Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

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Rick Lanham

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Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostFri Jun 09, 2017 11:48 am

https://phys.org/news/2017-06-today-ill ... ovies.html

"Today in 1922, an Illinois professor showed how movies could talk.
Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Joseph Tykociner had given several private demonstrations of his inventions, but on June 9, 1922, he gave his first public lecture and demonstration of his sound on film apparatus. A film of his demonstration was one of the first to successfully incorporate sound…"

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Marr&Colton

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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostSun Jun 11, 2017 11:22 am

About that same time Lee Deforest had perfected his sound-on-film. An excellent documentary DVD came out many years ago titled "The First Sound Of Movies" with several of Deforest's Vaudeville clips--excellent quality.
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Brooksie

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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostSun Jun 11, 2017 11:18 pm

This year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival had an interesting presentation from George Willeman of the LOC about the Edison Kinetophone, which had attempted to marry sound to film about a decade earlier.

It gave a pretty good idea of why it took another two decades to perfect sound film - unwieldy to shoot, nearly impossible to synchronise properly, and limiting upon performers.

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s.w.a.c.

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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostSun Jun 18, 2017 5:42 am

It seems like the speaker in that Kinetophone clip is actually lipsynching to a pre-recorded speech. It's hard to imagine capturing the sound with that kind of clarity in 1912 without him actually speaking directly into the recording horn.
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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostMon Jun 19, 2017 12:31 am

As George's presentation explained, what is shown here is actually audio from one take married to the image from a different take. It's surprising that it syncs at all (the actor's performance and vocal nuances must have been very similar in both takes) - in his restoration, George has since tweaked the audio using Final Cut Pro to make it match as closely as possible.

The recording system was quite complex - a belt connected the camera and recording device, and the actors had a very narrow area in which they could perform. There's a photo of the setup online here.
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wich2

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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostMon Jun 19, 2017 8:17 am

But it is true that the actor on camera is lip-syncing a previous audio recording, yes?

That was the case with most early American and European attempts in this field, for obvious reasons.
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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostMon Jun 19, 2017 2:27 pm

So if it's audio from one take married to the image from another take then it's a phony? Why would they even do that? Why not just work on getting the image and audio right from the same take?
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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostMon Jun 19, 2017 2:38 pm

wich2 wrote:But it is true that the actor on camera is lip-syncing a previous audio recording, yes?

That was the case with most early American and European attempts in this field, for obvious reasons.


No, the recording of the voice and picture was done simultaneously and live. George had a fascinating piece of evidence for this - a glimpse of the recording horn bobbing around above the actors in one example, undoubtedly the first case of a boom mic popping in to the frame.

In other examples shown in his presentation, Jack's Joke and particularly The Blacksmith's Song, the synchronisation was excellent.
Last edited by Brooksie on Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Harold Aherne

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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostMon Jun 19, 2017 4:42 pm

aldiboronti wrote:So if it's audio from one take married to the image from another take then it's a phony? Why would they even do that? Why not just work on getting the image and audio right from the same take?


I don't know how familiar you are with the mechanics of acoustic (mechanical) recording, but for anyone who isn't, this little one-reeler from Bray/Hodkinson in 1923 shows what's involved. (And it's scored by our own Ben Model!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&persist_app=1&noapp=1&v=sQ6KmeLjLCs



Good acoustic recording, with voices (and the orchestra, when applicable) all coming across clearly, required spatial closeness -- both of the performers to the horn and, ideally, of performers to each other. Scenes that required speaking and walking around, or speaking with one's back to the camera, could result in fluctuations of intelligibility. The horn had to stay relatively close to the cylinder or wax disc that the stylus was cutting on, and thus the system was unlikely ever to be mobile enough to capture extended dramatic scenes very effectively. Editing would be a headache, and while dubbing (done horn-to-horn or pantographically) was possible, it could degrade the sound quality further and introduce mechanical noise.

The acoustic process had intrinsic limits when applied to films, and it took the perfection of electrical recording (whether optically or on disc) to make the addition of sound a real possibilty.

-HA
Last edited by silentfilm on Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostMon Jun 19, 2017 5:43 pm

Interesting, Brooksie - thanks.

(With a bit "ditto" to Harold's post.)

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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostMon Jun 19, 2017 5:50 pm

I'm going a little off topic here (though still speaking of a talkie picture experiment), so please read this in an indulgent mood.

On the heels of Harold's illuminating remarks about acoustic recordings, I'll say that one of the most fascinating things to be heard on YouTube is an 1890 recording of Alfred, Lord Tennyson reciting his "The Charge of the Light Brigade." The sound is clearer than you might expect, and whoever posted this recording has digitally tweaked a photograph of Tennyson so that he (sort of, kind of) appears to be speaking, thus marrying image to sound 117 years after the fact so that our experience of hearing a great writer born 208 years ago gains in immediacy.

I've not posted a YouTube clip before and may not get this right, but here goes:



Hmm: that didn't take. Anyhow, if you do a YouTube search for "Tennyson Brigade wax recording," you should be taken right to it.
Last edited by silentfilm on Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostMon Jun 19, 2017 10:24 pm

If there's one thing George's presentation did bring home, it was the fact that while sound and picture reproduction was pretty good by 1912, there's good reason why it wasn't commercially viable for another fifteen years. Recording was very cumbersome, as Harold says, but so too was playback. It must be said that the subjects were cleverly chosen to highlight the use of sound, but I imagine that once the novelty had worn off, the shortcomings of the technology gave them a short shelf life.

Not quite as old as the Tennyson example, perhaps, but still fascinating - F. Scott Fitzgerald reading Keats' Ode to a Nightingale:

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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostSun Jun 25, 2017 8:47 pm

Harold Aherne wrote:
aldiboronti wrote:So if it's audio from one take married to the image from another take then it's a phony? Why would they even do that? Why not just work on getting the image and audio right from the same take?


I don't know how familiar you are with the mechanics of acoustic (mechanical) recording, but for anyone who isn't, this little one-reeler from Bray/Hodkinson in 1923 shows what's involved. (And it's scored by our own Ben Model!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&persist_app=1&noapp=1&v=sQ6KmeLjLCs

Good acoustic recording, with voices (and the orchestra, when applicable) all coming across clearly, required spatial closeness -- both of the performers to the horn and, ideally, of performers to each other. Scenes that required speaking and walking around, or speaking with one's back to the camera, could result in fluctuations of intelligibility. The horn had to stay relatively close to the cylinder or wax disc that the stylus was cutting on, and thus the system was unlikely ever to be mobile enough to capture extended dramatic scenes very effectively. Editing would be a headache, and while dubbing (done horn-to-horn or pantographically) was possible, it could degrade the sound quality further and introduce mechanical noise.

The acoustic process had intrinsic limits when applied to films, and it took the perfection of electrical recording (whether optically or on disc) to make the addition of sound a real possibilty.

-HA


Thank you indeed for providing this little fillum which I very much enjoyed and which was beautifully accompanied by Mr. Model. There were some prophetic statements in the glorious titles - we are indeed still enjoying the voices they said we would!

There was one gramophone record company - "Fonotipia" in Italy who used to make what were probably the best acoustic recordings. Well, they ought to have done, because their records cost the Earth at the time - back in the early part of the 20th Century. The reason why their process was ahead of everyone else is that they took the acoustic horn one stage further and virtually made one wall of the recording studio a tunnel, gradually thinning it out until it reached the recording tone arm.

Also, the method by which the records were re-produced at home was a contributing factor in how good they sounded. A friend of mine had a very nice top of the line His Master's Voice gramophone and all 78's he played on it sounded quite marvelous. As well as the actual "unit" one had to use the correct needles. I believe the best were the "tungsten fibre" variety. Then there was the record itself. In some countries - such as the U.K., the shellac base would be combined with brick dust and so the surface noise would be greater than records made in say Australia, where the surface manufactured was a lot "cleaner".

The main problem - apart from those already listed here, in marrying gramophone records to films in the acoustic era was in the amplification. It was just not a feasible proposition to produce a sound that was capable of filling large auditoria.

To finish a journey down the path of nostalgia I am reminded of a story I read of Maurice Chevalier and how he waltzed into the Victor Studios in New York at nine o'clock one morning in 1929 in order to make some gramophone record recordings.

The orchestra was already in attendance and Mr. Chevalier on obtaining the "go" signal from the recording engineer just commenced his crooning straight away with the orchestra rendering the accompaniment.

Then all stopped and everyone awaited the engineer's checking of the wax. Yes, everything had come out perfectly. So that became Take 1. Mr. Chevalier and the orchestra would then repeat the same song another three or four times. The reason being that the first take would probably wear out after a certain number of pressings and they needed spares in case of good record sales.

Mr. Chevalier recorded four or five songs in the same fashion and then went out to lunch at one o'clock.

It all sounds so simple and uncomplicated compared to today doesn't it? There was only one microphone (usually) and everything was all done at once and set straight down -unless of course there was a problem with the wax.

(I'd like someone to do a similar film to this one - explaining how a CD is made. How do all those zero's and one's figure out the sounds? :D )
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Re: Today in 1922, Talkie Pictures Experiments

PostSun Jun 25, 2017 8:57 pm

In the "Hollywood" series Viola Dane recounts doing one of these Edison "Kinetophones". She said she was aghast on hearing her surmised soprano voice coming out in a strident baritone. The film and sound still exist:-
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"So, she said: "Elly, it's no use letting Lou have the sherry glasses..."She won't appreciate them,
she won't polish them..."You know what she's like." So I said:..."

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