The year was 1979, and the record album and phonograph needle were kings. But a prescient Richard Jamieson was asked about an emerging technology known vaguely as digital.
“It doesn’t sound like recorded sound we are used to hearing,” he told an interviewer. “It’s like the mask has been taken off.”
An award-winning filmmaker and pioneer in sound production, Jamieson was an innovator. Long before the word “multimedia” became part of the lexicon, he married 16mm film and 35mm slides on multiple projectors for synchronized presentations using magnetic tape. He facilitated one of the first live teleconferences, featuring a patient in Arizona and a medical team from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
“He was always there, seeing what was new and what was coming up next,” said his daughter, Nancy Jamieson. “He saw what other people didn’t see or dismissed.”
In 1975, he helped design and construct life-size historical dioramas that made up the Minneapolis Bicentennial Hall on the 51st floor of the IDS Center. He did a feasibility study about the installation of the Omnitheater at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. He assisted with acoustic design for government chambers like the Hennepin County Board and Anoka and Edina city councils.
Jamieson died Oct. 8 from heart failure. He was 87.
Jamieson began making his mark at the groundbreaking production company Empire Photo Sound, where he rose to become a senior vice president during a 28-year career. The Edina-based Empire was one of the first companies in the Midwest to make documentary training, public relations and advertising films. With his wife, Marjorie, he later moved on to start his own company, Jamieson & Associates and AVSense Productions.
Among his accomplishments at Empire was producing and directing an award-winning documentary, “This Garden England,” one of more than 36 films he is credited with directing. As a lilting feminine voice narrates, the film takes the viewer through the horticulture of Kent, the Hampton Court Palace Gardens and the Chelsea Flower Show. Besides the detailed camera work, it was remarkable because the film was a soft-selling promotion sponsored by a large processor of fertilizers whose name never appeared in the film. He worked on a similar film about gardens in Japan as well as a documentary on the birth of the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, “Miracle in Minnesota.”
Jamieson’s passion for filmmaking and production began during high school when he worked at both the old Edina and Westgate theaters in Edina’s Morningside neighborhood, where he grew up. As he told the story, it also played a pivotal role in his Army career in Korea. As an engineer, he was assigned a mission to blow up bridges. But when he informed his superiors that he was a sound engineer, he was ordered back to Seoul to run movie projectors at the PX.
Legendary for wearing a shirt and tie, even while cutting the grass, Jamieson had an eye for precision. Even as his crews worked to get the framing and lighting just right, he might be persnickety about cigarette butts on the street and lint on the actors’ clothes during a shoot. But he was also a patient mentor.
“He taught me how to see what I was looking at,” said Perry Schwartz, who went on to work at his own production company, embracing techniques he learned largely from Jamieson. “He said your camera could be your passport to the world. And it was true.”
Besides his wife of more than 60 years and his daughter, Jamieson is survived by a sister, Joanne Foght, a son, Rich Jamieson, and four grandchildren. A celebration of life and remembrance has been held.