Working With Inventor Douglas Trumbull

His special effects work inspired me

2 min read
4 people sitting with glasses on and their arms upraised.
Hili Fun City

I never thought my engineering career would bring me to the largest amusement park in the United Arab Emirates to work with the mastermind behind special effects—Douglas Trumbull. But there I was in October 1991, working on one of the most unique projects of my career. My team and I were building a new addition to the Hili Fun City amusement park called the Dynamic Motion Theater, which required multi-engineering applications like 3-D effects to capture visitor’s imaginations.

My job was to design and construct the electrical power system and to make sure local electrical and safety codes were in place. This may seem entirely separate from the work of other engineers and visionaries on this project, but our roles were interconnected.

To do my job well, I had to work closely with the other companies and contractors involved. While I was familiar with UAE wiring regulations, it required long hours to update all the electrical designs from different parts of the world, including Switzerland and the United States. To do this, I had to unify the safety codes and communicate them to others on the job.

Trumbull, a legendary filmmaker and visual effects pioneer, who worked on such films as A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, and Blade Runner, brought his expertise to our project to help make the rides and overall experience feel just like scenes from his movies.

Working on a project with Trumbull’s team made me appreciate the many things we can do as engineers. Although Trumbull himself was not an engineer, he was able to envision what many others could not, and then go on to create and build his vision. His inventions not only helped in the success of his movies, but also inspired the rest of us—me especially—to dream and do more in the field. What I learned most on this project was to go above and beyond in every project that I do. If you have a vision, work hard to accomplish it.

Qusi Alqarqaz is an IEEE member who works as an electrical engineering designer and consultant. You can find more posts by him on his blog.

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