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Patents

Doug has been granted a number of patents for various media technologies.

If you click the Full-Screen icon on the viewer up there (and opt for the Cooliris plugin if you don't already have it) you can zoom each patent large enough to read it.

  • High Frequency Injection

    Douglas Trumbull discovered during the development of the BACK TO THE FUTURE RIDE that the hydraulic servo systems had severely limited frequency response, due to servo loop design parameters. He found that sounds and vibrational frequencies could be directly wired to the servo valves, resulting in dramatically increased high frequency response, while not interfering with the overall servo loop operation. Thus sensations such as tire contact with asphalt, engine vibrations, fast impacts, and other physical jolts, rubs, and sensory illusions could be combined with sound effects to enhance the ride experience.

     
  • Showscan

    A film process whereby 65mm film is photographed at 60 frames per second, and projected using 70mm prints at the same rate. The result is unsurpassed image clarity and realism made possible by the tremendous reduction of blurring, and the projection of each frame only once, instead of twice as in 35mm. Laboratory tests were performed whereby viewers were monitored during screenings with electromyogram, electroencephalogram, galvanic skin response, and electrocardiogram. These viewers were shown identical films shot and projected at 24, 36, 48, 60, 66, and 72 fps. The results showed conclusively that the high frame rate of 60 resulted in profoundly increased visual stimulation in viewers.

     
  • Simulator Ride

    First developed by Douglas Trumbull at Future General Corporation, the simulator ride concept was an adaptation of flight simulation technology. Motion platforms could be coupled with film projection to create a sense of physical participation in filmed events.

     
  • Robot Controller

    First used as a prop in the Showscan film LET’S GO for the Toshiba Pavilion at Expo ’84 in Tsukuba, Japan, this gizmo may have interesting future applications as a human-computer interface.

     
  • Frame Rate Conversion

    Showscan 60 frame per second 65mm films needed to be optically reduced to 24 frame per second 35mm films, and this patent covers the development of a printing technique to combine and delete certain frames, resulting in smooth motion.

     
  • Zero Gravity Boom

    This device was invented by Douglas Trumbull and fabricated by Mike Sorensen of Sorensen Design in Ashland, Oregon. Made of lightweight carbon fiber, and utilizing a unique blend of counterweights and air cylinders, the result is a camera with extremely low mass that floats weightlessly and can be easily moved throughout its range by the camera operator. Shaft encoders on every axis of motion provide accurate data to the computer to generate a real-time virtual set that is combined with the foreground action, and delivered to the viewfinder at the camera. The result is a means by which films can be shot with minimal environments on a small stage with a small crew, yet resulting in tremendous production value at low cost. The camera operator and director see the final composite framing at all times, so that lighting and composition can be intuitively known. This is far superior to shooting on a greenscreen cyclorama without seeing the composite until later in post production. A major advantage of the system is that there is no need for a dolly, tripod, or tracks to gain smooth motion, and setup time is reduced to a minimum, thus resulting in a substantial increase in setups per day. In addition, all axes of motion can be recorded and played back in real-time, thus enabling complex and often time consuming camera moves with ease.

     
  • Multiple Row Simulator Ride

    Another iteration of the motion base type simulator ride is the “bench type” ride whereby the screen and projector are fixed, but the seats are moving, usually in small groups from two to twelve seats.

     
  • 360 Degree Projection / Photography

    Douglas Trumbull devised this invention to answer the difficulty of multiple camera/multiple projector film systems such as Disney’s CIRCLEVISION. Using a single camera with continuously moving film, the image is scanned via a revolving lens/prism system the exactly matches the motion of the film in the gate. The same process is reversed in projection, resulting in a 360 degree seamless image projected onto a cylindrical screen at 60 frames per second. There is no shutter, and no flicker. There is a minimum of moving parts. Each “frame” of film (comprising one 360 degree rotation) could be as much as ten inches in length, reducible via anamorphic compression.

     
  • Robot

    A remote controlled character called “PAL” was first used in the Showscan film LET’S GO for the Toshiba Pavilion at Expo ’84 in Tsukuba, Japan. Closer robotic performance was achieved via a high-tech version of Japanese Bunraku puppetry, performed from below by master puppeteer Bruce Schwartz.

     
  • Compact Simulator

    This design became the basis of Ridefilm Corporation, and was a direct result of the giant hemispherical screen/motion base idea behind BACK TO THE FUTURE – THE RIDE. I realized that we could greatly improve on the experience by having only one hemispherical screen and one projector per motion base, and by using the orthogonal motion base system. The combination of VistaVision film at 48 frames per second, a high gain hemispheric screen that focused the light directly toward the viewers, and the orthogonal motion base was first used on the Luxor attraction “IN SEARCH OF THE OBELISK”. I later merged Ridefilm Corporation with IMAX as part of the IMAX IPO, and the renamed IMAX RIDEFILM was very successful at theme parks and attractions worldwide.

     
  • Orthogonal Motion Base

    This invention was an important solution to the motion sickness problem often associated with simulator rides. For example, when we were making the BACK TO THE FUTURE RIDE, we realized that the tipping and tilting of the motion base was creating problems in that if the base tilted forward, the front seats would be feeling a “down” motion, while the rear seats would be feeling an “up” motion. This was challenging to reconcile. The orthogonal motion base never tips or tilts, but stays level throughout all motions of up, down, forward, backward, and sideways. This results in every passenger feeling exactly the same sensations, while “fooling” the inner ear’s sense of motion via “onset cues” that have specific vectors of motion anywhere within the motion envelope. The result has been huge success, and very little motion sickness.

     
  • Virtual Set System

    By combining the Zero Gravity Boom with a real-time graphics engine that delivers the “virtual set or location”, there are tremendous production and cost advantages over simple greenscreen shooting. This newer concept deletes the track motion, while extending the reach of the arm, resulting virtually no further setup time once the system is calibrated to the stage. I plan to use this system, which includes full motion capture and playback, on my next film.

     
  • Retinal Display System

    The final screen onto which movies and any visual medium appears, is the retina of the human eye. This invention resulted from my being on the board of directors at Microvision for a while, and witnessing their development of a scanning laser retinal display. This idea was first invented by Tom Furness at the University of Washington HITLAB (Human Interface Technology Laboratory). But I became quickly disillusioned by their determination to replicate the scanning pattern of a CRT, with all the attendant problems of trying to keep the lines parallel. I proposed the idea of a Lissajous type figure eight scan, whereby the natural harmonics of the oscillating mirror would be tuned to deliver a comfortable yet precessing scan whereby the crossing point of each scan would coincide with the human foveal area. Since the fovea is a narrow spot of high density rods and cones, that is where the resolution of a display system should reside in order to manage bandwidth effectively. The periphery of the retina is relatively low resolution, therefore by implementing an eye-tracking function so that the crossing point of all scans coincide with the location of the fovea, Tom and I felt that we were within striking distance of delivering stereoscopic imagery that could be indistinguishable from reality. Please call if you have $50M to develop this technology.

     
  • Capsule Simulator

    This was the first simulator developed at Future General Corporation, and included a 35mm projector and screen aboard an enclosed fuselage that could be themed to represent any number of vehicles such as an airplane, submarine, spacecraft, time machine, etc.