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John Lowry, Renowned Restorer of Hollywood Classics, Dies

His Lowry Process was used to repair such films as "All About Eve" and "Snow White," and he was to be honored by the Academy next month.

John D. Lowry, a celebrated film-restoration specialist who was set to receive a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences next month, has died.

Reliance MediaWorks said Lowry died Jan. 21. No other details of his death were immediately known.

Lowry pioneered the image-processing software system known as "the Lowry Process,” which improves the resolution and dynamic range of motion picture imagery while removing dirt and scratches and making other repairs.

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As a restoration and remastering tool, it has touched some of Hollywood's crown jewels including All About Eve, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and the 4K restoration of Titanic, which is the starting point for its 2D-to-3D conversion.

The process also is used for image and detail enhancement to new movies lensed with digital cameras. David Fincher used the process on The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Zodiac.

Describing the process of cleaning up the Indiana Jones films in an interview with Apple, Lowry said, “We removed a piece of dirt from only every frame or two. For two versions each of three movies, that’s half a million pieces of dirt. But for [1953 film] Roman Holiday, we removed hundreds of pieces of dirt from each of the 170,000 frames. In a typical old movie, you’re talking millions of pieces of dirt.”

Lowry, who was born in 1932 and raised in Toronto, became a stagehand at the CBC in 1952. He gravitated into restoration and in 1988 founded Lowry Digital Images. The company was known as DTS Digital Images while it was owned by digital audio company DTS from 2005–08 before being acquired by India’s Reliance MediaWorks.

 

His most recent company was TrioScopics, which he founded in 2007 with Ian Caven. It develops 3D technology that combines proprietary image-processing science with custom-designed, inexpensive viewing glasses to create an immersive, 3D experience.

At AMPAS’ SciTech Awards on Feb. 11, Lowry, along with Cavan, Ian Godin, Kimball Thurston and Tim Connolly, was to receive a Scientific and Engineering Award, an Academy Plaque, for “the development of a unique and efficient system for the reduction of noise and other artifacts, thereby providing high-quality images required by the filmmaking process.”