'Jaws 3D' cinematographer invented cameras in the format

3D pioneer Chris Condon, who was d.p. on 1983’s “Jaws 3D” and founded StereoVision, died Dec. 19 in Encino, Calif., of complications from a stroke. He was 87.

Condon invented 3D camera lenses, including a widescreen 3-D lens for 35mm and 70mm reflex motion picture cameras. Besides his work as cinematographer for “Jaws 3D,” he made films in the format including “The Volcano Creature”; “The CIA Girls of Capitol Hill”; “Surfer Girls,” which he also wrote; and “Mr. Howard’s Crazy Airline.”

Jim Chabin, prexy of the Intl. 3D Society, called Condon a mentor to many of the current generation of 3D professionals. “He was 3D before 3D was cool,” Chabin said. “A lot of people feel he paved the way for 3D now.”

The society bestowed its inaugural lifetime achievement award on Condon in October, but because he was too ill to attend the ceremony it was taped and played for Condon. “He loved the new 3D movies,” Chabin said.

Born Christo Dimitri Koudounis, Condon served in the Army Air Force during WWII in the Pacific Theater. After leaving the military he moved to Santa Monica, where he was employed by Douglas Aircraft before beginning his career as an photo-optical designer and manufacturer at Century Precision Optics.

His 40-year career in 3D was inspired at the 1953 premiere of Warners’ “House of Wax,” starring Vincent Price. At the suggestion of Allan Silliphant he began developing a 3D camera lens that required use of a single camera (improving upon the dual-camera rigs used for 3D productions of the 1950s). From 1969-98 Condon’s StereoVisionUSA lenses were used on more than 50 3D feature and industrial film projects in the U.S. and abroad, including in France, Israel, Japan and India.

He founded Magnavision in 1969. The company released its first 3D pic, “The Stewardesses,” in 1971 after which the name was changed to StereoVision Entertainment.

The following year, Condon got a patent for a special widescreen 3D camera lens for 35mm and 70mm reflex motion picture cameras.

StereoVision supplied a range of 3D equipment, from cameras for production to projection optics for exhibitors. The company helped with production of Indian 3D film “Chota chetan” in 1984, and its products are used in Japan.

And after working as d.p. on “Jaws 3D,” he lensed “Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn” and lensed and produced 1987’s “Evil Spawn.”

He continued to work as a consultant for 3D productions throughout the world until his retirement in 2008.

Condon, with Joseph Mascelli, wrote the American Cinematography Manual for the American Cinematographers Society in 1963.

Survivors include a daughter; three brothers; and a sister.

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