20. Jim Jannard

Oakley founder and camera inventor

Jim Jannard     Photo: Joe Ciardiello

Changed The way we see

What do you do when you’re worth a few billion dollars? If you’re Jim Jannard, you quit your day job, then go about revolutionizing video. A restless inventor from Alhambra, California, he founded Oakley in 1975 after dropping out of the USC School of Pharmacy. Jannard, who personally shot many of Oakley’s ads, sold the optics behemoth for a reported $2.1 billion in 2007. He was already focused on his next project: hiring a team of mathematicians and designers to build a camera that offered the ease of digital media with the image quality of film. They came up with the Red One, a football-size tool that, when it was released in 2007, shot at four times the resolution of any other digital camera and cost just $17,500—one-eighth the price of its nearest competitor. Since then, every camera manufacturer from Canon to Sony has scrambled to compete. The resulting outpouring of technology has antiquated film cameras, led to low-priced digital models that can shoot HD footage sharp enough for National Geographic Television, and made Jannard even wealthier. He’s now America’s 125th-richest man.

By the Numbers 4: Red cameras Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson bought in 2007;
187: patents filed under Jannard’s name

Second Opinion “He was the guy who said, ‘It doesn’t matter if I fail. It’s my money, and I want to change the way people think about cameras,’ ” says Tristan Whitman, director of photography at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

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