You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

James Cameron and Douglas Trumbull Honored at SMPTE Centennial Gala

Celebrating 100 years of setting technical standards for film and TV, the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers gave itself a rousing birthday bash Friday night at the Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood and Highland Center.

Actor, presenter, and Broadway star John O’Hurley, perhaps best known for playing J. Peterman on “Seinfeld,” energetically hosted the evening. Visuals displaying TV color bars and lyrics laced with phrases like “CGI” and “high frame rates” brought down the house – a feat possible only with an audience of scientists and engineers.

Douglas Trumbull, the visual effects artist who pioneered the look of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982), received the Progress Medal, SMPTE’s highest honor, acknowledging his work in effects, stereoscopic 3D, and high-frame-rate cinema, including his current work to enable stereoscopic 3D with his 120-frames-per-second Magi system.

Actor Billy Zane and multiple Oscar winning vfx expert Richard Edlund introduced Trumbull, who said he remains most proud of his contribution to “2001”; expressed deep disappointment over the industry’s non-acceptance in the 1990s of his Showscan system, which projected 70mm film at 60 frames per second; and encouraged the technical community to continue on the path of developing better images.

Visual effects guru Joe Letteri flew in from New Zealand, where’s he’s in pre-production on three “Avatar” sequels, to introduce director and deep-sea-diving pioneer James Cameron. The “virtual production” systems that Cameron developed with “Avatar” underpin the way many films are made today, Letteri said.

“This is a pinch-me moment,” said Cameron in accepting SMPTE’s honorary membership. Only half-joking, he added, “I’m doing the movies to pay for the diving… Once you’ve made your film and you put your name on it as a director, after that you’re just negotiating your price.”

And acknowledging his inner geekdom, he told the assembled engineers that amidst all the glamour of Hollywood, “the connecting bond is engineering. You guys are my peeps – by the way there are too many guys and not enough gals – [and] there there would be no art in this highly technical art form of ours without engineers.”

Cameron pushed for higher resolution, higher frame rates, brighter 3D projection, and, ultimately, glasses-free 3D. “When you see how far we’ve come, it’s dazzling, it’s magic.”

(Pictured above: James Cameron)

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Peaky Blinders Season 5

    Time-Jumping Season 5 of 'Peaky Blinders' Aims for a More Cinematic Look

    Cinematographer Si Bell was thrilled to learn he and director Anthony Byrne had been tapped to shoot the fifth season of BBC’s “Peaky Blinders,” but surprised to find out how free a hand executive producers Caryn Mandabach and Jamie Glazebrook were giving them to determine the scheme of their six-episode run. “I expected to meet the [...]

  • Ad Astra

    How 'Ad Astra' Production Crew Created Authentic Look for Brad Pitt Space Drama

    In “Ad Astra,” Brad Pitt’s astronaut Roy McBride crosses the solar system to find and confront his long-lost father, requiring the movie crew to create an authentic-looking future that conveys the theme of traveling long distances to learn the lesson that it’s where you started from that has the most value. “Visually, the aim was [...]

  • Women in Animation Logo

    WIA Partners With Animation Mentor, Toon Boom to Expand Scholarship Program

    Women in Animation has partnered with Animation Mentor and Toon Boom to expand the organization’s WIA Scholarship Program with workshops and software packages. WIA scholarships are given to animation students with a financial need and who demonstrate talent and passion for animation that will lead to a promising career in the field. The Animation Mentor [...]

  • Steven Poster ICG National President

    DP Steven Poster to Receive SOC Lifetime Achievement Award

    Stephen Poster, cinematographer on such classics as “Donnie Darko” and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” will receive the Lifetime Achievement Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Camera Operators at a ceremony on Jan. 18, 2020. SOC grants the award to an Individual who has served the community at large and/or the Society through outstanding service [...]

  • Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep

    Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep Potential Runaways at Home

    Horror film “Midsommar” did it last year. A new adaptation of the Swedish classic “The Emigrants” will do it next year. Prestigious productions that could have taken advantage of beautiful Swedish locations and craft expertise continue to run away to foreign locations for lower costs and tax incentives. Despite having a strong film industry creatively [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content