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Home > Screenings > Studio Hamburg Enterprises > 78 rpm – A Black Disc Changed the World


Director: Dagmar Brendeke

Producer: Kick Film GmbH

Writer: Walter Brun

Genres: Documentary

78 rpm – A Black Disc Changed the World

Studio Hamburg Enterprises

In 1898 Emil Berliner started using "shellac” as a means of recording sound and sparked a media revolution which has been running for 120 years. Even before this, the first step was Berliner’s invention of the gramophone. These two things together, “record” and “recordplayer”, utterly transformed people’s everyday lives. It was a technical and cultural revolution, as the new shellac discs proved superior to the wax cylinders used by Edison’s “phonogragh”. Caruso was the first major opera singer whose recordings, technically speaking, were of good quality and which also sounded great – and it was thanks to him, in no small part, that the disc format made a significant breakthrough.

Caruso became a superstar and stuck with the format of the Berliner Gramophone. For us today, shellac discs speak of the past, but not in a nostalgic way: they are historical documents. With a lifespan of over 65 years, from 1895 - 1960, 78s represent the longest used recording format. “Vinyl” lasted 40 years, up until the late 1990s. After a run of just 15 years, CDs were superseded by mp3s and downloads. And today streaming platforms offer more than 20 million songs, sitting on some anonymous server somewhere in the world. The film tells the story of “shellac” and takes the viewer on a cultural journey, culminating in today’s multimedia society.

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