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by Paula Bernstein
November 1, 2013 3:40 PM
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The History of Cinema Sound in Infographics: From 'The Jazz Singer' to 'Gravity'

This infographic from Dolby documents the development of cinema sound technology from some of the first scratchy sounds in the earliest "talkies" nearly 90 years ago to the stereo era of the 1970s and finally, to the incredibly rich audio of current films like "Gravity," which features Dolby Atmos sound.



  • The Little Tramp | November 1, 2013 4:22 PMReply

    And yet the form remains first and foremost a visual one; secondarily, a narrative one.

    All this attention paid to the sound experience, but what's awesome about the best movies remains just as awesome if the sound is played back through an AM radio speaker.

  • tommy | November 2, 2013 12:33 PM

    It's not a visual medium, it is an audiovisual medium. The narrative is told through the combination of images and sounds that make movies so unique from other forms. If you remove the sound, you remove half of the movie. Think about it: you take away dialogue, you remove a major, perhaps the single biggest, component of the movie. Further, all of the elements that make up a film's soundtrack are of equal importance as the image, they just so happen to function on a much more emotive, subconscious level. The near total silence in the pawn shop scene of "Drive" allowed the gunshots to hit the audience with incredible force, making it that much more powerful. The gradual introduction of silence in the opening of "Contact" underscores beautifully just how isolated you are in space. In "Castaway", when Tom Hanks looks back at the island from his raft, a musical score comes in for the first time in the entire movie, providing an emotional subtext for the scene that images alone never could have done. These are not accidents, these are conscious decisions made by filmmakers who, by being good filmmakers, recognize that sound is no less important or effective than images, and that the combination of the two is what makes movies what they are.

    Also, the AM speaker comment, I'm sorry, but that's just bullshit. If I were to say that what's awesome about the best movies remains just as awesome if the image is on some 9-inch, color-imbalanced, slightly blurry screen, would you agree? Sure, maybe the movie is still awesome, but it's nowhere near AS awesome. And good filmmakers recognize that, hence them putting so much energy into making the images and sound as perfect as they can for the given film.