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Jan Jacobsen - His Story

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: Mr. William. C. Shaw, IMAX Corporation, September 4, 1998 Issue 54 - September 1998
Jan 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 film.

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:


Bob Gaffney

The Work of Jan Jacobsen

MCS-70 Superpanorama

MCS-70 Superpanorama films

The M.C.S.-70 Process and European Cinema of the 1960s

MCS 70 Superpanorama Films Adverts and posters

MCS 70 Field Camera


Internet link:


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 shuttle flights.

Jan Jacobsen truly made a significant contribution to the success of Imax Corporation.
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Updated 07-01-23