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September 16, 2009

In Memoriam: Richard Moore

Cinematographer and Co-Creator of Panavision

By DeDra Satterfield

Richard Moore in 2005 Photo: Getty
Richard Moore, USC alum, cinematographer and one of the pioneers of the widescreen 35mm Panavision film processes developed about fifty years ago, passed away in August. He was 83.

Moore moved to Los Angeles during the early 1930s. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in naval science and cinema, with an emphasis on cinematography.

"In those days," Moore recalled, "there were no jobs at the Hollywood studios, and the guilds weren't open to outsiders."

It is reported that Moore visited Munich, where he met Dr. August Arnold, the co-founder of Arriflex, who had developed a lightweight hand-held camera with an innovative reflex viewfinder. Moore exaggerated his experience and became the West Coast distributor for Arriflex.

"I didn't sell a single camera. The heads of the studio camera departments thought they were too noisy, and couldn't conceive of using a handheld camera."

Moore met Robert Gottschalk while they both worked at a camera shop. They soon set up their Panavision company in Gottschalk's Los Angeles garage. After developing different wide-screen lenses, they came up with Ultra Panavision, which used an anamorphically squeezed image on a 65mm negative and 70mm print to project a picture with a ratio of 2.76:1. Some years later, Panavision introduced the first handheld 65mm camera.

Moore, Gottschalk and Douglas Shearer (an MGM sound engineer) won a scientific and engineering Academy award "for the development of a system of producing and exhibiting wide-film motion pictures known as Camera 65."

In 2005, Moore received the annual presidents award from the American Society of Cinematographers, reserved for an individual who has made exceptional contributions to advancing the art of filmmaking.

"What I find fascinating," Moore declared recently, "is that at the time Panavision got its start, there were a lot of exciting things coming along, such as the zoom lens, the Steadicam, the Tyler helicopter mount, faster color film and new lighting equipment. There were big leaps forward, and then things settled. We're now experiencing another huge surge by virtue of digital cinematography. I wish I could be around for another 50 years to see all the exciting things that are going to happen."

Moore is survived by a son and a daughter.