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Visual FX Luminary Robert Abel Dies

Legendary computer graphics pioneer By DMN Staff Writer
Robert Abel, one of the most respected pioneers of computer-generated special effects, passed away Sunday, Sept. 23.

Abel was an innovator even at 19, when he and John Whitney developed the "slit-scan" effect that was subsequently featured in the "Star Gate" sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Abel's studio, Robert Abel & Associates, formed with Whitney in 1971, was a computer graphics innovator. In 1979, he and Bill Kovacs began creating vector computer graphics with an Evans & Sutherland PS2 flight simulator. Their work evolved into the well-known Blackhole trailer for Disney (with John Hughes), and ultimately to Disney's pioneering movie, Tron.

In the early 80s, Kovacs and several others developed 3D computer graphics code for a theatrical short called High Fidelity, a project that led to The Sexy Robot and thrust Robert Abel & Associates into the CG limelight. Abel set up a software company, Abel Image Research, to market CGI code, and later sold the company to Wavefront Technologies.

In the late 90s, Abel began working with an interactive television company called Random Order, doing projects for such companies as AT&T, VH1, Microsoft, and Time -Warner.

Abel was the recipient of 33 Clio Awards, two Emmies, one Golden Globe, and an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Technical Achievement Award. Other honors included the Annie Lifetime Achievement Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Broadcast Design Association. He was also an Apple Fellow.

Memorial services are being held Tuesday, Sept. 25 at Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles at 2 p.m. and are open to friends and colleagues. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations to be sent on Bob's behalf to The American Red Cross to aid the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, or to The American Heart Association or The American Cancer Society.

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