Trumbull the sci-fi master

Douglas Trumbull is one of great special effects heroes whose name is synonymous with genre movie magic.

His credits include 2001, The Andromeda Strain, Silent Running, Close Encounters, and Blade Runner. 

Now his effects and innovations will (finally) be honored by the Academy, as Trumbull is slated to win an honorary award for his cinematic innovations.

Like any sci-fi fan who has seen Trumbull’s handiwork, I was recently watching Silent Running (again) and couldn’t help but be amazed at how well the special effects held up after forty years.

As a press release from the Academy tells us, his innovations include “slit-scan photography, process photography, miniature compositing, interpositive matte painting, large format filming, high frame rate photography and projection, synchronized multi-scale filming, motion control photography, virtual reality systems, interactive motion simulators and digital cinema.”


That’s all quite a mouthful, but the main thing to remember is, his effects are still incredible after all this time, even in today’s era of CGI. Along with Star Wars in 1977, Close Encounters was the special effects movie of its time, and both movies were a huge leap forward for effects technology.

Trumbull has never won an Academy Award, although he’s been nominated three times. He will be given the Gordon E. Sawyer award, which according to the Academy, goes to “an individual in the motion picture industry whose technology contributions have brought credit to the industry.”

If Trumbull isn’t worthy of this award, then who is?