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The Aesthetics and Establishment of Analog Post-Production


This dissertation examines the emergence and establishment of analog post-production during the transition to sound. I analyze how the analog post-production system cannibalized the nascent post-production process of silent film, whereby the image from the filmmakers was combined with non-standardized sound produced live in the theater. Multiple forces at the theaters asserted influence over a film's presentation. Exhibitors, for example, created a de facto form of post-production by altering films to suit scheduling strategies, local tastes, and aesthetics, and screenings varied widely.

Following the ascendance of analog post-production in the American studio system, a shift began to take place with the introduction of sync sound, as a standardized film could potentially be created from heterogeneous visual and audio elements, recorded at different times and in different spaces. This process favored the invisible -- the denial of labor conducted by specialized workers -- via the seamless continuity editing of sound and image. Film scholars have long made the point that post-production, specifically continuity editing, conceals labor and technology. Indeed, this is the premise on which film theory of the 1970s is based. Most scholars approached this issue by analyzing the finished product, the film "text." I intervene to study the actual work of, and discourses produced around, post-production itself. I argue that the introduction and codification of analog post-production had a profound impact on filmmaking as well as on exhibition.

With the emergence of synchronous sound in the late 1920s, post-production asserted itself into what I refer to as the analog era with its own distinct mode of creation defined by a potentially endless process that could result in myriad forms of a film. In this scheme, practitioners obtain and manipulate various sound and visual elements and then synchronize, or marry them. Under this system, a new set of practitioners finalizes film form, where the workers of post-production replace those of the theater. These analog post-production workers tend to view a film as a collection of elements controlled and shaped in the post-production process. For filmmakers, a movie's creation becomes tied more to this process and less to the moment of production on the set that has for so long been a focus of film studies.

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