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Elective Coursework

"In the Groove: Edison Kinetophone Film Sound-on-Cylinder System"


Information Studies 289-3 – Moving Image Technology (Winter 2019)

Note: The purpose of this course was “to provide an historical overview of various types of audiovisual materials found in archives. Particular emphasis given to skills required to keep up with changing preservation practices in order to maintain access, exhibition, and proper contextual integrity of original material.” A specific moving image media format had to serve as the center point of the final paper.


About: If you ask most people to name the first film with a synchronized soundtrack, they would be quick to reply with The Jazz Singer. While the 1927 musical drama is indeed the first feature-length motion picture to feature synchronized music, dialogue, and singing, it was not the first film ever to do so. Fourteen years before the Al Jolson feature dazzled cinema audiences using the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, Thomas Edison utilized an earlier grooved audio format, cylinder recordings, to marry sound to moving-image media in the Kinetophone. Although film librarians, archivists, and preservationists may be familiar with Vitaphone discs, it is important for all professions working in a library, archive, or museum (LAM) setting to be able to identify Kinetophone films and their cylinder counterparts that might be accessioned into (or may already be in) their collections. This paper examines the Edison Kinetophone system by delving into a case study of a 2016 restoration project headed by George Willeman, Nitrate Film Vault Manager at the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. It provides background details of the endeavor, challenges met during the film and audio digitization process, and what insights these experiences can offer to those working in LAMs.

Please click HERE to download a PDF of "In the Groove: Edison Kinetophone Film Sound-on-Cylinder System."

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