Arthur Widmer, 92; Pioneer of ‘Blue Screen’ Special-Effects Process

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Arthur Widmer, a pioneer in film special-effects technology who received a lifetime achievement award last year from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has died. He was 92.

Widmer died of cancer May 28 at his home in Hollywood, according to publicist Jane Ayer.

In presenting the award to Widmer on Feb. 12, 2005, the academy noted his significant contributions to the development of the Ultra Violet and “blue screen” compositing processes.

“Art’s pioneering work has had a profound impact on the film industry,” Richard Edlund, chair of the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, said when the award was announced. “In fact, many of the films we hold dear would not have been possible without his contributions to image compositing technology.”


Widmer was born in Washington, D.C., and, after entering the University of Michigan at age 16, he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

He began his career at the Eastman Kodak Research Laboratories in Rochester, N.Y.

During World War II, Kodak posted him to Oak Ridge, Tenn., to work on the Manhattan Project to make the atomic bomb.

After the war, Kodak sent him to Los Angeles, where he explored new techniques to enhance the quality of images on film.

In the late 1940s, Widmer helped introduce Eastman Color Negative and Color Positive film to the motion picture industry.

From the 1950s on, he worked primarily for Warner Bros., where some of his key work involved the Ultra Violet Traveling Matte process. He also worked to refine technologies for 3-D and wide-screen processes.

In 1964, he went to work for Universal Studios, where he designed and built the optical department.

He continued his development of “blue screen” technology used in special effects and optical printing.


Widmer, who retired in 1979, is survived by his sister, Barbara Dinwoodie; and three nieces.