Robert Abel, Emmy- and Clio-winning godfather of computerized visual effects, died Sept. 23 in Los Angeles five weeks after suffering a heart attack. He was 64.
He was best known for innovative products and programs for early computer graphics, animation and special effects, particularly those created at his studio, Robert Abel & Associates, which he formed in 1971 with Con Pederson. The company developed the first digitally controlled motion picture capture system and a technique to preview diagrams of shots so motion could be choreographed in realtime. Founders of practically every visual effects shop today are Robert Abel & Associates alumni.
Later he was heavily into raster graphics through his division, Abel Image Research. He went on to be an Apple Fellow and through his next company, Synapse Technologies, he trained numerous designers, artists, directors, technicians and special effects producers.
Abel also produced interactive multimedia projects for IBM and the Smithsonian , later turning his interests to digital interactive TV.
Cleveland native grew up in Los Angeles and upon receiving a fine arts degree from UCLA, went on to study design at Bauhaus in Ulm. After a career as a university instructor, he moved back to Hollywood to work for David Wolper Prods. making documentaries. He garnered two Emmys in 1966 and ’68 respectively for “A Nation of Immigrants” and “The Making of the President 1968.”
He went on to earn 33 Clio awards for visionary and innovative commercials for TRW, Levi’s, and many more, and later worked on Disney’s landmark “Tron” as well as developing hundreds of hours of interactive classroom instruction.
He is survived by a son, daughter and sister.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: the American Red Cross to aid the families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorism; the American Heart Association; or the American Cancer Society.