French inventor Jean-Marie Lavalou, who received an Academy Award of Merit for engineering and developing the very first remote-controlled camera crane, died in Paris on July 15. He was 76.
Lavalou was born in Normandie, France, into a family of camembert cheese makers. He later met inventor Alain Masseron and pivoted professions. In the 1970s, the duo came up with the idea that would become The Louma Crane while filming a movie inside a submarine during their national service in France.
Partnering with David Samuelson of Samuelson Film Services, The Louma Crane (named for its inventors surnames, "Lou" and "Ma.") became the world's first remote-controlled camera crane, allowing for more fluid crane shots and revolutionizing the ways motion pictures could be shot.
The Louma Crane was notably used on Steven Spielberg's 1978 screwball war comedy, 1941, on which Lavalou served as a technical advisor. (Lavalou and Spielberg are pictured together above.) The movie earned three nominations at the 52nd Oscars, including Best Cinematography for William A. Fraker, as well as Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.
In 2005, Lavalou, along with Masseron and Samuelson, received the Academy Award of Merit for their Louma Crane. The trio previously had won an Academy Scientific and Engineering Award in 1981 for the creation.
"Jean-Marie worked day and night adapting the crane to the demands of Hollywood filmmaking," former Panavision executive Andy Romanoff said (via Variety). "In later years, he became friends with camera crews all around the world as he visited sets to hear how he could make the crane easier and more useful for them. He spent his whole life dedicated to making better tools for making movies."