Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

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Arndt

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Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostTue Apr 03, 2018 8:14 am

The Deutsches Filminstitut in Frankfurt curates a collection of Tonbilder. These were a craze in Germany from c. 1906 to 1910: short films, mostly of musical numbers or vaudeville acts that came with a synchronized score on a gramophone record. Oskar Messter, one of the pioneers of film, made hundreds of these around the year 1908. The DFI have restored thirty-odd Tonbilder and reunited them with their soundtracks and a DVD-release of these is in the offing.
In the meantime they have made them available on the internet here:

https://www.filmportal.de/thema/liste-der-tonbilder-im-deutschen-filminstitut
"The greatest cinematic experience is the human face and it seems to me that silent films can teach us to read it anew." - Wim Wenders
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Nerves

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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostTue Apr 03, 2018 8:36 am

Thank you!
Last edited by Nerves on Thu Apr 05, 2018 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Jonathan

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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostTue Apr 03, 2018 10:40 am

Thanks for the link, Arndt. I have a few similar examples (French, I recall) dotted around on various DVD compilations but I haven't seen so many grouped together.

As I'm also a devotee of early operatic recordings, I find them quite fascinating. I realise of course they are mimed but am I correct in assuming that the film performers we see are not the opera singers we hear on the accompanying records? Although the great Emmy Destinn (like the more cinematically prolific Geraldine Farrar) did later star in her own feature, I can't imagine her popping into a film studio in 1908 to mime to her earlier recording of the snippet from Lohengrin, with her face obscured during the final minute... and yet I do see some resemblance in the actress!
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Arndt

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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostTue Apr 03, 2018 11:10 am

Jonathan wrote: I realise of course they are mimed but am I correct in assuming that the film performers we see are not the opera singers we hear on the accompanying records? Although the great Emmy Destinn (like the more cinematically prolific Geraldine Farrar) did later star in her own feature, I can't imagine her popping into a film studio in 1908 to mime to her earlier recording of the snippet from Lohengrin, with her face obscured during the final minute... and yet I do see some resemblance in the actress!


I think the general idea is that, yes, these are the actual performers miming to their own voice recordings, as goes on to this day.
"The greatest cinematic experience is the human face and it seems to me that silent films can teach us to read it anew." - Wim Wenders
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostTue Apr 03, 2018 11:34 am

I hope that can be confirmed, as it would certainly increase their value in terms of operatic history. But if the idea was to showcase opera stars in vision and sound, the Trovatore "Miserere" duet seems a curious choice, as Manrico (imprisoned in the tower) isn't shown at all in this staging, even though the tenor on the recording is the great Leo Slezak (later a prolific sound film actor and father of Walter).
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostTue Apr 03, 2018 6:49 pm

These are absolutely wonderful!! Thank you so much Arndt for bringing them to our attention. The sound quality is really
outstanding for the period!!!
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greta de groat

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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostTue Apr 03, 2018 10:36 pm

Like, like!

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bigshot

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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 12:48 am

This is great stuff! Thanks for the link. I can't wait for them to release a disc of these. It looks like they are 1080p. Maybe there will be a blu-ray.
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 11:44 am

Great find! Alice Guy did a lot of work with a similar kind of technology, too. Here's one of her phonoscenes: https://youtu.be/AKxXJOZoEwc

Last edited by silentfilm on Thu Apr 05, 2018 11:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Embedd YouTube link
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 7:19 pm

That is wonderful! thank you so much Arndt.
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostThu Apr 05, 2018 12:56 pm

Would these have been made with a hand-cranked camera, or one powered by a motor? I would think for synchronization purposes the latter would be preferable, but I'm not even sure when motorized cameras would have come into common usage.

Professional silent film camera operators were known for their steady hands (I recall first reading about their skill in the autobiography of Karl Brown, cameraman and assistant to G.W. Bitzer on Birth of a Nation and Intolerance) and perhaps this was enough for these shorts.
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostThu Apr 05, 2018 7:46 pm

Some info here:https://books.google.com/books?id=Ygj7CwAAQBAJ&pg=PA193&lpg=PA193&dq=tonbilder+film&source=bl&ots=XjQc3q8OCL&sig=tknUk_98Vtq_c-Tm1EbrqrTdFus&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi9iprxv6TaAhUm5IMKHU1NC1kQ6AEIMzAB#v=onepage&q=tonbilder%20film&f=false
Scroll up to the start of the chapter, German Tonbilder of the 1900s: Advanced Technology and National Brand.

This source, https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonbild&prev=search says "To match picture and sound, Messter used synchronous electric motors in the projector and the gramophone. However, the sound reproduction was done mechanically by means of sound box and funnel. This limited the radius of the demonstrations considerably, because large cinemas could not be sonicated with it or only insufficiently."

It's German, run through Google Translate, so it's far from perfect. I think it's almost mandatory to have electrically driven apparatus to record an even remotely synchronized sound and picture.
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostFri Apr 06, 2018 12:00 pm

Phenomenal, really. I would buy a Blu-ray set in a heartbeat.
When you think of the fact that "lip-sync" in itself would have been totally unknown to the average individual, you take a group of performers (the opera ones in particular) and make them re-create their art in the most "unnatural" form possible, it is really amazing how well they do with it.

Great that these films and their sound parts survived.

C.
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostSun Apr 08, 2018 4:38 pm

Wonderful to see and hear! I never heard of these. Sound quality and synchronization first-rate. Of course, modern amplification doesn't hurt.
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostSun Apr 08, 2018 5:07 pm

I've been looking at a couple a day and enjoying them, but find the synchronization to be a bit hit or miss. It is interesting to see the costuming and the attitude toards this music 110 years ago.

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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostSun Apr 08, 2018 5:32 pm

Wunderbar! Thanks so much for posting. Marvelous to see - and hear - with such wonderful restoration. Also it is frightfully interesting to see how the music was put across nearer to the time it was actually composed.
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostTue Apr 10, 2018 11:42 pm

boblipton wrote:I've been looking at a couple a day and enjoying them, but find the synchronization to be a bit hit or miss. It is interesting to see the costuming and the attitude toards this music 110 years ago.Bob


Apparently it was not always possible to find the recordings specifically made for each individual Tonbild, so some of the films are presented with an Ersatzton, a substitute sound recording of the piece from the same era. At first the DFI tried to synchronize those by varying the framerate of the film, but now they have gone over to running both image and sound recording at constant speeds. They view the Ersatzton as a placeholder until they can hopefully locate the original sound recording.
"The greatest cinematic experience is the human face and it seems to me that silent films can teach us to read it anew." - Wim Wenders
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Re: Tonbilder (sound pictures) online at Filmportal

PostWed Apr 11, 2018 12:41 am

I'm sure film this old is missing patches of film due to edits or deterioration. You can't cut a few bars out of the music here and there without it becoming a choppy mess, so I guess they varied the frame rate to catch up with the gaps.

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