7

The Coming of Sound and Color, 1926-1935

SOUND-ON-DISC

After the invention of the cinema itself, the most important event in film history was the introduction of sound. In fact, the idea of combining motion pictures with some type of synchronized sound had been present since their inception. Thomas Edison originally commissioned the invention of the Kinetograph with the notion of providing a visual accompaniment for his phonograph, and W. K. L. Dickson had actually achieved a rough synchronization of the two machines as early as 1889. Many other inventors, such as Georges Demeny and Auguste Baron in France and William Friese-Greene in England, experimented with devices for coupling sound and image before the turn of the century. At the Paris World Exposition of 1900 three separate systems which synchronized phonograph recordings with projected film strips were exhibited: the Phonorama of L. A. Berthon, C. F. Dussaud, and G. F. Jaubert; Léon Gaumont's Chronophone; and the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre of Clément‐ Maurice Gratioulet and Henri Lioret, which offered minute-long performances by great stars of the theater, opera, and ballet. In Germany, Oskar Messter began to produce short synchronized sound films as novelty items in 1903, and by 1908 he was supplying exhibitors with recorded musical scores for nearly all of his productions. In Britain, Gaumont's Chronophone proved popular, as did Cecil Hepworth's system, Vivaphone; and in the United States the Edison Corporation achieved modest technical success with two phonofilm systems—Cinephonograph and Kinetophone.

All of these early systems relied on the phonograph to reproduce the sound component of the filmed performance. The earliest ones used wax cylinders and the later ones discs, but all had three difficulties in common: the problem of synchronizing the sound recording with the filmed event, of amplifying the sound for presentation to a large audience, and of the brevity of the cylinder and disc formats in relation to the standard length of motion pictures. The first problem was partially solved by a number of regulatory devices which were intended to insure an exact correspondence of sound and image but were usually imperfect in operation. If the phonograph stylus skipped a groove in performance, for example, or if the film strip broke in the projector, regaining synchronization was nearly impossible. The problem of amplification was gener

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