Museum Mics and the muse of a Playful Piano in the Movie Theatre

Abstract of “The Great Train Robbery”

This is about another visit I paid to the Museum of the Moving Image. This is my fifth time having gone there. Three of which were related to an assignment in this major. However with the video I that I recorded, with a Cisco FlipCam, which can feel kind of unique since Cisco has closing down its Flip business with all the support systems, which it only bought out in 2009.

flip cam 2     flip cam custom

l-r: Flipcam front view, flipcam rear view

It was very convenient for me size and time wise to capture two elements of the museum, which I could relate to this sound class. First we have the mics which I wish had better lighting, but it was a Friday afternoon and I wanted to get my info before they closed. The first part of the video was to showcase some of the old microphones they had on display.

However what I wanted to show, which I didn’t see anyone talk about on their visit there is the aspect of the movie theater. Yes there was a time when we didn’t have vocal audio and sound effects added to moving pictures. Instead a musical score was written and in most cases it was a piano player who provided all the live audio for the film. This really added another dimension to the movies of these times which were usually complete silent films.

I don’t know if there was a bench placed in the booth where the film is shown to give that authentic feel to as if we were in a 1900s theater where patrons actually say on benches, as opposed to individual seats as we are accustomed to, as I showed in the video.

Silent era films have always almost featured live music and the first choice of instrument was usually the piano. One of the first films to have his element of piano accompaniment was by the Lumière brothers in 1895. From the screening of their first film Workers Leaving The Lumière Factory in Lyon in Paris, which was one of ten short film screenings, piano music accompaniment has been a presence in the silent movie era.

Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory with piano music

From the time it was added to films music was recognized as important in contributing to the atmosphere of the film and also to give the audience vital emotional cues.

What made The Great Train Robbery significant at its time however, was not necessarily the sound that accompanies it, but rather that included composite editing (which is editing two separate pieces of film together), camera movement and on location shooting.

Abstract of old microphones at The Museum of The Moving Image

This video was just meant to showcase some of the earlier microphones used in the early 20th century. I know the video moves a little quickly and it is hard to read everything in the clip so I decided to list all the microphones in the video as follows:

1. Western Electric Type 1-B

2. Western Electric “Cathedral-Style” Desk Model, 7A, 1928

3. Siemens & Halske Ribbon Style #25, 1929

4. Western Electric Model 618A, 1931

5. Western Electric “Eight Ball”, Model 630A, 1935

6. RCA Unidirectional Model MI-3025, Type 77A, 1936

7. Shure Cardioid Model 555-556, 1940

Overall there is so much you can learn about from this place and what is great is that it is open all year around to not only get a basic look at the history of film, television and radio but you can really find some unique things related to media and pop culture there.