Visiting Bob Lambert
in his office in the ABC Studios Building, for me, was like going to see an archivist, an oracle, and a city councilman. Bob, who spent 25 years at Disney, eventually becoming the media company's top technology executive, was all of that. He knew the history of technologies in Hollywood — both celebrated and forgotten. He could see the future. And, like any good city councilman, he understood the politics and alliances required to actually get things done.
I learned today that Bob died last Friday. Here is an obituary
from The Hollywood Reporter, and there are many remembrances on his Facebook page
. He was 55.
I'd met Bob only a few times as a reporter for Variety, and a blogger for CinemaTech, before he offered his help on a book
I was working on about Hollywood's technological history. He was generous with his time, with introductions, and with his files. As someone who had helped introduce Disney to non-linear editing, worked to digitize the animation process in collaboration with a startup called Pixar, and nudged the movie industry toward digital delivery of its product, in cinemas and over the Internet, you couldn't have asked for a better guide than Bob. He was one of the central nodes in Hollywood's new technology network. Just about every emerging technology was on his radar screen, and he had a strong opinion about all of it. Bob was funny, curious, encouraging...and he had a remarkably small ego for someone who had operated in the movie business for almost his entire career.
The last time I saw Bob was a surprise. I'd gone up to visit a company in New Hampshire, Laser Light Engines
, that was working on a laser-based lamp system for digital projectors. One benefit was that it would brighten the gloomy look of most 3-D films. (Bob would later join the company as a board member.) Nashua, New Hampshire, was one of the last places I'd have expected to bump into Bob, who had recently left Disney. We did the usual chit-chat around the conference table, stared at some PowerPoint slides, and then slipped into a makeshift screening room that Laser Light Engines had set up. We sat next to each other, and the lights went down, and we watched a succession of movie clips and trailers projected using the company's technology.
It was Bob in his natural habitat... getting a glimpse of the future of cinema, and weighing in later on what needed work, and how it might realistically find a path to the market.
I'm sorry he won't be around to shape what happens next.