Fifty Years and Counting -
Todd-AO 70mm Festival 7 - 9 October 2005
Schauburg Cinerama, Karlsruhe, Germany
The 70mm Newsletter
by: Walter Siegmund,
5 October 2005
Siegmund in Karlsruhe, 2008. Image by Thomas Hauerslev
Celebrations of past experiences are always a stark reminder of the rapid passage of time. Most of us who were privileged to work on Todd-AO were in our 20's and 30's back in 1952 when it all began. I was only 27 years old.
The main exception was Dr. Brian O'Brien who was the primary inventor of
Todd-AO who was 54 or 55 at the time.
And what a time it was! Those of you, who have spent a professional lifetime in motion pictures, would be amused at us in 1952 – 1955, starting out with almost no experience in motion picture technology, and having the bravado to try to revolutionize that technology!
Fortunately, we met and worked with a few professionals along the way, and they kept us from making too many mistakes. I think of names like Skip Sandford (cinematography), Fred Hynes (master of the sound of Todd-AO), Art Miller (Printing and processing – he formerly headed up Consolidated Film Laboratories), John Mitchell, who made the Todd-AO cameras, Dr. Robert Hopkins who designed the famous “Bug Eye” lens (Named by Mike Todd himself, I believe).
And finally there was the masterful design and manufacture of the
DP70 by Jan Kotte and the
N.V. Philips of Eindhoven.
But the special feature of Todd-AO, the “Correcting Printing Process” which made it possible to reproduce “Cinerama” from “one hole”, as Mike Todd ordered, was left to us amateurs at American Optical Company.
This was a wonderful concept and a development challenge, which came very close to a successful process, but was compromised by a badly scratched
“Oklahoma!” master negative (worth 7 million dollars!) and a few glitches in the printer.
Despite the problems, this period of intense development proved to be the most exciting in our professional careers. I speak here for Henry Cole, Brian O'Brien
Jr. as well as myself. I think in some ways we all envy those who made their careers in motion pictures; the excitement, the stars, the glamour, the opening nights, the Oscars. But we can at least say, we once had our day and perhaps we did leave our mark on the revival of motion pictures, from the onslaught of television back then, - fifty years ago.
in 70mm reading:
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