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The Advancement of Film: Through Sound
During the late 1880’s the motion camera was invented, a few years later the film industry was created. The first films were usually about everyday life, people walking or playing a prank; these films were usually very short. This was the era of the silent film. Gradually film started to expand rapidly, new technology enabled films to become more complicated, with a storyline and the camera angles. “The Great Train Robbery”, was one of the first films to incorporate the different camera shots while having a story line. The only thing that these movies were missing was the use of dialogue, sound effects, and music. Sound is truly one of the things that set the film industry on a path to successes. Film makers are continuously use sound to aid them in convening the emotions they want their audience to feel when they watch their movies. Though much of the advancements of the film industry, sound has become the most important aspect of movies; it has come a long way since the “silent era” in film history, movies would not be the same without it.
The start of the film industry was a huge land mark in itself, but without incorporation of sound, they would not have become the multimillion dollar industry that it is today. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Americans were flooding into theaters to watch the latest movie that was out, but in those days the movies were generally very short and had no audio. To compensate for the lack of sound theaters would often have a pianist playing music on a piano or on the organ; he would provide the necessary sound affects movies needed. The Lumière Brothers were very popular in creating these early silent films. Thomas Edison had been trying to come up with a way to incorporate sound in to film with the use of a phonograph but was un- successful. But his ideas would lead to the huge milestone for the advancement of sound in film during the nineteen twenties. In early portion of the twenty’s the Vitaphone was invented. “The Vitaphone was a sound-on-disc system using multiple 33 1/3 rpm discs developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories and Western Electric In August 1926, Warner Brothers debuted the first Vitaphone film Don Juan” (Kay). Thought this movie did use the Vitaphone, to replace the organist, the film still did not use dialogue. The first film to incorporate the use of music and dialogue was The Jazz Singer, this was considered the end of the “silent” era and beginning of the “talkies”. In 1928 Walt Disney would release the move Steamboat Willie “It was the first film to completely create a soundtrack in post production including sound effects, music, and dialogue” (Kay). Many critics at the time believed that the incorporation of sound with the actual movies would lead to the down fall of the art, and would ruin the entertainment value. Boy was they wrong the advancement of sound lead to a more hooked audience who couldn’t seem to get enough of the theater. These early advancements in sound would aid in the perfection of sound.
With the creation and incorporation of sound in movies, film makers wanted to finally be able to perfect the art and be able to use it to convey the cinematographer message more efficiently. One of the most significant achievements in film history was made by Murray Spivak, who was the sound director for King Kong “[He] was the first person to manipulate sound in a creative way. Spivak used the sound of a lion’s roar slowed down one octave mixed with the sound at unity pitch” (Kay). Spivak used sound in a way that it had never been used before; he also paved the path for future sound directors. Walt Disney became renowned in nineteen forties he created some of the most important innovations in sound, some of which are still being used today. Some of these creations included the pan-pot, overdubbing of orchestral parts, the multichannel surround system, and simultaneous multi-track recording; just to name a few. The film Fantasia by Disney was the first to use “[The] state-of-the-art digital sound dubbing and screening facility. Sound mixers blend dialogue, music, and sound effects tracks to the various levels appropriate for a movie theater” (Walt Disney Internet Group). This technology allowed them to make a audience sit on the edge of their seats because the sound could excite a theater that’s was three quarters of the way full. This was a huge advancement in technology and Walt Disney definitely set the benchmark high. Before Disney movies did not have the seamless interaction between dialogue, music, and sound effects; they were very choppy and were one of the biggest complaints from movie goers. Another important creation in the advancement of sound was created by Ray Dolby who in 1965 invented the “Dolby A-type® noise reduction. It was a sophisticated new form of audio compression and expansion that dramatically reduced the background hiss inherent in professional tape recording without discernible side effects on the material being recorded” (Dolby Laboratories Inc ). Its original purpose was for use in recording studios to produce clearer tracks; but the film industries used it as an aid to allow them to make clearer sounding movies. In 1976 “A Star Is Born became the first Dolby Stereo film. Dolby Stereo was a 4-channel format phase matrixed into a two channel format” (Kay). This was significant because, on the Dolby Stereo they could encoded it into any format including FM, tape, or recording.
The present day of sound extends from about the nineteen eighties to today, we are still coming up with advancements in the way we use sound. The main goal for Sound directors today is to make dialogue, sound effects, and music blend together in a seamless fashion to the point that it seems realistic. This illusion is created from the new technology that we have today such as Dolby Digital which is the standard in the industry, it is also used to record sound on to DVD’s. With the creation of louder higher definition speakers in theater and surround sound for home theaters; the stress for sound directors is becoming more and more important. They have their job cut out for them because; this new technology is making it easier to pick out flaws in sound. To make sure that sound quality is near perfect sound director’s work on a single move for months and months editing in and out different sound clips, playing with the frequency and pitch of the sound until it is perfect. With the higher definition speakers big blockbusters often don’t spare cost when it comes to sound. Image watching a movie like the Fast and the Furious or the Terminator without sound or bad quality sound, it would not be the same right. Sound improves the quality of the movie. That is why sound directors spend so much time on perfecting there art, so you can every horse in the engine when it is revving or bullets hitting off of a metal robot. It is these qualities that make movies so aesthetic to watch and listen to.
The innovation of sound in movies has come a long way, and will continue to grow, it is one of the most important factors in a movie and can make or break a Hollywood blockbuster. Sound has come a long way from the “silent” era in film history. After the “silent” films came the “talkies” the firs movies to use sound. With ingenious innovations form such patrons as Walt Disney and Ray Dolby, we are able to experience the best sound in movies. It is the sound in movies that creates suspense that makes us sit on the edge of our seats with our heart rushing. Without the use of sound this would not be possible. The movies that scare us and leave us panting wanting more could not happen without the scary background music. People use to believe that sound actually would ruin the art of cinematography, it has done the opposite movies today are just getting better and better. Without sound in movies we would just be left looking at a screen.
Dolby Laboratories Inc. “Dolby – The Company’s Founding.” Dolby Laboratories. Web. 11 Mar. 2010.
Kay, Jonathan. “Film Sound History: 20’s.” Middle Tennessee State University. Web. 12 Mar. 2010.
Walt Disney Internet Group. “History.” The Walt Disney Studios. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.
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