Thursday, January 24, 2008

Obituary of Chadwell O'Connor

"Obituary of Chadwell O'Connor", © TVTechnology, January 24, 2008. (Obituary)

"Chadwell O'Connor, inventor of the counterbalanced fluid-drag camera head has died at the age of 92.

... Another locomotive buff and studio head, Walt Disney, observed O'Connor filming trains at [the Glendale] California train station and inquired about the unusual pan and tilt head. Disney was working on a new film, The Living Desert, and asked O'Connor to construct a similar head to solve some problems associated with that production. The event sparked a lifelong friendship between O'Connor and Disney, and also the beginnings of O'Connor Engineering [which also built the replica CPRR Jupiter and UPRR 119 steam locomotives for the National Park Service's first transcontinental railroad Promontory Summit site, the engines painted by Disney employee volunteers]." [More]

Replica Jupiter & 119 steam engines manufactured by O'Connor Engineering
Replica Jupiter & 119 steam engines
manufactured by O'Connor Engineering

["O'Connor Engineering Laboratories was founded in 1949 by Chadwell O’Connor. Chad, once a designer and builder of steam power plants, always had a passion for steam locomotives. ... " (The "improved fluid-damped tripod head, for which he won Academy Awards in 1975 and 1992," now commonly used for video, was invented by Chadwell O’Connor to allow smooth panning of the tripod head while he was doing cinematography of trains, i.e., to avoid the jerking motion of a conventional tripod head.)]

[" ... Disney was so happy with his first O'Connor [tripod] head that he immediately ordered 10 more. His film, The Living Desert, won the first Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 1953. To produce his new fluid head, O'Connor founded a part-time business in 1952, first building them in his garage and then from a small factory on Green Street in Pasadena, which his wife Regina ran during the day. By 1969 O'Connor Engineering Labs was so successful that O'Connor left his 'day job' at Pasadena Power and Light to work full time on camera heads and steam engines at O’Connor Engineering. ... "]