For about 25 years, movies were silent, actors acted, text was shown on the screen, and an organ or piano player added the musical score. My mother was a concert pianist, so I grew up listening to all kinds of piano music. Last weekend, while I was in Chicago for St. Patricks Day, we watched and listened to the dueling pianos at a bar called "Howl at the Moon". Those not familiar with this art form can watch this 1-minute video of Star Wars re-imagined as a Silent Movie.
About 80 years ago, "talkies" appeared. The sound was converted to a series of colors that were recorded as a separate strip on the film media itself, hence the name "soundtrack". When the movie ran, the colors would then be converted back to voice and music. While the live piano players were out of jobs, the move to sound created a whole new industry for foley artists, orchestras and composers.InformationWeek's Mitch Wagner explains in Something Will Be Lost thatgreat artists like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford never completely made the transition to talkies.
Now the movie industry is changing again, this time from film to digital format. Thanks to digital, we can now see videos on the internet, such as this set of Impressive Palindromes parody of a Bob Dylan song.
While movies are digital when you rent them from the DVD store, download them on iTunes, or play them on YouTube, they are still mostly in analog format on 35mm or 70mm film stock when you see them on the big screen.
My first "digital projection" experience was the movie "Ice Age" shown in Denver, Colorado. The theatre owner came out to show us what film stock looks like, and then how small the DVD was that held the digital version. The theatre also showed previews of other movies first on film, then in digital, so that we could see the difference in quality.My second experience was "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (episode II)", which I saw opening night at the Ziegfeld theatre in New York City. This was a huge theatre, and we had front row seats in the upper balcony.
Of course, the transition of film stock to digital projection is just one of the many trends resulting in the fast growth of computer IT storage. Documents transitioned from paper, to being scanned into digital format, to being created digitally using word processing software. Likewise, photographs went from film, to being scanned, to being captured with digital cameras.
As with talkies, history repeats itself; the transition to digital projection is not going smoothly.NPR's Laura Sydell reports thatDigital Projection in Theaters Slowed by Dispute. The dispute is between movie production companies and theatre owners. Currently, it is quite expensive to send out film stock to all the theatres, so the transition to digital will save the movie production companies lots of money. On the other hand, installing digital projection equipment will be costly for theatre owners. How the two groups will share the burdensome costs to convert this infrastructure is still under negotiation.
As a fan of going to the movies, I hope they resolve this dispute soon.