Petro Vlahos

The Petro Vlahos Legacy

Petro Vlahos
Petro Vlahos
RIP 1916 – 2013

Petro Vlahos died on February 10, 2013. His work, in many ways, defines modern visual effects in the film today. Among other things, Petro Vlahos is known for refining green (and blue) screen film technology for the Motion Picture Research Council by adding motion control cameras with traveling mattes. This stuff fascinates me.

For those who may not be familiar with what green screen is, here’s an example: You film your actors against a bright green, evenly lit background. In post production, you remove the background and insert anything you want in its place making the actors appear to be there. Petro greatly improved the green screen process, earning himself an Oscar in 1964.

Modern special effects, even CGI, use this technique ubiquitously. The next real jump forward, that blew me away, was John Gaeta‘s bullet time work in The Matrix in 1999, which, of course, uses green screen with an innovative multi camera approach to show the action from a 360º viewpoint.

Matrix Green Screen Bullet Time FXVisual FX are just amazing to me. And, thanks to the work of Petro Vlahos, we have been able to “see our world” through very different eyes. We’ve been able to look at other people’s imaginations!

Related: BBC — Blue and green-screen effects pioneer Petro Vlahos dies