The Edison Kinetophone (1913)


The Edison Kinetophone (1913) Poster

A spoken prologue to Thomas Edison's 1913 sound movie road show.


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26 November 2018 | boblipton
| Presenting the Kinetophone
Allen Ramsey, dressed like a footman, declaims on the genius of Thomas Edison and the perfection of the sound-on-cylinder-and-film techniques of the Kinetophone.

The idea of synchronized sound accompanying film was not new. Even before silent films were a thing, back when his lab was working on their development, Edison speculated on the subject. In 1894, Dickson recorded a violinist and two men dancing to a phonograph. By 1906, sound films were a reality in Europe, with production in England, France and Germany, all using sound-on-disc systems.

The issues with these methods, as with Edison's Kinetophone were twofold. First, synchronization was difficult. Film could break, record speed control was not perfect and required trained and attentive handlers. Edison's system had a very complicated system that required two people to maintain synchronization, as well as the projectionist. That is why there were one or two theaters in each of the nations in Europe that produced sound films in the era to actually show them.

The other problem was loudness. To show a sound film in a theater meant the sound had to be loud; bodies absorb sound, furniture absorbs sound, and Lee DeForest had only invented the triode, which is used for amplification, in 1906. DeForest himself would tackle sound pictures beginning about 1919, after all these earlier techniques had fallen away.

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