ⓘ Blog | Sound film - cinematography. A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, or sound technologically coupled to image, as opposed to a silent film ..


Red Necktie

The film tells about a young man Shura Badekine, whose father died as a result of the war and now Shura lives in the family of the director of the plant Vishnyak. The children of Vishnyak study well at school and have wonderful relations with each other, but one of them, Valery, shows selfishness and arrogance and once ceases to wear a pioneer tie. Shura Badekin condemned Valerys act on the council of the detachment, and Valery in turn, called Shura a traitor.


Adulthood (film)

Adulthood is a 2008 British drama film directed and written by Noel Clarke, who also stars as the protagonist, Sam Peel. Adulthood is a sequel to the 2006 film Kidulthood, which Clarke also wrote, and depicts Peels experiences after he is released from jail. It grossed £1.203.319 at the UK Box Office during its opening weekend, finishing fourth behind The Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Sex and the City. After starring in the film, Adam Deacon decided to write and star in his own urban film, Anuvahood. The final film of the trilogy, Brotherhood, also by Clarke, was released in 2016.


Toni (1935 film)

Toni is a 1935 French drama film directed by Jean Renoir and starring Charles Blavette, Celia Montalvan and Edouard Delmont. It is an early example of the casting of non-professional actors and on-location shooting - both of which would influence the Left Bank of the French New Wave movement. Examining the romantic interactions between a group of immigrants working around a quarry and a farm in Provence, it is also generally considered a major precursor to the Italian neorealist movement. Luchino Visconti, one of the founding members of the later film movement, was assistant director on the film. It was based out of Marcel Pagnols studios in Marseille and shot entirely on location in the South of France. Although Toni is not among Renoirs most famous works, it continues to receive positive reviews from critics.

Sound film

Sound film

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 sound-on-disc systems, and amplification and recording quality were also inadequate. Innovations in sound-on-film 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 feature-length 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 sound-on-disc technology. Sound-on-film, 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 cultural/commercial centers of influence see Cinema of the United States. In Europe, 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. Conversely, in India, sound was the transformative element that led to the rapid expansion of the nations film industry.


1.1. History Early steps

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 image-casting zoopraxiscope withholding Edisons recorded-sound technology. No agreement was reached, but within a year Edison commissioned the development of the Kinetoscope, essentially a "peep-show" 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. In 1899, a projected sound-film system known as Cinemacrophonograph or Phonorama, based primarily on the work of Swiss-born inventor François Dussaud, was exhibited in Paris; similar to the Kinetophone, the system required individual use of earphones. An improved cylinder-based system, Phono-Cinema-Theatre, was developed by Clement-Maurice 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 sound-film system - Theatroscope - were also presented at the Exposition.

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. 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 live-recorded sound.

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 records - known as sound-on-disc technology; the records themselves were often referred to as "Berliner discs", after one of the primary inventors in the field, German-American Emile Berliner. In 1902, Leon Gaumont demonstrated his sound-on-disc Chronophone, involving an electrical connection he had recently patented, to the French Photographic Society. Four years later, Gaumont introduced the Elgephone, a compressed-air amplification system based on the Auxetophone, developed by British inventors Horace Short and Charles Parsons. Despite high expectations, Gaumonts sound innovations had only limited commercial success - though 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 cylinder-based; it ultimately failed for many of the same reasons that held back the Chronophone.

In 1913, Edison introduced a new cylinder-based synch-sound 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, allowing - under ideal conditions - for synchronization. However, conditions were rarely ideal, and the new, improved Kinetophone was retired after little more than a year. By the mid-1910s, the groundswell in commercial sound motion picture exhibition had subsided. Beginning in 1914, The Photo-Drama 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.

Meanwhile, innovations continued on another significant front. In 1900, as part of the research he was conducting on the photophone, the German physicist Ernst Ruhmer recorded the fluctuations of the transmitting arc-light as varying shades of light and dark bands onto a continuous roll of photographic film. He then determined that he could reverse the process and reproduce the recorded sound from this photographic strip by shining a bright light through the running filmstrip, with the resulting varying light illuminating a selenium cell. The changes in brightness caused a corresponding change to the seleniums resistance to electrical currents, which was used to modulate the sound produced in a telephone receiver. He called this invention the photographophone, which he summarized as: "It is truly a wonderful process: sound becomes electricity, becomes light, causes chemical actions, becomes light and electricity again, and finally sound."

Ruhmer began a correspondence with the French-born, London-based Eugene Lauste, who had worked at Edisons lab between 1886 and 1892. In 1907, Lauste was awarded the first patent for sound-on-film 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.

In 1908, Lauste purchased a photographophone from Ruhmer, with the intention of perfecting the device into a commercial product. Though sound-on-film 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 309.536 for his sound-on-film work; that same year, he apparently demonstrated a film made with the process to an audience of scientists in Berlin. Hungarian engineer Denes Mihaly submitted his sound-on-film Projectofon concept to the Royal Hungarian Patent Court in 1918; the patent award was published four years later. Whether sound was captured on cylinder, disc, or film, none of the available technology was adequate for big-league commercial purposes, and for many years the heads of the major Hollywood film studios saw little benefit in producing sound motion pictures.


2. Crucial innovations

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:


2.1. Crucial innovations Advanced sound-on-film

In 1919, American inventor Lee De Forest was awarded several patents that would lead to the first optical sound-on-film 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.

At the University of Illinois, Polish-born research engineer Joseph Tykocinski-Tykociner was working independently on a similar process. On June 9, 1922, he gave the first reported U.S. demonstration of a sound-on-film motion picture to members of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. As with Lauste and Tigerstedt, Tykociners system would never be taken advantage of commercially; however, De Forests soon would.

On April 15, 1923, at the New York Citys Rivoli Theater took place the first commercial screening of motion pictures with sound-on-film, which would become the future standard. It consisted of a set of short film varying in length and featuring some of the most popular stars of the 1920s doing stage performances such as vaudevilles, musical acts, and speeches which accompanied the screening of the silent feature film Bella Donna. All of them were presented under the banner of De Forest Phonofilms. The set included the 11-minute short film From far Seville starring Concha Piquer. In 2010, a copy of the tape was found in the U.S. Library of Congress, where is currently preserved. Critics attending the event praised the novelty but not the sound quality which received negative reviews in general. 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. The following year, De Forests studio released the first commercial dramatic film shot as a talking picture - the two-reeler Loves Old Sweet Song, directed by J. Searle Dawley and featuring Una Merkel. 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." 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.

In Europe, others were also working on the development of sound-on-film. 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 Tri-Ergon sound system. On September 17, 1922, the Tri-Ergon group gave a public screening of sound-on-film productions - including a dramatic talkie, Der Brandstifter The Arsonist - before an invited audience at the Alhambra Kino in Berlin. By the end of the decade, Tri-Ergon 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 Cinephone.

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 Fox-Case Corporation. The system developed by Case and his assistant, Earl Sponable, given the name Movietone, thus became the first viable sound-on-film technology controlled by a Hollywood movie studio. The following year, Fox purchased the North American rights to the Tri-Ergon system, though the company found it inferior to Movietone and virtually impossible to integrate the two different systems to advantage. In 1927, as well, Fox retained the services of Freeman Owens, who had particular expertise in constructing cameras for synch-sound film.


2.2. Crucial innovations Advanced sound-on-disc

Parallel with improvements in sound-on-film technology, a number of companies were making progress with systems that recorded movie sound on phonograph discs. In sound-on-disc 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 sound-on-disc 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, 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 re-released, with love song added, at New York Citys Town Hall theater, qualifying it - however haphazardly - as the first feature-length film with a live-recorded vocal sequence. There would be no others for more than six years.

In 1925, Sam Warner of Warner Bros., then a small Hollywood studio with big ambitions, saw a demonstration of the Western Electric sound-on-disc system and was sufficiently impressed to persuade his brothers to agree to experiment with using this system at New York Citys 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.Vitaphone, as this system was now called, was publicly introduced on August 6, 1926, with the premiere of Don Juan ; the first feature-length movie to employ a synchronized sound system of any type throughout, its soundtrack contained a musical score and added sound effects, but no recorded dialogue - in 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 four-minute filmed introduction by Will H. Hays, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, all with live-recorded sound. These were the first true sound films exhibited by a Hollywood studio. Warner Bros. The Better Ole, technically similar to Don Juan, followed in October.

Sound-on-film would ultimately win out over sound-on-disc because of a number of fundamental technical advantages:

  • Wear and tear: the physical process of playing the discs degraded them, requiring their replacement after approximately twenty screenings
  • 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
  • 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

Nonetheless, in the early years, sound-on-disc had the edge over sound-on-film in two substantial ways:

  • Audio quality: phonograph discs, Vitaphones in particular, had superior dynamic range to most sound-on-film processes of the day, at least during the first few playings; while sound-on-film tended to have better frequency response, this was outweighed by greater distortion and noise
  • Production and capital cost: it was generally less expensive to record sound onto disc than onto film and the exhibition systems - turntable/interlock/projector - were cheaper to manufacture than the complex image-and-audio-pattern-reading projectors required by sound-on-film

As sound-on-film 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:


2.3. Crucial innovations Fidelity electronic recording and amplification

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 branched-out 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 sound-on-disc and sound-on film synchronised sound systems for motion-pictures.

The engineers working on the sound-on-disc 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 1.000 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 1/3 rpm. This could play for 11 minutes, the running time of 1000 ft of film at 90 ft/min 24 frames/s. Because of the larger diameter the minimum groove velocity of 70 ft/min 14 inches or 356 mm/s was only slightly less than that of a standard 10-inch 78 rpm commercial disc. In 1925, the company publicly introduced a greatly improved system of electronic audio, including sensitive condenser microphones and rubber-line recorders named after the use of a rubber damping band for recording with better frequency response onto a wax master disc. 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. 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. 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 sound-on-film competitors. Meanwhile, Bell Labs - the new name for the AT&T research operation - was working at a furious pace on sophisticated sound amplification technology that would allow recordings to be played back over loudspeakers at theater-filling volume. The new moving-coil 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.

Late in the year, AT&T/Western Electric created a licensing division, Electrical Research Products Inc. ERPI, to handle rights to the companys film-related 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 Fox-Case 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 cross-licensed. 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.


3. Triumph of the "talkies"

In February 1927, an agreement was signed by five leading Hollywood movie companies: Famous Players-Lasky soon to be part of Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 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, and then waited to see what sort of results the front-runners came up with. In May, Warner Bros. sold back its exclusivity rights to ERPI along with the Fox-Case sublicense and signed a new royalty contract similar to Foxs for use of Western Electric technology. Fox and Warners pressed forward with sound cinema, moving in different directions both technologically and commercially: Fox moved into newsreels and then scored dramas, while Warners concentrated on talking features. Meanwhile, ERPI sought to corner the market by signing up the five allied studios.

The big sound film sensations of the year all took advantage of preexisting celebrity. On May 20, 1927, at New York Citys Roxy Theater, Fox Movietone presented a sound film of the takeoff of Charles Lindberghs celebrated flight to Paris, recorded earlier that day. In June, a Fox sound newsreel depicting his return welcomes in New York City and Washington, D.C., was shown. These were the two most acclaimed sound motion pictures to date. In May, as well, Fox had released the first Hollywood fiction film with synchronized dialogue: the short Theyre Coming to Get Me, starring comedian Chic Sale. After rereleasing a few silent feature hits, such as Seventh Heaven, with recorded music, Fox came out with its first original Movietone feature on September 23: Sunrise, by acclaimed German director F. W. Murnau. As with Don Juan, the films soundtrack consisted of a musical score and sound effects.

Then, on October 6, 1927, Warner Bros. The Jazz Singer premiered. It was a smash box office success for the mid-level studio, earning a total of $2.625 million in the United States and abroad, almost a million dollars more than the previous record for a Warners film. Produced with the Vitaphone system, most of the film does not contain live-recorded audio, relying, like Sunrise and Don Juan, on a score and effects. When the movies star, Al Jolson, sings, however, the film shifts to sound recorded on the set, including both his musical performances and two scenes with ad-libbed speech - one of Jolsons character, Jakie Rabinowitz Jack Robin, addressing a cabaret audience; the other an exchange between him and his mother. The "natural" sounds of the settings were also audible. Though the success of The Jazz Singer was due largely to Jolson, already established as one of U.S. biggest music stars, and its limited use of synchronized sound hardly qualified it as an innovative sound film let alone the "first", the movies profits were proof enough to the industry that the technology was worth investing in.

The development of commercial sound cinema had proceeded in fits and starts before The Jazz Singer, and the films success did not change things overnight. Influential gossip columnist Louella Parsons reaction to The Jazz Singer was badly off the mark: "I have no fear that the screeching sound film will ever disturb our theaters," while MGM head of production Irving Thalberg called the film "a good gimmick, but thats all it was." Not until May 1928 did the group of four big studios PDC had dropped out of the alliance, along with United Artists and others, sign with ERPI for conversion of production facilities and theaters for sound film. It was a daunting commitment; revamping a single theater cost as much as $15.000 the equivalent of $220.000 in 2019, and there were more than 20.000 movie theaters in the United States. By 1930, only half of the theaters had been wired for sound.

Initially, all ERPI-wired theaters were made Vitaphone-compatible; most were equipped to project Movietone reels as well. However, even with access to both technologies, most of the Hollywood companies remained slow to produce talking features of their own. No studio besides Warner Bros. released even a part-talking feature until the low-budget-oriented Film Booking Offices of America FBO premiered The Perfect Crime on June 17, 1928, eight months after The Jazz Singer. FBO had come under the effective control of a Western Electric competitor, General Electrics RCA division, which was looking to market its new sound-on-film system, Photophone. Unlike Fox-Cases Movietone and De Forests Phonofilm, which were variable-density systems, Photophone was a variable-area system - a refinement in the way the audio signal was inscribed on film that would ultimately become the standard. By October, the FBO-RCA alliance would lead to the creation of Hollywoods newest major studio, RKO Pictures.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. had released three more talkies, all profitable, if not at the level of The Jazz Singer: In March, Tenderloin appeared; it was billed by Warners as the first feature in which characters spoke their parts, though only 15 of its 88 minutes had dialogue. Glorious Betsy followed in April, and The Lion and the Mouse 31 minutes of dialogue in May. On July 6, 1928, the first all-talking feature, Lights of New York, premiered. The film cost Warner Bros. only $23.000 to produce, but grossed $1.252 million, a record rate of return surpassing 5.000%. In September, the studio released another Al Jolson part-talking picture, The Singing Fool, which more than doubled The Jazz Singer s earnings record for a Warners movie. This second Jolson screen smash demonstrated the movie musicals ability to turn a song into a national hit: inside of nine months, the Jolson number "Sonny Boy" had racked up 2 million record and 1.25 million sheet music sales. September 1928 also saw the release of Paul Terrys Dinner Time, among the first animated cartoons produced with synchronized sound. Soon after he saw it, Walt Disney released his first sound picture, the Mickey Mouse short Steamboat Willie.

Over the course of 1928, as Warner Bros. began to rake in huge profits due to the popularity of its sound films, the other studios quickened the pace of their conversion to the new technology. Paramount, the industry leader, put out its first talkie in late September, Beggars of Life ; though it had just a few lines of dialogue, it demonstrated the studios recognition of the new mediums power. Interference, Paramounts first all-talker, debuted in November. The process known as "goat glanding" briefly became widespread: soundtracks, sometimes including a smatter of post-dubbed dialogue or song, were added to movies that had been shot, and in some cases released, as silents. A few minutes of singing could qualify such a newly endowed film as a "musical." Griffiths Dream Street had essentially been a "goat gland." Expectations swiftly changed, and the sound "fad" of 1927 became standard procedure by 1929. In February 1929, sixteen months after The Jazz Singer s debut, Columbia Pictures became the last of the eight studios that would be known as "majors" during Hollywoods Golden Age to release its first part-talking feature, The Lone Wolfs Daughter. In late May, the first all-color, all-talking feature, Warner Bros. On with the Show!, premiered.

Yet most American movie theaters, especially outside of urban areas, were still not equipped for sound: while the number of sound cinemas grew from 100 to 800 between 1928 and 1929, they were still vastly outnumbered by silent theaters, which had actually grown in number as well, from 22.204 to 22.544. The studios, in parallel, were still not entirely convinced of the talkies universal appeal - until mid-1930, the majority of Hollywood movies were produced in dual versions, silent as well as talking. Though few in the industry predicted it, silent film as a viable commercial medium in the United States would soon be little more than a memory. Points West, a Hoot Gibson Western released by Universal Pictures in August 1929, was the last purely silent mainstream feature put out by a major Hollywood studio.


3.1. Triumph of the "talkies" Transition: Europe

The Jazz Singer had its European sound premiere at the Piccadilly Theatre in London on September 27, 1928. According to film historian Rachael Low, "Many in the industry realized at once that a change to sound production was inevitable." On January 16, 1929, the first European feature film with a synchronized vocal performance and recorded score premiered: the German production Ich kusse Ihre Hand, Madame I Kiss Your Hand, Madame. Dialogueless, it contains only a few songs performed by Richard Tauber. The movie was made with the sound-on-film system controlled by the German-Dutch firm Tobis, corporate heirs to the Tri-Ergon concern. With an eye toward commanding the emerging European market for sound film, Tobis entered into a compact with its chief competitor, Klangfilm, a joint subsidiary of Germanys two leading electrical manufacturers. Early in 1929, Tobis and Klangfilm began comarketing their recording and playback technologies. As ERPI began to wire theaters around Europe, Tobis-Klangfilm claimed that the Western Electric system infringed on the Tri-Ergon patents, stalling the introduction of American technology in many places. Just as RCA had entered the movie business to maximize its recording systems value, Tobis also established its own production operations.

During 1929, most of the major European filmmaking countries began joining Hollywood in the changeover to sound. Many of the trend-setting European talkies were shot abroad as production companies leased studios while their own were being converted or as they deliberately targeted markets speaking different languages. One of Europes first two feature-length dramatic talkies was created in still a different sort of twist on multinational moviemaking: The Crimson Circle was a coproduction between director Friedrich Zelniks Efzet-Film company and British Sound Film Productions BSFP. In 1928, the film had been released as the silent Der Rote Kreis in Germany, where it was shot; English dialogue was apparently dubbed in much later using the De Forest Phonofilm process controlled by BSFPs corporate parent. It was given a British trade screening in March 1929, was a part-talking film made entirely in the UK: The Clue of the New Pin, a British Lion production using the sound-on-disc British Photophone system. In May, Black Waters, a British and Dominions Film Corporation promoted as the first UK all-talker, received its initial trade screening; it had been shot completely in Hollywood with a Western Electric sound-on-film system. None of these pictures made much impact.

The first successful European dramatic talkie was the all-British Blackmail. Directed by twenty-nine-year-old Alfred Hitchcock, the movie had its London debut June 21, 1929. Originally shot as a silent, Blackmail was restaged to include dialogue sequences, along with a score and sound effects, before its premiere. A British International Pictures BIP production, it was recorded on RCA Photophone, General Electric having bought a share of AEG so they could access the Tobis-Klangfilm markets. Blackmail was a substantial hit; critical response was also positive - notorious curmudgeon Hugh Castle, for example, called it "perhaps the most intelligent mixture of sound and silence we have yet seen."

On August 23, the modest-sized Austrian film industry came out with a talkie: Gschichten aus der Steiermark Stories from Styria, an Eagle Film–Ottoton Film production. On September 30, the first entirely German-made feature-length dramatic talkie, Das Land ohne Frauen Land Without Women, premiered. A Tobis Filmkunst production, about one-quarter of the movie contained dialogue, which was strictly segregated from the special effects and music. The response was underwhelming. Swedens first talkie, Konstgjorda Svensson Artificial Svensson, premiered on October 14. Eight days later, Aubert Franco-Film came out with Le Collier de la reine The Queens Necklace, shot at the Epinay studio near Paris. Conceived as a silent film, it was given a Tobis-recorded score and a single talking sequence - the first dialogue scene in a French feature. On October 31, Les Trois masques The Three Masks debuted; a Pathe-Natan film, it is generally regarded as the initial French feature talkie, though it was shot, like Blackmail, at the Elstree studio, just outside London. The production company had contracted with RCA Photophone and Britain then had the nearest facility with the system. The Braunberger-Richebe talkie La Route est belle The Road Is Fine, also shot at Elstree, followed a few weeks later.

Before the Paris studios were fully sound-equipped - a process that stretched well into 1930 - a number of other early French talkies were shot in Germany. The first all-talking German feature, Atlantik, had premiered in Berlin on October 28. Yet another Elstree-made movie, it was rather less German at heart than Les Trois masques and La Route est belle were French; a BIP production with a British scenarist and German director, it was also shot in English as Atlantic. The entirely German Aafa-Film production Its You I Have Loved Dich hab ich geliebt opened three-and-a-half weeks later. It was not "Germanys First Talking Film", as the marketing had it, but it was the first to be released in the United States.

In 1930, the first Polish talkies premiered, using sound-on-disc systems: Moralnosc pani Dulskiej The Morality of Mrs. Dulska in March and the all-talking Niebezpieczny romans Dangerous Love Affair in October. In Italy, whose once vibrant film industry had become moribund by the late 1920s, the first talkie, La Canzone dellamore The Song of Love, also came out in October; within two years, Italian cinema would be enjoying a revival. The first movie spoken in Czech debuted in 1930 as well, Tonka Sibenice Tonka of the Gallows. Several European nations with minor positions in the field also produced their first talking pictures - Belgium in French, Denmark, Greece, and Romania. The Soviet Unions robust film industry came out with its first sound features in December 1930: Dziga Vertovs nonfiction Enthusiasm had an experimental, dialogueless soundtrack; Abram Rooms documentary Plan velikikh rabot The Plan of the Great Works had music and spoken voiceovers. Both were made with locally developed sound-on-film systems, two of the two hundred or so movie sound systems then available somewhere in the world. In June 1931, the Nikolai Ekk drama Putevka v zhizn The Road to Life or A Start in Life, premiered as the Soviet Unions first true talking picture.

Throughout much of Europe, conversion of exhibition venues lagged well behind production capacity, requiring talkies to be produced in parallel silent versions or simply shown without sound in many places. While the pace of conversion was relatively swift in Britain - with over 60 percent of theaters equipped for sound by the end of 1930, similar to the U.S. figure - in France, by contrast, more than half of theaters nationwide were still projecting in silence by late 1932. According to scholar Colin G. Crisp, "Anxiety about resuscitating the flow of silent films was frequently expressed in the industrial press, and a large section of the industry still saw the silent as a viable artistic and commercial prospect till about 1935." The situation was particularly acute in the Soviet Union; as of May 1933, fewer than one out of every hundred film projectors in the country was as yet equipped for sound.


3.2. Triumph of the "talkies" Transition: Asia

During the 1920s and 1930s, Japan was one of the worlds two largest producers of motion pictures, along with the United States. Though the countrys film industry was among the first to produce both sound and talking features, the full changeover to sound proceeded much more slowly than in the West. It appears that the first Japanese sound film, Reimai Dawn, was made in 1926 with the De Forest Phonofilm system. Using the sound-on-disc Minatoki system, the leading Nikkatsu studio produced a pair of talkies in 1929: Taii no musume The Captains Daughter and Furusato Hometown, the latter directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. The rival Shochiku studio began the successful production of sound-on-film talkies in 1931 using a variable-density process called Tsuchibashi. Two years later, however, more than 80 percent of movies made in the country were still silents. Two of the countrys leading directors, Mikio Naruse and Yasujirō Ozu, did not make their first sound films until 1935 and 1936, respectively. As late as 1938, over a third of all movies produced in Japan were shot without dialogue.

The enduring popularity of the silent medium in Japanese cinema owed in great part to the tradition of the benshi, a live narrator who performed as accompaniment to a film screening. As director Akira Kurosawa later described, the benshi "not only recounted the plot of the films, they enhanced the emotional content by performing the voices and sound effects and providing evocative descriptions of events and images on the screen. The most popular narrators were stars in their own right, solely responsible for the patronage of a particular theatre." Film historian Mariann Lewinsky argues,

The end of silent film in the West and in Japan was imposed by the industry and the market, not by any inner need or natural evolution. Silent cinema was a highly pleasurable and fully mature form. It didnt lack anything, least in Japan, where there was always the human voice doing the dialogues and the commentary. Sound films were not better, just more economical. As a cinema owner you didnt have to pay the wages of musicians and benshi any more. And a good benshi was a star demanding star payment.

By the same token, the viability of the benshi system facilitated a gradual transition to sound - allowing the studios to spread out the capital costs of conversion and their directors and technical crews time to become familiar with the new technology.

The Mandarin-language Gēnǚ hong mǔdān 歌女紅牡丹, Singsong Girl Red Peony, starring Butterfly Wu, premiered as Chinas first feature talkie in 1930. By February of that year, production was apparently completed on a sound version of The Devils Playground, arguably qualifying it as the first Australian talking motion picture; however, the May press screening of Commonwealth Film Contest prizewinner Fellers is the first verifiable public exhibition of an Australian talkie. In September 1930, a song performed by Indian star Sulochana, excerpted from the silent feature Madhuri 1928, was released as a synchronized-sound short, the countrys first. The following year, Ardeshir Irani directed the first Indian talking feature, the Hindi-Urdu Alam Ara, and produced Kalidas, primarily in Tamil with some Telugu. Nineteen-thirty-one also saw the first Bengali-language film, Jamai Sasthi, and the first movie fully spoken in Telugu, Bhakta Prahlada. In 1932, Ayodhyecha Raja became the first movie in which Marathi was spoken to be released though Sant Tukaram was the first to go through the official censorship process; the first Gujarati-language film, Narsimha Mehta, and all-Tamil talkie, Kalava, debuted as well. The next year, Ardeshir Irani produced the first Persian-language talkie, Dukhtar-e-loor. Also in 1933, the first Cantonese-language films were produced in Hong Kong - Sha zai dongfang The Idiots Wedding Night and Liang xing Conscience; within two years, the local film industry had fully converted to sound. Korea, where pyonsa or byun-sa held a role and status similar to that of the Japanese benshi, in 1935 became the last country with a significant film industry to produce its first talking picture: Chunhyangjeon 春香傳 / 춘향전 is based on the seventeenth-century pansori folktale "Chunhyangga", of which as many as fifteen film versions have been made through 2009.


4.1. Consequences Technology

In the short term, the introduction of live sound recording caused major difficulties in production. Cameras were noisy, so a soundproofed cabinet was used in many of the earliest talkies to isolate the loud equipment from the actors, at the expense of a drastic reduction in the ability to move the camera. For a time, multiple-camera shooting was used to compensate for the loss of mobility and innovative studio technicians could often find ways to liberate the camera for particular shots. The necessity of staying within range of still microphones meant that actors also often had to limit their movements unnaturally. Show Girl in Hollywood 1930, from First National Pictures which Warner Bros. had taken control of thanks to its profitable adventure into sound, gives a behind-the-scenes look at some of the techniques involved in shooting early talkies. Several of the fundamental problems caused by the transition to sound were soon solved with new camera casings, known as "blimps", designed to suppress noise and boom microphones that could be held just out of frame and moved with the actors. In 1931, a major improvement in playback fidelity was introduced: three-way speaker systems in which sound was separated into low, medium, and high frequencies and sent respectively to a large bass "woofer", a midrange driver, and a treble "tweeter."

There were consequences, as well, for other technological aspects of the cinema. Proper recording and playback of sound required exact standardization of camera and projector speed. Before sound, 16 frames per second fps was the supposed norm, but practice varied widely. Cameras were often undercranked or overcranked to improve exposures for dramatic effect. Projectors were commonly run too fast to shorten running time and squeeze in extra shows. Variable frame rate, however, made sound unlistenable, and a new, strict standard of 24 fps was soon established. Sound also forced the abandonment of the noisy arc lights used for filming in studio interiors. The switch to quiet incandescent illumination in turn required a switch to more expensive film stock. The sensitivity of the new panchromatic film delivered superior image tonal quality and gave directors the freedom to shoot scenes at lower light levels than was previously practical.

As David Bordwell describes, technological improvements continued at a swift pace: "Between 1932 and 1935, replaced dialogue with actors singing and talking in rhyming couplets. Clair created teasing confusions between on- and off-screen sound. He also experimented with asynchronous audio tricks, as in the famous scene in which a chase after a coat is synched to the cheers of an invisible football or rugby crowd.

These and similar techniques became part of the vocabulary of the sound comedy film, though as special effects and "color", not as the basis for the kind of comprehensive, non-naturalistic design achieved by Clair. Outside of the comedic field, the sort of bold play with sound exemplified by Melodie der Welt and Le Million would be pursued very rarely in commercial production. Hollywood, in particular, incorporated sound into a reliable system of genre-based moviemaking, in which the formal possibilities of the new medium were subordinated to the traditional goals of star affirmation and straightforward storytelling. As accurately predicted in 1928 by Frank Woods, secretary of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "The talking pictures of the future will follow the general line of treatment heretofore developed by the silent drama. The talking scenes will require different handling, but the general construction of the story will be much the same."

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