A few weeks ago, I wrote about Jerry Lewis' role in the development of "video assist" technology, the use of video technology to support film making (see "Jerry Lewis and the elusive Video Assist patent"). Lewis was credited as the inventor of video assist during the Academy Awards telecast in February, and more specifically, was said to hold a patent on the technology.
I looked for this patent because I thought it would be interesting to write about it here, but I didn't find it. After I contacted the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for help with the story, it looked too. The bottom line is that there is no such patent.
It turns out that video assist goes back to well before 1956, when Lewis claims to have invented it--as he did in a 2008 interview with Peter Bogdanovich.
Thanks to a commenter on my original post, plus some long discussions with Jim Songer, an engineer who made substantial contributions to video assist in the 1960s, I have tracked down what may be the earliest patents on video-assist technology.
But before I get into those patents, let me describe the elements of video assist technology in a little more detail.
First, video assist relates primarily to motion picture production. As the name suggests, the purpose of the video is to assist the production by allowing the director, actors, and other crew members to review what's being filmed. This can be done live, or if video recording is used, the video can be reviewed after the shot.
The ultimate implementation of video assist requires simultaneous film and video recording of the same scene with the greatest possible quality and convenience. Accordingly, both film and video recording should be accomplished with what amounts to one camera, which should meet all the other requirements for motion-picture principal photography, use the same viewfinder and all of the same controls, and work with the same lenses and lighting.
There can still be considerable value to a system that doesn't meet all these requirements. Indeed, the earliest video-assist systems were very simple.
US Patent 2,420,197 by Adolph H. Rosenthal, issued in 1947 with a 1944 filing date, describes combining film and video cameras on… Read more