Sound Movies

Danny Grizzle danny at
Fri Dec 13 11:44:56 PST 2002

On 12/13/02 12:30 PM, "David Drumheller" <david at> wrote:



Thanks (more directly, this time) for your writings on the history of
movies, especially the 8mm format.

Do you know the story behind sound films?

It is my impression that silent films had been shown, commercially, for a
few years before sound films were introduced, in 1922, or 1923.  George
Eastman and his team of engineers, had not devised a way to store
reproducible sound on film.  The first successful method of optically
recording sound on film was developed by Joseph T. Tykociner.  (Pronounced
tick".oh.shin'.ner) He was born in Poland in 1877.  He participated, with
Marconi in the first trans-Atlantic radio (telegraph) signaling, on the
European side of 'the pond'. In 1904, he was honored for his work by Czar
Nicholas II, and was given a jewel-encrusted gold watch (which is now on
display in the Smithsonian Institute, in Washington D.C.).  In 1919, he came
to the U.S. and joined the engineering staff of the University of Illinois,
at Urbana. In 1922, he developed and demonstrated the method of adding an
optical sound track to 35mm film.  He traveled to Rochester, N.Y., to meet
with George Eastman and discuss the pos

I was a guest in Mr. Tykociner's large, stately home a few times, in the
early 1950s.  I remember him as very much a gentleman.

<<Danny Grizzle:>>

Whoops -- you are far ahead of me, apologies for the paragraph below. You
should post this info to the list! No sense wasting it only on me!

I am aware that there were a number of sound systems before optical sound
emerged as the standard. Many of these involved attempts to mechanically
synchronize various photograph recordings (wax cylinders, vinyl discs,
whatever). When I started, an older audio guy asked incredulously, "You've
never seen a wire recorder?"

No doubt some early sound systems were independent inventors or maverick
producers, and only one film was ever produced with some. Not all of them
worked. I'm sure part of the equation was economics, studio rivalries, and
patents, same as widescreen wars. But sound did not play out the same way as
widescreen. As Microsoft so adroitly proves, customers are willing do endure
calculated pain & suffering (as in the widescreen wars) but maybe not full
blown anarchy. It is one thing to push exhibitors hard and make them buy a
lens for each studio's films. But it would be out of the question to ask
them to buy unique projection and sound systems for each studio's output.
Producers can push exhibitors, but only the big boys do it successfully.
George Lucas has the clout to enforce sound standards, and has marketing
power with the public to generate a level of reward and return for theaters
that invest in THX sound systems. Same is true for the 70mm film circuit. On
the other hand, Doug Trumbull couldn't make Showscan stick (70mm at some
outlandish framing rate, maybe 96 fps -- I can't recall).

Some of my cinematographer friends from early years have gone on to have
very successful careers in the IMAX business, another variant. I hope large
format cinema can continue, though I have not heard of much expansion
lately. At least I have not heard of any closings -- no news is good news.

Digital projection is the next wave. Personally, I don't think HighDef is
there yet, at least not on the production side, but that's another story...

<<David Drumheller:>>

As an aside, I have heard that there had been commercial 'movie houses' for
about a year, before the takeup reel was invented; something like a
wastebasket had been used as a resting place for the film, before it was
rewound onto the supply reel.

<<Danny Grizzle:>>

This may be true. I've never known much about exhibition. It is a fact that
bins such as you describe were used extensively by film editors. I've seen
large 25 gallon size Rubbermaid trash cans with lint-free cloth liners. The
editors take their dailies and clip them to a clothline-style wire, loose
ends hanging in the lined trash cans. This is specifically where the term
"bins" in NLE software comes from -- totally analogous to the bins used by
film editors.


Would you mind if I copied your message & my reply to the list?
Danny Grizzle



I'd be honored to have you repost my notes with yours.  (Please do post


David Drumheller
(New Jersey side of the Philadelphia area)

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