Special thanks to Bill Peebles, owner of the Lumina, Rialto, Colony and Studio theaters in Raleigh, NC, for the screen and theater photos and his general assistance.
Have you ever watched a movie at home with the sound muted? It is amazing what a difference the sound makes in a movie experience. Sound, especially dialogue, makes it easier to understand what is happening. But it also provides texture and emotion to each scene. Most movies would not be interesting at all if you took away the sound. And when we go to the theaters, we expect the sound to be as exciting and encompassing as the images on the screen.

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, you will learn how analog and digital sound systems work. You will also learn about the three major digital systems:

  • Digital Theater Systems (DTS)
  • Dolby Digital
  • Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS)

Sound in movies has come a long way. As early as 1889, Thomas Edison and his associates were experimenting with synchronizing sound to moving pictures. In 1926, Warner Brothers released "Don Juan," the first commercial film to have accompanying recorded sound. "Don Juan" had a musical score but no dialogue. The next year, Warner Brothers released "The Jazz Singer" with music, sound effects and a few lines of dialogue. Sound had finally arrived in the movies.