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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old June 9 2013, 05:39 AM   #1
ZapBrannigan
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Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

As we all know, the Enterprise was filmed before a blue screen. An animated star field would be tricked in to give the ship "speed references." Globe-like planet models were filmed separately, also in front of a blue screen. So a shot of the ship orbiting a planet would really be three separate films: the ship, the planet, and the stars, all composited into one picture.

Lost in Space's fx men shot the Jupiter 2 in front of flat paintings, so the whole effect was done in-camera. It was faster, cheaper, and the finished film never had any matte lines or seams. For the period, it looked pretty good!






When the Jupiter 2 was shown landing, again it was all done in-camera rather than composited (this time with the four-foot model instead of the little one):






Imagine if "The Galileo Seven" episode had shown the shoebox-sized shuttlecraft miniature landing in a diorama set. The whole feeling of the episode would be different, and possibly not for the better if it looked too fake, but the point is, Star Trek didn't have that choice.

Shots of the Jupiter 2 miniature flying toward its crash landing in "Island in the Sky" were among the most exciting moments of the episode, even though (as with helicopter crash scenes throughout film history) the impact took place just over that hill. If "The Galileo Seven" could have done as much, and prudently looked away from the hard-to-realize landing itself, the episode would have been better without a doubt.

In the pre-CBS Digital version (yeah, the real version) of "Charlie X," when the Enterprise is said to be "maneuvering to come alongside cargo vessel Antares," all you see is the Enterprise, and it is just stock footage from "The Cage."

Maybe the whole blue-screen compositing strategy was a mistake, because it ate up so much time and money that, overall, fewer fx could be created.

Last edited by ZapBrannigan; June 9 2013 at 05:49 AM.
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Old June 9 2013, 07:10 AM   #2
scotpens
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

In the pre-CGI era, I'd say the choice of FX techniques used for composite shots was partly artistic and partly practical.

With the cameras and lenses of the 1960s, creating the convincing illusion of a thousand-foot-long spacecraft required a fairly large miniature. The 11-foot Enterprise model weighed 225 pounds -- not exactly easy to swing about on a wire rig. It was simply more practical to shoot the (mostly) stationary miniature against a blue screen while the camera tracked, panned and tilted. It also meant that a library of stock Enterprise shots could be composited against different backgrounds, which probably saved money in the long run.

I do wonder, though, how live-action model shots of the shuttlecraft might have looked if Trek TOS had engaged the talents of top miniature FX men like the Lydecker brothers or Derek Meddings.
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Old June 9 2013, 07:13 AM   #3
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

I think both shows would have benefited from mixing the approaches.
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Old June 9 2013, 12:30 PM   #4
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

Tosk wrote: View Post
I think both shows would have benefited from mixing the approaches.
Possibly, but as others have noted, the size of the two ships (both the models and the fictional scales) was a big factor. Also, TREK spent far more time in space, where the Jupiter 2 spent more time planet-side.

I love the "organic" quality of in-camera miniatures, such as LOST IN SPACE or SPACE: 1999, but mixing them with opticals might have looked discontinuous. Compositing technologies today are incredibly refined—one of the reasons I roll my eyes whenever I hear someone categorically dis "digital effects." (Odds are they've seen uncounted VFX shots and never realized it.)

But back to the '60s. If both shows had bigger budgets, thus allowing more and mixed FX, then using a variety of techniques might have "looked" right. Since budgets were more limited, the artists had to pick a most suitable approach. I'm not saying a VFX artist cannot be good at both in-camera miniatures and optical compositing, but each technique requires certain "infrastructure."

The approaches might have been part of a "mindset." LIS routinely used the in-camera edit to make people and things pop in and out of the scene, along with spacey sound effects. And while TREK did this a few times ("Squire of Gothos", "Day of the Dove"), visuals tended to be more "serious," respectable.

LIS: Good enough to entertain the kids.
TREK: We must be taken seriously, except when the budget mandates we cheap out.
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Old June 9 2013, 01:06 PM   #5
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

I have a great appreciation for what can be done with wires. Gerry Anderson's (RIP) shows were a tour-de-force, in large part due to the high level of detail, moving sub-components, and scale-accuracy (especially when rendering ground elements, trees, roads, cars, etc...)

I think with TOS they tried their best. Remember that the original Enterprise model didn't have lights and they cared enough about realism to add them. Even Star Wars had matte-lines to contend with.

Does anyone know if any other SF shows in the 60s even attempted to do ship shots the way TOS did? Maybe compositing was done here and there on things like Forbidden Planet or This Island Earth, but on TV? The wire technique that began with Flash Gordon was still the standard approach.
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Old June 9 2013, 03:44 PM   #6
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

mos6507 wrote: View Post
Does anyone know if any other SF shows in the 60s even attempted to do ship shots the way TOS did? Maybe compositing was done here and there on things like Forbidden Planet or This Island Earth, but on TV?
Quinn Martin's The Invaders used bluescreen compositing for its flying-saucer shots, I believe. It came out a season after ST and had its FX done by one (or more?) of ST's FX houses.
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Old June 9 2013, 04:12 PM   #7
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

mos6507 wrote: View Post
Does anyone know if any other SF shows in the 60s even attempted to do ship shots the way TOS did? Maybe compositing was done here and there on things like Forbidden Planet or This Island Earth, but on TV? The wire technique that began with Flash Gordon was still the standard approach.
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Old June 9 2013, 04:52 PM   #8
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

^That looked more like Doctor Who-style video compositing than film mattes like TOS used.
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Old June 9 2013, 05:03 PM   #9
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

Christopher wrote: View Post
^That looked more like Doctor Who-style video compositing than film mattes like TOS used.
Unlike Doctor Who, Raumpatrouille was shot on film. All the effects-elements were also shot on film (in colour for the blue-screen elements) and composited, just like TOS, on optical printers. That lift-off sequence consists of 13 different film-elements.
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Old June 9 2013, 05:10 PM   #10
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

^Then why the obvious scan lines/rasterization on the shot of the ship leaving atmosphere? It looked like the TNG Enterprise sometimes did.
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Old June 9 2013, 05:21 PM   #11
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

Christopher wrote: View Post
^Then why the obvious scan lines/rasterization on the shot of the ship leaving atmosphere? It looked like the TNG Enterprise sometimes did.
I don't know. But I'm sure the piss-poor upload-quality and YouTube compression can't have anything to do with it.

at 15:33
http://youtu.be/hWv2cqL4pB8
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Old June 9 2013, 05:21 PM   #12
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

Regardless of the technique, the original Trek had huge number of optically on a weekly basis. Between newly composited planet shots, transporter effects, phaser beams and so forth, it's a miracle they wee able to produce such high quality work on a weekly basis, even with all the stock shots they already had available.

The Enterprise shots were incredibly well done for the time when the norm was to create in-camera composites, especially for television.
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Old June 9 2013, 05:35 PM   #13
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

pfontaine2 wrote: View Post
The Enterprise shots were incredibly well done for the time when the norm was to create in-camera composites, especially for television.
This.
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Old June 9 2013, 06:25 PM   #14
scotpens
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

Christopher wrote: View Post
Quinn Martin's The Invaders used bluescreen compositing for its flying-saucer shots, I believe.
A technique that worked well for some shots and not so well for other shots, like this exterior. It's glaringly obvious that the spacecraft's landing gear is a full-size mockup while the saucer proper is a matted-in miniature.

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Old June 9 2013, 09:58 PM   #15
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Re: Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

Nice combo--that give it a kind of glow.
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