1904. Columbia used this amplifier in their top-of-the-line Twentieth Century Graphophone that was produced from 1905 till 1908. 1908 - In America, E.E. Norton invented the Cameraphone , and with James A. Whitman and attorney Francis Fitch founded the Cameraphone Company. They began leasing equipment to exhibitors. Cameraphone's Norton, because of his Columbia connection, was intimately knowledgeable with this design and naturally applied it to motion picture sound reproduction. AMPLIFICATION problem resolved Success was still closer, but 1 problem still existed 1. Cost
Sound for Film - Early Major Events . 1911-1919 - Western Electric develops along with Lee DeForest a method or recording and reproducing sound electronically on disc. Western Electric Buought the rights to the use of the Audio for amplifying the phonographic sound. 1921 - DeForest improves the method of recording sound on film and patents a new invention he calls the phonofilm. 1926 - Warner Bros . contracts with the AT&T method of sound with film and releases its first sound with film pictures using a system dubbed the Vitaphone . 1926 - Don Juan, released in 1926 was the first film to include music on an amplified sound- track. 1927 -The Jazz Singer featuring Al Jolson is released by Warner Bros. Not an immediate hit in New York, but it gained long-lasting fame when it moved into America's heartland. It was rebooked in 1928 in New York and grossed $100,000 a week. 1927 -Fox Film Corporation works with a new AT&T development - sound on film. Fox uses this system to produce newsreels which would play prior to feature films at theatres.The first big publicity coups was the flight of Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic. Also memorable was the capturing of the explosion of the Hindenburg. These newsreel shorts became known as the Movietone News.
Sound for Film - Early Major Events . Mass Production and Lower cost implementations resolved the last problem. Sound for Film was now cost effective and making film companies more money than ever! May 1928 - the major film companies (Paramount, Loews/MGM, First National and United Artists) sign with AT&T to produce pictures with sound on film despite the introduction of a competing format developed by RCA. End of 1920s - only a few theatres in America's largest cities continued to maintain a house orchestra and organist. 1928 -- Warner Bros. releases The Singing Fool -- again starring Al Jolson. Tickets for the first night were $11.00. "Sonny Boy" and "There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" from the film became the first million selling record of the "talkie" era. The Singing Fool cost $200,000 to produce but drew an unprecedented $5,000,000.