Doug Trumbull Begins Divulging Odd Details About 'UFOTOG' Sci-Fi

June 18, 2013
Source: THR

Doug Trumbull

At least we have a name! Some will remember we've been covering news on a sci-fi project that visual effects legend Douglas Trumbull is developing - a "big space adventure movie." Our last update was in February 2012, but an article in THR (found via The Film Stage) picks up again with Trumbull covering details on a project titled UFOTOG. It's just an acronym of UFO and photographer, which is also what it's about. Even though this experiment runs only 10 minutes long, it was indeed shot in 4K 3D and at 120FPS (aka HFR) on Canon C500 cameras meaning it will look incredible, but is there anything to it? Or is it all just a tease?

In the article, Trumbull goes on to explain that he does have two big sci-fi projects in the works (which we've written about before) and this is only one of them. They shot most of UFOTOG on Canon 4K cameras at 120FPS, but "actors and other live elements were primarily shot on a greenscreen stage at Trumbull's studio in Southfield, Mass., and composited into 3D virtual sets." That said, the sets aren't set on another planet. Here's the key section where Trumbull explains what UFOTOG is about (plus he mentions his other movie):

The soft-spoken director then changed the subject back to his work. UFOTOG, an acronym for UFO photography, is "based on a longer screenplay that I have" that tells the story of a man's attempt to photograph an alien spacecraft. "He's very smart, a serial entrepreneur, like Elon Musk. So he has the wherewithal to get a really good camera and build a system on a mountaintop." The photographer is played by actor Ryan Winkles.

UFOTOG is one of two features that Trumbull has in the pipeline. "It is not the primary one that I want to make next. I'm also developing a sci-fi epic that takes place about 200 years in the future," he said.

So the story is about some guy who is trying to "photograph an alien spacecraft", and my guess is that it's a real spacecraft he's trying to photograph, not a fake one (in the story) this time. As for the 3D greenscreen sets, this won't turn out like the Star Wars prequels. "Trumbull said there is actually very little CG in his short, since the environments are largely composites of live-action elements such as trees and skies. 'The result is photorealistic,' he said." I'd love to see this for myself, as it sounds quite mesmerizing, but it's hard to imagine without seeing what he's working on. The experience is described as something more than a movie: "What you see on the screen is less like a movie and more like a live event. The screen becomes a giant window onto reality." As THR explains, it's all designed to deliver "a more first-person experience."

Here's a video from his site talking more about the "intent" of his UFOTOG project:

At the moment, Trumbull is searching for cinematic venues in Los Angeles to show his UFOTOG experiment in 120FPS, since there aren't any theaters capable of that kind of framerate yet (The Hobbit is 48FPS, James Cameron is aiming for 60FPS). He's even pushing to design a completely new screen just for this experience, testing a prototype by Stewart Filmscreen described as "an extremely high gain hemispherical screen that reflects all the light from the projector back to the audience." Until something like this is actually installed somewhere, he's searching for other places. "We are shooting for some dates in August." I'd love to attend, if I can score an invite. I'm not sure what to make of this yet, but I'm still intrigued to find out what he's up to.

Find more posts: Development, Movie News, Sci-Fi



There is a video on his website -

bigred1 on Jun 18, 2013


Firstshowing should embed that video. Actually all videos from his site. And the 3 Ain't it cool news did last year(they are on youtube)

David Banner on Jun 19, 2013


i hope he finds some way of showing the film in the manner he wants. i still can't really picture what he's describing, and we've no idea if it will be any good, but it's Trumbull, the man's a true trailblazer. plus he's really pushing the technology and trying to do new things. that alone should be celebrated.

son_et_lumiere on Jun 18, 2013


I think I have watched every video out there with Trumbull in it. I've been following him for more than a year and will keep doing so. He's an amazing mind. bigred1 linked to what is possibly the only footage we have of his "UFOTOG" project. However, THERE IS is stuff out there (test-footage/concept art) about his other, more epic story. Douglas Trumbull gave a so-called "Master Class" late last year, and he does reveal at one point certain technical aspects about what he's trying to do. If he's able to do it and prove his concept, then it's going to be a really important development for film-making and a step beyond what Cameron did with his virtual camera. This is the talk. The interesting stuff starts at 1:14:34. (Who am I kidding, the whole talk is interesting!) From what I understand, he's trying to do the following: - First, you record actors on a green screen with certain essential objects and shapes. - Use low grade CGI as reference while filming, like Cameron did while filming "Avatar". Now... it's possible that he may just create better rendered CG sets and use that for the finished product. But he's trying something else that I haven't seen being done on a feature film before. - When the scenes get pretty much settled on green screen and everyone's sure not many changes are going to happen, you then build detailed miniature sets of the spaces that existed in the computer, move the lights and the camera according to the info you got from recording the actors, and then incorporate the actors into the real miniatures, bypassing CGI environments altogether. With this, as long as it's done with enough resources and talent, you get a much higher degree of realism and are looking at footage of REAL sci-fi/fantasy environments. It's a much-less expensive way of doing supposedly expensive films. Add to this his ideal 120 frames per second and dome-screens, and you can definitely blow people away in unprecedented ways multiple times in a few minutes. That's Douglas Trumbull in a nutshell! 😀

JPCaetano on Jun 18, 2013


Couldn't have said anything better myself 😀

Chris Groves on Jun 19, 2013


Tron and Prometheus and Iron Man 3 could have been in 4D and 240fps and Feel-a-Around. They still would have all had weak scripts.

cobrazombie on Jun 20, 2013


This is an interview with a guy working on the project:

atrojas on Jun 21, 2013


The question that keeps coming to mind, is just what state of the human condition is going to have an encounter with new life? What is the baggage we're bringing to it? What's the baggage you bring to your own life every day? The projection of ourselves onto this situation of a combo of discovery and realization is unfortunately a projection of our limited consciousness. It's the old crab trap. We're never going to catch anything larger than the hole in the net, nor are we going to keep anything smaller than the hole. The hole is our limited consciousness which constantly uses the present as a means to an end...continuously routing the present into the past as memory and and accumulating time as if it were a real thing we understood. Any encounter with a foreign reality, whether it be the guy down the block or the blistering unknown that may wreck havoc on our minds will be a limited encounter. A fine mind like Mr. Trumball's may be more diamond like and clearer than the average mind, and could possibly be programmed to make a real quantum leap in an alien encounter. He certainly has done well with his encounters on this world. We find what we seek, however, unless there is the freedom from the known, which is time, which is the accumulation of the past as a means to an end.'

Dre Hund on Sep 5, 2013


While Mr. Turnbull says he is interested documenting scientifically the UFO subject he seems more interested in his Hollywood career as a premier efx genious. Good for him but bad for the UFO research community. Hollywood is all about allusions and story telling. Using the cover story of The UFOTOG project he is creating a mythology about himself and actual UFO research. Unfortunately his UFOTOG project is at a standstill because of lack of funding so he says. However that has not stopped him in his other expensive endeavors in creating more fantastic allusions that look more real than ever before. That is his real stock and trade.

nsurround on Sep 19, 2014


It seems that you might be too enamored with your own opinions to really get it.

Anonymous on Apr 8, 2015

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