Douglas Trumbull, a filmmaker, VFX pioneer and inventor, has died at the age of 79.
Trumbull’s daughter, Amy, shared the news of his death on Facebook. She wrote that her father was "an absolute genius and a wizard and his contributions to the film and special effects industry will live on for decades and beyond."
Trumbull, a three-time Oscar nominee for his visual effects work, was honored with two Academy Sci-Tech Awards over the course of his long career. Trumbull is best known for his visual effects work on Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. He also directed several films, including the 1972 sci-fi drama Silent Running starring Bruce Dern and the 1983 sci-fi thriller Brainstorm starring Christopher Walken.
It was his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Blade Runner that earned him three shared Oscar nominations for Visual Effects in the span of just five years. Trumbull held numerous patents and continued to innovate both film equipment and techniques. In later years, he was an advocate for improving theatrical cinema images and helped bring the IMAX experience to a wider audience.
The son of a mechanical engineer who helped create effects for The Wizard of Oz and an artist, Trumbull grew up in Los Angeles and initially pursued illustration as a career. But his special photographic effects work on a documentary To The Moon And Beyond for the 1964 New York World’s Fair gave him the confidence to cold-call Stanley Kubrick, who hired Trumbull to work on 2001: A Space Odyssey. He started out as an animator, but, by the end of filming, was one of the four VFX Supervisors on the film.
Throughout his career, Douglas Trumbull wanted to show audiences something they had never seen before. In 1993, he shared a Science and Engineering Award for the CP-65 Showscan Camera System, described at the time as “the first modern 65mm camera developed in 25 years.” In addition to awards from the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and the Visual Effects Society, Trumbull received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award from the Academy in 2012, an Honorary Award for "an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry."
In recent years, from his home lab in Massachusetts, Trumbull continued to experiment and innovate, playing with higher frame rates and 3D production to create something he referred to as "hypercinema." Trumball believed that, in order to make the cinematic viewing experience more realistic and more vivid for audiences, filmmakers needed to think about their entire productions differently.
In 2013, he told CNN "I think we’re at a real transitional point where it’s time to start thinking about the possibilities… What if you had a new kind of a movie experience unlike anything you’ve seen before? I’m just interested in breaking the mold and doing something different, because I’m tired of the same old, same old."