The Dickson Experimental Sound

The first short film with sound recorded live.

The Dickson Experimental Sound Film is a film made by William Dickson in late 1894 or early 1895. It is the first known film with live-recorded sound and appears to be the first motion picture made for the Kinetophone, the proto-sound-film system developed by Dickson and Thomas Edison. (The Kinetophone, consisting of a Kinetoscope accompanied by a cylinder-playing phonograph, was not a true sound-film system, for there was no attempt to synchronize picture and sound throughout playback.) The film was produced at the “Black Maria”, Edison’s New Jersey film studio. There is no evidence that it was ever exhibited in its original format. Newly digitized and restored, it is the only surviving Kinetophone film with live-recorded sound. The film features Dickson playing a violin into a recording horn for an off-camera wax cylinder.  After its restoration in 2000, “The Dickson Experimental Sound Film” was selected for inclusion in the United States National Film Registry.

Directed by William K.L. Dickson

Origin: USA

Genre: Experimental

Year: 1895

Cast: William K.L. Dickson (Violinist)

Lenght: 22”

Photography: William Heise


William K. L. Dickson was born on 3 August 1860 was a Scottish inventor who devised an early motion picture camera under the employment of Thomas Edison. Dickson and his team at the Edison lab then worked on the development of the Kinetoscope for several years. The first working prototype was unveiled in May 1891 and the design of system was essentially finalised by the fall of 1892. The completed version of the Kinetoscope was officially unveiled at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences on 9 May 1893. Dickson was the first person to make a film for a Pope, and at the time his camera was blessed by His Holiness Leo XIII. In late 1894 or early 1895, Dickson became an ad hoc advisor to the motion picture operation of the Latham brothers, Otway and Grey, and their father, Woodville, who ran one of the leading Kinetoscope exhibition companies. Seeking to develop a movie projector system, they hired former Edison employee Eugene Lauste, probably at Dickson’s suggestion. With the Lathams, Dickson was part of the group that formed the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, before he returned permanently to work in the United Kingdom in 1897.