The essay discusses on the given with reference to the development of either early cinema or sound. Initially the essay highlights upon the development of sound, thereby focusing on the way the concept emerged. This would be related with the invention framework, diffusion, and innovation that provides a potential methodology for analyzing the emergence of any technology (Baumgarten, 2009). A single approach towards technological change would take into consideration the greater economic aspect and this may be incorporated in the technological history of cinema from the perspective of sector economics. The foremost steps within the analysis of a specific technological change include creating the basic structure of the industry under consideration, and it closet competitors during the time before such technological change.
Cinema is said to always embrace innovative approaches to view the world, realizing both technological as well as technical innovation. It has also realized the potential of every development (Yau Shuk-ting, Kinnia, 2009). From the statement, it is interpreted that technological determinism or advancement is inevitably one of the key reasons of increased development in the cinema in the terms of sound. The evolution of sound has been a long and continued process since years and has been possible only on advent of the technological determinism. However development in cinema has been brought about not only with the emergence of sound but there are other major reasons as well. In order to assess the statement, it is important to reflect upon the various aspects of the statement. It is a common consideration that sound movies began to be released ever since 1928 with the release of ‘The Jazz Singer’ by Warner. Certainly it is the first notable film using sound, but it is needed for us to go back to the age of invention of cinematograph for realizing that experiments had been conducted using sound as well as picture ever since the beginning. In one of the papers of Edison, he had written that he had received an idea in 1887 to develop an instrument. The diagrams as well as pictures of early works of Edison reflect the involvement of phonograph for delivering sound with pictures. Eugene Lauste as well as Lee De Forest also worked upon sound systems for accompanying pictures but their systems actually printed the sound photographically onto the film. In the year 1923 Petersen as well as Poulsen laid a potential demonstration of sound upon film system during the Palads Cinema Copenhagen. In fact, ‘The Jazz Singer’ after release had set the industry talking that sound movies have arrived. Though sound upon disc was actually the first successful system, it did not last for long (Harpole, 1980). It was soon replaced by ‘Movietone’ sound on film system. Whichever be the chosen system by the theatres, both relied upon amplifiers as well as speaker horns for delivering the sound to the theatre, and so the manufacturing division of Bell Telephone Laboratories synonymous with film sound. Since the early days of sound on film, firms had been investigating into the possibilities of stereo sound.
Introduction of sound was possible only due to the technological advancements. Although Edison did not himself invent film, he had conceived that the visual medium as well as phonograph could be meshed to make sound film, and he tried inventing sound film ever since the birth of cinema around 1885. Inventors as well as entrepreneurs had to overcome many issues prior to acceptance of sound. Initially the audiences of silent film seemed quite happy and contented. Gradually it started taking a different turn. Besides dissatisfaction of the audiences, the key problem that arose was the technological difficulty of matching sound as well as visuals in a manner that every audience could hear it. So the key problems were synchronization as well as amplification (Kindem, 1981). Even after successful invention, it presented several issues. The previous sound cameras as well as equipment were too noisy and huge, and needed to be kept in a “blimp” which is a soundproof room. The diagrams as well as pictures of early works of Edison reflect the involvement of phonograph for delivering sound with pictures. Eugene Lauste as well as Lee De Forest also worked upon sound systems for accompanying pictures but their systems actually printed the sound photographically onto the film. Latest technologies have always been and even to this day continue to be developed to be applied in the world of cinema. Right from the invention of the projector to digital film-making, the continuous evolution has considerably changed the near future of the art form; however none perhaps so much as the introduction of sound. The story how sound concept emerged and how it became the inevitable requisite of filmmaking is quite interesting, and just like other anecdotes about early cinema, the concept centers around big deals, market control, and money. The sound concept that is used in the present generation has not been invented by any single person; in fact, it had evolved through a series of steps of labored advancements in engineering; however one key hurdle yet to be overcome for exhibiting films to mass audiences was amplification. On receiving a viable solution, the Big Five Studios were not really too keen to make the transition since it would mean problem of high-priced ticket due to construction of sound studios, record equipment, wiring theaters, etc (Kindem, 1981). The film ‘The Jazz Singer” by Warner Bros. had achieved huge international success being the first sound film. The addition of this feature of sound into the cinema has been an innovative experience altogether. Sound does not only mean that actors would be able to talk ut it meant a great change in the manner films started getting produced. Actors had to be the paragons of fluency and articulateness as well as pantomime artists. Several exotic characters became less fashionable, since foreign accents were difficult to be interpreted with age-old microphone as well as amplification technologies. Some verbal comedy, typically that of Marx Brothers was impossible without sound.
It is true that the development of sound in cinema has been the outcome of the technological determinism; however it would be incorrect to state either that development of cinema has taken place only due to the emergence and introduction of sound concept. Rather, development of cinema has been the result of several key factors. Some of these factors are development of color, cinematic technique, the rise of features, sound for “silents”, actors and acting and some other postwar developments (Harpole, 1980). The most popular way of inducing color into silent films was by tinting as well as toning. Tinting meant running the preferred footage by a bath of color dye, giving an overall color for any specific image. On the other hand, toning included a chemical process which replaced the black silver image with various colored metallic compound. Many directors used long shots for presenting theatre-like composition in most scenes and allowed actors to move along the stage. D.W. Griffith who was one of the first directors for recognizing how effective the modern techniques could be, had insisted to apply those techniques into filmmaking. He increased number of scenes where actors moved towards or away from the camera. He also staged various actions upon different planes of depth in the scene instead of one single line. He even broke scenes into many shots with placing of camera at different location. His work and innovative ideas and techniques impressed others and gradually those became the usual norms of filmmaking. With gradual passing of time crowd for cinema also increas. All “silent” cinemas were presented with background music. Many musical arrangements were made at different small and big theatres (Rodney Mader, 2009). The ear of 1910s was marked by the rise of actors and their acting skills that created a brand for themselves. Those actors had to be skilled enough to portray thoughts as well as emotions and avoid exaggeration in front of the camera.
With some exceptions, cinema has always been focusing on its aspects of entertainment over artistic pretensions. People became interested in experiencing a popular form of art. Its impact was profound. By the mid 1910s, soon after invention, the various concepts of cinema had matured to greater extent. Such major improvements and developments in the film evolution like color, image ratio, sound, cinematic techniques, etc have resulted in the enhanced experiences of cinema and modern films. It was the new innovative concepts of filmmaking of some of the most capable and innovative directors and individuals that led to the increased development of the cinema (Nie and Liu, 2014). Thus besides technological advancements, there are other factors as well that led to the development of the cinema. The foremost steps within the analysis of a specific technological change include creating the basic structure of the industry under consideration, and it closet competitors during the years before such technological change. Nevertheless, it cannot be either denied that latest technologies have always been and even to this day continue to be developed to be applied in the world of cinema (Rodney Mader, 2009). Right from the invention of the projector to digital film-making, the continuous evolution has considerably changed the near future of the art form; however none perhaps so much as the introduction of sound. The story how sound concept emerged and how it became the inevitable requisite of filmmaking is quite interesting, and just like other anecdotes about early cinema, the concept centers around big deals, market control, and money.
Thus, to conclude, technological determinism had proposed that the key driving force in the modern developments has been the technology. Once, technological advancements become available for a factor or something, change, improvement and enhancements are inevitable. However, the only problem with this is that may not happen every time. For instance, the authentic Edison phonograph patented in 1878 was evolved as a device to dictate business. It took almost a decade to be used for popular entertainment. This refers to the existence of other causes as well besides pure technological explanation, in adoption of innovative technology. Cinema is said to always embrace innovative approaches to view the world, realizing both technological as well as technical innovation. It has also realized the potential of every development (Rodney Mader, 2009). The evolution of synchronized sound with ‘The Jazz Singer’ in the year 1928 was a major step; however some iconic filmmakers considered it to be retrograde measure for the artistry of the medium. In the same manner, color films satisfied logical form of destiny, although some have resisted.
Baumgarten, M. (2009). Science neutrality and technological determinism - a debate on technoscience; by Renato Dagnino. RECIIS, 3(2).
Hacking: digital media and technological determinism. (2009). Choice Reviews Online, 46(10), pp.46-5659-46-5659.
Jordan, T. (2009). Hacking and power: Social and technological determinism in the digital age. First Monday, 14(7).
Nie, S. and Liu, Y. (2014). Discussion on the Digital Cinema Technology and its Development Trends.AMR, 989-994, pp.4226-4228.
Rodney Mader, (2009). Print Culture Studies and Technological Determinism. College Literature, 36(2), pp.131-140.
Yau Shuk-ting, Kinnia, (2009). The Early Development of East Asian Cinema in a Regional Context.Asian Studies Review, 33(2), pp.161-173.
Harpole, C. (1980). Ideological and Technological Determinism in Deep-Space Cinema Images: Issues in Ideology, Technological History, and Aesthetics. Film Quarterly, 33(3), pp.11-22.
Kindem, G. (1981). The Demise of Kinemacolor: Technological, Legal, Economic, and Aesthetic Problems in Early Color Cinema History. Cinema Journal, 20(2), p.3.
Rodney Mader, (2009). Print Culture Studies and Technological Determinism. College Literature, 36(2), pp.131-140.
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