Hollywood has lost one of the true pioneers in the industry of visual effects. It was recently reported that Howard A. Anderson Jr. died in late September.
Anderson Jr. was responsible for literally hundreds of title sequences for some of the most iconic television series in history including I Love Lucy, The Brady Bunch, The Andy Griffith Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Daniel Boone, Get Smart, My Three Sons, The Fugitive, That Girl, The Twilight Zone, Happy Days, The Love Boat, Wonder Woman, Cheers and many more. Arguably though he was most well-known for his work on the original Star Trek Series.
In 1964 Anderson and the special effects house he took over from his father, The Howard Anderson Company, were brought on board by Gene Roddenberry to work on the first pilot for Star Trek. Anderson and crew would go on to work on the series for all three seasons.
He was responsible for designing the starscape that became so familiar to Trek’s legions of fans. In addition to that he developed the shimmering transporter effect that captured the imaginations of millions of fans across the globe. Undoubtedly the most difficult illusion to produce was the Enterprise cruising through the stars. This was Anderson at his finest. This technique involved using a state-of-the-art optical printer called the Oxberry, and took a full three full days to shoot. In an interview with the American Archive of Television, Anderson recalls the process saying:
That was done with a zoom, an optical printer. It was one of the first printers that had a probe where we could do it and repeat – the first motion control. Was able to zoom back and forth and come back to exactly the same position. Other optical printers weren’t that well built. But the first OXBERRY was. We matted off the room with the black velvet or black paper around the aperture, zoomed from way back into the frame, and moved it around 44 times all the way around to fill the screen with that. Moving stars coming from infinity. It was a big job. We only had about 14 feet, I think, of moving stars. And we were able to loop that, of course. But it took us three days of all day and all night on the printer. We alternated and slept there while we did the multiple passes. That was the worst of the bunch, the most onerous to do. But it came out fine.
In addition to his work on television, he also created title sequences for over 100 films, and was the camera operator on Superman.
Howard A. Anderson Jr. continued working in the industry until he retired in 1990, although he continued to run the special effects house until 1994. n 2004, Anderson received the coveted President’s Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society of Cinematographers, of which he had been a member since 1962. In 2007, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the organization behind the Emmy Awards.
A truly inspiring and impressive resume for an unsung hero of hundreds of quintessential Hollywood productions. Anderson died on Sept. 27 of cardiac dysrhythmia in Ventura, California at the age of 95.