WOODLAND HILLS – Tak Miyagishima, Panavision senior vice president of engineering, who received an Academy Award in 2005 for his pioneering achievements in film optics passed away on Aug. 4. He was 83.
“Tak’s technical and professional accomplishments are well documented, but equally important was his quiet and thoughtful leadership. The knowledge and instruction he shared with his colleagues will be a lasting legacy, and Tak will always be remembered and admired within Panavision,” said John Suh, president and CEO of Panavision.
Miyagishima was one of the first employees hired in 1955 by Robert Gottschalk, founder of Panavision. From 1955-2011, he was involved in the design of many Panavision products that changed the way motion pictures were made, and most notably for the design of the Panavision optics that gained worldwide recognition during his tenure. His legacy is permanently imprinted on the company as the designer of the famous Panavision logo.
Miyagishima was born in Gardena on March 15, 1928 and lived on Terminal Island. When World War II broke out, he and his family moved to Utah.
Originally hired as a draftsman, Miyagishima quickly became the lead mechanical designer for Panavision’s growing line of optics. His first project was the mechanical design of the Super Panatar projection lens (1955), which allowed theater owners to project multiple widescreen formats. Together with Walter Wallin, he designed the Micro Panatar Printing Lens (1955) used by film laboratories to produce film release prints from the numerous negative formats in use at that time.
Following that was the 65mm Ultra and Super Panavision camera systems, including both studio and hand-held cameras and accompanying lenses. Again with Wallin, he oversaw the design and development of the Panavision Panatar anamorphic lenses (1958) for widescreen photography.
In 1960, Miyagishima was instrumental in the design of the famous “Lawrence of Arabia” telephoto lens (the “mirage” lens), which captured the iconic shot of Omar Sharif emerging from the desert. In 1967, he was involved in the design of the blimp housing for the 35mm Mitchell camera, which became known as the Panavision Silent Reflex Camera (PSR).
For the next several decades, Miyagishima focused his attention on the development of Panavision optics, which included several series of 35mm spherical and anamorphic lenses, culminating in the mechanical design of the ground-breaking Primo lens series. His involvement in technological advancement included all facets of Panavision’s engineering and development process. His contributions were instrumental in setting many SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) standards, including the standard for 35mm 3-perf capture, which has been used by the television industry since the mid-1980s.
Even though the majority of Miyagishima’s career was during the film era, he continued to be actively involved as Panavision transitioned from film into digital capture.
“Tak was probably best known professionally for his numerous contributions to the development of the widescreen cinema. What is less well-known are his myriad contributions to the development of electronic cinematography that continued until his final illness. We have lost a valued colleague and a wonderful friend,” said John Galt, senior vice president of Panavision Advanced Digital Imaging.
During his long history at Panavision, Miyagishima was a member of many organizations, including the American Society of Cinematographers, SMPTE, the Academy’s Science and Technology Committee and the International Standards Organization (ISO). In July, Miyagishima was given a copy of his oral history, of which the only other two copies reside in the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library and at the Pickford.
Miyagishima has been presented with multiple awards over the course of his career, including a Fuji Gold Medal, an Emmy statuette and the ASC’s President Award (received with Al Mayer Sr., Panavision). In 1999, he received the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation from the Academy, and in 2005 he was awarded the highest honor from the Academy, an Oscar statuette, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, which is given to a select group of people for their contributions the industry.
As someone who was present at the birth of the company, Miyagishima’s influence on Panavision’s iconic rise is only surpassed by the respect he earned during his career from his peers and fellow employees. “Tak was a mentor to generations, myself included. One of Tak’s greatest attributes was his willingness and eagerness to share his vast accumulation of knowledge he acquired over five decades in this industry,” said Dave Kenig, long-term employee and friend.
Phil Radin, executive vice president of worldwide marketing, added, “Tak was one of those rare individuals whose life made such a positive impact on many different levels. He was a supportive and loving husband, raised wonderful children, and had a vast and meaningful impact on the industry he chose to work in. He also had a long and fruitful life.”
He is survived by his wife, Yoshie; sons, Daryl, Bryan, and Paul; and grandsons, Nathan, Miles, and Matthew.