Lenny (Leonard) Lipton

Inventor, Author,
Songwriter and Filmmaker

May 18, 1940 – October 5, 2022

2008_06_29 Lenny Lipton at Puff the Magic Dragon book reading

in Westwood, LA, CA by Susan Pinsky -  LeiaPix_2x1

2011_02_09 International 3D Society Awar

2011_02_09 International 3D Society Lifetime Achievement Award

by David Starkman_18

Lenny Lipton at electronics convention b

1982 Lenny Lipton at Electronics Convention demonstrating

his 3-D system by Susan Pinsky

1982 People viewing Lenny Lipton's 3-D system at Electronics Convention by David Starkman

1977 Super8 Filmmaker magazine cover of Lenny Lipton  - LeiaPix

2006_09_08 3D Gala Egyptian Theater Julie and Lenny Lipton premiere 2 by Susan Pinsky

2006_02_16 Lenny and Julie Lipton at Stereo Club of So Calif.

meeting by Susan Pinsky

2010_10_19 Lenny Lipton introducing Lumiere Award winner at International 3D Society by David Starkman_4

2008_01_29 Lenny Lipton being interviewe

2008_01_29 Lenny Lipton being interviewed by Ray Zone - LeaiPix

2008_06_29 Lenny Lipton at Puff the Magic Dragon reading with audience by John Hart, CA

1988_11_15 Uncle John's Bathroom Reader © Profile Lenny Lipton 

1978 3D enthusiasts-Jim Butterfield, Michael Starks, Susan Pinsky & others at Lenny Lipton twin Super8 3D film by David Starkman

2003 Noah, Julie, Jonah and Anna Lipton by Lenny Lipton

by Lenny Lipton - LeiaPix

2008_06_29 Puff the Magic Dragon reading with Eric Kurland, Ray Zone, Lenny Lipton, John Hart, Jonah Lipton, Susan Pinsky and Noah Lipton  by David Starkman 

2007_07_02 Physics World © interview with Lenny Lipton 

2006_07_30  Lenny Lipton and Ray Zone before Monster House 3D screening at Clarity theater by David Starkman_22  - LeiaPix

2006_09_08 3D Gala Egyptian Theater Jason Goodman,

Bernard Mendiburo and Lenny Lipton  by David Starkman 190

2006_02_16 Stephen Gibson and Lenny Lipton

at Stereo Club of So Calif. 1 by Susan Pinsky

2006_09_08 Dan Symmes and Lenny Lipton 3D filmfest

by David Starkman

2006_07_30 David Starkman, Josh Greer, and Lenny Lipton at

Monster House in 3D screening at Clarity Theater in Beverly Hills, CA

by Susan Pinsky

2006_07_30 Noah Lipton at Monster House in 3D screening at Clarity

by Susan Pinsky

2006_08_14 Projection lens at Monster House 3D screening at

Clarity theater, Beverly Hills, CA by David Starkman_07

2008_04_14 Society for Information Display meeting at RealD Clarity Theater with Lenny Lipton, David Starkman, Snowy and Julie Lipton

by Susan Pinsky

2010 Lenny Lipton downtown independant b

2010 Lenny Lipton Downtown Independant Theater by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_14 Society for Information Display meeting at RealD Clarity Theater with Ray Zone, David Starkman and Lenny Lipton

by Susan Pinsky

2010_10_19 Lenny Lipton introducing Lumiere award at International

3D Society  by David Starkman_4

2010_10_19 Buzz Hayes and Lenny Lipton International 3D Society

by David Starkman_045 

2010_Joy_Park_Ray_Zone_Lenny_Lipton_and_

2010_10_19 Joy Park, Ray Zone, Lenny Lipton and Buzz Hayes at International 3D Society by David Starkman_315

2011 I3DS 9 Feb a by David Starkman_06_e

2011_02_09 Jonah and Lenny Lipton at International 3D Society awards ceremony by David Starkman_06

2010_02_23 Lenny and Julie Lipton at the 1st annual International 3D Society Awards at Mann's Chinese Theater by David Starkman 

2006_09_08 3D Gala Egyptian Theater filmfest- man, Bob Burns, Lenny Lipton, Phil McNally, Ray Zone and more by Susan Pinsky

2011_02_08 Internationa 3D Societ Awards

2011_02_08 International 3D Society Awards David Starkman,

Susan Pinsky and Lenny Lipton by anon

2012_01_19 International 3D Society Technical Awards Lenny Lipton presenting 2 by David Starkman

2012_12_16 Susan Pinsky, Lenny Lipton and Rob Engle at Downtown Independent Theater for Ray Zone Memorial by David Starkman 

2013_02_11 Society of Displays and Advertising, San Francisco, Vivian Walworth, man, Susan Pinsky, man, Terry Wilson, Lenny Lipton,

Eric Kurland by David Starkman

2006_02_16 Stephen Gibson and Lenny Lipt

2006_02_16 Stephen Gibson and Lenny Lipton at Stereo Club of So Calif. 2 by Susan Pinsky

2008_06_29 Ray Zone, John Hart, David Starkman and Lenny Lipton in Westwood, LA, CA for Puff book reading by Susan Pinsky

2010_10_19 Joy Park, Ray Zone, Lenny Lipton and Buzz Hayes at International 3D Society by David Starkman_319

2010_Lenny_Lipton_at_the_Lumiere_Awards_

2010_02_18 Charlotte Huggins with Lenny Lipton at the International 3D Society Lumiere Awards by David Starkman 

SPApr2008JonahNoahJulie&HillaryLipton_ed

2008_04_14 Society for Information Display meeting at RealD Clarity Theater with Jonah, Noah and Julie Lipton, holding Snowy

by Susan Pinsky

2017 NSA Irvine CA convention Lenny Lipt

2017 NSA Irvine CA convention Lenny Lipton smiling by Susan Pinsky

2017_08_11 NSA Irvine CA convention Lenny Lipton and John Rupkalvis

by Susan Pinsky

2017_08_11 NSA Irvine CA David Burder, Lenny and Julie Lipton,

John Rupkalvis and Larry Wyatt by Susan Pinsky_1

2007 Stereoscopic Displays and Applications Conference

with Lenny Lipton by Lawrence Kaufman_1

2007 Stereoscopic Displays and Applications Conference

with Lenny Lipton by Lawrence Kaufman_2

2007 Stereoscopic Displays and Applications Conference

with Lenny Lipton by Lawrence Kaufman_3

2007 Stereoscopic Displays and Applications Conference

with Lenny Lipton by Lawrence Kaufman_5

2007_05_12 Stereo Club of So Calif Movie Division judges Bob Burns, Lenny Lipton and Phil McNally by Lawrence Kaufman_03

2007_05_12 Stereo Club of So Calif Movie Division judges Bob Burns, Lenny Lipton and Phil McNally by Lawrence Kaufman_04

2007_05_12 Stereo Club of So Calif Movie Division judges Bob Burns, Lenny Lipton and Phil McNally by Lawrence Kaufman_07

2007_05_12 SCSC Movie Div judges Bob Bur

2007_05_12 SCSC 5th Ever Movie Division judging board showing

 Bob Burns, Lenny Lipton and Phil McNally as judges

by Lawrence Kaufman_09

2007_05_12 Stereo Club of So Calif Movie Division judge Lenny Lipton

by Lawrence Kaufman_07

Lenny Lipton, 3D Film Technology Trailblazer and 'Puff the Magic Dragon' Lyricist, Dies at 82

                                                                                    By Katie Reul ©

Lenny Lipton, the New York-native who wrote the lyrics to what became Peter, Paul and Mary's popular folk song "Puff, the Magic Dragon," died on Oct. 5 from brain cancer at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his wife told The New York Times. He was 82.

In 1959, Lipton was a 19-year-old physics major at Cornell University. Feeling inspired after reading Ogden Nash's poem "The Tale of Custard the Dragon," he borrowed the typewriter of his schoolmate Peter Yarrow — one-third of the Peter, Paul and Mary trio — to scribe a creation of his own. But when Yarrow saw Lipton's poem abandoned at the keys, he decided to put it to music, becoming the well-known 1963 song "Puff, the Magic Dragon."

Lipton received a co-writer credit on the track, which was an instant hit among listeners. Through royalties, Lipton generated enough money to move to the Bay Area in California, where he became cohorts with a diverse scene of independent filmmakers. It was here he was launched into the film industry and began working on experimental shorts like 1969's "Doggie Diner and the Return of Doggie Diner."

Lipton also entered into the studio system during his career, receiving a production assistant credit on the 1975 best picture winner "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Throughout the 70's, Lipton wrote two books for independent filmmakers, the first titled "Independent Filmmaking" (1972) and the second titled "The Super 8 Book" (1975). Writing wasn't new for Lipton, seeing as he secured a job at Time magazine shortly after graduating in 1962, before moving to an editor position at Popular Photography. In the years that followed, Lipton continued to contribute columns to entertainment magazines. His writings were ultimately aggregated into a compendium called "Lipton on Filmmaking" in 1979.

Lipton was also at the helm of experimentation with three-dimensional technology for filmmakers — an interest that began in to his youth, when he would draw comics with red and green crayons to view with make-shift 3D glasses. As a child, Lipton was among some of the first audiences to see 3D films in theaters. Though the early technology was far from perfect, the concept resonated with Lipton and inspired a life-long career dedicated to the craft.

The multi-talented creative held 68 patents related to 3D technology. One example is a pair of glasses with shutters that open and close in sync with the screen to deliver imagery to the viewer, dubbed CrystalEyes. The Smithsonian Institution honored Lipton for the invention of CrystalEyes in 1996.

Development for these projects was funded by Stereographics Corporation, a company Lipton created in 1980, until RealD Cinema purchased the corporation in 2005. As a result of the acquisition, Lipton worked as chief technology officer at RealD until 2009. His work remains the inspiration for RealD's modern cinema systems.

"I had a great education at Cornell but I was a decidedly mediocre student," Lipton said with modesty in an interview with Physics World magazine in 2007. "I am a creative and determined person and I got a lot smarter once I found a field I loved. I see the world becoming one in which children are pointed in the direction of money as an end in itself. I hate living in that kind of a world. Schools need to be more accepting of eccentric people with a different point of view because we are the people who make the difference. We are the people who invent."

Lipton is survived by his wife, Julie, and his children, Anna, Noah and Jonah.
 

2008 Lenny Lipton and Phil Captain 3D McNally by David Kuntz

2008_04_24 Lenny Lipton and friend at restaurant by Susan Pinsky 1

2008_04_24 Lenny Lipton and friends at restaurant by Susan Pinsky 23

2008_04_24 Lenny Lipton and friend at restaurant by Susan Pinsky 23

2008_06_29 Eric Kurland, Ray Zone, Lenny Lipton, John Hart, Jonah Lipton, Susan Pinsky and Noah Lipton for Puff Magic Dragon reading

by David Starkman 

2008_06_29 Lenny Lipton signing Puff Magic Dragon book in Westwood by Susan Pinsky 

 

2009 Andrew Woods, Lenny Lipton, John O Merritt, man and Ray Zone by Lawrence Kaufman_2

2009 Lenny Lipton by Lawrence Kaufman_1

2009 Society of Photographic Imaging Electronically Conference with Lenny Lipton  by Lawrence Kaufman 1

2009 Society of Photographic Imaging Electronically Conference with Lenny Lipton with Ray Zone by Lawrence Kaufman 

2010 Rob Engle, Ray Zone, Jason Goodman, Lenny Lipton, man, Phil Capt 3D McNally and Presenters by Lawrence Kaufman (1)

2001 SMPTE Journal, September article by Lenny Lipton 

2010 SCSC Movie Night with Ray Zone, Gre

2010 SCSC Movie Night with Ray Zone, Greg Dinkins and Lenny Lipton by Lawrence Kaufman

2013_10_17 SCSC Meeting with Lenny Lipton, Valerie Lettera, Susan Pinsky, Steve Berezin by Lawrence Kaufman

2010_02_18 International 3D Society with

2010_02_18 International 3D Society with Joy Park, Ray Zone and

Lenny Lipton by Lawrence Kaufman_1

2010_03_xx Oculus screening with Lenny Lipton and John Rupkalvis

by Lawrence Kaufman_5

2010_03_xx Oculus screening with Lenny Lipton and John Rupkalvis by Lawrence Kaufman_4

2011 SMPTE convention Ray Zone, Jason Goodman and Lenny Lipton

 by Lawrence Kaufman

2012 Dave Gregory, Lawrence Kaufman and Lenny Lipton at the

Stereo Club of So California by Cassie Kaufman 

2012_12_16 Ray Zone Memorial at Downtown Independent Theater

 with Lenny Lipton speaking by Lawrence Kaufman

2012_12_16 Ray Zone Memorial at Downtown Independent Theater

 with Lenny Lipton speaking by Lawrence Kaufman_18

2012_12_16 Ray Zone Memorial at Downtown Independent Theater

 with Charlotte Huggins with Lenny Lipton by Susan Pinsky

2012_12_16 Ray Zone Memorial Susan Pinsky, Lenny Lipton and

Rob Engel at Downtown Independent by David Starkman

2022_05_21 Lenny Lipton's 82 birthday by Susan Pinsky_03 - LeiaPix

2022_05_21 Lenny Lipton's 82 birthday by Susan Pinsky_05 - LeiaPix

1974_01_15 Oakland Tribune Lenny Lipton

1974_01_15 Oakland Tribune Lenny Lipton is instructing a beginniners class

2008_06_29 Listen to Lenny Lipton reading his book "Puff the Magic Dragon"  to YOU in Los Angeles by Susan Pinsky

LENNY LIPTON: PROJECTING HISTORY THROUGH THE MAGIC LANTERN

By TREVOR HOGG

Images courtesy of Lenny Lipton, except where noted. 
20211031_093655_edited.jpg

Lenny Lipton, Author/Filmmaker/Inventor

The cover of The Cinema in Flux: The Evolution of Motion Picture Technology from the Magic Lantern to the Digital Era by Lenny Lipton (Springer).

A poem left in the typewriter belonging to Cornell University classmate Peter Yarrow, who would in turn compose accompanying music, had a huge impact on Lenny Lipton, as the song royalties for “Puff the Magic Dragon” have provided a lifetime of financial security. “It’s a weird story but true!” notes Lipton, who spent a decade-long odyssey of researching and writing his homage to cinematic innovators, titled The Cinema in Flux: The Evolution of Motion Picture Technology from the Magic Lantern to the Digital Era. Lipton is a kindred spirit, being a pioneer of stereography and founding the StereoGraphics Corporation in 1980, which two decades later was acquired by Real D Cinema. The physics graduate developed the first electronic stereoscopic visualization eyewear known as CrystalEyes, which has been used for molecular modeling, aerial mapping, and to remotely drive the Mars Rovers. “I saw 3D movies and comic books as a kid in the early 1950s which got me interested in the stereographic medium. 

“When I approached Springer, I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” remarks Lipton. “I wanted a low-cost book that was one volume and had a lot of color. They sent me samples of their books that were beautiful. I found a great editor in Sam Harrison and we worked on the book together. I thought I was done, but you see the book differently when you’re starting to lay it out. No matter how smart you are there are things that you can’t envision. I kept finding things that I could fix and illustrations to be improved. 

During the 18 months of working with Sam and the production department, I made 9,000 changes to the manuscript that were big and little. I’m a much better copy editor than a proofreader!” 

 

 

Appropriately, a Hollywood icon known for developing and producing technology to improve the theatrical experience wrote the foreword. “I’m closer to Douglas Trumbull than most people in the world in terms of our careers. I wished that he lived in Los Angeles, but we do see each other often. We are a lot alike.” There is a personal connection to the subject matter. “That’s the beautiful thing about it. The Cinema in Flux calls upon my years of doing what I did. I became a self-taught filmmaker and an entrepreneur. I raised a lot of money for my company; I ran it, registered numerous patents, and had a lot of experience in product development. It was almost like I was training to write this. I do empathize with the inventors and their struggles. It is a book about inventors. I don’t know how anybody becomes an inventor. You’re probably wired that way at birth.”

Louis and Auguste Lumière invented the film camera known as the Cinématographe that also functioned as a photo developer and projector.

Considered to be the inventor of special effects in movies, Georges Méliès is pictured in his studio located in Montreuil, France circa 1897.

A color frame from A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès is compared to a hand-colored

Magic Lantern slide.

By using his trolley camera for locomotion studies Étienne-Jules Marey pioneered the technique of performance capture.

A Magic Lantern created by Ernst Plank circa 1900.

Even the Lumière brothers were experimenting with 3D by creating viewing eyewear for their 35mm horizontal-traveling stereo format.

1937 Inventor Erich Kästner with his prototype of the ARRIFLEX 35 in 1937

The ground floor of the West Orange, New Jersey lab belonging to renowned inventor Thomas Edison.

“I understand this technology and tried to explain it in my own words to the reader,” notes Lipton. “The vast majority of quotes in the book have a historical importance that gives some insight into the inventor’s process and state of mind. Even when the inventor was lying, I thought that was interesting too.” The project provided an opportunity to recognize underappreciated contributions. “For the most part my account celebrates the best-known inventors who were by prior scholars attributed correctly.” There are certain controversial figures like Thomas Edison. “The problem with Edison is by inventing the phonograph, an electronical distribution system, a very good lightbulb, and the first motion picture camera, he invented modern entertainment, and there is no one who can take it away from him.

An overlooked contributor to the technical advancements of motion pictures is Theodore Case who invented optical sound on film.

A phenakistoscope disc was used to create the illusion of motion from still images

Different ways to present movies to audiences, such as utilizing a geodesic dome rather than a traditional flat theatrical screen.

Stanley Kubrick and Garrett Brown shooting The Shining with a Steadicam.

The guy who is most overlooked is Theodore Case who essentially invented optical sound on film as it was used for almost a century. His technology was licensed to Western Electric which took the lion’s share of the credit.” 

Some of the significant inventions were not intended to be applied to cinema. “The guys who were working on celluloid for film were thinking about photography and snapshots,” notes Lipton. “The most interesting example of a serendipitous invention that profoundly influenced cinema is Joseph Plateau and the phenakistoscope. It is like a zoetrope. It is a contraption that you can spin and has slits. You look into a slit, then into a mirror and see a moving image. That was invented in about 1832, and it had nothing to do with cinema and the projection of images. But for the next 50 years, inventors applied that discovery of apparent motion and the phenakistoscope technology to the magic lantern. Celluloid cinema, which was with us for most of the recent history of cinema, is a hybrid of the phenakistoscope and magic lantern. You can produce the illusion of moving images by properly projecting or presenting frames that are incrementally different. Another curious aspect was that Joseph Plateau was going blind when he made the discovery.” 

The Cinema in Flux is an overview of the technological advancements in cinema. “It’s a sprawling subject,” observes Lipton. “Possibly any one of those chapters could have been turned into a book of this length, but I couldn’t do that. What we called cinema from the get-go included the projection of motion with sound and color. 

By 1790, reasonably bright and decent-sized painted color slides were being projected that had narrators, musicians and sound-effects people. Without getting into esoteric disciplines like costume design, makeup and visual effects, I thought that the broad characteristics of cinema that existed from inception were motion, color and sound. Therefore, I needed to explore the evolution of those technologies through 350 years.” The advances in technology have caused the cinematic language to evolve.

“The most dramatic thing that I can think of is the advances in digital cinema, which has had a profound effect on motion picture production and exhibition.” The next major stage for cinema may well be the shift from audience members being passive to active participants, much like video games and virtual reality. “In the long run [that] technology will become feasible. In the short run I don’t know.” 

As to whether inventors and their inventions are a product of the period in which they live, Lipton responds, “There is a current that runs through these inventors and maybe all inventors. There is an ornery tenaciousness to many inventors. Often when people invent something, their vision of how it will be deployed is different from the rest of the world. Edison gets credit for inventing the research lab, which is maybe one of his greatest inventions. The damnedest thing is after the research lab became part of corporate entities, they started calling inventors ‘engineers.’ In some cases, if a guy was highly qualified, he’d be called a scientist. Corporations would never call an employee an inventor, and there is a good reason for that. The term inventor implies ownership.

 

Corporations don’t want inventors to have that. The idea of science as a separate discipline doesn’t occur until the mid-19th century. Most of the people I write about in the early days, which until relatively recently, I describe as autodidact, people who taught themselves, or polymaths or both. Polymaths are masters of many disciplines. The idea of a specialty is a new idea. There aren’t many maverick independent inventors in the world. 

“I have to tell you that if I wasn’t emotional and didn’t have strong feelings [about the subject matter], I couldn’t have written this book,” reflects Lipton. “I had to focus on the chemistry and the science because if you don’t have any of it then you don’t have movies. A lot of us in the motion picture industry don’t know the history of the technology, so I hope that the book will be a good read for them. It is a small contribution to humanity and human intelligence to be able to provide a book like this because I’m thankful of people who wrote the books, patents and articles; I believe in that tradition. I can only thank God that I had the wherewithal to do it. If we don’t support and help eccentric people who are working on strange projects then we will be less human.”

 IMAX co-founder Graeme Ferguson operating a 15 perf 70mm camera.

3ality stereoscopic rig was used to shoot Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Th Picture editing literally went from being a cut-and-paste process to footage being digitally shifted around inside of a computer courtesy of software programs such as Avid Media Composer

Autochrome-of-Charlie-Chaplin A restored autochrome portrait of Charlie Chaplin in Hollywood, circa 1917-1918. -Image courtesy of George Eastman House/Charles Zoller/The Image Works

Lenny Lipton with Méliès camera

The Cinema in Flux 2021 by Lenny Lipton

2021 book review of "Cinema in Flux" by Lenny Lipton

by Laurent Mannoni

by Susan Pinsky and David Starkman 

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Lenny Lipton on October 5, 2022.

 

Lenny had some of the greatest impact on our current digital forms of 3D imaging, more than almost anyone in the world of 3D. He started with humble beginnings, creating a twin-Super 8 3D camera and projection system using off the shelf components.

 

We were privileged to meet Lenny for the first time at a July 1978 screening of a 3-D film called "Barge Dwellers" that he shot and projected with his twin Super 8 system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was the author of "The Super 8 Book", "Foundations of the Stereoscopic Cinema", many others, and earlier this year he finished a ten year book project, "The Cinema in Flux".


His interest in 3D led to him founding Stereographics, which developed some of the first commercially available LCD shutter glasses for 3D viewing on computer monitors. This led to the same technology that was used in active 3D TVs. The company's "Z-Screen" was a polarizing panel that performed the same function as the LCD glasses, but allowed viewing with passive 3D glasses. This was basically the same technology that led to the RealD system that is used by most movie theaters for projecting 3-D movies with digital projectors. Until his retirement, Lenny was the Chief Technical Officer at the RealD Corporation. He was a Fellow of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers and of the SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics), with over 53 patents in his name and many others  pending.

 

Needless to say, we all should take a moment to honor his memory, and his contributions to the world of 3-D.


Lenny received the Society for Information Display Silver Display of the Year Award, on behalf of RealD, for his contributions to the digital stereoscopic cinema. In July of 2007 he was the Physicist of the Month in Physics World magazine. In 2011 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International 3D Society, and he was profiled in The Wall Street Journal. The year before he was an invited speaker at the Cinémathèque Française, and he was the keynote speaker at the National Stereoscopic Association's 3D-Con 2012 in Costa Mesa, CA.


After founding StereoGraphics Corporation in 1980 he led the team that invented the ZScreen electro-optical modulator, at the heart of today's 3D theatrical projection. During his tenure as Chief Technology Officer of RealD, which acquired StereoGraphics in 2005, Lenny helped perfect the projection system (based on the ZScreen) which is installed in 20,000 cinemas worldwide. After more than a century of effort, 3D has become a standard filmmaking tool.

 

Lenny received an award from the Smithsonian Institution for StereoGraphic's invention of CrystalEyes, the first electronic eyewear for computer graphics and video applications such as molecular modeling, aerial mapping and medical imaging. CrystalEyes remained in production for two decades, and is the basis for current 3D TV viewing technology from Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and others. NASA selected it to remotely pilot the Mars Rovers, and it was used by Lockheed to design the upgrade for the Hubble Space Telescope.


He independently produced 25 films that have aired on PBS, Italian television and the BBC, and are now in the Pacific Film Archive collection at the University of California. His film "Let a Thousand Parks Bloom" was selected for the Summer of Love exhibition at the Tate Liverpool Museum (2005), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (2007). In the 1970s he received a grant from the American Film Institute to produce his film "Revelation of the Foundation". He acted as cultural representative for the State Department on trips to Venezuela, and Brazil, and was a juror at film festivals around the world.


Lenny created Puff the Magic Dragon, Jackie Paper, and the Land of Honah Lee, when he was a college freshman in 1959. He wrote the poem which became the song made popular by Peter, Paul and Mary. The childrens' picture book of Puff has sold over a million copies and has been translated into fourteen languages.


His book "Independent Filmmaking", was in print for 20 years. He was the author of "Foundations of the Stereoscopic Cinema", which remains the definitive book on the subject, wherein he enunciated the creative method of stereoscopic cinematography used by theatrical filmmakers, and also the principal of binocular symmetries, the fundamental engineering theory for stereoscopic system design.


He wrote articles for American Cinematographer, The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers Journal, and other industry-related publications, and was an editor at Popular Photography. During the chaos and adventure of 1960s American counterculture, Lenny was the film reviewer for the Berkeley Barb underground newspaper, hung out with Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey, and was a contributor to Paul Krassner's satirical magazine The Realist.


Born in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from Cornell where he majored in physics, Lenny lived in California since 1965 and made his home in Los Angeles's Laurel Canyon with his wife, three children, three dogs, a cat, a fish, and an ill-tempered bird.

 

- Susan Pinsky and David Starkman, incorporating details from Lenny Lipton's own curriculum vitae.




1978 twin Super 8 projector owned by Lenny Lipton

Society of Photographic Imaging
In Memoriam:

Lenny Lipton
Considered
"the father of 3D,"
Lipton's poetry also inspired "Puff the Magic Dragon"

11 October 2022 by Karen Thomas ©

2022_10_09 Lenny Lipton's death noted on TV show "Sunday Morning" ©

SPIE Fellow Lenny Lipton passed away 5 October in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 82.

Due to his development of movie and television technology used in theaters and on flat-screen TVs, Lipton is considered "the father of 3D." His inventions include CrystalEyes, an electronic stereoscopic product for computer graphics and video applications such as molecular modeling, aerial mapping, and medical imaging: NASA used it to remotely pilot the Mars Rovers and Lockheed used it to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. Another invention, the ZScreen polarization modulator, is the first flicker-free, field-sequential 3D display technology. Lipton has more than 70 patents in the field of electronic stereoscopic displays.

A long-time member of SPIE, Lipton worked with IS&T/SPIE Electronic Imaging, and published several proceedings papers tied to that event. He contributed to a special section on 3D and 4D imaging techniques and applications in the SPIE journal Optical Engineering, in part by authoring the paper "Brief history of electronic stereoscopic displays."

Lipton also wrote several books including Independent Filmmaking (1972); Lipton on Filmmaking (1979); Foundations of the Stereoscopic Cinema (1982); and The Cinema in Flux: The Evolution of Motion Picture Technology from the Magic Lantern to the Digital Era (2021).

Lipton is only slightly less well known as the father of "Puff the magic Dragon." As a freshman studying physics at Cornell University in 1959, he typed a poem about Jackie Paper and a dragon named Puff on a friend's typewriter and left it there. The friend was another physics major named Peter Yarrow, who used the lyrics for a song in 1962 with his group Peter, Paul, and Mary. The song peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and is considered one of the folk trio's most famous hits. The royalties from the song gave Lipton a financial security not often afforded to researchers, allowing him to concentrate on his research and inventions.

The people who invent
Lipton grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and was eight years old when his father gave him a 16-millimeter projector. "It was a toy, but I really understood how it worked," he said. "I didn't take it apart as much as I really understood how it worked, so I made other things like it."

 

In a 2007 interview with Physics World, Lipton was asked about those early beginnings. "When I was about 10, there was a stereoscopic boom," he said. "I became aware of 3D photography, comic books, and movies. I began to do my own experiments on the polarization of light and started designing stereoscopic projectors. For me, stereoscopic images were a thing of wonder and beauty, and I never saw the difference between the art and science of stereopsis."

In the same interview, Lipton also pointed out the need for schools to pay more attention to students whose thought processes might not follow the norm. "I had a great education at Cornell, but I was a decidedly mediocre student," he said. "I am a creative and determined person, and I got a lot smarter once I found a field I loved. I see the world becoming one in which children are pointed in the direction of money as an end in itself. I hate living in that kind of a world. Schools need to be more accepting of eccentric people with a different point of view because we are the people who make the difference. We are the people who invent."

History of motion picture technology

In 2021, Lipton published The Cinema in Flux: The Evolution of Motion Picture Technology from the Magic Lantern to the Digital Era.

 

In the 800-page illustrated book, Lipton argues that film scholars mistakenly consider inventions that preceded the 19th century motion picture cameras from Thomas Edison and the Lumières 

brothers as prehistory. Lipton sets the genesis of the medium to 1659 and Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens' invention of the magic lantern, marking the first time moving images were projected on a screen. The book divides the history into three eras: glass, celluloid, and digital. Flux's origins date back to 2009, when Lipton was speaking at the Cinémathèque Française, whose museum happened to be exhibiting a history of magic lantern technology. His subsequent research led him to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and SciencesMargaret Herrick Library, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers digital library, The Library of Congress's collection of motion picture periodicals, and some 400 books.

Film historian Laurent Mannoni, the curator of collections at the Cinémathèque Française, wrote that the book represents "the first time that this vast technical and aesthetic history has been told by an inventor-technician-physicist-industrialist, who has himself filed patents for cinematographic inventions, run a company and made films. His point of view is both authoritative and fascinating since, until now, no conventional historian has had such varied credentials....

In his foreword, Douglas Trumbull  wrote that Lipton "is on the trail of a vitally important nexus between the illusion of motion and the story contained within that illusion." Each new innovation raises the question of whether cinema will become "an even more high-powered juggernaut of immersive and experiential technical perfection"—a theme park ride with no heart—or remain an emotional experience relying on the traditional talents of screenwriters, directors, and actors. "Lenny Lipton delivers the background we need to help make sure that our beloved art form does not go off the rails." 

The Cinema In Flux latest book by Lenny Lipton

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The Cinema in Flux 2021 by Lenny Lipton

2001 Lenny Lipton signs "Puff the Magic Dragon" book for Lawrence Kaufman by Andrew Woods

2008_08_02 Eric Brevig and Lenny Lipton at Directors Guild Assn

2001 Andrew Woods and Lawrence Kaufman by Lenny Lipton

2009 SD&A From left to right, Ray Zone,

2009 Stereo Displays and Applications conference - from left to right, Ray Zone, Ian McDowall, Perry Hoberman, Lenny Lipton and Lanny Smoot

2012_02_07 Lenny Lipton with Marty Scorsese with Bob Whitehill on right at "Hugo" screening by David Starkman

2021_11_23 Marcel Lipton

by Lenny Lipton

2022_10_09 Lenny Lipton's death noted on TV show "Sunday Morning"

2021 Lenny Lipton - dedication in his book The Cinema in Flux book

to Vivian Walworth

Independent Filmmaking by Lenny Lipton_hi_resai.jpg

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD Dave Curlender

by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton and friends dinner RealD by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD Dave Curlender

by Susan Pinsky

2008_04_24  Lenny Lipton friends dinner RealD  David Kuntz

by Susan Pinsky

2008 Lipton Family Holiday Card

2009 Lipton Family Holiday Card

2008_06_29 Journey to Center of Earth in 3-D film-going Eric Kurland, Ray Zone, Lenny Lipton, John Hart, Jonah Lipton, Susan Pinsky and Noah Lipton

by David Starkman

2003 Noah, Julie, Jonah and Anna Lipton by Lenny Lipton

2015 Lenny Lipton Holiday Card 

2017 Lenny Lipton Holiday Card 

1968_06_27 Post Crescent, Appleton, WI A

1968_06_27 Post Crescent, Appleton, WI AP article on Underground Films in Honolulu HI 

1974_06_04 Times, San Mateo, CA Lenny Li

1974_06_04 Times, San Mateo, CA Lenny Lipton author of Independent Filmmaking news clipping

   Lenny Lipton

Lenny Lipton, 'Puff the Magic Dragon' Lyricist and 3-D Film Pioneer, 82, Dies

He used the royalties earned from the hit folk song, based on a poem he wrote in college, to fund decades of research into stereoscopic projection.

New York TImes ©:  October 21, 2022  
By Clay Risen

Lenny Lipton in 2008. He called the money he got from "Puff the Magic Dragon" his "MacArthur 'genius' grant," allowing to leave his job, move to California and start a career in 3-D films.   Credit...David Livingston/WireImage

Lenny Lipton, who as a college freshman wrote the lyrics to the classic folk tune "Puff the Magic Dragon," and then used the song's bountiful royalties to fund years of pioneering research in 3-D filmmaking, died on Oct. 5 in Los Angeles. He was 82.

His wife, Julia Lipton, said the cause was brain cancer.

Few people leave much of a mark on popular culture; Mr. Lipton was among the few who got to leave two, and in such wildly divergent corners as folk music and cinema technology.

He was a 19-year-old student at Cornell when he sat down at the typewriter of his friend and fellow physics major Peter Yarrow. He had just read a 1936 poem by Ogden Nash titled "The Tale of Custard the Dragon" and felt inspired to write his own.

Some time later, Mr. Yarrow found the poem, still in his typewriter, and felt a similar inspiration. He put the poem to music, and in 1963 he and his folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, released it as "Puff the Magic Dragon." It begins: "Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea / And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee."

Mr. Yarrow tracked down Mr. Lipton, who was working as a journalist in Manhattan, and gave him credit as a co-writer. (As Mr. Lipton told reporters repeatedly, despite persistent rumors, "Puff" had nothing to do with marijuana.)

The song was such an immediate and lasting hit — Mr. Lipton called it his "MacArthur 'genius' grant" — that it allowed him to leave his job and move to California. In the Bay Area, he fell in with a circle of independent filmmakers and made several short films of his own.

He received even more royalty income from his book "Independent Filmmaking" (1972), which became a niche but durable success, giving him enough of a financial cushion to explore yet another abiding interest: stereoscopy, the technical name for 3-D technology.

Mr. Lipton had fallen for it as a boy in early 1950s Brooklyn when the first wave of 3-D films arrived in theaters. He saw them all: "House of Wax," "Bwana Devil," "The Maze." And while the craze passed — the technology was crude, the projectors were hard to synchronize, the cheap eyeglasses that had to be worn to see images in 3-D were clunky — his belief that 3-D was the future of film did not, and in California he began tinkering with ideas to make that belief a reality.

"'Puff' gave me a lot of freedom," he said in a 2021 interview with Moving Images, a YouTube channel. "I didn't have to get a job. I spent years in my little lab in Point Richmond developing my stereoscopic inventions."

Mr. Lipton accumulated some 70 patents related to 3-D technology, among them a screen that switches rapidly between left- and right-eye images, and a companion pair of eyeglasses fitted with shutters that open and close in sync with the screen.

He developed that technology, which he called CrystalEyes, in the early 1980s. It soon found applications far beyond the movie theater: Versions were used by the military for aerial mapping, by scientists for molecular modeling, and by NASA for driving Mars rovers.

CrystalEyes equipment developed by Mr. Lipton. He had some 70 patents related to 3-D technology.

CrystalEyes and other advances devised by Mr. Lipton seeded the emergence of a new generation of stereoscopic filmmaking, used in 3-D versions of movies like "Avatar," "Chicken Little" and "Coraline." Today, some 30,000 movie screens across the United States use 3-D techniques that evolved from his innovations.

Mr. Lipton "changed the paradigm of the audience's experience in cinema culture entirely," Sujin Kim, assistant professor of 3-D animation at Arizona State University, said in an email.

Leonard Lipschitz was born on May 18, 1940, in Brooklyn. His father, Samuel, owned a soda shop and died when Leonard was 12. His mother, Carrie (Hibel), a teletype operator, later changed their surname to Lipton.

His mother inspired his love for film by taking him to some of Brooklyn's many grand old movie palaces, like the Ambassador and the Paramount, while his father inspired his love for filmmaking by bringing home a toy film projector. Leonard soon assembled his own, using aluminum foil, a toilet-paper roll and a magnifying glass.

He entered Cornell intending to study electrical engineering but quickly switched to physics, where he felt more freedom to experiment.

After graduating in 1962, he got a job at Time magazine in New York, then became an editor at Popular Photography. After work he would head to a small theater in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, where he and some friends presented the latest movies to emerge from the city's underground film scene.

He did much the same in California, though without the need for a day job. He wrote a weekly film column for The Berkeley Barb, an alternative newspaper, and made several short documentaries shot on 16 mm film, including "Let a Thousand Parks Bloom," about the clashes surrounding People's Park in Berkeley, and "Children of the Golden West," a rambling, touching portrait of his countercultural friends.

In addition to "Independent Filmmaking," Mr. Lipton wrote several other books, among them "The Super 8 Book" (1975), "Lipton on Filmmaking" (1979) and, in 2021, "Cinema in Flux: The Evolution of Motion Picture Technology from the Magic Lantern to the Digital Era," an 800-page opus on the history of movie making.

Along with his wife, he is survived by his children, Noah, Jonah and Anna. He lived in Los Angeles and died in a hospital there.

Mr. Lipton had an idealistic certainty about the coming dominance of 3-D films, but he was also critical of the way Hollywood had limited its use to cartoons and action movies.

"I had hoped that stereoscopic cinema would be about actors and acting and involve people in stories about the human condition, but that's not what happened," he told Moving Images. "What happened is, it's a cinema of spectacle."

Still, he held out hope for something different around the corner.

"As soon as someone has success, financial success, a stereoscopic documentary or a stereoscopic buddy comedy, then the studios will copy it," he said.

Clay Risen is an obituaries reporter for The Times. Previously, he was a senior editor on the Politics desk and a deputy op-ed editor on the Opinion desk. He is the author, most recently, of "Bourbon: The Story of Kentucky Whiskey." @risenc

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 24, 2022, Section A, Page 22 of the New York edition with the headline: Lenny Lipton, 82, Who Wrote 'Puff the Magic Dragon' Lyrics.     Order Reprints

Lenny Lipton, who wrote the poem that became the Peter, Paul and Mary hit "Puff the Magic Dragon" and developed technology used for today's digital 3D theatrical projection systems, has died. He was 82.

Lipton died Wednesday of brain cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his son Noah told The Hollywood Reporter.

While studying engineering as a freshman at Cornell University, Lipton, inspired by a 1936 Ogden Nash poem, "The Tale of Custard the Dragon," wrote a poem in 1959 on a typewriter owned by another physics major at the school, Peter Yarrow.

Yarrow discovered the poem — about a boy named Jackie Paper and his imaginary dragon friend in a land by the sea — in the typewriter and years later used it for the lyrics to "Puff the Magic Dragon."

Yarrow's Peter, Paul and Mary recorded the song in 1962. It was released in January 1963 and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 as one of the folk trio's most enduring hits.

"Pirates and dragons, back then, were common interests in stories for boys," Lipton told L.A. Weekly in a 2015 interview. "The Puff story is really just a lot like Peter Pan."

The tune spawned a 1978 animated CBS special and two sequels, 1979's Puff the Magic Dragon in the Land of the Living Lies and 1982's Puff and the Incredible Mr. Nobody, with Burgess Meredith voicing the dragon in all three.

A children's picture book based on the song has sold more than a million copies and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Over the years, Lipton denied that "Puff" was about drugs, a "myth" he said was started by New York newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen.

Yarrow had tracked down Lipton and granted him half the songwriting credit, and royalties allowed him to pursue his interest in filmmaking.

In the Hollywood 3D community, Lipton is known for developing the ZScreen electro-optical modulator — a tool used in digital 3D projection — through his company, StereoGraphics. After StereoGraphics was acquired by RealD in 2005, Lipton continued development of his technology as RealD's chief technology officer.

Lipton also authored books including 1979's Lipton on Filmmaking; 1982's Foundations of the Stereoscopic Cinema; 1983's Independent Filmmaking; and 2021's The Cinema in Flux: The Evolution of Motion Picture Technology From the Magic Lantern to the Digital Era.

Born in Brooklyn on May 18, 1940, Leonard Lipton was 8 when his dad gave him a 16-millimeter projector. "It was a toy, but I really understood how it worked," he said. "I didn't take it apart as much as I really understood how it worked, so I made other things like it."

Comic books and 3D movies in the early 1950s got Lipton interested in the stereographic medium, and in the '60s, he shot several experimental films, including Let a Thousand Parks Bloom, about People's Park in Berkeley, California.

He served as a production assistant on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), founded StereoGraphics in 1980 and served as a convergence setter for the 3D film Dogs From Hell (1983).

As of 2015, Lipton held 68 patents and had dozens more pending. "The motion picture industry has made billions of dollars from my [ZScreen] invention, and they would be in the red and not the black if I had not done what I did," he said.

The Smithsonian Institution honored him in 1996 for StereoGraphics' invention of CrystalEyes, electronic eyewear for computer graphics and video applications such as molecular modeling, aerial mapping and medical imaging. (NASA selected it to remotely pilot the Mars Rovers, and it was used by Lockheed to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.)

In 2011, the International 3D Society (now the Advanced Imaging Society) presented him with its Century Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Survivors include his wife, Julie, and children, Anna, Noah and Jonah.