Andrew Witkin, an Oscar-winning senior scientist at Pixar Animation Studios, died Sept. 12 while scuba diving off the coast of Monterey, Calif. He was 58.
Witkin joined Pixar in 1998, developing software to create realistic movement of virtual clothing, hair, fur and water for films including Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles.
In 2006, he won an Oscar for ‘”pioneering work in physically-based computer-generated techniques used to simulate realistic cloth in motion pictures.”
He recently developed new techniques for simulating hair in the upcoming Disney-Pixar feature film Brave.
‘We will always have Andy to thank for the life and energy his work has brought to our characters,’ says Bill Wise, a supervising technical director at Pixar. ‘Andy was a real pioneer in our industry and I feel very lucky to have gotten to work with him over the years. I worked closely with him first on The Incredibles and I know without his help we would not have had the amazing characters we did for that film. He loved the excitement of production and seeing his tools used to put beauty on the screen.’
Prior to working at Pixar, Witkin earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia College and a doctorate in psychology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He worked at the Schlumberger Palo Alto Research Laboratory and lead research in computer vision and graphics and developed the now-classic method called scale-space filtering. He co-wrote a number of prize-winning and highly influential papers and was honored by ACM SIGGRAPH in 2001 with the Computer Graphics Achievement Award.
Witkin is survived by his wife Sharon and two college-age daughters, Emily and Anna. A memorial service will be held Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, Calif.