Inside the Booth: The Western Electric U-Base

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Academy chief projectionist Marshall Gitlitz demonstrates the operation of the Western Electric U-Base from the Richard O. Bartel Collection. Manufactured from 1929 to 1934, the U-base for projectors gave theaters the flexibility to run full-aperture silent, sound-on-disc or sound-on-film pictures during a period when the studios were uncertain about the future of synchronized sound. It consisted of a heavy base with a take-up spool, a phonograph and amplifier, and a photoelectric cell and sound head. Western Electric's Vitaphone (sound-on-disc) system used the phonograph and amplifier; RCA's Photophone (sound-on-film) system used the photoelectric cell and sound head. The U-base's interlocking mechanisms allowed any mounted projector to be easily connected to the required audio setup.

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