01 February 2007

Finding His Voice

I find it ironic that the first audio editors were able to cut visually, by following the audio waveform on the optical soundtrack, more than seventy years ago. It wasn't until the late '70s or so that DAWs became sophisticated enough to display a visual waveform that we finally regained this ability that we take for granted today.

In 1929, Max Fleischer produced Finding His Voice, an animated demonstration of the Western Electric Sound System (later known as Westrex), which employed optical variable area recording technology. This was a marked improvement over Vitaphone, which was a sound-on-disc system.

Link, via dvguru.com.

For those of you who wish to download a higher quality clip, you may find different versions available via the Internet Archive.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, considering that the optical sound track was significantly offset in time from the visual track, and that the sound was only added when the final print was made (to my knowledge, the cameras of the day did not record sound), I'm not sure this was any advantage to editing at all. It's a nice mental image to think about an editor viewing the optical track but, as I say, considering that the sound pickup had to be as much as several feet away from the file gate, it would be nearly impossible to make an edit on a film with an optical track and preserve any kind of sound sync.

Christian Dolan said...

For those who aren't aware, the reader is commenting on the 26 frame offset between the current projected frame and its corresponding optical audio track in 35mm film prints.

I was only talking about elements for cut units, where you may be assembling audio snippets in editorial, but not necessarily doing so against picture (building backgrounds, etc.). From what I understand, while using magnetic tracks, editors would have to indicate the signal's start and stop with markers.

Thanks for readin' the ol' blog. :)