Talking films approach perfection


There are not many people around today who were alive when there were only silent movies.

“Talkies” came after the silent movies and were sometimes referred to as “squeakies” because of the noise from the sound tracks. Because of this annoying noise, many people preferred the silent films.

Criticism. A critic at the time said the film Jazz Singer was annoying because the actors sounded like they were talking with a lisp through the entire film. In addition, their voice placement varied from too low to a soprano pitch.

Many producers remained hopeful for improvements as the first sound-on-film noises were emitted from speakers backstage. After several screenings, however, producers gave up hope.

Although the sound was coherent, poor management could not control the volume.

Many would have overlooked this fault had the picture quality been better.

Improvements. Later, many people were surprised when the sound improved.

The improvement was so surprising that a newspaper critic in 1929 said, “The only thing wrong with this picture is that it doesn’t sound mechanical enough. I would swear that they have actors backstage speaking the lines.”

As to the producers’ “error,” they were forgiven for making a talkie that was good.

Synchronized. The average film production was good except for the fact that the picture and sound were only synchronized at the stage. People sitting halfway back in the theater saw a noticeable difference in the actors’ lip movement and the sound.

This was due to the speed of light and sound. It was altered by moving the aperture a half-inch away from the projected picture. This synchronized the lip movement and sound.

Sound on film. Strange Cargo was the first feature-length film released that used the RCA Photophone.

This was a sound-on-film method that used variable-width, constant-density recording. The sound track looked like a series of peaks zigzagging in proportion to the sound impressed on the microphone.

During the early development of talkies, many “shorts” were released, and the progress was evident.


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