The Shape-Shifting Future Of Films

The special effects wizard behind Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Tree of Life, and more, on the shape-shifting future of the movies.

This is scene from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," showing a space shuttle, lower right, approching a space station. (AP)

This is scene from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," showing a space shuttle, lower right, approaching a space station. (AP)

Douglas Trumbull just took home an Oscar statuette for a lifetime of incredible work in visual effects.  On Stanley Kubricks’ 2001: A Space   Odyssey.  On Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Star Trek.  Blade Runner.  Silent Running.  The Tree of Life.

It’s an incredible record.  But it’s the future of cinema Trumbull is worried about.  People are watching on little screens at home.  Movie theaters aren’t pulling them in.  Trumbull wants to make the cinema mind-blowing again.  He’s working on it.

This hour, On Point:  Visionary, pioneer Douglas Trumbull on the future of the movies.

-Tom Ashbrook



Douglas Trumbull, a filmmaker and special effects guru, he is responsible for the special effects in numerous films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, and The Tree of Life. He won both a special lifetime achievement award at the Academy Awards and the George Melies award from the Visual Effects Society last month.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Hollywood Reporter “Within three years of starting his Hollywood career, Douglas Trumbull changed the moviemaking process irrevocably; working with Stanley Kubrick on 1968’s 2011: A Space Odyssey, when he was barely 25, he not only created a landmark cinematic experience, but pioneered special-effects techniques which filmmakers continue to use even today. ”

San Francisco Chronicle “Describing his earlier experiments, Trumbull says, “When we shot test films at 24, 36, 48, 60, 66 and 72 frames a second, we didn’t have words in English that describe the phenomenon. We immediately saw a profoundly different kind of experience happening up around 60 frames: The surface of the screen became like a window into reality.”

Video: Douglas Trumbull On Fast Frames Per Second

At 24 frames-per-second, he says, action movies get blurry just as they get exciting.

Video: Douglas Trumbull On Bladerunner

Here’s Trumbull talking about how scenes from the movie Bladerunner were shot.

Video: Douglas Trumbull On Tree Of Life

Here Trumbull speaking to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York, about his role as special photographic effects expert for Tree of Life, a movie by Terrence Malick.

Video: 2001: A Space Odyssey

The famous “stargate” sequence from “2001: A Space Odyssey” that Douglas Trumbull masterminded.


THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA (“2001: A Space Odyssey”)  Richard Strauss

REJOICE IN THE SUN (from “Silent Running”) by Joan Baez




LACRIMOSA (from “The Tree of Life) by Zbiegnew Preisner

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