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November 2000, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
William Lafferty <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 14 Nov 2000 19:06:51 -0500
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
TEXT/PLAIN (58 lines)
> R. Inglis requests:
> > Could anyone tell me when the projection rate of films began to shift from
> > 16 frames/s. to the now-standard 24 frames/s.?  Were the 16 frames/s. films
> > also shot at that speed, or were they shot at 24 and sped up in the
> > projection booth?  Did one film spark the change-over, or was it a general
> > trend brought on by other factor/s?

        The adoption of 24 fps occurred, as do many such standards in
American industry, by the particular field's technological leader
mandating that standard as if by fiat (cf RCA and electronic TV).  In this
case, when Western Electric sought to create a sound-on-film system to
supplant its commercially pioneering sound-on-disc system, it conducted
transport speed tests to determine the minimum speed for optimal frequency
response, reduced speed fluctuations during transport, and (of lesser
concern) flicker.  Western Electric arrived at 90 ft/sec, or 24 fps,
although I believe by the late '20s motorized film cameras at the studios
had been "standardized" at 85 ft/sec, close to that rate.  The 24 fps
speed would be the firm's standard for both sound-on-disc and
sound-on-film.  Since WE announced it would do away with s-o-d in fall
1929, this standard probably was devised around 1928;  in the interests of
future interchangeability, Fox and RCA followed WE's lead, and (although I
don't have access to that information right now) the various committees of
the AMPAS and the SMPE promulgated and accepted that standard rate, which
I believe was ultimately adopted by ASA, DIN, and other standardization
societies.  As has been pointed out already, though, even WE's sound
projectors of the time contained a variable speed DC (I think) motor,
allowing silent films to be projected at rates from 12 to 24 fps,
depending upon the projectionist's particular sensitivities.  At the time,
WE's sound reproduction equipment dominated the market.

        This is off the top of my head, but I think it's accurate;  my
data on this have been stored away for years.  Brownlow, Salt, and others,
I believe, have written extensively on pre-sound filming and projecting

                         William Lafferty, PhD
                          Associate Professor

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