John D. Lowry, a specialist in film restoration who was set to receive an Academy Plaque for his innovative Lowry Process at Feb. 11’s Scientific and Technical Awards, died Jan. 21. He was 79.
With several colleagues, Lowry developed what AMPAS described as a “unique and efficient system for the reduction of noise and other artifacts, thereby providing high-quality images required by the filmmaking process.”
Lowry’s company enhanced the image quality on dozens of films, including recent pics such as “Avatar” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and classics such as “Gone With the Wind,” “Citizen Kane,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Roman Holiday” and “Dr. Zhivago.”
Lowry founded his company in 1988 as Lowry Digital Images. It later became DTS Digital Images under the ownership of DTS from 2005-08 but the Burbank-based firm eventually became part of India’s Reliance Big Entertainment Group.
Reliance MediaWorks CEO Anil Arjun said, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of John Lowry. He was a visionary who brought unprecedented technological and imaging advancements to the motion picture industry. His work has been used to restore some of the most prestigious classic films of the century and respected for the standards and excellence the tools stood for.”
In addition to its work restoring historically significant films, Lowry Digital has become increasingly expert in work on 3D films. Jon Landau, co-producer of “Avatar,” which won an Oscar for visual effects, said: “Lowry Digital’s innovative digital image processing helped us create the wholly immersive world that (director and co-producer James Cameron) imagined. We brought Lowry in to clean up and enhance live-action scenes where necessary, allowing us to present 3D images with unprecedented quality.”
Lowry was also involved in the transfer of Cameron’s “Titanic” to 3D, and he founded a company called TrioScopics to create transfers of 3D theatrical pics for display on devices ranging from DVD players to smartphones.
Born in Toronto, Lowry started in the entertainment industry as a stagehand at the CBC in 1952. In 1971 he gained recognition in the industry for his algorithms used in the restoration of the NASA Apollo missions 16 and 17 films.