Natatanging Gawad Urian kay WILLIAM SMITH
Ni AGUSTIN SOTTO
In the shaky transition from silent to sound films, not a few actresses owed the continuation of their career to William Smith, the first Filipino sound recording engineer. Among those hastily rejected by studio bosses were Mary Walter and Rosa del Rosario whose voices had to be recorded with filters ingeniously devised by William Smith.
William "Bill" Smith was born of a Thomasite father and a Filipina mother on February 12, 1913 in Echague, Isabela. At an early age, he showed brilliance as an electrical engineer and, while still in his teens, was employed by Lyric Film Exchange to install sound equipment in theaters not only here in the Philippines but also in Indonesia In 1931, he worked for a year as sound recording engineer on George Musser's Ang Aswang, the first accredited local sound film. He set up the sound booth and laboratory at the Musser residence in Pandacan where the studio, Manila Talkatone, still stands. In 1934, he worked with Directors Manuel Silos and Carlos Vander Tolosa at Filippine Films. The American entrepreneurs, Eddie Tait and George Harris, were so impressed with the local crew that they sent back home the American technicians commissioned to improve filmmaking in the country.
In 1935, he worked at Parlatone Hispano-Filipino when it was first incorporated. Among his achievements there as head of the studio's sound department was the crisp recording of the film coverage of the Commonwealth rites. In 1937, along with Luis Nolasco, he chose the location of Sampaguita studios in Gilmore for the rolling terrain and the area's noise proof qualities. For Sampaguita, he set up the first Reeves black and white laboratory and developed its first optical sound equipment which was functioning up to 1970. It was for this reason that the pre-war Sampaguita films bore the credit: Recorded by Smith Sound System.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, he helped establish the sound studios of Excelsior. During the war, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and supervised the supply and servicing of army communications equipment. He was captured by the Japanese and detained in three of Manila's most dreaded Kempeitai garrisons, starting with Fort Santiago. He was eventually released to work on the sound recording of Gerardo de Leon's Tatlong Maria (1944).
After the war, he produced the first Filipino film in color, Si Malakas at si Maganda (1947), starring Rosa del Rosario, Violeta del Campo and Tony Benroy. The movie was shot in Hollywood, using 16mm Kodachrome (color reversal), which was later blown up to 35mm in Ansco color for theatrical release. He had to maintain a balance of color temperature and exposure in the film's entirety in order for it to be blown up with only one light and one filter change. The technique was at the time, considered an achievement by International Photographer and subsequently adapted by Walt Disney for his African wildlife series.
In 1949, he supervised the filming and processing of LVN's Batalyon XIII, the first 35mm local film shot in color. The processing, however, was undertaken in Hollywood. In 1951, he personally set up LVN's color lab, the first of its kind in the country, and processed films like David at Goliath, Prinsipe Amante sa Rubitanya and Amor Mio. In 1952, he adapted the negative-positive processing for Rodrigo de Villa.
Also in the early fifties, he established Smith Sound Systems Laboratories which pioneered in the reduction of 35mm films to 16mm. In 1956, he popularized magnetic film recording.
Bill Smith has helped train many veteran soundmen, cinematographers, editors and labmen — among them, Julio P. Hidalgo. It is for such achievements that he has earned the respect and gratitude of the film industry and occupies a revered place in its history.
CITATION NI WILLIAM SMITH
Bago masimulang pag-usapan ang isang pelikula bilang likhang-sining, kailangan itong makapasa muna bilang likhang-teknolohiya. Walang sining ng pelikula, samakatwid, kung wala ang mga inhinyero at teknolohista sa laboratoryo.
Tagapagpauna sa paglalapat ng tunog at sa paggawa ng pelikulang maykulay si William "Bill" Smith. Sa paglalapat ng tunog, siya ang naging sound engineer ng unang pelikula ng talkies sa Pilipinas, na "Ang Aswang" (1932) ni George P. Musser. Siya rin ang nagbuo para sa Sampaguita Studio ng unang kagamitan para sa optical sound, na kinilala sa tawag na Smith Sound System. Sa larangan ng pelikulang maykulay, si Smith ang lumikha ng mga unang pelikulang may-kulay, ang "Si Malakas at si Maganda" (1947) at "Batalyon II" (1949). Siya ang nagtayo ng unang laboratoryo para sa pelikulang may-kulay, ang LVN Laboratories. Kanya ring ambag ang pagtatayo ng unang laboratoryong Reeves para sa pelikulang black-and-white sa Sampaguita Studios, at ang paglilipat ng pelikulang 35 mm sa 16 mm, na isinagawa ng Smith Sound Systems Laboratory.
Bilang pagkilala sa kanyang naging ambag sa pagpapa-unlad ng teknolohiya ng pelikulang Filipino, karangalan ng Manunuri ng Pelikulang Filipino na ipagkaloob kay William "Bill" Smith ang Natatanging Gawad Urian ng taong 1984.