When did movies get sound? — History of sound in the movies

When did movies get sound? — History of sound in the movies

History of sound in the film

Hearing is one of the most important senses in our body; everything becomes twice as interesting as it already is through the medium of sound. Be it waking up to the sound of birds chirping to falling asleep listening to the music playlists that you have on Spotify; the sound has become inevitable. Films have been an integral part of our lives for centuries and have continued to grow since the silent films in 1900.

Since the advent of cinema, hundreds of attempts were made to merge audio with visual content. Finally, in 1927, The Jazz Singer became the first-ever movie to communicate to an audience. The entire movie was recorded in Vitaphone; this was a sound on a disc that involved the laborious task of all audio onto a single record and ultimately syncing it in real-time with projection. Every time you go to the theater to sit back and enjoy the movie alongside a tub of popcorn, you would have noticed the main contributor to the sound in the film- Dolby. They made their way into the cinema industry back in the 1970s and continue to be the most famous is providing audio to films.

In 1991 Batman Returns, became the first movie to be released in Dolby digital 5.1, emitting sound from all directions providing the audience with the ultimate cinema feel.

When everything became digital, it was a big boon to the cinema industry. Once upon a time had to cut big fat pieces of magnetic tape and dubbers physically. The concept of being able to manipulate sounds digitally was the biggest advancement in the industry. The difference between using and combining sound manually and doing everything digitally is profound. Every step that the cinema industry took was to make the quality of sound better for the audience. Each time a movie had to be released, the industry’s main talk was on how the sound can be more engaging and just taking the experience of listening to the audio to a whole new level.

The solution to all this was Dolby Surround 7.1, which made the sound practically possible to be heard in the back of the theater, too giving a 365 sound effect and making the film’s audio sound better a notch higher.

With the advancements in technology and the ever-growing cinema industry, Dolby Atmos came about, giving movies the utmost revolution and bringing about an attitude of expectancy from the audience each time a movie is released. One of the most recent films Inside out- a sole creation of Dolby Atmos, which was nominated for best-animated feature films at the Oscars. The change in sound has been significant and dynamic, bringing the sound that we experience in movies similar to what we hear in real life; it brings the unrealistic voices of characters to feel like they’re sitting beside you, sharing the tub of popcorn.

When did talkies replace silent films?

Although sound brought about a revolution in movies, it made almost no difference to illiterates who understood movies merely through visual content. During the 1920’s the transition from silent films to talkies took place.

The audience enjoyed and found this transition “more real” and “miraculous.” The evolution of sound in films brought about profits for the motion picture industry. The final transition from silent films to talkies transpired in three stages- Invention, innovation, and diffusion. The invention phase is all about how the sound apparatus was in the making up to the stage where the Warner brothers picked it up as a Vitaphone, innovation phase was all about experimenting sound in different studios, and the final stage diffusion was the release of talkies into theaters with the wiring of sound in the films. The shift from silent films to talkies was seen as uncomfortable to the audience. They found it difficult to adjust, and we’re constantly faced with what is referred to as “Talkie terror,” where the voice did not match their preconceptions. It was hard for the audience to adjust to this transition, but even for the actors and directors who found this change unusual and difficult to cope with. Old Hollywood was sidelined and was seen as a different era. There was a certain art to silent films that was robbed by talkies. With the cinema industry being hurly-burly with attracting a new set of audience, actors, directors, and musicians, silent films’ skill died a slow death. Silent films slowly found revival with the 2011 release of an academy award winner. The artist brought silent films back into the spotlight and will enjoy a never-ending revival that no new advancement can replace.

Why does the old film seem sped up?

In the 21st century, watching a black and white film would feel like something completely out of the box. Although old films do hold certain credibility, the visuals seem to be moving fast. The main reason for this was that films in the olden days were shot with a camera that had to be hand-cranked, they ran from 12 to 22 frames per second, and the only form of speed regulation was how the cameraman rotated the handle. Old films weren’t meant to move at the same speed as today’s movies. To give that comical effect, the scenes were shot at 8 to 12 frames per second and shown twice as fast, which is what makes it look funnier than usual. The current industry standard is 24 frames per second. When old films are being projected today, they seem to go 1.5x the actual movement speed because they were originally shot at 18 frames per second hence the whole aphorism that old films run at a fast motion.

Did the actors and actresses talk in silent films?

It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Actors did, however, talk in silent films but most often did not follow the script because the audience anyhow cannot hear the goof ups that they make. The main reason why this was done was that it gave the actors a sense of it being more realistic and helped in expressing themselves better. While watching a silent film paying great attention to the intricate details, it can be found that they spoke out the wrong dialogues and were sometimes found swearing in the middle of dialogues.

Best silent movies to watch

If you want to relive how movies were first showcased in theaters, you can always watch these films, which are now available on OTT platforms. According to IMDb, here is a list of the best silent movies, a must-see for all those who love themselves some old school film.

  1. The gold rush- Charles Chaplin (1925)
  2. The last command- Josef Von Sternberg (1928)
  3. City lights – Charles Chaplin (1931)
  4. The kid- Charles Chaplin (1921)
  5. 7th heaven- Frank Borage (1927)
  6. Sunrise- F.W. Murnau (1927)
  7. Steamboat Bill, Jr. – Charles Reisner, Buster Keaton (1928)
  8. The General- Buster Keaton (1926)
  9. Safety last – Sam Taylor (1923)
  10. Wings- William A. Wellman (1927)


Movies have changed over time and have become one of the main entertainment sources for people across the world. It has changed along with the growth of technology and humans and will always be a highly influential industry for generations to come. From silent films to the never-ending sound effects that we have in today’s movies, the cinema industry has come a long way and will forever amuse and confound people with it’s never ending advancements.


Check out for more:

Shopping Cart (