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You are in the Show with Todd-AO!

What is Todd-AO?
The Todd-AO Corporation press release 1B
"TODD-AO 70mm film, plus the TODD-AO special camera, plus the TODD-AO newly developed 6 channel high fidelity magnetic sound, plus the TODD-AO "all purpose" 70mm projector and the great arched TODD-AO screen equal the most revolutionary of all screen inventions, with clarity of perspective, detail and color reproduction never before achieved.

As a result, with TODD-AO, audience participation now has its fullest and truest expression. Todd-AO is the dream of Michael Todd, plus the technical skills of the American Optical Company whose research staff headed by Dr. Brian O'Brien, jointly succeeded in developing "a motion picture system that would photograph action in a very wide angle....with one camera....on one strip of be projected from a single projector....on a very wide screen....with a quality so perfect that the audience would be part of the action, not just passive spectators."

"....with Todd-AO (70mm), audience participation now has its fullest and truest expression".

Dr. Brian O'Brien 1953

How Todd-AO Began
By Brian O'Brien, Jr.
My father was a college professor, uninterested in show business, and had never heard of Mike Todd, so when Mike called him late one night saying he wanted a meeting, my dad was naturally cautious. Finally, he called one night and said "OK Doctor, I give up. I have been looking into the companies you mentioned and American Optical looks like the best bet. What do I do now?" "Fine" said my dad, "I am having lunch with Walter Stewart, President of AO next Tuesday. Why do you not come up to Southbridge and have lunch with us?".
Todd-AO Birth date
By Brian O'Brien
On October 15th, 1952 I received a phone call from a Michael Todd in New York City, who wished to come to see me at Rochester that evening. I had never heard of Todd, but it seems that he is a well-known Broadway producer.
Brian O'Brien, Jr. tracks American Optical Co's development of the Todd-AO process
By Thomas Hauerslev
etween 1953 and 1956, Brian O'Brien, Jr.'s secretary made a scrapbook with newspaper and trade magazine clips about the development of Todd-AO. A green ring binder with 132 pages of clippings, adverts and stories about one of the most significant films formats from the 20th century. It has been one of my goals to make all this available on for many years. Here it is as PDF files, and organized page by page in a very low-tech manner.
Brian O'Brien Biography
By Walter P. Siegmund and Brian O'Brien, Jr.
Brian O'Brien was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1898 to Michael Phillip and Lina Prime O'Brien. His education started in the Chicago Latin School from 1909–1915, and continued at the Yale Sheffield scientific school where he earned a Ph.B. in 1918 and a Ph.D. in 1922. In 1922 he married Ethel Cornelia Dickerman and they had one son, Brian, Jr..
Todd-AO Conference 1954 at American Optical Company Research Center
By Brian O'Brien, Jr
The people on the picture are from left to right: Skyler Sanford, Bob Surtees, Brian O'Brien, Jr., Walter Siegmund, Mike Todd, Steve Macnielle, Fred Zinneman, Art Miller, Brian O'Brien, Oscar Hammerstein, Arthur Hornblow

The Todd-AO Process
By The Todd-AO Corporation
The ultimate result of intensive research by a team of research and engineering scientists headed by Dr. Brian O'Brian: "a process of motion picture photography and projection that establishes the illusion of participation in the action" (From Theatre Catalog 1955-56)
Todd-AO Process Shown At MGM Studio
By The Reflector
This screening, followed by a second showing in the evening to people prominent in the Hollywood motion picture industry, resulted in "rave" notices in Hollywood and Los Angeles papers, as well as feature stories in the New York Times and Variety

Počátky Todd-AO
By Thomas Hauerslev
Co si máme představit pod pojmem systém Todd-AO? Todd-AO je sedmdesátimilimetrový film s obrovským rozlišením a ostrostí, který se promítá na obří plátno rychlostí posuvu 30 políček za vteřinu. Svou nedostižnou kvalitou obrazu je sedmdesátimilimetrový film nesmírně působivý právě díky velikosti obrazového pole a vysoké snímkové frekvenci. Negativ je 4 x větší než klasický 35mm širokoúhlý film. Systém Todd-AO se stal vzorem pro 65mm a 70mm film a inspiroval filmový průmysl po celých šedesát let od svého vzniku. Sedmdesátimilimetrový filmový formát si dnes často spojujeme zejména s historickými velkofilmy a muzikály 60. let.
Todd-AO - Wie alles begann
Von Brian O'Brien, Jr.
Eines Abends sagte er schließlich: „In Ordnung, Doktor, ich gebe auf. Ich habe mir die Firmen angeschaut, die Sie genannt haben, und American Optical scheint die beste Lösung zu sein. Was soll ich jetzt tun?“ „Gut“, sagte mein Vater, „ich treffe mich nächsten Dienstag mit Walter Stewart, dem Präsidenten von AO zum Mittagessen. Kommen Sie doch einfach nach Southbridge und essen Sie mit uns!“

• Go to DP70 - The Todd-AO Projector

Todd-AO Equipment Catalog
By Thomas Hauerslev
A catalog made - but never used officially - by Brian O'Brien, Jr. when the entire range of equipment was ready for production of the first movie "Oklahoma!" in 1954. Including rarely seen images of the Todd-AO Distortion Correction Printer, Mark III. A document to explain the equipment made for the Todd-AO Corporation manufactured by American Optical company between 1953-56.

• Go to Vol I | Vol II | Vol III | Vol IV | Vol V | Vol VI | Mark III Printer

Sales Brochure #1
Sales Brochure #2
AP65 65mm camera Brochure

Provided by Robert Weisgerber

• Go to
Todd-AO 65mm Camera AP-65
• Go to Gallery: All Purpose 65mm camera

Distortion Correcting Printing Process
By Grant Lobban
The process was originally designed to eliminate keystone distortion, distortion resulting from using a deeply curved screen, plus correcting the distortion arising from use of the extremely wide-angle lenses
Description of Todd-AO Mark III Printer Principle
By Dr. Walter P. Siegmund
The problem of obtaining any given overall frame keystone correction (K-correction) along with any given droop while at the same time matching the "intrinsic" printer keystone requires the control of several factors in the printing system. The focal length of the printer lens and the bridge angle determine the intrinsic keystone. The curvature of field of the printer lens and the bridge angle determine the droop.
"Oklahoma!" Printing Operation in the Todd-AO Mark III Printer
By Dr. Walter P. Siegmund
The American Optical Company has the responsibility of printing the release prints of the motion picture "Oklahoma!". In order that this printing may have the closest supervision, it is planned that, at least for the initial stages, this printing will be done in the Research Center in Southbridge.
Todd-AO's Mark III Distortion Correction Printer - A Galley
The Distortion Correcting Printing Process was initially meant to be an integrated part of the Todd-AO system. It was originally designed to eliminate three types of distortion, keystone distortion, distortion resulting from using a deeply- curved screen, plus correcting the distortion arising from use of the extremely wide-angle lenses, in both photography and projection.
The Ethel O’Brien Printer
By Walter P Siegmund

During our big move from Pomfret to Brooklyn many things were found which were long hidden and forgotten, including more old Todd-AO files and photos. You will may find the enclosed material of further interest in connection with the printing of the Todd-AO “Process”. These are descriptions and original calculations on various ideas about corrective printing the release prints.

October 15, 1955
Oklahoma! in Todd-AO | Todd-AO | Magna Theatres | Todd-AO Corporation | Philips Collaborated On Projector Design | Todd-AO Projection and Sound | Six track recording equipment | All-Purpose Sound Reproduction | Rodgers & Hammerstein II | Mike Todd


• Go to
Fred Zinnemann's "Oklahoma!" in Todd-AO

• Go to Todd-AO: Films and Cinemas

• Go to DP70 / Norelco AAII

In the Splendour of 70mm
By Grant Lobban
While working on "This Is Cinerama" Michael Todd became convinced that there must be an easier way of achieving the same "wrap around" effect using only one projector and a single strip of film.
Grant's Blow-up Blog
By Grant Lobban
A blow-up is the term used to describe a print made by enlarging, or “blowing-up”, smaller formats, usually those on 35mm film, but 70mm prints have also been derived from 16mm and even 8mm originals.
Todd-AO The Show of Shows
By John Belton
"Oklahoma!" was a hot ticket; even Cecil B. DeMille had trouble getting seats during the first few weeks of its run. Todd-AO was about showman-ship. It provided high quality subject matter, lavish production values, big screen entertainment, and six-track stereo magnetic sound.
The Amazing Optical Adventures of Todd-AO
By Jeff Hecht
Todd had just launched Cinerama, a wide-screen system that put the audience in the middle of the action. Yet he knew the cumbersome three-projector Cinerama system dated from before World War II, and had split with his partners even before the first Cinerama film opened.
Hollywood Comes to American Optical Co.
Roy C. Gunter Jr.
O'Brien was interested in what Todd said about Cinerama and sent Siegmund to New York to look at the system. He reported back to O'Brien that while the optical system was not really sophisticated, the audience response to the wide screen was clearly favorable.

Walter P. Siegmund, a small bio
I was born in Bremen, Germany in 1925. We left for New York and arrived on September 13, 1930 and left immediately for Rochester, New York.
Walter Siegmund about Todd-AO
By Thomas Hauerslev
Todd-AO could be considered to have begun with the fateful meeting in 1952 between Mike Todd and Dr. O'Brien at the Rochester (NY) airport, where I was the silent witness. Who would have thought then that movies would again become so popular and lucrative? Did Todd-AO make the difference? It would be nice to think so!
Working for Mike Todd
By Glenda Jensen
Midori Tsuji was a fascinating and beautiful woman. She took care of everything for Mike and, occasionally, for Elizabeth. I wanted to be like her.
Working for Todd-AO
By Dan Leimeter
I became Chief Projectionist at TAO in 1981, and a few years later the Naify family sold their immense holdings in the United Artists Theatre Circuit, and redirected the cash into modernizing and expanding Todd-AO.
Garrett Brown meets Walter Siegmund
By Garrett Brown
Dr. Siegmund was a tall, gray-bearded, Nordic-looking fellow with a gentle professorial manner. He was completely film-savvy, in fact had developed Todd-AO.
Historical Wide Screen Gathering
By Thomas Hauerslev
Around the table were key personnel from three major large format systems from the history of movies; Cinerama, Todd-AO and IMAX. None of these gentlemen had ever met before.
Brian O'Brien, Jr. Passed Away
Brian O'Brien, Jr., 90, born March 13, 1923, passed away at Matulaitis Rehabilitation and Skilled Care on September 11, 2013, after a period of declining health. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA, the only child of Brian and Ethel (Dickerman) O’Brien. Brian was predeceased by his beloved wife, Kathryn "Towie" (Jensen) O’Brien.
Robert Hopkins, Inventor of Todd-AO Lens dies
By Sharon Dickman
Robert Hopkins died July 4, he was 94. His lens designs included the Todd-AO lens used to produce high definition, wide aspect-ratio films shot on large format film
Walter Siegmund Remembered
By Thomas Hauerslev
It is with great sadness I must report the passing of Walter Siegmund, one of the pioneers and engineers of the Todd-AO process. Walt was extremely kind and helpful, and always referred the "days of Todd-AO" to be among the happiest days of the working life.

Todd-AO 65mm Test
By Thomas Hauerslev
Wednesday 9 February 1994, review of  a very interesting reel of 65mm film which had been discovered at the Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.

Cine Apergon | Magna Theatre Corporation | Todd-AO parts | Todd-AO patent | Todd-AO People | First Industry Demonstration | The Regent Theatre in Buffalo | Reference and reading | Todd-AO time table |

• Go to You are in the Show with Todd-AO
• Go to
Todd-AO: Films and Cinemas

Online: 02-06-1999. Updated: 03-09-2019