Happy Birthday Jim McDivitt

posted in: Project Apollo | 4

The late John Lowry was a video pioneer, creating image processing techniques that would leave an everlasting mark on cinema and television. In 1972, John Lowry’s small start-up company, Image Transform, would make a big claim about what it could do to Apollo television transmissions – a claim they would back up.

At the time, Jim McDivitt was manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program, and was instrumental in making the decision on allowing Image Transform to process the television, in real time, on Apollo 16 and 17.

I can’t think of Jim McDivitt anymore without thinking of this story, so I’m presenting it on his birthday. Here it is, from our Live From the Moon interview – how Jim McDivitt and John Lowry got together to make Apollo 16 and 17 television so much better.

John Lowry’s image Transform processed the television live from Apollo 16 and 17. The signal went through the Image Transform offices in California before being sent on to Houston and the world. The processing vastly reduced the noise and improved the signal, bringing the best of all the television from the Moon to the final two missions.


4 Responses

  1. Dave W
    | Reply

    I’m going to punctuate this by stating that the moonscape vistas on your Apollo 16 and 17 DVDs are absolutely stunning. Even 15, which wasn’t processed through Lowry, has its moments of grandeur as well, especially looking out across the rille.

    Didn’t they run Apollo 11 through the image processing post eventum? Or am I recalling something in error?

    • markwgray
      | Reply

      Lowry was involved in the work done to improve the available footage of the Apollo 11 EVA, in what, for lack of a better term, I call the “2009 Restoration.” I interviewed him just before the Apollo 11 restoration project started. He died in 2012.

  2. Stephen M. Zumbo
    | Reply

    The Apollo 15 EVA Videos were and are my favorites (I first had all the moonwalks on VHS from a private seller long before I discovered Spacecraft Films) because of the amazing terrain, especially the Rille and Mount Hadley. I just saw the Lowry interview clip, and now want to watch all three last missions again to note the improved video.

    I also favor the last three flights’ superior surface views, in contrast to the limitations and disappointments of Apollo 12’s failed camera, of course no landing for 13, and the lack of video on 14’s walk to Cone crater, and the disappointment of how close they unknowingly came to reaching the rim before being ordered to turn back. All dramatic for other reasons (the effusiveness of Conrad and Bean on Apollo 12 is memorable, and fun to listen to, certainly). But I have all the available surface sets, and want to re-watch them all in the future.

  3. Tom Austin
    | Reply

    I remember watching the first EVA of Apollo 15, and I was amazed at the quality of the picture. On Apollo’s 16 and 17 I was just fascinated the picture improved so much in just two flights. I didn’t know about John Lowry then, but I think it’s fair to call him a wizard. What a picture…wow.

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