In the Interest of Research in the Field
of Music Education We Present a Condensation of "A Study
of Contributing Factors in Effective Use of 16MM. Sound films
in Music Education" by Glenn D. McMurry
Many schools are boasting that they possess sound picture equipment. But more important than the possession of the equipment is the use to which it is put. School administrators and educators reviewing their teaching and operating procedures, are asking, "Is my sound equipment being used effectively?"
There is considerable discussion these days about the shortage of funds for maintaining an audio-visual program and the shortage of good film subjects. When first confronted with these problems, the writer decided to make a survey of the 16mm. field to discover the reasons for the complaints. The survey covered the equipment for producing the 16mm. sound film, the laboratories that process the film, and the reproducing equipment itself. Finally, a group of schools were contacted in an effort to study the actual classroom showing conditions.
From this survey it was learned that the producers of l6mm. sound films are doing their best to produce motion pictures of high physical quality. In most instances they are succeeding. The subject-matter content of the films, however, does not always attain the standards desired in good teaching. This is probably due to the lack of cooperation between the classroom teacher and the film producer. The survey indicated further that the laboratories are doing acceptable work in mass production of prints for school use. The manufacturers of sound-on-film equipment are flooding the market with almost every conceivable type of projector, most of which are satisfactory for projecting pictures. Unless, however, an amplifier and speaker of sufficient size and quality are furnished, do not expect the best results from the sound. In order to reproduce the complex musical sounds, only the better makes of projectors should be used. There should be ample acoustical power of 10 to 15 watts and a large speaker of 10 to 14 inches in diameter housed in an efficient cabinet.
The results of the survey revealed the teacher as the most serious hindrance to the effective use of the sound film in the classroom. Many teachers are operating 16mm. sound projectors without the slightest idea as to what to expect from the machine even if they know well the subject matter content of the film.
The portion of the survey dealing with the actual showing conditions involved contacting school principals in an effort to locate programs in operation. Practically all the schools contacted had access to 16mm. sound equipment, but their replies indicated the use of the equipment were not satisfactory. Visits were made to a sampling of these schools representing large and small systems of varying budgets.
The survey of the audio-visual programs was conducted in a sample manner. The writer attended regular showings of sound films, and observed the equipment set-ups and operating procedures. Because the teachers were not told that they were being observed, but rather that the equipment set-ups and films were being checked, they probably operated the projectors little better than they did ordinarily. To eliminate the possibility of the teachers' blaming the physical conditions of the film prints for reproduction deficiencies, a test reel was purchased from the Society of Motion Picture Engineers and used to each showing situation.
The observations recorded by the writer showed that the teachers knew little or nothing of the desirable showing conditions as set forth by the Society of Motion Picture Engineers or any other organization attempting to overcome room and equipment deficiencies. The teachers seemed to have no idea how dark to make a room for showing pictures. Room shape, seating arrangement, and reverberation characteristics were completely neglected. As a general rule the projectors were grossly misplaced in relation to the audience and size of picture being projected. In some instances the loudspeaker was located as much as thirty feet from the screen. There was no knowledge of the appropriate picture size or the advantages of one type of screen over another. Beaded screens were the rage, and in general, badly used. In some cases spectators were sitting within a few feet of the screen and in others they were so far away that the detail of the picture was completely lost.
As a trained operator, the writer was much disturbed by the almost total ignorance of the teachers on proper threading, rewinding, and specific methods of beginning and ending a showing. The projectors were, as a general rule, very dirty, except in those schools where the machines were new. The operators did not know how to focus the picture properly or exactly when it was out of focus. Some operators permitted all sorts of grinding sounds when the picture began and when it ended. Flashes of light, numbers, and various editing characters were permitted to project at the beginning and ending of every reel. At times minutes would pass without any sound at all. In one instance the audience saw about one second of the picture title. The sound for the most part was unnatural. Most of the operators had the sound much too loud. It is very difficult to adjust the sound level properly while standing or sitting next to the projector. The teachers had no apparent knowledge of how sound waves traveled from the loudspeaker to the listeners' ears. The tone adjustment was just as bad. Most of the time there were too many high frequencies attenuated to make the sound pleasing.
Beyond the physical characteristics, the audio-visual education programs were in general at a very low ebb educationally. The students were ushered into a room without the slightest idea as to why, and then after the showing were ushered out again with the same gusto. During the showing it was entirely up to the film to present its own story. Veterans being shown films during the war became convinced of the educational value: when a soldier was shown a film on military courtesy he know he was looking at a picture that had something to tell. He knew further that he would be tested on what he saw. He knew when he viewed a picture on weapons that he would be expected to defend his life with those weapons, and he had plenty to look for as the film was shown. There was no magic in the film, plenty of motivation.
The survey indicated that the greater percent of teachers interviewed were not acquainted with the content of the films being shown. They had made little or no preparation for themselves or the students other than announce the title of the film. They relaxed during the show and then discussed it afterwards. Some teachers have a false impression of the soouund film. They expect it to give them a breather between classes or perchance expect it to help them get out of a class occasionally.
Condemnation is useless unless followed by constructive recommendation. The over-all recommendation is simple enough: there is need for teacher education on the use of sound films and the operation of sound projection equipment. This does not necessarily mean a college course in audio-visual education. It does mean, however, that the teacher must strive to learn all he can about the use of the sound film as a means of increasing the learning experiences of the child. Sound equipment will prove to be your closest assistant when you learn how to use it properly. So, dig out your book on acoustics, your projector manuals, and your notes on audio-visual aids, and put some of the ideas into practice. Just as important as good film usage, is for you as a teacher to be a good showman. Do not expect someone else to do the job for you.
The presentation of the sound film is only a part of the total classroom procedure. To be most effective it should be under your direct and complete control. Your presentation should be nothing short of perfect and you can not learn perfection by reading. You must practice until you can thread, adjust, stop, etc. with the ease of a professional projectionist. The teacher's job is to educate, not to entertain. When the sound film in the classroom begins to take over the job of the local theater, the teacher is fighting a losing battle. The learning situation must be directed from its beginning to its conclusion. The sound film is only a part of the learning situation and must be inter-related with what the student is experiencing in order for it to serve its purposes most efficiently. When the teacher directs the entire learning process from the initial preparation of the pupil through an expert presentation to a final discussion, evaluation, and possible re-showing, the real fruits of the educational sound film will be realized.
It is only through diligent effort on
the part of individual teachers to utilize the sound equipment
and the available films to the best possible advantage that the
high initial cost of equipment and its upkeep and operating expenses
can be justified.