Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Last Page

Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Last Page

Article excerpt

Associate ASC member Geoffrey H. Williamson, camera designer and builder of some of the fastest motion-picture cameras in the world, died at home in Yucaipa, CA on January 19 after a quiet but heroic battle with inoperable brain tumors. He is survived by his wife and longtime business partner, Joan.

Winner of two Technical Achievement awards, two Scientific and Engineering awards, a Medal of Commendation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and an Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, this quiet Englishman pushed camera performance and design to new limits. It was not apparent that this modest gentleman was intrigued with high speed unless you happened to be in the car when he was driving or could get him chatting about his auto-racing career.

Geoff was born on April 12, 1927 in Montevideo, Uruguay. As the son of a traveling executive for the Dunlop Rubber Company, he had an unusual childhood that took him all over the world. From an early age, he and his brother Peter delighted in exploring any mechanism that fell into their grasp. Back in England after two years at St. Edwards, Oxford, Geoff decided he wasn't too keen on Academia and left in search of adventure.

After a stint in the military was cut short by a motorcycle accident, he took a job as a photographer for Reuters. In 1948, he and his brother started a company to build compact press cameras of their own design. He also worked on an unusual 120fps 35/4p camera for successive frame color still photography. The auto-racing bug bit Geoff hard in 1950, however, and he gradually stopped working on still cameras to devote full time to racing, designing and building an ever-faster assortment of race cars. He met Joan in South Africa and they were married in 1961. The couple moved to the U.S. shortly thereafter, racing Ferraris, Maseratis, and Lotuses for a Tennessee sports-car enthusiast. Joan remembers praying for early engine fai lure, but instead the team disbanded and Geoff went to work for L and W Photo in Van Nuys, designing and building projectors and modifying cameras.

In 1970, Geoff and Joan founded Wilcam Photo Research in Santa Monica. The cameras and innovations started flowing, starting with the W-1 single system Super 8 newsfilm camera system, which was followed shortly by the W-2 single-system 16mm newsfilm camera. A chronological list of projects from that date forward reads like a who's who of pioneering technical achievements:

1976-1988 Introvision front projection systems

1978-1980 Leonetti Ultracam 35mm/4p 20dB

1981 Technovision W-3 35/4p 18. …

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