Douglas Trumbull Honored by SMPTE
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Douglas Trumbull at the 2011 Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition
At the end of its 2011 Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) honored 19 industry pioneers and innovators. Among those was Douglas Trumbull, who was honored with the 2011 SMPTE Presidential Proclamation, which recognizes "individuals of established and outstanding status and reputation in the motion-picture, television, and motion-imaging industries worldwide." Trumbull was honored for his more than 45 years of pioneering work in visual effects photography and groundbreaking innovation in motion picture technologies, said SMPTE President Pete Ludé (pictured above in title graphic with Trumbull).

"SMPTE is pleased to honor these award winners for their many technological achievements," added SMPTE Executive Director Barbara Lange. "From advances in computer graphics to innovations in production and sound to standards development and education, they have helped to improve the way people consume and enjoy content, whether on the big or small screen."

Trumbull is noted both for his pioneering and continuous work in innovative visual effects photography and motion picture innovations including his invention of Showscan, an early effort in high-frame rate cinema production and exhibition. Trumbull holds 22 patents for his many inventions in motion picture and ride simulation technology.

Douglas Trumbull honored by SMPTE
Douglas Trumbull shooting with a Canon EOS 7D

Among Trumbull's visual effects photography accomplishments, he produced much of the artwork for multi-plane and fisheye photography for the Graphic Films' To The Moon and Beyond, which played in Cinerama 360 at the 1964 New York World's Fair. That film led to Trumbull working for Stanley Kubrick doing animation, miniature design and innovative VFX photography for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Trumbull and his partner Jamie Shourt implemented one of the first applications of computer numerically controlled stepper motors on both microscopes and miniatures to create the deadly virus from outer space on The Andromeda Strain. He next wrote the original treatment for Silent Running and directed it, pioneering the use of portable 4x5 plate front projection. For Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Trumbull produced photographic effects with his collaborator Richard Yuricich. They accomplished the first real-time on-location digital recording of camera motion with Jerry Jeffress. Trumbull pioneered numerous other effects for this film, including composting motion control shots in 65mm.

The iconic Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, also utilized Trumbull's expertise in smoke effects, lighting effects and other photographic innovations. Trumbull was involved in the visual effects photography for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and developed a trilogy of attractions for Secrets of the Luxor Pyramid. Most recently, Trumbull provided visual effects photography for The Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life
Brad Pitt and Hunter McCracken in The Tree of Life. ©2011 Fox Searchlight

Among his many inventions, Trumbull's most prescient was Showscan, a high-frame rate cinema that relied on 65mm negative filmed at 60 fps and 70mm prints projected at 60 fps. Trumbull also developed a robot controller first used as a prop in the Showscan film Let's Go; first developed the simulator ride concept, an adaptation of flight simulation technology; and invented the zero gravity boom (which was fabricated by Mike Sorensen of Sorensen Design).

In addition to Trumbull, others honored at the 2011 SMPTE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition included the SMPTE Progress Medal, which was awarded to Dr. Edwin Catmull, President and co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and President of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Graem Ferguson and Roman Kroitor, founders of IMAX, were honored with the John Grierson International Gold Medal, sponsored by the National Film Board of Canada, which recognizes significant technical achievements in documentary film. Joshua Pines received the Technicolor/Herbert T. Kalmus Medal, sponsored by Technicolor, for his many years of work developing improvements to film scanning and recording technology at Industrial Light and Magic and Technicolor. Max Bell of Bell Theatre Services was honored with the Samuel L. Warner Memorial Medal, sponsored by Warner Bros., which recognizes outstanding contributions in design and development for motion-picture sound. Bruce Devlin, CTO of AmberFin, for his leadership of and contributions to the development and adoption of SMPTE MXF standards, received the David Sarnoff Medal, sponsored by the Sarnoff Corp. Linda J. Brown, for her commitment to teaching the art and science of cinematography to aspiring filmmakers of all backgrounds was awarded to Kodak Educational Award, sponsored by Eastman Kodak Co.

Individuals who were honored with the Society's SMPTE Fellow Membership award included Todd Brunhoff, Senior Staff Software Engineer, Harmonic; Dr. Edwin Catmull, President and co-founder, Pixar Animation Studios and President, Walt Disney Animation Studios; Gary Demos, CEO and Founder, Image Essence; Michael Karagosian, Founder and President, MKPE Consulting; and Paul Michael Stechly, President, Applied Electronics.

Title graphic at top: Left, Douglas Trumbull receives the Presidential Proclamation from SMPTE President Pete Ludé, right.