The development of the synchronization of sound and image
Early experiments in synchronization
On October 6th 1889 Thomas Edison was given a demonstration of a 'talking picture" by William K.L. Dickson, by projection onto a four foot screen from a camera designed by Edison himself. The Edison camera was probably the first to create true motion picture photographs while the sound was provided by means of synchronized wax-type cylinder recordings. This is one of the first examples of synchronized sound and image, and in a letter to The Pittsburgh Press on September 20th 1896. Edison expressed his aims for the future of motion pictures - "In the year of 1887 the idea occurred to me that it was possible to devise an instrument which should do for the eve what the phonograph does for the ear and that by a combination of the two all motion and sound could be recorded and reproduced simultaneously" ("From Tinfoil To Stereo" p.278).
Dickson left the Edison Laboratories in 1894 to join one of the many competitors in the new motion picture field though around this time projection, and especially motion pictures were discontinued until technical advances could make commercialization possible.
In 1897 George W. Brown claimed to have invented a device for synchronizing the projector and the phonograph and in 1900 Gaumont received a patent on a sync motor method. Experiments in synchronization were few and far between at this time, until 1903, when Eugene Lauste demonstrated a method of producing sound from film by using photographed sound waves. This idea borrowed from Alexander Graham Bell's experiments in projecting sound over a beam of light. Bell called this invention a Photophone and it was patented around 1884. The sound was created by projecting light through the film onto a selenium cell which affected the cell's conductivity. These inventions prove that there were definite links between sound and image and the way in which the two were produced - even at this early stage. There were also links in the way both were exhibited. Films were shown by a travelling exhibitor who showed one set of films until they were worn out. This was also the way in which the first tinfoil phonograph was demonstrated to the general public.
By 1906. Dr. Lee DeForest had developed Lauste's sound on film ideas to include a photo-electric cell and was experimenting with amplification achieved by use of his own three element vacuum tube.
Thomas Edison was probably the most influential inventor of film and cameras. in that most of the bootleg inventions that were created (due to a lack of proper patents for Edison's own inventions) used concepts that were made standard by Edison such as the width of the film used (35mm) and the four-notches-per-frame design of the ratchet feed device. Though Edison was a pioneer in the field of both sound and image, he never achieved an effective combination of the two. His final invention before giving up the attempted synchronization of sound and image was the Kinetophone which he demonstrated in various cities around the USA in 1913. This device used a 5.5 inch diameter celluloid cylinder record (similar to the earlier blue amberol record). An amplifier was used to increase the volume, and synchronization was achieved by use of a pulley system connecting the projector at the back of the theatre with the mandrel of the phonograph behind the screen at the opposite end of the theatre. The mechanism was difficult to handle, and as a result, sound often moved out of sync with the images and breaks in the film were not always spliced to achieve an effective flow of images to accompany the sound. The main problem, practically, was a lack of precise synchronization between the speeds of the film and of the cylinder record, and. artistically, a lack of sound during the parts of the film where there would be breaks in the images.
In 1919 Theodore W. Case was granted the first of a series of patents based on experiments into the use of a tiny mirror attached to a diaphragm vibrated by the sound waves. This led to the method of registering sound simultaneously with the images in the margin of the same film - the soundtrack concept which is still in use today. This method was not received well by the general public who favoured instead the synchronized record technique. It was also a cheaper method for the theatres, rather than having to install expensive equipment to "read" the soundtrack off the film which at such an early stage would produce an unreliable quality of sound.