|History books record that the first moving picture with sound was The Jazz Singer in 1927. But sound films, or "talkies," did not suddenly appear after years of silent screenings. From the earliest public performances in 1896, films were accompanied by music and sound effects. These were produced by a single pianist, a small band, or a full-scale orchestra; larger movie theaters could buy sound-effects machines.|
Research into sound that was reproduced at exactly the same time as the pictures -called "synchronized sound" - began soon after the very first movies were shown. With synchronized sound, characters on the movie screen could sing and speak. As early as 1896, the newly invented gramophone, which played a large disc carrying music and dialogue, was used as a sound system. The biggest disadvantage was that the sound and pictures could become unsynchronized if, for example, the gramophone needle jumped or if the speed of the projector changed. This system was only effective for a single song or dialogue sequence.
A later development was the "sound-on-film" system. Here, sounds were recorded as a series of marks on celluloid read by optical sensors. These signals would be placed on the film alongside the images, guaranteeing synchronization. Short feature films were produced in this way as early as 1922. This system eventually brought us "talking pictures."