The art of sound pictures (1930)

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114 THE ART OF SOUND PICTURES effect upon the listeners—^which means that it must be not only intelligible but capable of arousing the appropriate emotions in tens of millions of people. These two principles, in turn, are subordinate to the highest principle of time. That is, the dialogue must ad- vance apace with the visible action and under no condi- tions be allowed to slow down the latter, unless, by so retarding it, the speech intensifies plot or character in some important way. Here you have a complex regulation of the highest or- der. This is why there are so few truly great dialogue writers. Those who have succeeded with stage plays sometimes fail in sound pictures, usually because they fail to appreciate the high velocities of the latter. Let me explain this point, as it may puzzle some readers. Let us assume that a play and a picture run for the same time, two hours. The play has three acts, each with two scenes. Probably each scene has no more than three sequences. This makes a total of about eighteen se- quences. Look now at the sound picture. It may have anything from fifty to a hundred sequences; and, unlike the play, within its sequences we have many shots. Each picture sequence, therefore, is much shorter than a play sequence. Hence, the number of words and other lan- guage effects must be much smaller than in the play. Each word must convey a maximum of meaning and emotional effect. And it must also be so selected as to complete the requisite phrase of meaning in an exceed- ingly brief time span. To put it roughly, in arithmetical form, the ratio between time span and expression, here, is from five to ten times higher than the ratio on the stage. In one given unit of time, the stage play must con-