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Robert Gottschalk

AKA Robert Edward Gottschalk

Born: 12-Mar-1918
Birthplace: Chicago, IL
Died: 3-Jun-1982
Location of death: Bel Air, CA
Cause of death: Murder [1]
Remains: Buried, Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Gay [2]
Occupation: Inventor, Business

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Wide-screen motion picture technology

Camera store owner and inventor Robert Gottschalk developed lenses to compress images in movie photography, then expand those images in projection, using a new film technique to produce wider-screen motion pictures. Originally called Camera 65, his lens system eliminated the distortion, especially visible in close-ups, that had plagued Fox's CinemaScope process. Gottschalk's process allowed the projected aspect ratio of the image to be enlarged from 1.33:1 to 2.66:1 with no noticeable distortion, even on giant cinema screens.

His original motivation was to construct a waterproof housing for undersea cameras for Jacques Cousteau, but in the improvised laboratory above his camera shop, Gottschalk and his partner, cinematographer Richard Moore, found that water had the effect of reducing the camera's field of vision. With design advances to anamorphic lenses that had been developed decades earlier, Gottschalk and Moore were able to correct this problem, and adapted the technology to production and projection of wide-screen motion pictures. In 1953 they founded Panavision, which manufactured and leased this equipment to movie production companies. In 1972 Panavision's R&D department, under Gottschalk, invented the Panaflex camera, a groundbreaking lightweight motion picture camera with an adaption allowing it to film steady, unwavering imagery even when the camera was held by hand.

Wide-screen motion pictures are generally acknowledged as having revived the movie business in the late 1950s, offering a "wow" factor at the cinema that the era's television sets could not provide. The Steadicam, from Panavision's Panaflex, has revolutionized cinematography, allowing such memorable movie moments as Martin Scorsese's breathtaking single-shot that took viewers through the kitchen and into the Copacabana restaurant in Goodfellas. Gottschalk was awarded two special Oscars for technical accomplishments, for Camera 65 and Panaflex (the latter honor posthumously). He was murdered in his home in 1982, and his Peruvian gay lover, Laos Chuman, was convicted of the crime the following summer.


[1] Multiple stab wounds and blunt force head trauma.

[2] "Slain Inventor's Lover Sentenced", The Los Angeles Times, 19 July 1983.

Boyfriend: Laos Chuman (cohabited, convicted of Gottschalk's murder)

    University: BA Theater, Carleton College

    Panavision Founder & President (1953-82)
    Campus Camera Shop, Westwood, CA Owner
    Oscar 1958, Scientific and Technical Achievement, for Camera 65 (Panavision)
    Oscar 1993, Scientific and Technical Achievement, for Panaflex camera
    Stabbed


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