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?