The development and use of the zoom lens in American film and television: 1946-1974
Date: 26 September 2012
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in English
This dissertation documents two aspects of the development and use of zoom lenses in American film and television from 1946 to 1974. It contributes a detailed account of the impact of Zoomar lenses on early postwar American television, and of the later role of ‘TV Generation’ creative figures who started their careers in television ...
This dissertation documents two aspects of the development and use of zoom lenses in American film and television from 1946 to 1974. It contributes a detailed account of the impact of Zoomar lenses on early postwar American television, and of the later role of ‘TV Generation’ creative figures who started their careers in television before becoming feature directors. Chapter 1 introduces the study and defines key terms used throughout. Chapter 2 includes a comprehensive literature review of existing critical and historical approaches to the zoom lens. Chapter 3 outlines methodologies for source selection and analysis. Chapter 4 accounts for the development and technological heritage of the Zoomar lens. Inventive efforts and methods used by its primary inventor, Frank Back, are discussed. Chapter 5 outlines the means by which Back and his business partners marketed the lens. In Chapter 6, the extent to which the lens was used in the American television industry between 1946 and 1956 is demonstrated. Chapter 7 discusses the American market entry of the Pan Cinor zoom lens, and attempts by Zoomar to use patent law to block it. Chapter 8 discusses the way in which zoom lenses were used in television during the later 1950s and early 1960s, with a particular focus on some of the ‘TV Generation’ directors. Chapter 9 discusses developments in zoom lens technology and in industrial attitudes towards the use of such technology. Chapter 10 discusses the use of the zoom by TV Generation directors in their later feature film work. The final chapter compares discussions of Robert Altman’s use of the zoom in the early 1970s with the problematizing example of contemporaneous television style. Significant findings are summarized, and areas for future investigation suggested. Specifically, the dissertation demonstrates that early postwar American television is a rich untapped area for future investigations of the roots of film technology, and that from 1946 to 1974 zoom lens development was more gradual, incremental and complex than previously suggested.
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