Tragbares Schorinophon

Nina Borisova
With Film and Stylus

The portable shorinophone was developed at the end of the 1930s by the Leningrad branch of the Academy of Telemechanics and Telegraphy (VGITIS) under the direction of Alexander F. Shorin (1890–1941), the father of the Russian sound film. This development was preceded by the production of a large stationary model equipped with high-quality amplifiers for recording and playback. Both devices use the electromechanical method for recording sound, the stationary device having been developed for studio recordings in the film industry and broadcasting centers.

The system of electromechanical recording on a roll of cinema film had a number of advantages. It allowed the phonogram to be heard immediately after the recording, without the film requiring any further processing (development, fixing, washing). Moreover, it meant a relatively simple design and operation of the device as compared with optical recording equipment, and minimized the costs of the material because discarded film could be used, while also creating the possibility of making several hours of uninterrupted recordings.

The recordings for the stationary shorinophone used a standard 35 mm film with space for 50 sound tracks. As with sound film systems, recording speed was 465 mm/sec, and eight hours of recording required 300 meters of film.

The development of the stationary shorinophone in the 1930s was dictated by the requirements of the rapidly developing Soviet sound film. However, unlike the shorinophone, the equipment for sound films used the optical method for recording sound. As Shorin wrote, work had been under way in the Soviet Union on sound recording and playback equipment since 1926, making use of original principles that were applied neither in Europe nor in America. The results of the first laboratory experiments were given a cool reception by Soviet filmmakers – a reaction that did not however hold back the engineers under Shorin’s direction. And so on 5 October, on Leningrad’s Nevskij Prospekt, the first sound film cinema in the USSR was opened, equipped with an apparatus created by Shorin’s laboratory. Fortunately, the laboratory’s further work enjoyed state support and was well financed.

For his work in connection with sound recording apparatus, Shorin received a number of state awards. However, his activities were not restricted to the cinema, and he was famous in the USSR and abroad for his work in other fields such as radio technology, telegraphy, telemechanics and television.

The portable shorinophone was one of the last projects developed by the “sound group” under Shorin’s direction. Series production began in 1940 but lasted only one year until war broke out in July 1941. After the war, the production of the shorinophone was not restarted, having been superseded by a more modern means of sound recording – magnetic tapes. Nevertheless, at the end of the 1950s shorinophones were still being used in radio broadcasting for the recordings made earlier.