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Doug Trumbull Speaks Again on How Mind-Boggling His New Sci-Fi Is

by
February 9, 2012
Source: THR

Douglas Trumbull

The way this guy speaks about his upcoming projects sounds like he's bringing the second coming of cinema in the near future. We've been keeping tabs on visual effects maestro Douglas Trumbull, aka Doug, for a while as he's been back in the fray since doing the FX work on The Tree of Life. Trumbull was at the VES Awards ceremony this week and our friend Todd at the Hollywood Reporter interviewed him, and it's quite a tremendous piece. He speaks in depth about the state of the industry and FX world, and also goes in depth into his upcoming "120FPS 3D" sci-fi movie we've been hearing about. And it sounds mind-blowing already.

Trumbull has been developing a "big space adventure movie" in 3D shot at 120FPS that will be "absolutely stunning", so he keeps saying. In the interview, he talks about how he's trying to merge reality and cinema. "I'm developing my own film, well, several films, but one of these films is going to go into this new territory I'm talking about – which is first person cinema reality which is indistinguishable from reality. The screen is going to be so big it's like a window into another world. I'm going way beyond anything that Peter Jackson and Jim Cameron have been doing or are thinking of, and I don't expect to get traction from investors until I can show what it is. Because no one's ever seen it before, and no one can imagine what it would be like." Only Trumbull, who worked on 2001, Star Trek and Blade Runner, can say things like this.

Trumbull is apparently working on these projects entirely on his own, entirely separate from Hollywood, with his own engineers. He explains: "I have my own studio, I work in the Berkshires, I have my own stage, my own cameras, my own lights, my own editing, my own workshop, my machine shop, and I'm trying to reinvent the movies – with no help whatsoever from Hollywood. But very good, supportive help from projector manufacturers and camera manufacturers, who are completely open to anything that's going to invigorate their business." Very interesting comments, and criticisms, of the industry now (more here) but I'm still intrigued by this sci-fi movie he's working on and it's potential, since it sounds quite spectacular.

In our last update, he said it deals with "reaching for the stars" and questions if "we're going to have to leave the Earth?" But it goes way beyond that, as Trumbull now hints in this latest update, responding to another question about what the story is with an answer that will blow your mind just reading it. He reveals:

"I can only say that it's a 200-years-in-the-future science fiction space epic that's going to address very big, lofty issues, like man's place in the universe, and how our contact with an extraterrestrial civilizations that are so mind-bogglingly in advance of our own that it will go into some of the same territory that 2001 went into, and it's going to do it in a very plausibly scientific way, not a fanciful way. There are no alien monsters, and the earth is not being attacked by anybody. It's going to be a much more intelligent, what we call hard-science fiction, and I think there's absolutely nothing out there like this. I think the studios believe that they have to dumb everything down and the audience is not scientific, not up for anything truly intelligent, but I think just the opposite. I think we're in the most technologically advanced society of all time, and people can go with that immediately."

It's a bit hard to even comprehend that and whatever kind of crazy story/concept he's coming up with, but I am definitely hooked. Then again, it sounds like he's just trying to reinvent everything. "I want to explore new cinematic language, because we already have the language of cinema – it's very well known. Everybody knows how to do a master shot, a close-up, a two-shot, over the shoulder, a single and an insert; that's the language of movies. But when you get into this other area of first-person experiential cinema as though what's happening is actually unfolding in real time, and it's not overly manipulated by fast cuts and blurry fakes, it's a whole other cinematic language that no one's exploring." While this certainly sounds interesting, I need to really see it, which even he reiterates, to the point that they can't get financing unless they show it.

One other area he touches on in the interview that really intrigues me is his mention of lasers being the next major technological leap for projection, which is what we were also discussing when IMAX partnered with Eastman Kodak for that laser technology. Essentially, Trumbull is saying that beyond even 4K and 8K is a next level of resolution and color depth that only laser projection can provide. He mentions in the interview:

"There's a whole new era of laser projectors that's entering the marketplace now that very few people have seen. I witnessed it about a month ago and it's mind-boggling. The quality of image that we can project on screens with laser projectors is incredible color gamut, absolutely even field of light, very bright, very big, and when I increase the frame rate, it's going to be like a window. So it's a movie that's more like a live show, and I want to see what that's going to be like. I think it's going to be really fun."

Fun, indeed. He references how the only other people touching upon cinema that even comes close to this are James Cameron and Peter Jackson, of course, but also "IMAX, science museum, historical museum... there's a small group of people who make these extremely high-resolution films, shooting 65mm negative and scanning it at 8K... a tremendous amount of detail, particularly for very large screens, which are in science museums." So go to your local museum to get a glimpse at the future of movies! These are all utterly fascinating comments from Trumbull in a rather outstanding interview on THR, so I highly suggest reading the full piece, as there's so much more he talks about from visual effects to the film industry overall. In the meantime, we'll be sure to keep you updated on anything else we hear about his sci-fi projects and beyond.

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  • tir na nog
    Great article,good to see someone stepping outside the box,and no one can argue with his knowledge base.Wonder if he's working on next Bladerunner.
  • Al
    If he can do it, I can not wait. 
  • Scottoftheantarctic
    Dude sounds crazy.
  • Gasper
    First person cinema is mind blowing, only a few films have been made that introduce that technique and boy is it escapism at its finest. "Enter The Void" was an amazing film where you look through the characters eyes the whole movie and not to mention that character was on a DMT trip so you really got lost in his reality, a true Masterpiece, watch it while your stoned! 
  • lando
    if Doug is attached, Im there!  this man is responsible or has been connected to some of the most influential movies in my life.  If he's saying it, believe it.
  • BK
    I'd love if he brought it out, but before that, to slightly knock others when he hasn't even come up with whatever he's talking about, not too good. But then, he's self financed so no problems. I am actually really interested in what he's talking about...what could it mean? Such possibilities!
  • David Banner
    I just want to hug this guy for making the future looking so bright!
  • CinemaDude
    Hollywood, since the end of the great movie moguls and the rise of the conglomerates where the studios are run by bean counters and people who run other businesses, has been all about "what's good enough"...how little do we have to spend and still make money.   They pushed digital long before it could ever produce the quality of 35mm film let alone 70mm.  They are willing to abandon film in order to save the cost of release prints.  There is not question they should have waited until they could get digtal to a level that SURPASSES 70mm film.  Now it's come back to bite them in the butt because they have outfitted 60% of existing screens with 2K projectors when the 4K is already available and 8K, like Trumbull says is very doable.  So instead of waiting, the rush to mediocracy has very unfortunately locked a majority of exhibitors into 2K projectors.  It will be extremely hard for exhibitors to then turn around and spend the money to retrofit all those 2K low level digital projectors with 8k and 16k laser projectors capable of much higher frame rates.  In this respect, today's digital conversion has gone a long way to thwart presentation improvements and lock the industry into an inferior level of presentation given what digital eventually is capable.  We are doomed to "good enough" thanks to this digital imployment.  It is also very interesting to note that many of the great technological improvements in visual presentation have come, not from Hollywood, but from those who think outside the Hollywood box.  Cinerama, an incredibly immersive, high resolution process, IMAX (in its original horizontal 70mm film format), TODD-AO 70mm were all systems which were huge improvements with both image and sound and they were all developed OUTSIDE the Hollywood system.  Here's hoping Mr. Trumbull prevails.

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