Synthtopia

New Documentary, Audible Kinematology, About British Audio Pioneer Stanley Watkins

Synthetic Sound Labs’ Doug Slocum let us know about a new documentary, Audible Kinematology, that explores the life of British audio pioneer Stanley Watkins. 

Watkins was an English electrical engineer who worked with Columbia and Victor Records in the early days of audio recording; who helped bring sound to film, with movies like The Jazz Singer; and who, at Bell Labs, programmed the Voice Operating Demonstrator, aka the VODER, an offshoot of research into vocoding.

The VODER, which debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair, was the result of 1930’s research, conducted at Bell Labs, into speech compression and security. Operators would “play” combinations of the keys, in specific sequences and timings, to approximate the human voice to ‘talk’ or even ‘sing’.

The film is being produced by filmmaker Blair Rinn, who contacted Slocum regarding his work recreating the Voder, and production is being funded via a GoFundMe campaign.

Here’s the campaign promo:

Here’s a vintage demo of the VODER:

See the campaign site for details.