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Vitaphone Demonstration: The Voice from the Screen 1926 Vitaphone

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Published on Nov 30, 2014

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Demonstration film for the Vitaphone motion picture sound process, made the year before "The Jazz Singer" made talkies big. Hosted by Bell Labs Vice President Edward B. Craft, and first shown to the New York Electrical Society on October 27, 1926.

Originally a public domain film from the Prelinger Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitaphone
Wikipedia license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/b...

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...

Early history

In the early 1920s, Western Electric was developing both sound-on-film and sound-on-disc systems, aided by the purchase of Lee De Forest's Audion amplifier tube in 1913, consequent advances in public address systems, and the first practical condenser microphone, which Western Electric engineer A.C. Wente had created in 1916 and greatly improved in 1922. De Forest debuted his own Phonofilm sound-on-film system in New York City on April 15, 1923, but due to the relatively poor sound quality of Phonofilm and the impressive state-of-the-art sound heard in Western Electric's private demonstrations, the Warner Brothers decided to go forward with the industrial giant and the more familiar disc technology.

The business was established at Western Electric's Bell Laboratories in New York City and acquired by Warner Brothers in April 1925. Warner Brothers introduced Vitaphone on August 6, 1926 with the release of their silent feature Don Juan, which had been retrofitted with a symphonic musical score and sound effects. There was no spoken dialog. The feature was preceded by a program of short subjects with live-recorded sound, nearly all featuring classical instrumentalists and opera stars. The only "pop music" artist was guitarist Roy Smeck and the only actual "talkie" was the short film that opened the program: a brief spoken greeting from motion picture industry spokesman Will Hays.

Don Juan was able to draw huge sums of money at the box office, but was not able to match the expensive budget Warner Brothers put into the film's production...

...then pushed ahead with a new Vitaphone feature starring Al Jolson, the Broadway dynamo who had already scored a big hit with early Vitaphone audiences in A Plantation Act, a musical short released on October 7, 1926. On October 6, 1927, The Jazz Singer premiered at the Warner Theater in New York City, broke box-office records, established Warner Brothers as a major player in Hollywood, and is traditionally credited with single-handedly launching the talkie revolution...

A Vitaphone-equipped theater had normal projectors which had been furnished with special phonograph turntables and pickups; a fader; an amplifier; and a loudspeaker system. The projectors operated just as motorized silent projectors did, but at a fixed speed of 24 frames per second and mechanically interlocked with the attached turntables. When each projector was threaded, the projectionist would align a start mark on the film with the film gate, then cue up the corresponding soundtrack disc on the turntable, being careful to place the phonograph needle at a point indicated by an arrow scribed on the record's surface. When the projector was started, it rotated the linked turntable and (in theory) automatically kept the record "in sync" (correctly synchronized) with the projected image.

The Vitaphone process made several improvements over previous systems: Amplification – The Vitaphone system used electronic amplification based on Lee De Forest's Audion tube...

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