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CG Pioneer Bill Kovacs Passes Away

Bill Kovacs, who co-founded Wavefront Technologies, earned a 1997 Academy Award for science and engineering innovations and who worked as a programmer on TRON, passed away last Tuesday at his home in Camarillo, California. Kovacs, who was 56, died of a stroke in his sleep brought on by a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1984, Kovacs co-founded software company Wavefront Technologies in Santa Barbara, California. He was the company's cto until he left in 1994, when the company went public. In 1995, Silicon Graphics acquired Wavefront. Later, both firms merged with Toronto-based Alias Research to form Alias Wavefront. Wavefront's software was combined with code from Alias Research to create Maya software. Maya, of course, is now a leading computer animation tool owned by Autodesk.

In 1997, Kovacs shared the Scientific and Engineering Academy Award with Roy Hall. The two were recognized for their work in developing Wavefront's Advanced Visualizer computer graphics system.

At Robert Abel & Associates, Kovacs was a programmer for Disney's 1982 feature, TRON, which incorporated early computer animation and paved the away for the 3D revolution.

After working for Wavefront, Kovacs was a consultant to game manufacturer Electronic Arts and Hollywood digital production company RezN8. He also was a founding partner in software startup Instant Effects.

Kovacs helped develop the School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University, and was its first visiting artist for technology. Recently, he lectured at UCLA and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where he was on the Presidential Advisory Board.

At the time of his death, Kovacs and longtime friend and colleague Ellen Wolff (a VFXWORLD contributor) were writing a memoir about the computer animation industry, THE PLACE WHERE THE MAGIC WAS BORN, which Wolff will complete.

Kovacs is survived by partner Kathy Salyer; their daughter, Savanna Salyer-Kovacs; his daughter, Christine Kovacs, of Berkeley, California; his son, Paul Kovacs, of Santa Cruz, California; their mother, Ruth Kovacs, of Montecito, California; his sister, Nancy Kovacs, of Marysville, Ohio; two nieces; and his stepmother, Helen Benedict, of Woodway, Texas.

A memorial service is planned for friends and family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the account of Savanna E. Salyer-Kovacs, c/o Coast Hills Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 200, Lompoc, California, 93438-0200.

Bill Desowitz's picture

Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.