Cinema began as silent film until the 19th century when technologies with the ability to record and playback sound was invented. Before this, films where often accompanied by a live band or orchestra to help evoke emotion and aid in storytelling.
In 1894, Thomas Edison’s assistant, W. K. L. Dickson, created the first synchronised experimental sound film. This experiment highlighted three major technical difficulties when synchronising sound with cinema:
- Methods of synchronising sounds with vision when recording and playback
- Amplification of sounds in theatre spaces
- A storage medium for sounds (with enough capacity for the entire film)
The Tri-Ergon, invented over 20 years later in 1919 solved the synchronisation problem as it was able to record sound as an optical track next to the film frame. Around the same time the audio tube was created, solving the amplification problem that Dickson had run into.
From this point, sound became a normal part of cinema as new inventions were created and films developed into what we see today.
Law, J 2021, ‘From Silent to Sound’, online lecture, BCM115, University of Wollongong, viewed 7 April 2021