JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to The Eulogizer at email@example.com. Read previous columns here.
James Rodnunsky, 54, Cablecam inventor
James Rodnunsky, developer of the “Cablecam,” a remote-controlled camera that slides along a spider’s web of wires to get innovative and rare angles for sports events and films, died June 10 at 54.
Rodnunsky first developed a prototype in 1989 to capture footage for a skiing simulator by stringing 1,400 feet of steel cable above Saudan Couloir at Blackcomb Mountain in British Columbia. Rodnunsky, at one time a world-class freestyle skier, then laid down in an aluminum basket and zipped down feet first, “reaching speeds of 50 mph and a height of 80 feet, using motorcycle hand brakes to slow his descent — all while peering through a camera lens,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
In the following decades, his development became the prototype for a new industry used not just in sports broadcasting, but also concerts, conventions and film.
"He was just one of those brilliant guys who could really adapt that camera and his systems to what you needed to take your production to a place you’ve never been," said Fred Gaudelli, producer of NBC’s "Sunday Night Football." Gaudelli ranked Cablecam, instant replay, hand-held cameras, and the visible-only-on-TV yellow first-down line as the most significant innovations in the history of sports coverage.
Two years after Rodnunsky’s ski slope experiment, director Steven Spielberg used Cablecam when he made "Hook." Other films in which it has been used are "Happy Gilmore," "True Lies" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Rodnunsky, along with others, earned three Academy Awards for the continuing development of the device in films.
Cablecam got its first big sports exposure in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Since then, it has been used widely in sporting events on television, including the NFL and NCAA football, among others. Cablecam, along with a competing product, Skycam, are now part of Outdoor Channel Holdings, Inc., parent company of the Outdoor Channel.
Cablecam operator Aaron Fitzgerald said that more than the sports events they worked on together, it was Rodnunsky’s personality that he would remember: "I’ve never encountered anybody who was so well thought of by the people in this industry. Everybody loved him like a big brother. I only ever saw him in a great mood, whether we were out at night or loading cases on a truck at 4 in the morning.”
Rodnunsky grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, before moving to Southern California. He received a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, and later studied filmmaking and acting. Recently, he was a rabbinic student at Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles.
Local activists: Alberta Goldberg, 64, and David Kalib, 70
Alberta Goldberg, a well-known leader and personage in the Augusta, Ga., Jewish community, died June 14 at 64.
She had been program director for the Augusta Jewish Community Center for 10 years. The sisterhood of Augusta’s Adas Yeshurun Synagogue gave her its Woman of the Year award in 1997, and Hadassah awarded her a National Leadership Award in 1998.
"It’s a loss of someone who was a caring person and always made sure the community had its best foot forward," said Mike Pousman, former director of the Augusta JCC.
"My mother’s commitment to the (Jewish) community was like her commitment to her family," said a daughter, Rebecca Goldberg.
Goldberg was born in Brooklyn, raised in Connecticut and moved to Augusta from Charleston, S.C., 32 years ago. She fought breast cancer since being diagnosed with it in 1999.
David Kalib, onetime senior vice president and general counsel of Berkshire Life Insurance and local community volunteer in Pittsfield, Mass., died June 13 at 70.
"This is a very sad day — it’s very tragic for everyone, learning about his passing," said Joan Bancroft, former Berkshire Life CEO.
Kalib had also been assistant attorney general of Vermont.
Eulogizer hits 100
Today’s column is the 100th since the Eulogizer began on JTA last year.