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Visual Effects Pioneer for Star Trek and Other Iconic Television Series Dies

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.

Howard A. Anderson Jr.
Howard A. Anderson Jr.

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.[5] 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.


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About the author

Tim Piland

Timothy Piland is a classically trained tenor and opera singer. He was born and raised in the Springfield, Mo. Area.

He has performed Roles for Springfield Little Theater, Vandivort Theater, Springfield Regional Opera and Mobile Opera. He has also worked for the Puccini Festival, and the Kansas City Lyric Opera.

In his performing career he has performed roles in: Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Man of La Mancha, Die Fledermouse, La Fanciulla del West, Gianni Schicchi and many other shows.

In 2007, he toured the United Kingdom with the Church of the Incarnation out of Dallas, Texas. This included a week long engagement at Westminster Abbey, as well as a 9 day engagement at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 2009 he originated the role of the Priest in "Frankenstein, Monster" by Le Wlhelm at the Gilloiz Theater.

He appeared onstage as Rupert Giles for, "A Class Act productions," in their ongoing presentation of Buffy The Vampire Slayer: A Reader’s Theatre Parody, from March 2010-July 2013.

In November 2011, he made his directoral debut, directing "Star Trek Live Onstage: The Trouble with Tribbles," also for "A Class Act." He went on to direct 14 of the next 17 episodes of that live stage show.

Each Christmas you can also catch him at the historic Pythian Castle where he performs in a, "Night of the Dueling Santas," a Christmas dinner show of his own writing. He has been the Ghost Tour Guide for the castle since 2010.

He has been featured on The Discovery Channel, SYFY Channel, The History Channel, NPR.

He is the founder of Harvest Moon Productions and oversees events ranging from concerts to straight plays. He is currently writing a book called "Ghostly Tales From Pythian Castle," which hopefully will see production at some point in 2014.

In 2013 he was cast as Dr. Howard Lagrasse in the 5 episode silent Horror web series SHADOW BOUND, for Arcane Productions. Most recently he was cast in a role in the feature film EVERYTHING, for Parallax Studio.

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