A Canadian whose pioneering technology has restored some of Hollywood's greatest films died three weeks before he could accept an Oscar for his work.

John Lowry, who died on Jan. 21 at the age of 79, knew he had won because the Oscar organizers' Scientific and Technical Awards are announced in advance.

His wife, Mary, received the Oscar in his honour on Feb. 11, in a ceremony held separately from this Sunday's Academy Awards.

Lowry was born in Toronto, and worked as a stage hand in the city in the 1950s.

His first technological achievement was improving the picture quality of live images broadcast to television sets -- work he started in the 1960s.

In what is now called the "Lowry Process," he found a way to block out visual noise by using overlapping image frames.

In 1971 he started the company Image Transform, which worked with NASA to get clearer live images from its Apollo missions. Captivated viewers who had watched ghostly, distorted footage from the Apollo 11 mission saw a vast improvement by Apollo 16 and 17.

He spoke to CTV's W5 about the technology, which he called "electronic witchcraft."

"We can eliminate a very great deal of the noise on a standard television set and sharpen the picture up substantially," he said.

In 1998, Lowry turned his attention to restoring some of the greatest Hollywood films ever made, including "Casablanca" and "Roman Holiday," with his company Lowry Digital Images, based in Burbank, Calif.

His company breathes new life into prints and gets them ready for digital release on DVD. His work has gained admiration from famous directors like George Lucas.

"John Lowry's passion for cinema and expertise in technology were essential in preserving the work of filmmakers for future generations to enjoy," George Lucas told the Los Angeles Times this month in a statement.

"He has rescued many movies from irreparable decay, making it possible to enjoy them forever as the artists envisioned, without the damage of time."

With a report by CTV's Tom Walters in Los Angeles