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Verne Carlson

Cinematographer, author

Verne Carlson, specialty-film cinematographer and author, died Feb. 5 of heart failure in Oxnard, Calif. He was 76.

Carlson’s career began at Warner Bros. Studios in 1946 after naval service in World War II. He worked as a grip and electrician in San Francisco and Los Angeles until he was elevated to director of photography.

A master of high-speed filming and other special techniques, he became a second unit director at several of the studios, including U, UA and Columbia, and worked on specialty films including “The Moviemakers,” “Bullit: Steve McQueen’s Commitment to Reality,” “SF Airport,” “White Line Fever” and “Dog Soldiers.”

He later worked as production manager for Don Flagg Prods. on 1950s TV series “Parole,” “China Smith” and “The Mel Torme Show.” Carlson also wrote and directed many of the “Comeback” docudramas hosted by James Whitmore in 1979.

TV specials he worked included ones with Lucille Ball and Julie Andrews, plus numerous commercials and industrial shorts.

Kudos include the Columbus Film Festival Chris Award for directing and a London Film Festival Award.

A student and teacher of cinematography, Carlson authored several books including “The Professional Lighting Handbook” and “The Professional Cameraman’s Handbook,” which serves as a mandatory textbook at several university film schools.

His varied subject matters on film spilled over into his books as well: He also authored the “Cowboy Cookbook.”

Carlson was a member of the Intl. Cinematographers Guild Local 600 for 35 years. He served as a contributing editor for Intl. Photographer and wrote for American Cinematographer and Film World.

He served as an associate professor at California State U. Long Beach and lecture at Moorpark College and elsewhere. He also was active in the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies, the American Society of Lighting Directors and numerous others.

He is survived by companion Jean Lewis, two sisters and a brother.

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