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Earlier this week, the Visual Effects Society recognized the groundbreaking work of special effects creator and producer Douglas Trumbull by awarding him their most prestigious honor: the Georges Méliès Award, named for the iconic filmmaker whose chagrinned moon from A Trip to the Moon serves as inspiration for the organization's logo. Trumbull's career in film began in the late 1960s, when he served as a special photographic effects supervisor for Stanley Kubrick's landmark science-fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since then, he's gone onto earn effects credits on such iconic films as Steven Spielberg's haunting extraterrestrial drama Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Ridley Scott's cult-adored sci-fi thriller Blade Runner. Yet the bulk of Trumbull's work took place even out of this insider spotlight. Or as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences so eloquently put it:
"In the course of his work, Trumbull created, developed or improved numerous filmmaking techniques and tools. These include 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. He has been awarded more than a dozen related patents."
It is for his immeasurable influence on modern moviemaking that the Academy Awards has decided to award Trumbull - who has thrice been nominated for the Best Visual Effects Oscar - the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, which is presented to "an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry."
While it's undoubtedly an honor that Trumbull deserves, it is thankfully not his first Academy win. That came in 1993, when he was honored for his part in the creation of the CP-65 Showscan Camera System for 65mm motion picture photography with a Scientific and Engineering Award – the branch of the Academy that honors advancements in the technology of making movies. Sadly, most only know this aspect of the Oscars as the quick montage where a lesser celebrity host awkwardly explains the importance of technology on the advancement of the industry, then hands out awards to people who rarely get the chance to be cut off by the orchestra. It is at this award ceremony held on February 11th, that Trumbull will be applauded among an audience of his peers and protégés, a well-deserved moment of praise we'll hopefully see amidst the sure-to-be garish, goofy and overlong Oscar broadcast on February 26 on ABC.