VFX Artifacts: The alpha channel and Alvy Ray Smith

The computer graphics pioneer goes deep on RGBA.

Alvy Ray Smith’s accomplishments in computer graphics are hard to summarize. Many may know him as a co-founder of Pixar and the inventor of a number of early digital paint systems. Among many other achievements he worked with Ed Catmull to ‘invent’ the alpha channel (RGBA), a keystone of computer graphics and digital compositing today.

It seemed only fitting, then, to feature this important history with Alvy in an episode of VFX Artifacts. I talked to him prior to SIGGRAPH and just prior to the launch of his new book, A Biography of the Pixel, published by MIT Press.

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