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Originally all films produced by members were screened silent, sometimes with a running commentary given by the exhibitor with possibly a musical background from records (3 minutes long) which seldom matched or suited the pictures on the screen. We were all very new at the game and pleased with our results! As we progressed and became more ambitious, several members arranged for Nicholsons Radio Studio to produce a record of the commentary of their “masterpiece”. This sometimes meant several attempts before a satisfactory result was obtained and was very time consuming. Even then it was difficult to play it in “sync”. As the record was still only about 3 minutes long, this meant that all films were short and had to be carefully timed and edited. With the advent of long play microgroove records with multiple tracks, great ingenuity appeared and many weird and wonderful arrangements emerged. The most popular was the twin turntable with the ability to switch tracks and fade out and fade in the portion considered suitable for the scene (if you were quick and not too absorbedAbout this time Kirke Hearder of Telecom fame brought along his wire recorder which recorded on a long spool of soft, thin wire, enabling longer films to be produced. We were certainly improving Arthur Jenks from one of the Queensland clubs made a tape recorder TR1 and later the TR2 model which was taken up and manufactured by the Pyrox company. A number of tape recorders appeared suitable for commentaries for films. Unfortunately, there was no standard. Some wound with the emulsion on the outside, some inside, some wound left to right and some right to left, mostly at different speeds. People could now produce films of 30 to 40 minutes length, sometimes with boring results. It now became a challenge to ensure correct synchronization and many odd methods were tried. A system was finally developed which took a small part of the image from in front of the projector by means of a small dental mirror and shone it down on to a special small wheel placed horizontally on a bracket attached to the recorder. This wheel had a stroboscope pattern drawn on it like spokes. They appeared stationary when synchronisation was achieved. The recorder had to run at a constant speed for the sound to be correct, so the projector speed had to be altered by a special control to maintain perfect sync. The projectionist had to look down constantly at the strobe wheel. Soon someone developed a vertical recorder which enabled a transparent strobe wheel to be used in front of the projector. The projectionist could look through the strobe and enjoy the film too.

[Note from Jenny - All this gear had to be carried and set up and all these adjustments made every time the film was shown, of course.]

To record a commentary on tape, the script was carefully written for the reader (usually not the producer of the film) who would be tapped on the shoulder by an observer who watched the screen, thus enabling the reader to concentrate on the words without having to look at the screen. The projectionist concentrated on the strobe while another member added the music and another any sound effects. Very often, mistakes were made and the whole process had to be started again in an attempt to achieve the best possible results. Everyone except the projectionist had to be in another room looking through glass at the screen to avoid recording the projector noise. Lloyd Henshilwood purchased one of the new twin track stereo tape recorders made by National in Japan. This enabled him to record (while using the stroboscope) a rough commentary starting at the correct places although it carried the noise of the projector. Now without the projector and using headphones, he could listen to the rough track and cue up the recorder at the beginning of each section of commentary and produce a “clean” commentary in the correct place on the second track. With care and experience it was possible to achieve almost lip sync. The rough track was then erased. Music could then be added on the first track, fading behind the comments if necessary. It was even possible to change the music by stopping in the middle of a comment and fading the music out and in behind the speech. The film producer could now do most of the process alone without having to call upon his many friends to assist.

This was an era of great technical innovation and invention!