A critical review of the development of Sound Design Practice:
Arugably the origin of Sound design recording began when Thomas Edison (inventor of the lightbulb) invented the Phonograph. The help towards the creation of the invention came from Western Union who, in 1876, “encouraged him to develop a communication device to compete with Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.” (Biography, 2016). However it would be that his invention would not be used in the Media industry until many years later.
Films that were first shown in cinemas, during the 1920s, were accoumapnied by “ sound organs, gramophone discs, musicians, sound effects specialists, live actors who delivered dialogue, and even full-scale orchestras.“(Dirks) However as the film’s popularity advanced so did the expectation of the viewers.
After the creation of “Vitaphone Company which revolutionised the film industry. Warner Bros. launched sound and talking pictures, with Bell Telephone Laboratory researchers, by developing a revolutionary synchronized sound system called Vitaphone (a short-lived sound-on-disc process developed in 1925 that quickly became obsolete by 1931). This process allowed sound to be recorded on a phonograph record that was electronically linked and synchronized with the film projector – but it was destined to be faulty due to inherent synchronization problems.“(Dirks) However there were those who did not believe that the sound films would become popular.
The first film to be released with synchronised “Vitaphone sound effects and musical soundtrack (canned music and sound effects recorded on large wax discs), but without spoken dialogue, was Warner Bros.’ romantic swashbuckler adventure Don Juan (1926).”(Dirks)
“In 1926, William Fox of the Fox Film Corporation responded to Warners’ success with its own similar and competing, advanced Movietone system – the first commercially successful sound-on-film process developed in conjunction with General Electric. It added a ‘soundtrack’ directly onto the strip of film and would eventually become the predominant sound technology. [This system would soon replace the inflexible Vitaphone system because it was easier to synchronize the sound.]” (Dirks.)
The first film to be released with the new Movietone system was Sunrise (1927) by F.W. Marnau. This release made way towards other films – including ‘The Jazz Singer’ (released on 6th October 1927) which was the film that was made by the first sound studio. The first talkie wowed audiences, and was considered a step towards the future.
However studio began to run before they could walk. As exemplified in ‘Singing in the Rain’ (1952) there were numerous problems. These included “restricted markets for English-language talkies. Many Hollywood actors/actresses lacked good voices and stage experience, and their marketability decreased. Technically, camera movements were restricted, and noisy, bulky movie cameras had to be housed in clumsy, huge sound-insulated booths with blimps (sound-proof covers), to avoid picking up camera noise on the soundtrack. Artistically, acting suffered as studios attempted to record live dialogue, because stationary or hidden microphones (in either their costumes or other stage props) impeded the movement of actors. Some of the earliest talkies were primitive, self-conscious, crudely-made productions with an immobile microphone – designed to capitalize on the novelty of sound.” (Dirks)
Going back to the drawing board, and not wanting to lose viewers, Studio spent considerable sum to place into buying new equipment, and sound proof studios. The gamble paid off as talkies began to get better. King Vidor’s first talkie – MGM’s Hallelujah, was originally shot as a silent – but it was the first film to be dubbed with a soundtrack that was later added in the studio (a post production advancement.)
During the golden age of cinema (1930s) all silent films were being transformed into talkies. And by the point Silent films had disappeared. During the mid 1930s Film Industries now had Sound-film factories.
The next change in the Sound department would not come until the 1970s. With sound now gaining popularity, as the studios learnt from the earlier mistakes, and therefore becoming the norm for films, the change of technology came with the change. By the late 1970s tapes would be replaced by a new item much thinner.
“The Phillips company, which had earlier introduced the cassette, had developed a laser disc for video recording in the late 1970s. Phillips teamed up with Sony, which had developed a digital tape recorder for making “master” recordings at about the same time. The new discs were created by re-recording ordinary studio tapes onto the digital tape, then using the digital tape to burn laser discs. A copy of the master laser disc was then used to press plastic duplicates, which were coated with shiny aluminum, encased in protective layers, and packaged for sale. Unlike the LP or the original Phillips video laser discs, which were quite large, the audio-only laser discs were “compact,” and hence the name Compact Disc.“(Recording History)
The use of CD made more room for storage space, and could hold as much – if not more. However the process was still tedious.
The biggest change came during the 21st Century as digital started to take form. Now sound recordings are stored on computers, and with a few simple clicks are ready to set to the scene. Now is much simpler to cut and delete unwanted sounds – and then undo the step if cut a bit too much.
Biography.com. (2016) Thomas Edison Biography [Online]. Available from: http://www.biography.com/people/thomas-edison-9284349#related-video-gallery. Accessed: 12th may 2016
Dirks, T. The History of Film The 1920s, The Pre-Talkies and the Silent Era, Part 3 [Online]. Available from:http://www.filmsite.org/20sintro3.html. Accessed: 12th May 2016
Recording History. The History of the Recording Technology [Online]. Available from:http://www.recording-history.org/HTML/musicbiz7.php Accessed from: 18th June 2016