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‘2001’ & ‘The Tree of Life’ VFX Legend Douglas Trumbull Talks His 120fps 3D Space Adventure Film

Written by on November 14, 2011 

Douglas Trumbull has only directed two features in his career, Silent Running and Brainstorm (the latter of which was released 28 years ago), but his place in cinema history is already secured by work in the visual effects field. With a career that includes 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters, Blade Runner, and The Tree of Life, I don’t think that position needs to be explained. Tree is a rather significant credit; not only did it bring him back to films after nearly three decades of absence, but it also seems to have sparked more creative inspiration in the legend.

We first heard about another directing project back in May; there was more or less no information on it, other than the fact that it would be produced by his new company, Magnetar Productions, and utilize higher frame rates with 3D. It’s an object of curiosity for someone like myself, primarily because I have a great deal of respect for Trumbull‘s past work. Thankfully, BleedingCool managed to learn more about this new movie from the man himself during an interview. And even if his answers are somewhat vague, it’s better than nothing.

Revealing that he’s “shooting films right now at 120fps in 3D” with “absolutely stunning” results, he explained that there’s “a very challenging process ahead […] to start demonstrating this and doing at least one film that I want to make.” Going further, Trumbull said the following:

“I have several films lined up but I’ve got one in particular that would lend itself to this. It’s a big space adventure movie. And I’ve got to make the movie and show it in this process and convince people that there’s a very big audience that wants to see this kind of tremendous technological, creative, visual leap forward to much higher quality.”

Regarding the technological aspects of his newest endeavors, he had this to say:

“I don’t see right now any visible advantage to go even higher than 120 frames, I think that’s about as much as the human eye can absorb, but combining 120 frames and high brightness and gain screens that are very wide and large with a different seating configuration is a huge epic change that will take some time to effect. But I’m working on it.”

Content-wise, Trumbull‘s two in-progress screenplays have what could be considered “not so much an ecological bent as much as a survival bent” that deal with “reaching for the stars and why we would have to go to the stars.” He indicated that things such as overpopulation and climate change will be the motivators behind such an act in his screenplay(s).

The majority of his directing work has been in shorts that often serve as special effects showcases or part of an exhibition at a museum, so jumping back into narrative features should be an interesting challenge — and, with some luck, a wonder for audiences. While a good film is always my biggest desire, I’m also holding out hope that, with higher frame rates and carefully-implemented 3D, he can continue to push visual effects to and past their conceived limits, delivering something that could act as the 2001 of our day. A tall order for anyone, but the mere fact that he worked on the legendary sci-fi film — and aided in creating some of its most stunning visuals — is as good a start as any.

Are you interested in what Trumbull is working on next?

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