Jan Jacobsen - His Story
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
C. Shaw, IMAX Corporation,
September 4, 1998
Issue 54 - September 1998
Jacobsen with his "Dual screen-front projection" for VistaVision format.
Image by Gerhard Fromm Collection
Before 1968, Jan Jacobsen had built a good
reputation, designing & building compact, light-weight cameras, camera
lenses (anamorphs), and special effects equipment. His cameras contributed
to the success of a number of films, including:
* "Switzerland - Fortress of Peace" Jan built a
compact 5-perf 65mm camera for a Vampire jet nose mount.
* "2001: A Space Odyssey" He did special effects
work for Stanley Kubrick, including the opening shot.
* "Battle Of Britain" He built (5) compact 5-perf
65mm cameras for Harry Saltzman, to achieve all the aerial shots in this
When the founders of Imax Corporation (Graeme Ferguson, Robert Kerr and
Roman Kroitor) began searching for technical solutions to make a practicable
large-format motion picture system,
Bob Gaffney suggested they contact Jan.
Graeme met Jan in Munich early in 1968, and asked if he could enlarge his
5-perf 65mm design to 8-perf. This would have suited optical "blow
up" printing of 15-perf 65mm and contact printing from the IN to
15-perf 70mm release prints.
Jan suggested another approach, saying, "I can build a 15-perf 65mm
camera. No optical printing will be needed."
Further in 70mm reading:
The Work of Jan Jacobsen
Process and European Cinema of the 1960s
Superpanorama Films Adverts and posters
MCS 70 Field
So......... He went to work in his shop in Copenhagen and, within 4 months,
showed Graeme a very compact camera, based on a tandem 7-1/2 perf mechanism.
On Dec. 3, 1968, Jan delivered the camera to Galt, Ontario, Canada, home of
Multiscreen Corporation (the original name of Imax Corporation).
On Jan. 27,
1969, the first rushes of wild animal footage shot with the camera in Africa
were viewed using a prototype Rolling Loop Projector. The images were truly
lifelike. That first camera went on to shoot the full frame images in "Tiger
Child" , and was then used to shoot "North of
Superior" and other early IMAX films.
Jan's great achievement for Imax was to build a camera that was smaller than
4 times the picture format in size; the camera body was a cube only 27 cm
across, and weighed only 25 kg. (The 35mm equivalent would be a camera body
that would fit in an 8 cm cube!)
It is also interesting that, while Jan's original camera met its end in a
skydiving accident, (12) more cameras based on his design continue in use,
30 years later. These include a lighter-weight version which has been to the
top of Mount Everest and others which have flown on (16) American space
Jan Jacobsen truly made a significant contribution to the success of Imax
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