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Sound Recording

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News coverage #1  News coverage #2  • view overview video of tape recorder collectionmobile videomore info

These pages are for reference of the media segments we hope to create in the museum.  We are looking for persons and organizations who have historical collections and would like to work with us in creating this facility and its contents.

The logo of the Multi Media Museum, a project of the Museum of magnetic Sound Recording

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 incorporating 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 Vitaphon (right)e, 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 Hollywood's position as one of the world's most powerful cultural/commercial systems. In Europe (and, to a lesser degree, elsewhere), 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. In India, sound was the transformative element that led to the rapid expansion of the nation's film industry.

Thanks to the internet, I learned that the Dad of one of my classmates from Alpine, Texas was an early musician who toured around the country and was part of one of the first music groups to record for the movies.. I knew Ron Hunter's Dad, Charles Huinter (left - promo photo for Charles Hunter - nick name "Iron Tail"), as a photographer in Alpine. However his music history was new to me. Here is some information Ron agreed to share with our Museum. - Martin Theophilus, MOMSR Board President

"Dad formed the Arizona Wranglers in 1928, he and his band moved to Hollywood where they began broadcasting on a regular schedule on radio station KNX. The group toured up and down the west coast for several years and they were in a number of western movies. Dad is playing the banjo in this pic (left) but he played a number of instruments during his entertainment career. They even toured with Roscoe Turner, a famous aviator, in his Lockheed 3 Air Express. That's dad on the right (center). The guys in suits are the California governor, second from right, next to dad and a state senator, second from left. It was taken in 1932. (right)  This is the touring car the band used to travel along the west coast. I'm not sure who the lady is..."- Ron Hunter


 Charles Hunter "Iron Tail" appeared in the movie "Stormy" as one of the Arizona Wrangler singing cowboys. He also appeared as a renegade (uncredited) in Custer's Last Stand.

We also found the following information on Charles Hunter's band, the Arizona Wranglers at B-Westerns 


"Why are the Arizona Wranglers and the various permutations important to the B-western? There's several answers ... or at least some conjecture for you to ponder. They were among the first groups to appear in the early years of the sound western. Second, there were many future B-western performers and regulars who worked with the group(s) such as Glenn Strange, Arkansas Johnny Luther, Jack Kirk, Jack Jones, Chuck Baldra and "Cactus Mack" McPeters. Lastly, I am not suggesting that the Wranglers were the cause of the later singin' western, nor did they create that unique piece of the genre. But their western movie work - as well as music and songs in westerns from a few other groups - probably had some impact on the development of the singing western - i.e., "Let's try somethin' new - along with the guys singing around the campfire, let's get the hero to sing!".

part-talkie is a partly, and most often primarily, silent film which includes one or more synchronous sound sequences with audible dialog or singing. During the silent portions lines of dialog are presented as "titles" -- printed text briefly filling the screen—and the soundtrack is used only to supply musical accompaniment and sound effects.

In the case of feature films made in the United States, nearly all such hybrid films date to the 1927-1929 period of transition from "silents" to full-fledged "talkies" with audible dialog throughout. It took about a year and a half for a transition period for American movie houses to move from almost all silent to almost all equipped for sound In the interim period, studios reacted by improvising four solutions: fast remakes of recent productions, "goat gland" pictures with one or two sound sequences spliced into already finished productions, dual sound and silent versions produced simultaneously, and part-talkies.

The famous so-called "first talking picture", The Jazz Singer (1927), starring Al Jolson, is in fact a part-talkie. It features only about fifteen minutes of singing and talking, interspersed throughout the film, while the rest is a typical silent film with "titles" and only a recorded orchestral accompaniment.

In the 1920s, Phonofilm and other early motion picture sound systems employed optical recording technology, in which the audio signal was graphically recorded on photographic film.

The amplitude variations comprising the signal were used to modulate a light source which was imaged onto the moving film through a narrow slit, allowing the signal to be photographed as variations in the density or width of a "sound track". The projector used a steady light and a photoelectric cell to convert these variations back into an electrical signal, which was amplified and sent to loudspeakers behind the screen.

Ironically, the introduction of "talkies" was spearheaded by The Jazz Singer (1927), which used the Vitaphone sound-on-disc - (right A Vitaphone projection setup at a 1926 demonstration. Engineer E. B. Craft is holding a soundtrack disc. The turntable, on a massive tripod base, is at lower center.)

Vitaphone was a sound film system used for feature films and nearly 1,000 short subjects made by Warner Bros. and its sister studio First National from 1926 to 1931. Vitaphone was the last major analog sound-on-disc system and the only one which was widely used and commercially successful. The soundtrack was not printed on the film itself, but issued separately on phonograph records. The discs, recorded at 33 1/3 rpm (a speed first used for this system) and typically 16 inches in diameter, would be played on a turntable physically coupled to the projector motor while the film was being projected. Many early talkies, such as The Jazz Singer (1927), used the Vitaphone system. The name "Vitaphone" derived from the Latin and Greek words, respectively, for "living" and "sound".  The "Vitaphone" trademark was later associated with cartoons and other short subjects that had optical soundtracks and did not use discs. Robert G. Metzner 1938 CalTech

Our Museum interviewed Robert G. Metzner (01/17/17 - 12/21/2014) in Beverly Hills in 2012. Mr. Metzner (right) founded Pacific Sound Equipment Company and provided portable 16 inch transcription turntableplayers to salesmen who marketed their 16 inch discs to the film industry. When WW II began his company provided transcription turntables and other A/V products to the US military during WW II. The company ceased to exist when the war ended. VIDEO

The Phonoscène  (left) was an antecedent of music video and was regarded by Michel Chion, Noël Burch and Richard Abel as a forerunner of sound film. The first Phonoscènes were presented by Léon Gaumont in 1902 in France. The first official presentation in the United Kingdom took place at Buckingham Palace in 1907  The last phonoscène was presented in 1917.)system rather than an optical soundtrack. Optical sound became the standard motion picture audio system throughout the world and remains so for theatrical release prints despite attempts in the 1950s to substitute magnetic soundtracks. Currently, all release prints on 35 mm film include an analog optical soundtrack, usually stereo with Dolby SR noise reduction. In addition, an optically recorded digital soundtrack in Dolby Digital and/or Sony SDDS form is likely to be present. An optically recorded timecode is also commonly included to synchronise CDROMs that contain a DTS soundtrack.

This period also saw several other historic developments including the introduction of the first practical magnetic sound recording system, the magnetic wire recorder,which was based on the work ofDanish inventor Valdemar Poulsen. Magnetic wire recorders were effective, but the sound quality was poor, so between the wars they were primarily used for voice recording and marketed as business dictating machines.

In 1924 a German engineer, Dr. Kurt Stille, developed the Poulsen wire recorder as a dictating machine. The following year, Ludwig Blattner began work that eventuallyproduced theBlattnerphone (left) enhancing it to use steel tape instead of wire. The BBC started using Blattnerphones in 1930 to record radio programmes. In 1933 radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi's (right) company purchased the rights to the Blattnerphone (left), and newly developed Marconi-Stille recorders were installed in the BBC's Maida Vale Studios in March 1935.  The tape used in Blattnerphones and Marconi-Stille recorders was the same material used to make razor blades, and not surprisingly the fearsome Marconi-Stille recorders were considered so dangerous that technicians had to operate them from another room for safety. Because of the high recording speeds required, they used enormous reels about one metre in diameter,and the thin tape frequently broke, sending jagged lengths of razor steel flying around the studio. The K1 Magnetophon was thefirst practical tape recorder, developed by AEG in Germany in 1935.


Go to sound recording's impact on BroadcastingEducationMusicScience



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We offer seven hours of 50 video segments via download about our reel to reel tape recorder and microphone collection and the history of magnetic recording available at this link.

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There are 50 QuickTime H264 854 X 480 files in this download.  Play on MAC OS or Windows Media Player

While most content deals with the history and manufacturers of the reel to reel tape recorder, or tape deck, we cover many aspects of magnetic recording.

We provide 48 hours during which to download the files. After that the file access will expire.  Once the files are downloaded they are yours to keep.

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