John Whitney Sr.

Born 1917-04-08 in Pasadena, California, USA.
Died 1995-09-22 in Los Angeles, USA.

John Whitney, Sr. was an U.S.American animation film maker, composer and inventor, popularly recognised as one of the fathers of computer animation.

From his first work with 8 mm film of a solar eclipse recorded with a home-made telescope, to the early innovative experiments with computer graphic systems, John Whitney Sr. has developed and deployed technology for artistic usage.

He was assisted by his family members in many projects which linked musical composition with experimental film and computer imaging. Since his recognized works in the first International Experimental Film Competition in Belgium, 1949, to his masterpiece Arabesque in 1975, John Whitney remained a true pioneer until his death in 1996.

Born in Pasadena, California.

Born in Pasadena, California.
Attended Pomona College, Claremont, California,USA.

1937-38 Spent a year in Paris, studying twelve-tone composition under Rene Leibowitz.

1939 Returned to America and began to collaborate with his brother James on a series of abstract films.

1940-45 Their work, ‘Five Film Exercises‘ was awarded the first prize at the First International Experimental Film Competition in Belgium in 1949.
1948 Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

1950’s Used his mechanical animation techniques to create sequences for television programs and commercials.

1952 Directed engineering films on guided missile projects.

1958 Animated title sequence from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo, produced in collaboration with graphic designer Saul Bass.

1960 Founded ‘Motion Graphics Incorporated’, where he used his invention ‘The Mechanical Analogue Computer’ to create motion-picture and television title sequences and commercials.

1961 Compiled the ‘ Catalogue ‘ a compilation of various visual effects developed from his invention.
1966 Awarded the first artist-in-residence position by IBM.

1970’s Started being involved in digital processes, favoring it’s speed as compared to the analogue computer.

1975 Composed ‘Arabesque’ with psychedelic, blooming colour-forms, a highlight of his digital films.

/1980’s onwards / Compositions benefited from faster contemporary processors and his invention of an audio-visual composition program called the Whitney-Reed RDTD (Radius-Differential Theta Differential).

1989 – 1995 Works from this period such as ‘Moondrum‘ used self-composed music and explored mystical or Native-American themes.

The Whitney film collection is housed at the Academy Film Archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where its preservation and restoration are ongoing.