Robert Abel, computer graphics pioneer, dies

One of the leading figures in the development of computer graphics and movie visual effects died on 23 September in Los Angeles.

Robert Abel, born in 1937, was studying engineering at UCLA when he developed with John Whitney Sr the computer technology used to create the “slit-scan” technique, source of the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). After ten years making award-winning documentaries, he set up his own company Robert Abel and Associates in 1971, initially to explore vector graphics. He and his team played a key role in inventing the motion control camera and motion capture, and in developing the raster graphics that birthed 3D computer graphics as we know them today.

The company’s pioneering work appeared in the feature Tron (1982), music videos for Mick Jagger and Elvis Costello, and in a high-profile output of North American multi-award-winning 3D CGI commercials which, observed New York’s Museum of Modern Art, “changed television forever”.

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