Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Importance of the Vitaphone by Kendra McPheeters

In the 1920s Bell Telephone Laboratories and Western Electric developed the most successful of the sound-on-disc methods of adding sound to film--the Vitaphone. Warner Bros. acquired Vitaphone and began using the method of recording sound onto sixteen-inch discs and playing them simultaneously with the film. A separaate operator was required to start a phonograph so the Vitaphone disc would synch with the movie. Vitaphone had problems--the large equipment and difficulty synchronizing film and sound originally left Hollywood hesitant. 1927's "The Jazz Singer" with Al Jolson solidified Vitaphone's place in history. It became the first "talkie" because Jolson improvised comments between songs. Before the introduction of Vitaphone, films were silent with an organist providing live musical accompaniment and black transitions between scenes so viewers could read the dialogue. Vitaphone was superior in sound quality to the sound-on-film method despite synching problems. Vitaphone remains important for introducing speech on film.