Special Effects Pioneer Arthur Widmer Dies

Arthur Widmer, who developed some of the most widely used special effects technology in films and earned an Academy Award last year for lifetime achievement, has died. He was 92.

Widmer died of cancer on May 28, his publicist Jane Ayer told the Los Angeles Times for a story published Sunday.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Widmer the award for his work in developing Ultra Violet and "blue screen" special effects processes.

"Art's pioneering work has had a profound impact on the film industry," said Richard Edlund of the academy's Scientific and Technical Awards Committee when the award was announced. "Many of the films we hold dear would not have been possible without his contributions to image compositing technology."

Working for Warner Bros. in the 1950s, Widmer developed the Ultra Violet Traveling Matte process, an early version of what would become known as blue screen, in which two different images shot at different times and places could be combined into one.

"If you want to have a couple sitting at a cafe in Paris, you could send the couple to Paris and hire a crew and get all the lights and stop the traffic and shoot it, but that would be very expensive," Widmer told the Los Angeles Business Journal last year. "Instead, you get a little mock-up on the stage of the table and chairs and set the couple there and shoot them against the blue screen in the background."

Widmer left Warner Bros. in 1964 to design and build the optical department for Universal Studios, where he continued the development of blue screen and other visual effects until his retirement in 1979.