JF Ptak Science Books
The New RCA Victor Photophone Recording System. 11x8.5", 44 typed mimeo leaves, with 24 leaves of blue-line photographs and schematics of the equipment. Punch-bound at one time, though metallic binding element is not present. Printed on the stationery of "R.C.A. Victor Company, Inc., Engineering Department". Very good condition. $1500
This a sound-on-film incunable. This means the pamphlet was printed within the first few years of the first "talking" (synchronized sound, or sound technologically coupled to image) motion picture. The first feature length film using sound throughout1 the length of the movie was The Jazz Singer, which was released in 1927 and used a sound-on-disc2 system of recording. That means that the audio portion of the film was recorded onto records, and then synchronized in playback with the film to match up the audio and video--this technology was obviously not the future.
The technology of sound-on-film would take the day, and in very short order, leading to four different systems, of which the Photophone was one. Photophone's share of the prospective studio users was pretty good: the earliest major producers/licensees included Walt Disney Productions (after 1932), RKO Radio Pictures, republic Pictures, Warner Borthers, and Pathe.
" From the producer's standpoint, variable area film recording has one great advantage that places this system in a class far ahead of all others".
And on the Film Phonograph Reproducing Equipment: " the need for combining two or more sound tracks, the adding of sound effects to an original recording, or matching around levels of scenes in the final editing of a picture has brought re-recording into an increasingly important position in sound picture production".
The work is in general a technical report and sales pitch for the new system. It includes the following sections:
General introduction (1-7, 4 illustrations), the Ribbon Microphone (8-12, 3 illustrations); Microphone Distribution Panel, (13-14pp, 2 illustrations); Microphone Mixing Panel (15-17, 2 illustrations); Compensator Panel (18-21, 2 illustrations); Recording Amplifier (22-25pp, 2 illustrations); Ground Noise reduction Amplifier (28-30, 2 illustrations); 35mm Film Recorder (31-34, 2 illustrations); 16mm Film recorder (page 35, 2 illustrations); Film Phonograph Reproducing Equipment (36-39 pages, 2 illustrations); Phototube Amplifier (40-41pp, 1 illustration); 35mm to 16mm Film Re-recorder, 42-45pp, 2 illustrations).
1. Earlier on in the mid-1920's there were efforts of using sound in film but limited to music or very specific areas of the film, most of which in the end was silent.
2. The movie was made with the Vitaphone system, which was not long for this world, soon to be replaced by the more sophisticated sound-on-film systems.
"In 1925 GE started a program to develop commercial sound-on-film equipment based on Hoxie's work. Unlike the Phonofilm and Movietone systems in which the audio modulated the intensity of a recording lamp which exposed the soundtrack, thus creating a variable-density track, the GE system employed a fast-acting mirror galvanometer to create a variable-area soundtrack. A number of demonstrations of this system, now known as Photophone, were given in 1926 and 1927. The first public screenings with this system were of a sound version (music plus sound effects only) of the silent film Wings which was exhibited as a road-show in around a dozen specially equipped theatres during 1927."--Wiki
Arthur C. Hardy, The Optics of Sound Recording Systems. Typed carbons, 17 leaves, 11x8 inches, paper clip binding. Published in the Transactions of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, vol. XII, no. 35, 1928, pp. 760-777.
WorldCat/OCLC locates copies at MIT and Margaret Herrick Library.
Arthur C. Hardy was president of the Optical Society of America.
"The trouble about these beautiful, novel things is that they interfere so with one's arrangements. Every time I see or hear a new wonder like this I have to postpone my death right off.." Mark Twain (1906)
Operating Instruction for RCA Photophone Type PM-15B, Newsreel Recording Equipment, Including Operating Instructions for RCA Photophone Instructions for RCA Photophone Model 4PA38A1 Portable Recording Amplifier.
Printed by RCA Photophone, Inc., New York, U.S.A. 11x8.5", 11 pages, with 12 original photographs of equipment, plus a large folding schematic. Printed ca. early 1930's.
No copies located in WorldCat/OCLC. $1250
"RCA Photophone was the trade name given to one of four major competing technologies that emerged in the American film industry in the late 1920s for synchronizing electrically recorded audio to a motion picture image. RCA Photophone was an optical sound, "variable-area" film exposure system, in which the modulated area (width) corresponded to the waveform of the audio signal. The three other major technologies were the Warner Bros. Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, as well as two "variable-density" sound-on-filmsystems, Lee De Forest's Phonofilm, and Fox-Case's Movietone. When Joseph P. Kennedy and other investors merged Film Booking Offices of America (FBO) with the Keith-Albee-Orpheum theater chain and Radio Corporation of America, the resulting movie studio RKO Radio Pictures used RCA Photophone as their primary sound system...”--Wikipedia
The machine -- eventually branded the RCA Photophone -- failed to catch on, in part because 35 mm film was expensive and required time-consuming photographic processing before it could be played back. The device lost out to competing technologies and was eventually abandoned.--retrothing.com
“The research engineers of the General Electric Company and the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, being aware about ten years ago of the probable value to the theatrical industry of an effective system of sound motion picture production, initiated fundamental researches which have been carried forward to the point of fully meeting the aims of these investigators. The resulting basic methods, suitably developed, and tested by extensive commercial experience in the studio recording and theater reproducing installations of RCA Photophone, Inc., form a complete and modern system which is at present widely used in the sound motion picture industry. ..”-Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers Volume 18, Number 10 October, 1930. “THE RCA PHOTOPHONE SYSTEM OF SOUND RECORDING AND REPRODUCTION FOR SOUND MOTION PICTURES* BY ALFRED N. GOLDSMITH AND MAX C. BATSEI
The introduction of sound-on-film motion pictures--the Talkies--was a major innovation and social experience--to hear people talking seemingly on-screen was at first an astonsihing moment for many:
"On the evening of February 15, 1931 four journalists were invited to the London offices of the Producers Distributing Company, an American film distributor," as documented by Jean-Marc Pelletier (2009). There, the engineer Eric Allan Humphriss, who had been working on the RCA Photophone sound-on-film technology, reproduced in front of the journalists the vocal line "all of a tremble" that he had manually painted in ink "on a strip of cardboard" and then "photographed onto the sound track of a blank film." By all accounts the journalists themselves trembled.18 Cecil Thompson (1931, p. 1) opened his report for the Daily Express by setting the atmosphere: "Four men sat in a darkened room in London"; then, astonished by the events, he imparted that his biases about the supernatural had been superseded by the progress of technology, "It was not a spiritualistic séance. There was nothing supernatural about the phenomenon. The experience can only be described as the birth of the world's eighth wonder-the creation of the 'robot' voice"..." --"Re-voicing" Reality: Synthesis as Simulation", in "Sound Synthesis, Representation and Narrative Cinema in the Transition to Sound (1926-1935)”, by Maurizio Corbella; Anna Katharina Windisch, in Cinemas : Revue d'Études Cinematographiques = Journal of Film Studies, 10/2013, Volume 24, Issue 1.
The large folding schematic, 17x23":