directors, movies

Douglas Trumbull: Kubrick, Effects, and the Future of Films

Space Odyssey: 2001.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind.   Bladerunner.   Star Trek: The Motion Picture.   Brainstorm.   Tree of Life.  As special photographic effects pioneer, Douglas Trumbull’s expertise and history is impressive. The more I read about him, my respect for the innovator grows. I highly urge you to check out his website:

Gosh, I wish they would change their minds and show this documentary. I can’t believe it was canceled, and I couldn’t find out why.

On his website, his interesting videos explain his invention of the split screen in 2001: A Space Odyssey, his love for 70 mm, Super Panavision, which Kubrick chose for Space Odyssey. Here’s a glimpse where he explains the Showscan process projecting 70mm movies at 60 frames per second.

His contribution for developing 3D, IMAX, and immersive effects is fascinating. A part of the innovator’s history is his disdain for Hollywood and the frustrations of the economics of the movie making process and the future of films. He says, “75% of the total world box-office receipts are now special effects driven “tent-pole” movies that are costing $200-400 million dollars each.” The problem extends to the redistribution through DVDs, television and home viewing.


“I believe the industry is suffering from a severe bottleneck of quality reduction: small screens, dim images, low-bandwidth standards, low frame rates, and an overall lack of showmanship at theaters. The vast money being spent on production is not getting to the audience.”

Douglas Trumbull has respect for Peter Jackson’s decision to film The Hobbit and Desolation of Smaug in 48fps instead of the usual 24fps. At the heart of Trumbull’s hope for the future in films are the possibilities offered by 3D photography.


On his website, Trumbull says, “Jim Cameron made an amazing break-through with AVATAR, cleverly combining an intense effects-driven 3D movie, with intense 3D digital photography and projection. This is the most complex, technology driven film of all time (at least so far) and is also the highest revenue generating film of all time as well. Jim has delivered something close to an out-of-body-first-person-immersive experience, while deftly retaining tried and true cinematic language.”

What is the future of film? What do you think of Douglas Trumbull?

15 thoughts on “Douglas Trumbull: Kubrick, Effects, and the Future of Films”

  1. Certainly an innovator, of whom I had not previously heard.

    And as the great Saul Williams says, “Right or wrong, I think hip-hop is where it belongs.”

    Oh wait. We’re talking about movies, but the sentiment applies there, too. There is a lot of crap, but also a lot of good.


  2. Awesome post CIndy. Hats off to Mr. Douglas Trumbull! I’ve never been to his website before but wow his contribution to Hollywood is unbelievable.


    1. I was snooping around thinking about special effects and his name came popping up. Close Encounters is probably my favorite sci-fi. I loved learning about the history of special effects. His relationship with Kubrick in 2001 was explained on his website. He taught me a lot about the history of special effects. Thanks, always, Ruth, for commenting! God Bless 🙂


    1. I know that 2001 is great, but I never knew why. I only just discovered Trumbull and learning about special effects, the history of it. Close Encounters is probably my favorite science fiction film and learning about split screen and the models he made was fascinating. Glad you made it over, Thanks 🙂


  3. Trumbull … a legend of course. But even he knew that special effects save a bad movie – no matter how great they are. You still have to have a little inspiration, a good Cast, a good Director, a good story … and maybe something to say. There are plenty of movies around with lots of flash that I will never watch more than once.


    1. I couldn’t agree with you more. Nothing beats a great script and acting–I’m a writer, so I value well-written dialogue and characters I care for. But, I love science fiction, too, and that always is connected with special effects it seems. Trumbull would say himself that without a good story, special effects won’t carry the film. That’s a shame when you consider how amazing the special effects are these days and I’m bored at the movies. Bored! That seems like a crime.


  4. Love reading about this subject and I’m glad Mr. Trumbull is getting some respect by people outside of the industry. He’s definitely one of the pioneers in the industry. As for the future of film, unfortunately we won’t be referring to films as film anymore since so many movies are being shot digitally. It’s kind of sad to me since I love the look of film.

    Great write up Cindy!


    1. I had a hard time understanding the difference until I saw that video that showed me the difference in film. I appreciate digital’s tricks, but I’m a traditionalist when it comes to filmmaking. Thanks for taking the time to check out my post. Great subject your post! 🙂


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