The following article, appearing in the current Alumni Bulletin, was written by J. A. Haeseler '23, Director of the Foundation.
During the past six months the University Film Foundation has made an advance of a fundamental nature. Previously the Foundation was obliged to send all its films to New York laboratories for processing; it worked under the handicap of inadequate equipment and, having no studio of its own, was obliged to take all its films on the actual locations. Furthermore, it had no sound-film apparatus.
Now, however, we are prepared to make completely both silent and talking films in our own plant here at the University. We have installed a well-equipped laboratory for developing and printing the films, both standard-width and 16-millimeter size. Also we have installed a sound-proof studio-acoustically prepared for the making of talking films. Furthermore, we have provided rooms, and offices for the staff. This has been made possible by a gift for this purpose from Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who has been interested in assisting the Foundation in its educational work.
Modern Recording Equipment
In connection with the studio we have installed a complete sound-on-film recording equipment, loaned to the Foundation for a period, free of charge, by the R. C. A. Photophone, a subsidiary of R. C. A. This has come to the Foundation largely through the interest of Dr. W. R. Whitney, director of the General Research Laboratories of the General Electric Co. and Gerard Swope, president of the General Electric Co., who desire to see this invention, developed at their plant, used for educational purposes. In addition, the Foundation is installing a disc-recording, machine which can be employed for transferring the sound-on-films to discs, so that the film will be available with both methods. This machine can also be used for making phonograph records and records for broadcasting. The studio could also serve as a center for radio broadcasting, since the acoustic treatment it has received fits it for this purpose.
Will Wait No More
Thus, instead of waiting a week for its film material to be returned from New York, with all the consequent delays and handicaps in production, the Foundation is now able to make a film in its own studio, located next to the University Museum in the midst of the scientific quarters of the University, process it overnight in its own plant, and show it the next day in its own projection room, or in any lecture room of the University, together with its accompanying speech or music, if it is a sound-film.
During the past six months the Foundation has nearly doubled its staff, which now has over twenty persons. In addition to the personnel for production and editorial work, which consists of persons with a college background specially trained for the work, the Foundation has specialists, such as a sound-engineer, projectionists, and a laboratory man.
Thus the Foundation now stands in a position where it can apply modern inventions and technical processes to educational methods. Most spheres of life today have been completely changed by mechanical developments. Not so, however, education. Despite the constructive experimental work done by certain institutions and groups, educational procedure has remained substantially that of the "little red school house." Technical means are now at hand to alter this. If the Foundation can secure adequate financial support from individuals and groups interested in education it can lead this development on a plane worthy of the University. It can extend the work and influence of the University far beyond its borders, and place its standards, and the ideas for which it stands, in the forefront of a movement which holds the possibility of bringing about a complete change in the educational system of the country.
Immediately the Foundation is desirous of employing its facilities in making living records of eminent professors and personalities connected with the University. These would be talking films which, besides being carefully preserved for historical purposes and circulated among Harvard groups throughout the country, would in many cases be of great value to education generally. We plan not only to record the professors speaking, but also to show them illustrating their experiments and making their demonstrations of scientific materials, and we expect also to depict the subjects about which they are talking. The studio and recording machines have been so arranged that, although the professor may gradually disappear, his voice continues, describing the scenes which replace him on the screen. The silent films of the Foundation have met with such splendid response whenever shown at the Harvard clubs that we are certain these films, affording intellectual content in varied fields and enlivened by the leading personalities of the University, will prove of great interest to Harvard men everywhere.
Vivid Historical Film
The Foundation is now completing a talking film on Massachusetts history, with Professor Albert Bushnell Hart depicting in vivid sequence the development of the Commonwealth. We are very anxious to record others, such as Professor Palmer and Dean Briggs, and, among the active members of the Faculty, Professors Taussig in economics, Parker in zoology, Lowes in English literature, and Rand in the Classics; a number of others have made plans for their talks.