Through the Ages


In 1990, Kodak introduced Cinema Digital Sound (CDS) with the premiere of Dick Tracy.

 Unlike its successors, CDS had no analog backup.  It failed in several screenings and that seemed to mark its doom.

In 1992, Dolby Laboratories released Dolby Digital with the movie Batman Returns.

Dolby Digital has been chosen as the sound standard for DVD released in the United States as well as the new DTV standard for US television.

In 1993, two new digital sound formats were released:  DTS and SDDS.  Digital Theater Systems (DTS) premiered with the film Jurassic Park.  It involves synchronizing a CD-ROM with the film by using a timecode track between the picture and analogue soundtrack.  It uses a data reduction algorithm they call “Coherent Acoustics” to reduce the data required for this 5.1 system.  Coherent Acoustics seems to be a variation of Adaptive Delta Pulse Code Modulation (ADPCM).  DTS is the first system since CDS that is available for both 35mm and 70mm.  Like Dolby Digital, DTS uses the analoug soundtrack as a backup.



Return of the Jedi, in 1983, was the first motion picture to be released in concordance with the new “Lucasfilm Seal of Approval”. The THX theater sound reproduction system grew from an idea to install a state-of-the-art monitoring system for Lucasfilm’s new re-recording stage. Theaters who pursue THX approval must meet several criteria. They must meet specifications for reverberation time versus volume, picture sharpness, noise limits, and screen properties. In addition, 70mm film houses were required to install a Kintek KT-9 subwoofer.
In the early eighties (’81-’82), Peter Custer and Dr. George Bird developed and patented Digital Fluorescentsound, one of the earliest attempts to incorporate digital sound with motion pictures. (

In 1977, Star Wars, revolutionized film sound with Ben Burtt’s award winning sound effects.  This same year, Dolby unveilled the 70mm “Baby Boom” format.  Dolby relized with the release of both Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind how important thaving a separate low frequency effects channel was.

Dolby A-type noise reduction, the original professional Dolby system introduced in 1965, is used on Dolby movie soundtracks. Dolby’s first technology was Dolby A-type noise reduction, introduced in 1965. It was designed for use by professional recording studios to make quiet master tape recordings. In the early to mid 1970’s its use was extended to film recording studios and motion picture release prints in order to make films sound better.
The prototype for the IMAX system is exhibited at EXPO ’67 in Montreal, Canada, where multi-screen films were the hit of the fair. IMAX technology promiered at the Fuji Pavilion, EXPO ’70 in Osaka, Japan. The first permanent IMAX projection system was installed at Ontariolace’s Cinesphere in Toronto in 1971. IMAX Dome (OMNIMAX) debuted at the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theatre in San Diego in 1973. The theaters tauted images of unsurpassed size, clarity and impact, enhanced by a specially-designed six-channel, multi-speaker sound system, projected onto giant rectangular screens, up to eight stories high. The IMAX image is ten times larger than a conventional 35mm frame and three times bigger than a standard 70mm frame. (

In 1952, the film This is Cinerama premiered as the first Cinerama film. Cinerama was the first real widescreen feature film format and was invented by Fred Waller.  Engineers Hazard Reeves and Wentworth Fling carried out tests to determine the number of channals necessary to have for the format. One of the advantages of Cinerama was the fast speed that the fullcoat piece of film.  At over 29 IPS, Cinerama’s fidelity was height.  Because of the expense and difficulties of the system, it was abandonned in 1963.  Super Cinerama was later adapted for the Todd-AO format using an anamorphic lense.  In 1993, a museum in England started a Cinerama theatre.  Then in Dayton, Ohio, another cinerama theater was opened in 1996 because of John Harvey at the New Neon Movies.  

After a full decade and more since the rise of sound film production, the technical challenges of the early 30s sound era were far behind. Advances in film technology (sound recording, lighting, special effects, cinematography and use of color) meant that films were more watchable and ‘modern’.

Walt Disney’s Fantasia was the first film to be released in a multichannel format called Fantasound. Fantasia is a feature-length film that choreographs animation to music. Stokowski’s involvement with this new technology dates back to the Thirties, when he began research with Bell Telephone Lab’s early “Auditory Perspective” experiments on stereophonic sound. 

The 1930s decade, together with most of the 1940s, has been  labeled “The Golden Age of Hollywood” . The 30s was also the decade of the sound and color revolutions and the advance of the ‘talkies’, and the further development of film genres. It was the era in which the silent period ended, with many silent film stars not making the transition to sound. 

Most of the early talkies were successful at the box-office, but many of them were of poor quality – dialogue-dominated play adaptations, with stilted acting and an unmoving camera or microphone. Screenwriters were required to place more emphasis on characters in their scripts, and title-card writers became unemployed. The first musicals were only literal transcriptions of Broadway shows taken to the screen. Nonetheless, a tremendous variety of films were produced with a wit, style, skill, and elegance that has never been equalled – before or since. 

Techniques for the sound era were mastered by some and presented in their production. One example will be director Ernst Lubitsch, who advanced the action of his films with the integrated musical numbers. The first filmic musical was Lubitsch’s first talkie, the witty and bubbly The Love Parade (1929) with Jeanette MacDonald (in her debut film) and Maurice Chevalier (in his second picture) – the recipient of six Academy Awards nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor).


After directing three more musical comedies in the next three years, including One Hour with You (1931) with the same leads, Lubitsch filmed his last musical, The Merry Widow (1934) with equally naturalistic musical expressions and the winner of the Best Art Direction Academy Award. (


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