Founding Member of Industrial Light & Magic Robert Blalack Dead at Age 73

Robert Blalack, a founding member of Industrial Light & Magic and the key architect of their optical compositing workflow, first used on Star Wars: Episode IV, passed away last week at the age of 73.

What’s Happening:

  • Blalack passed away last Wednesday, February 2nd, at the age of 73, his wife told Deadline.
  • At the age of 29, he designed and supervised the Star Wars VistaVision Composite Optical production pipeline, which allowed all the groundbreaking 365 VistaVision VFX shots in Star Wars. Much of what he created for the film was built on a (relative) shoestring. With a VFX budget of just $1.6 million for the film, Blalack made use of obsolete VistaVision optical composite equipment from Hollywood’s Golden Years that could be had for a song.
  • “My task was to scavenge the Hollywood junkyards for any VistaVision Composite Optical mechanics,” he wrote, “figure out how to upgrade those relics with custom state-of-the-art optics, design a photographic process to mass-produce the movie’s 365 VistaVision composites, and then train and supervise the Star Wars Composite Optical crew.”
  • The result was what he called, “This Rube Goldberg assemblage of ancient composite printer hardware, state-of-the-art optics and the mass-production blue screen color-difference composite techniques were the backbone of the celluloid system… subsequently used on all ILM VistaVision VFX Composite Opticals.”
  • The Star Wars Twitter account posted this heartfelt message dedicated to Blalack: