How Star Trek Created Visual Effects History

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Star Trek remains one of the most popular and widespread television & movie network until date.

Generations have grownup up observing this mind blowing intergalactic science fiction.

Besides the story, performances, and picturization of characters, its quality is basically as a result of its mind-blowing visual effects.

In fact, it might not be wrong to mention that Star Trek created visual effects history.

With the release of Star Trek Beyond lets take a  look at how this popular series created VFX history in #Throwback Thursday.

Models & Glitter

Nineteen Sixties wasn’t that technologically advanced era.

However, that didn’t stop writers & production studios from writing or producing.

Even at that time they do have the concepts of visual effects.

However this was the era of miniatures, matte paintings on glass & optical compositing on real film.

And it all began with Star Trek: The initial Series.

The quality of visual effects shots within the show created its own landmark in visual effects innovation.

Howard Anderson Company was the primary visual effects studio which single handle produced some mind blowing visual effects of its time.
The studio created the transporter – the teleportation machine which has been utilized by the crew members.

This remains the foremost vital addition to the series until date because it became a vital part of the Star Trek Universe.

Once it had been first created, the art movement impact was achieved with nothing over aluminium powder and optical compositing.

How did it work, you  just ought to ask? The people or props being transported were filmed keep it in the same position.

The beam impact was created by dropping aluminium powder from a height, and cinematography was done one by one with intensive lighting.

All of this was combined with the outline of the person or people together create an effort of the empty set, and faded out or in to make the appearance/ disappearance impact.

Pixar Association

The Genesis Demo from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan is taken into account to be the primary use of visual effects during the feature film.

The lesser known truth is that this sequence was created by Lucas film Computer Division (which is popularly evolved into present day Pixar), the wing of George Lucas’s Lucas film established to analysis varied digital written material, computer graphics, various camera work applications etc.
Much before Toy Story, the Genesis sequence used computer graphics technique, and this was actually a great deal.

Alvy Ray Smith, who directed the sequence, was assured that they might convert their imagination to reality, and designed the piece as per their strengths at the time.

They effectively utilized geometric patterns, particle systems, texture mapping, bump mapping, digital painting, and a moving camera to bring the sequence to life, and eventually have been able to create a history.

The first demo was a 67-second long shot of a torpedo hit the earth, exploding, inflicting a shockwave which gradually evolved a Earth-like structures .

It had been rendered on VAX computers which is much faster than the earlier computers where with some frames took simply 5 minutes to render whereas earlier needed up to 5 hours.
Visual Effects on television Changed forever
Before the Nineteen Eighties & Nineteen Nineties, most television shows were shot on film, and visual effects which were primarily created with miniatures & optical compositing.

Star Trek: Next Generation (1987) modified everything.

It had been shot on film. However the footage was then transferred to video tape. As the series continuing, digital tape formats were used.

This enabled video-based visual effects to be created.

This became the rage thanks to only one factor – and that is speed.

Video tape footage created visual effects & special effects tricks  quicker & more practical.

It gave a path breaking result as each of the episodes had up to sixty – seventy VFX shots, an oversized range at that point of time.

During this era, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series entered into the production, which required a quicker & larger execution of visual effects.

But all visual effects were still not done on video, and use of miniatures continued. Space vehicle space crafts, models were still physically engineered & recorded.

However, advancement came with the utilization of ultraviolet illumination black lights on fluorescent orange screens (instead of blue screens) for ship matte passes.

This was a significant breakthrough as compared to the previous methodology of use 8X4 foam core boards to make distinction round the ship.


Slowly, the studios touched towards incorporating complete computer-generated versions of the spacecrafts and different parts that were earlier created as miniatures.

Another vital development was the utilization of digital disk recorders. True, it’s going to not sound terribly exciting nowadays, however in the past this allowed the team to juggle layers of parts with out any degradation.

J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek Creates History

J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek film series is thought for its use of lens flares, from the Enterprise passing ahead of a sun or star to once the ship’s lights area unit visible because it whizzes past camera.

However once Abram first came up with the thought, it had been with the intention of reproducing the movement of sunshine within the planet.

In fact, several flares seen within the film were merely created and captured on set.

They were later enhanced by the utilization of anamorphic lenses that provided the ultimate image.
But this idea led to the creation of SunSpot, a tool to duplicate this flare within the digital world.

Since plenty of scenes were digital creations by Industrial lightweight & Magic, this device was developed so they might replicate the live-action look of lens flare aberrations in digital kind.

In the world of contemporary visual effects, the lens flares might not appear as if a technical revolution.

However they served a crucial role in storytelling.

Tod Vaziri, one of the artists who worked on the lens flare, believes that these flares gave the films their distinctive flavour of spontaneousness & intensity in the story telling effect.

Giving overall documentary-style feel, implemented in fantastic, different worldly, abstract quality.

Old Wine In New Bottle
The one visual effect that Star Trek brought to the screen live, not just for its own series however the complete realm of science-fiction, is warp in speed.

This faster-than-light propulsion permits the spaceships to manoeuvre at infinite speed. Over time, advances in style, camera work, visual effect & compositing techniques have created warp speed a additional life-like, immersive, & spectacular visual impact.

In the latest movie, Star Trek: Beyond, the warp speed impact evolved even additional.

The film’s visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang created a warp bubble, rather than the previous streak-type look.

The visual effects impact in the studio behind this effect was Double Negative which had previously created the black hole & worm hole effects for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.


Will they continue to boldly go where they have never gone before? Will we be able to see more fantastic evolution in visual effect that the time will say?

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