1906 Market Street – With Sound!

This short film shows a shared street environment in 1906 San Francisco a few days before an earthquake and fire destroyed much of the city. This version includes a designed audio track. If you prefer a shorter, lower resolution viewing experience here is part of the video played to La Femme D’Argent by the band Air. I think the song goes very well with this film.

 

Historic pre-earthquake San Francisco, 1906, with full sound design.

Background:
Shot on April 14, 1906, just four days before the San Francisco earthquake and fire, to which the negative was nearly lost. It was produced by moving picture photographers the Miles brothers: Harry, Herbert, Earle and Joe. Harry J. Miles hand-cranked the Bell & Howell camera which was placed on the front of a streetcar during filming on Market Street from 8th, in front of the Miles Studios, to the Ferry building. A few days later the Miles brothers were en route to New York when they heard news of the earthquake. They sent the negative to NY, and returned to San Francisco to discover that their studios were destroyed.

The origin of the film was an enigma for many decades, and it was long thought to have been shot in September of 1905, after being dated as such by the Library of Congress based on the state of construction of several buildings. However, in 2009 and 2010, film historian David Kiehn, co-founder of Niles Film Museum in Niles, California, dated the film to the spring of 1906 from automobile registrations and weather records. Kiehn eventually found promotional materials from the film’s original release and dated the film to April 14th, 1906, and finally gave credit to the filmmakers, the Mills Brothers.

Technical Aspects:

Film:
Sound mix: Silent
Color: B&W
Aspect Ratio; 1.33 : 1
Negative Format: 35 mm
Printed Format: 35 mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Camera: Hand-cranked Bell & Howell

Video format:
HDTV 1080I (1920 x 1080)
Pixel Aspect: Square
Editing Timebase 29.97
Compressor : H.264

Audio:
28 tracks, stereo. (without panning)

Restoration:
This version was transferred from a new 35mm print made from a restored 35mm negative, taken from the 1906-era 35mm print owned by the Prelinger Archives. This version does not appear to have any digital restoration, except minimal contrast and brightness adjustments.

Post Effects:
This version of the film has been digitally stabilized to remove jitter.

Resources:
Sounddogs, Youtube, Horseless.com, Wikipedia, Archive.org, Streetcar.org, earlyamericalautomobiles.com, Prelinger Archives.

Accuracy:
Automobile sounds are all either Ford Model T, or Model A, which came out later, but which have similarly designed engines, and sound quite close to the various cars show in the film. The horns are slightly inaccurate as mostly bulb horns were used at the time, but were substituted by the far more recognizable electric “oogaa” horns, which came out a couple years later. The streetcar sounds are actual San Francisco streetcars. Doppler effect was used to align the sounds.

Produced by:
The Miles Brothers

Photographed by:
Harry J Miles

Sound Design by:
Mike Upchurch

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One Response to 1906 Market Street – With Sound!

  1. Ben August 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    I am about to go to Cairo Egypt,

    Its a modern day SF. No lanes, no crosswalks (that people abide by), and complete chaos.

    I hope I survive.

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