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September 2, 2009


The article Fantasound by Garity and Hawkins, first published in the August 1941 issue of the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, outlines the novel 3-channel sound reproduction system developed by Disney for Fantasia.

I find the criticism of deficiencies of conventional sound-picture reproduction particularly interesting. The authors claim that the fixed localization of the sound-source at screen center enforced a camera and cutting technique built around action at the center of the screen, or more strictly, the center of the conventional high-frequency horn. If this is correct, the sound reproduction system must have been a fundamental influence on the choice of camera angles, narratives and storyboard, thus playing a major role in defining not only the audio but also the visual language of cinema.

Other parts of the article that caught my attention is the blatant financial motivation for the development. And of course, it’s fascinating to read a paper discussing panpots as cutting-edge state of the art.

A further description of the inventive aspects of the sound reproduction system for Fantasia can be found here.