AMPAS to honor Douglas Trumbull with the Gordon E. Sawyer Award

Posted by · 11:11 pm · January 13th, 2012

The Academy has announced that it will present Douglas Trumbull with the Gordon E. Sawyer Award at the Scientific and Technical Awards presentation on Saturday, February 11, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The award is meant to honor “an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry.”

Trumbull has worked in a visual effects capacity on pioneering films such as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Andromeda Strain,” “Silent Running” and, more recently, “The Tree of Life,” and received three Best Visual Effects Oscar nominations for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “Blade Runner” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Trumbull was granted a Scientific and Engineering Award in 1992 for his role in the design of the CP-65 Showscan Camera System for 65mm motion picture photography.

Trumbull founded Future General Corporation, a research and special effects house, in 1975 where he developed and/or advanced technologies such as slit-scan photography, process photography, miniature compositing, interpositive matte painting, large-format filming, high frame rate photography and projection, synchronized multiscale filming, motion control photography, virtual reality systems, interactive motion simulators and digital cinema. (Wow.)

It seems that the time has come to honor Trumbull”s contribution to his craft all round, the effects supervisor and producer was also honored by the Visual Effects Society earlier this week with the Georges Méliès Award. It is somewhat interesting to note that the recognition comes in a year that he is attached to an art house film (visually grand and stunning though it may be), rather than a large scale event offering as some of his earlier films were.

Trumbull”s talent may well be a result of his genetic makeup (as well as his upbringing). His father, Donald Trumbull, worked on the pioneering visual effects of “The Wizard of Oz” and then later “Star Wars.” One of Douglas Trumbull”s earliest projects was to create a film about spaceflight for the New York World’s Fair, a film which brought the ambitious young artist to the attention of Stanley Kubrick and the rest, as they say, is history. 

I saw “2001: A Space Odyssey” on 70MM a few years ago, and while I must confess that the journey through the “stargate sequence” read somewhat like a massive screen saver in this day and age, the technology at work in the film truly is astonishing when you put it into the context of a 1968 release. I have a particular respect for those that innovate in the crafts fields as they provide storytellers with the tools for filmmakers to tell the stories that would otherwise be beyond the reach of suspension of disbelief.

Trumbull is the 23rd recipient of the Sawyer Award.

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