Douglas Trumbull, visual effects expert on ‘Blade Runner’, ‘2001’ and more, dies at 79

Deepak Gupta February 9, 2022
Updated 2022/02/09 at 12:30 AM

Douglas Trumbull, the visual effects mastermind behind Blade Runner, Immediate Third Degree Encounter, 2001: A Space Odyssey and many others, died Monday at age 79. His daughter Amy Trumbull the news on Facebook, writing that her father’s death followed a “two-year battle” with cancer, a brain tumor and a stroke.

Trumbull was born on April 8, 1942 in Los Angeles, the son of a mechanical engineer and artist. His father worked on special effects for movies, including the wizard of oz and Star Wars: A New Hope. Young Trumbull worked as an illustrator and airbrush artist in Hollywood for many years. His career really took off after he Stanley Kubrick, a conversation that led to a 2001: A Space Odyssey.

One of his most significant contributions to 2001 was creating the movie , a groundbreaking scene where astronaut Dave Bowman walks through an illuminated tunnel that transcends space and time. To meet Kubrick’s high aesthetic standards for the shot, Trumbull essentially designed a way to turn the camera inside out. Trumbull’s ad hoc technique “was completely breaking the concept of what a camera was supposed to do,” he said. a talk at TIFF.

Trumbull earned Oscar nominations for visual effects for his work on Close Encounters, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner. He also received the President’s Award from the American Society of Cinematographers in 1996.

Later in his career, Trumbull expressed disgust at the impact of computers on visual effects, decrying the cheapening and flattening impact of the new era of CGI. “Today, the cinematic visual effects industry has given way almost entirely to computer graphics. We are able to do things that were absolutely inconceivable in the old days, like water effects, fire, explosions, smoke. But almost everything in the visual effects industry today is created on computers. There’s a certain commoditization that has resulted in me not being comfortable with myself. I like miniatures and physical effects and what I call organic effects,” Trumbull said in a 2018 interview. per The Hollywood Reporter.

He spent the last few years of his life working on a new super-immersive film format he dubbed , which he believed would improve the experience of watching a movie in theaters. But Trumbull struggled to attract interest from today’s film industry. “What interests me is being able to create deep personal experiences for the audience”, Trumbull MIT Technology Review in 2016. “Whatever it is, I want you to feel that what’s happening on screen is actually happening in real time, for you, in this theater.”

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