Synchronization of Music Picture


Explaining the history and development of the synchronization of music to picture, including the origins of streamers and punches.

Here is how composer Maurice Jarre uses the clock as well as streamers and punches in a live performance, as he conducts music from his score to “Passage to India.”

There are very few hard hits and when he misses s punch slightly, he just speeds up or slows down.

Sample paper

Synchronization of Music Picture

The beginning of synchronization of music picture has a history dated from late 1880s to early 1900s during the early development of films. According to Fielding (1967), what was referred as silent film was never silent because, the initial pictures were displayed with accompanying music. By 1900 most of theaters offered musical accompaniment to motion pictures. The initial attempt to synchronize picture and sounds was using phonograph technique, though it had inadequate sounds intensity and offered mediocre quality. During this time, sound synchronization could only be done for short films, since the records and turntables running time was limited. Between 1900 and 1913, there was development of more advanced synchronizing equipment that was mechanically coupled to projector, while the gramophone motor auxiliary was electrically controlled. This equipment which was named as Biophon was developed by Oskar Messer, and by 1913, it was installed to more than five hundred theaters (Fielding, 1967).

In 1919 there was invention of the Tri-Egon System by three Germans who include Hans Vogt, Joseph Masserole, and Josef Engl. The system permitted direct recording of the sound on film. Sound waves were converted by photo-electric cells to electrical impulses and later to light waves, and directly recorded on the film strip, as the soundtrack. In 1923, Dr. Lee De Forest from America developed an Audion 3-Elecctrode Amplifier synchronized sound system to address the amplification problem recorded in the past development. This enhanced sound synchronization even in the large auditorium. In 1926, Western Electric and Bell Telephone Laboratories developed Vitaphone system. This system was extensively used by Warner brothers in the United State. However, it was an expensive investment. Fox Film Corporation among others employed resistance to shift to sound films especially due to high cost involved. However, this did not kill the dream of Werner brothers. The Sound synchronization breakthrough was enhanced by ‘The Jazz Singer’; Warner Brother Film in 1927, where the main actor ad-libbed a part of synchronized dialogue. The impact was sensational, since it was the first incident of actor speaking lines, which were spontaneous and natural (Fielding, 1967).

Since the breakthrough of sound synchronization, the music industry experienced a number of evolutions which included the use of sound-track-disc to synchronize sound in the film. In the 1935, there was development of the hole punch in the film work print. This concept assisted the conductors by offering an accurate mark in sequences of film, to demonstrate particular points like the beginning of scene where music starts, essential signal points such as passionate kissing or a car crash, and the scene end, where music is cut off. The film’s hole punch attained through an office hole punch, generated a flutter or explosion of light to occur in the scene at a unique signal point, permitting the re-alignment of tempo by the conductor to fit the documented music score. This made everything better. The hole punch was enhanced by the discovery streamer, which is a diagonal slash put on the film surface, before the hole punch. This happens at any point between 2 and 4 seconds in time, giving conductor a warning to a cue point or an upcoming punch. This assisted in the performance. The two discoveries played a great role in music synchronization, especially in marking significant points in the film, from the beginning to the end (Philips, 2003).


Fielding, R. (1967).  A technological history of motion pictures and television: An anthology from the pages of the journal of the society of motion picture and television engineers. California: University of California Press.

Philips, A. (2003).  The history and mechanics of screen music. Sounds Australia No 61. Retrieved from


Interview Report-Summary of the Interviewee