This is a printer friendly page
Free for educational use
Video clip synopsis – Ray Edmondson provides an overview of the use of sound in newsreel production in Australia and recalls his experience of visiting the newsreel cinema in Sydney.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 1min 20sec
Tags - newsreels, see all tags


Sound and newsreels in the 1920s

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 sound_pr.mp4 (9.8MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 sound_bb.mp4 (4.6MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

About the Video Clip


This interview with Ray Edmondson was recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

Ray Edmondson is the Former Deputy Director of the National Film and Sound Archive and is now honorary Curator Emeritus. You can view his full biography at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Background Information


The 1920s was a decade of extremes in Australia, Europe and the United States. For some it was the age of fast living, with motion pictures and motoring, booze, jazz, cabaret and fashions for women that showed some leg. But for others, the years following World War I were years of hardship and suffering that were only to worsen when the Great Depression hit in 1929.

Before radio and television, people were kept up-to-date on current affairs by reading a newspaper, or by watching the newsreels that screened as a regular part of the cinema programming. Newsreels were screened along with film previews, cartoons and features.

Before the days of ‘talking pictures’, Australian newsreel production thrived, with Australasian Gazette, Pathe’s Animated Gazette and Paramount Gazette, plus various local and regional newsreel productions. By 1926 Australasian Gazette had reached Issue No. 820, and Paramount Gazette Issue No. 490. (King)

The advent of films with sound made the production of newsreels more expensive, leading to the demise of Australia’s smaller, independent producers. Examples of these pre-sound newsreels have been preserved at the Australian National Film & Sound Archive (NFSA).

Classroom Activities

  1. Ray Edmondson provides a historic account of the evolution of newsreels in Australia: “The newsreel was a balanced mix of hard news, soft news … always meant to entertain … designed to be seen as a whole.”
    In the interview Edmondson highlights the formulae for newsreels as being a mixture of entertainment, hard and soft news. Its hour-long format was to inform and entertain the audience.
    1. Can you distinguish and explain what Edmondson means by the difference between hard news and soft news?
    2. Does this format still exist within news broadcasting today?
  2. Provide a historical account of the development of newsreels in Australia. In your account provide information on the type of stories that were developed, how it connected with the audience and why you think newsreels became redundant by the 1970s.
  3. How many picture theatres were there in Australia at 1929? (Hint: look up fact sheet on the From Wireless to Web website)

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.