Thursday, August 26, 2010

#technology ::: The Pallophotophone

The Schenectady Film Commission and Proctor’s will be hosting the 5th Annual Electric City Film Fest & Expo at Proctor’s GE Black Box Theater on September 26th from 4PM to 10PM.

I'm quite interested in a device that will displayed called the Pallophotophone, an audio recording device developed by General Electric researcher Charles Hoxie ca. 1922. Hoxie took the name of the device from the Greek words for "shaking light sound".

The pallophotophone was a sound-on-film system which could record and replay multiple audio tracks on unsprocketed 35mm Kodak monochrome film using a photoelectric process that captured audio wave forms generated by a vibrating mirror. It is thought to be the world's first effective multitrack recording system, predating magnetic tape multitrack recording by at least 20 years.

Among the material on the surviving reels is the earliest known recording of the NBC chimes, a broadcast of a high school basketball match (believed to be the world's second-oldest recording of a sports broadcast) and an historic 1929 recording of the 82-year-old Thomas Edison, with Henry Ford and President Herbert Hoover, speaking on a broadcast commemorating the 50th anniversary of the invention of the incandescent light bulb! A portion featuring Edison is available below. The recovered audio sounds to me exactly like a modern tape which has some wrinkles or oxide missing, but does not mask the recording’s excellent frequency responce.

In the past I've referenced the abysmally poor quality (at times) of video shot with my Fly Ying hiPhone. "It sucks low-definition images from a dreamy and hazy parallel world in which fast-moving objects and people leave ghostly contrails." That sounds like a very accurate description! But actually, it describes another device... can you guess what it is? Not in a million years? It was a 1980s Mattell PXL VIDEO recorder made for kids that used AUDIOcassettes to record and playback images! You can see PXL footage HeRe and hErE!
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