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Effects whiz Douglas Trumbull in a new frame

By Ryan Pearson
AP Entertainment Writer / February 10, 2012
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LOS ANGELES—Douglas Trumbull is nearly 70, but the special effects whiz behind space classics like "2001: A Space Odyssey" says he's launching a new phase in his filmmaking career.

Trumbull is being honored with a special achievement Oscar at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Scientific and Technical Awards dinner on Saturday, and he was given another lifetime honor by the Visual Effects Society earlier this week.

But he says that despite winning Oscars for his work on films like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Blade Runner" and "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," he hasn't been able to accomplish everything that he wanted to in Hollywood.

He's now planning to direct his own film at 120 frames-per-second to fulfill what he says was the goal for himself and director Stanley Kubrick on "2001" of creating an "immersive experience that took you into space, and made you a participant in the movie."

Trumbull says he turned down a request from George Lucas to supervise special effects on "Star Wars" because he was focused on his own career as a director ("Silent Running," "Brainstorm"). But when "Brainstorm" fell apart after the death of star Natalie Wood, Trumbull ran into problems with his other projects, and eventually decided to move to Massachusetts and work outside the mainstream film industry.

Now, he's advocating for a blend of new digital technologies -- higher frame-rates, brighter projection, bigger screens -- to improve the movie-going experience.

Film -- whether photographic or digital -- is traditionally shot and played at 24 frames-per-second, but several elite filmmakers are starting to embrace higher frame rates in an effort to reduce on-screen blur and create richer images in 2D and 3D. Peter Jackson is filming his two "Hobbit" films at 48 frames-per-second and James Cameron is considering shooting his two "Avatar" sequels at 60 frames-per-second.

Trumbull wants to go beyond that by using his small Massachusetts studio to create a space adventure set more than a century in the future.

"Just in the same way that Jim Cameron used `Avatar' to show that 3D was really a whole new palette of filmmaking, I think I can demonstrate (120 frames per second)," he said. "I know it's feasible. I'm doing it every day. I have it in my studio. ... It's mind-boggling. So I have to make a movie and say, `OK here it is. Here's what this looks like, folks. Decide if you like it or not.'"

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