Short history of audio, film and video production technology

Instructional Video Production 4(1+3)

Short history of audio, film and video production technology

The basic technology for the eventual development of radio, audio recording motion pictures, and television was available as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century. The predecessors for motion pictures may be considered to be still photography; for audio systems, the telegraph and telephone; and for television, the electrical discharge of light – sensitive materials. Each of these was discovered or invented before 1840.

From 1839 to the end of the nineteenth century, experiments and practical models of both selenium-based electrical systems and rotating disc- based systems were developed to convert and transmit visual images.

By 1870 Thomas Edison had produced a primitive mechanical cylindrical audio- recording device called the gramophone.

During the last half of the nineteenth century, a variety of toy like machines, such as the Thaumatrope, Phenakistoscope, and zoetrope and lantern shows – with delightful titles such as Phantasmagoria and Magasin Pittoresque – were used to display projected pictures that appeared to move.

Before the introduction of film, a perceptual mechanism or illusion on which motion pictures depend was discovered and called “an instance of the phi phenomenon” by the early twentieth century perceptual tricks and illusions because they provided a convenient means of studying the way the brains process sensory information.

A period of invention at the end of the nineteenth century brought about the telephone, the electric telescope that was designed to convert moving images into an electrical signal, and early carbon, crystal, and ceramic microphones. Before the turn of the century, the disc record player and recorder were improved in France. In this country, Edison and W.K.L. Dickson developed a workable motion picture camera and projector, and George Eastman invented the flexible film base that made motion pictures possible. The century ended with the first “wireless” broadcasts, film projected on a screen for an audience, and a working model of a wire recorder.

Television experiments continued into the early twentieth century, alternating between rotating disc and electrical scan systems. Motion picture sound systems early in the century utilized sound recorded on disc with primitive methods designed to maintain synchronization between picture and sound. Many of the frustrations of workers in all three industries were partially solved by Lee De Forest’s invention of the triode – amplifying vacuum tube. This invention provided the means to send voices over the air for the first time and for the motion picture industry to use sound – reinforcing systems for theatres.

In 1908 the till – electric television system now in use was described, but it took seventeen years before a practical model became operational. Television technology is based on light coming through a camera lens and striking a light- sensitive surface on a camera pickup tube or surface of a CCD (charged couple device) chip. Fluctuations in current on the face of the tube or the surface of the chip are read by the circuitry of the camera as direct variations in the light striking the surfaces. These fluctuations in electrical current are then fed to a television picture tube, which reverses the process. Bright light emitted by the phosphors of the television receiver’s picture tube. A television screen is scanned completely thirty times every second; thus the images move at a speed of thirty frames per second, rather than the twenty – four frames per second of sound film. Television, like film, depends on the phi phenomenon to produce apparent motion, but it also relies on persistence of vision to fuse the continuous scanning of the picture tube into complete frames of picture. Persistence of vision refers to the temporary lag in the eye’s retention of an image, which can fuse one image with those that immediately precede or follow. This phenomenon does not explain apparent motion, because the fusion of images in the same position within the frame would result in a confused blur, rather than the coherent motion of objects.

The first two- color, two –negative Technicolor film process was developed in 1917. It was followed three years later by the first AM radio stations in the United States receiving licenses and some experimental television stations being licensed to use the spinning disc system. By the early 1920’s the Hollywood motion picture industry had become pervasive enough to dominate foreign screens and to be threatened with domestic censorship. The first sound – on – film system was developed by De Forest the same year that Vladimir Zworykin invented the iconoscope television system. Within that same decade, the recording industry moved from acoustical recording to electronic methods, and AT & T started the first radio network. Twentieth Century Fox first used the Movie tone sound – on- film system fir newsreels. Warner Bros used the Vita phone disc system for their first sound features.

During the 1930’s modern dynamic and ribbon microphones were invented, and both British and American inventors continued to experiment with audio wire recorders. By 1932, Technicolor introduced their three – color, there – negative film process, and FM radio continued to be developed. German scientists perfected an audiotape recording system based on paper coated with iron oxide, and Eastman Kodak introduced 16 mm film as an amateur format. The format quickly became popular with professional military, educational and industrial film makers, as well as documentary producers.

Immediately preceding the entry of the United States into World War II, RCA promoted their all – electronic television system with the FCC, who approved that system over the CBS rotating disc system in 1953.

Although World War II interrupted the rapidly expanding field of electronics, many developments in communication technology came from the war effort. The use of higher frequencies, miniaturization of equipment and circuits, and advances in radar that were used in television, and eventually computers, were all perfected. Following the war, magnetic tape became a standard for recording audio. Television stations and receivers increased in number rapidly, and motion picture studios experimented with theatre TV and close relationship with television stations and networks. The paramount 1950 decrees by the U.S. Supreme Court divorced motion picture and distribution from theater exhibition, bringing an end to the major studio era and stimulating greater independent production. The transistor was invented, CBS developed the 33 1/3 long plying (LP) records, and RCA followed with the 45rpm.

Television saved the record business by forcing radio stations to turn to all – music formats, and the motion picture industry felt compelled to turn to wide – screen, 3-D, and all – color films to compete with the small- screen, black and white television systems of the 1950s. Eventually greater interaction occurred between film and television as film studio produced television series and feature films were shown on television. By the middle of the decade, the FCC approved the NTSC (national Television Standards Committee) color-TV standard, and stereo recordings on tape were marketed, leading to the development of multi-track recording techniques. Within the next two years, all three industries moved forward: television with the invention of the quardraplex videotape recorder, motion pictures with the Panavision camera and lens systems, and audio with the perfection of stereo discs.

The beginning of the rapid acceleration of technical developments occurred on 1959, when the integrated circuit was invented, leading to the development of computer chips. For the next twenty years computers and a variety of other applications (by today’s standards) to pocket- sized computers and a variety of other applications priced for small companies and individuals. Within the next ten years professional helical videotape recorders and electronic editing of videotape were developed; satellites were launched to permit transmission of audio, visual, and digital information instantaneously worldwide; the FCC approved a stereo standard for FM; quadraphonic and digital sound systems were developed; and cable moved from the country to the cities. During the period of these great advances in the electronic communication fields, motion pictures also utilized the same inventions to improve sound recording, lighting and editing systems, and theatre exhibition systems. The expansion of cable television brought television to many rural areas out of reach of the TV stations of the time.
During the 1970s, miniaturization produced smaller cameras, recorders, and receivers, leading to new production techniques in both radio and television. Videotape formats began to proliferate, with systems both fir the home (Beta Max and VHS) and for the professional (u-matic and 1-inch). Cable became a major player in distributing both films and video productions as pay channels took to the satellites. HBO provided movies, ESPN sports, and CNN 24-hours news.

Technical advances continued through the 1980s, with two events setting the stage for massive changes in all communication fields: in 1981, HDTV was first demonstrated, and in 1982, a consent decree between the department of Justice and American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) separated the long – distance and equipment supply portions of the corporation from the individual local telephone systems. Less earth- shattering but still important developments were the authorization of Lower – power TV (LPTV) stations, Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) systems, the invention and rapid spread of compact discs (CD), and the agreement on a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) standard. The FCC approved a stereo TV standard, and RCA introduced the charge Coupled Device (CDD) camera, which used computer chips in place of camera tubes. By the middle of the 1980s, digital systems were being used in new videotape formats, motion picture editing and synchronizing systems and digital audio decks and editing systems.

Fox, universal paramount, and Warners Bros. television networks began operations as the other three networks changed ownership. Experiments with teletext and videotext found limited use, and a once – failed system, videodisc, returned and began making inroads in the home market. Professional videotape formats shrunk in size as half – inch Beta Cam and Recam were followed by Beta SP and M-II, which become the standards of the production and broadcast studios before digital cameras and recording formats were developed.

In the 1990s, computer workstations and DAT integrated audio production into a complete digital world, and nonlinear digital editing systems for video programs became the standard. The motion picture industry turned to digitized video for postproduction and special effects, as the two visual industries began to share many more technologies. Black and white movies were colorized, and graphics were created through the expanded use of digital systems. Interactive multimedia production of CDs incorporated audio, video, text and graphics into interactive computer programs. The computer slowly encompassed virtually the entire field of communications in rapid sequences of developing technologies.

At the beginning of the twenty – first century each of the production areas- audio, video and motion pictures – have continued to merge, overlap, and grow closer together through the use of digital technology and equipment. A fourth area of production – multimedia – emerged during the last decade of the twentieth century and has become a dominate force in media production of the twenty first century. By FCC ruling, digital TV and HDTV will become required for broadcasters by 2006. The availability of digital TV and HDTV equipment and consumer interest will increase during the first decade of the century. Radio stations will convert to all – digital equipments, graphics, and animation, and postproduction techniques will all rely heavily on digital technology.

Last modified: Thursday, 19 April 2012, 7:02 AM