Vintage FX: Star Trek vs Lost in Space

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by ZapBrannigan, Jun 9, 2013.

  1. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Just to clarify, what we're seing there are the outlines of the garbage mattes used to obliterate anything non-blue in the element (light stands, etc.). The lighter areas around the objects are the areas which are not garbage matted out, which are exposed to more light than the matted out areas.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Right. Ideally the blue should've been completely filtered out and left only black behind, but a little bit of light did make it through the filters.

    However, it should be noted that the garbage-matte halos were more subtle on the feature film screen, otherwise ILM never would've found the results acceptable. The halos became far more visible once the film was converted to video and broadcast on television, due to, I guess, the conversion process increasing the contrast somehow.
     
  3. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    When I saw STAR TREK III in HD on a cable channel, I recall that the spaceship fx at the Genesis planet were a wreck. Those roughly shaped "garbage" halos were hugely noticeable. And when the Klingon ship is cloaked and all you're supposed to see is a twinkle of stars on the bridge viewscreen, you can instead see the whole Bird of Prey, plain as anything.
     
  4. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I understand garbage mattes. The exposure between the extracted matte and the garbage matte can be adjusted by pushing the contrast—which affects only the matte, not the element being matted—but there are trade-offs from this approach. I agree that the STAR WARS shot was not an ideal example.

    The image below, from George Pal's THE TIME MACHINE, better illustrates what I meant by mis-matched blacks. There are three elements here: the park on the left, the city street on the right, and the matte painting of the city in the background. Even if the matte lines between the elements were not visible, the "black" levels between the trees in the park and those in the matte painting do not match. (To say nothing of the color difference.) Actually, the blacks don't match between the two live-action elements, either.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    Sorry I'm getting back so late. I wasn't referring to garbage mattes (and if you want to see some REAL bad ones of those, 2010's are just jaw-dropping), but rather that the half of the frame the ship inhabits is lighter black space, as if it had been contaminated somewhat -- which it has. When you make multiple passes in-camera, exposures can build up and contaminate the image, which is one of the reasons why the quality of blackness is a real sticking point for me on space movies.

    I'm pretty sure this is most evident on shots of the ship and refinery going away from camera towards the system. I will check my fotonovel and see if there is anything visible on that (unlikely, the pic quality there is not exactly blu-ray!)

    The articles on ALIEN kept talking about tons of roto work for the ship shots, but I think that was only done for a few shots, with the rest DXed.
     
  6. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Roger that! Still, the FX artists for 2010 were aiming for the "deep black shadows" of real space footage. And controlling the spill light from a bluescreen can be tricky. FIREFOX and SPACEBALLS got around the problem by coating the models in a clear, UV fluorescing paint, then making two passes with motion-controlled models. (One "beauty pass" of the model, the other a matte pass with the UV paint.) The crew of 2010 might have tried the same approach, only Discovery flexed a lot and was not amenable to repeated, motion-controlled passes.

    2001 used all in-camera composites, to the best of my knowledge. And that film holds up beautifully on Blu-ray. All the "motion control" rigs were mechanical, too. Now that's impressive.
     
  7. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I just dug up one of them that mentions the grid and the rotoscoping used on Alien. From Starlog #27, interview with Brian Johnson and Nick Allder on Alien, page 67:

    That seems to confirm, which is pretty obvious in the film, that rotoscoping was unnecessary in "a lot of shots".
     
  8. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    I have bought more copies of STARLOG 27 than I have of CFQ's WRATH OF KHAN/BLADE RUNNER issue or any other magazine that I've re-re-re-bought down through the years.
    It has got more good info in it (and surprisingly unpuff-piece like, some frank stuff, like the magicam article, though I still take some of that with a grain of salt) on VFX than you'd think could get crammed into a STARLOG. And it's kind of funny, because recently somebody showed me a mention of STARLOG 27 in an old SciFiUniverse magazine where Mark Altman or one of those guys was raving about that particular issue.
     
  9. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    By now I can't even guess at the number of times I've scrutinized 2001 on laserdisc and dvd and BR (not counting nearly two dozen theater screenings.)

    Even the stuff that is done in a way that should feel at least a little clunky, like all the still-photo cutouts, is just executed with such finesse that you marvel over & over.

    I know Trumbull always thought that not being able to change speeds of the ships during the shots was limiting, but I think the film absolutely makes a virtue of that with the ballet approach ... if you had a space pod ripping through frame it'd be like seeing a breakdancer in a Fred&Ginger flick.
     
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Behold...Starlog #27 courtesy Archive.Org
     
  11. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    ^ I linked to archive.org, too.
     
  12. xvicente

    xvicente Captain Captain

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    I never thought 2010 had bad sfx in any way. As I remember, the sfx high for that movie was that it was cgi. (as in "AMAZING COMPUTER GRAPHICS!")

    Not for the ships and such, but for Jupiter. I guess after Star Trek and Star Wars, ships just in space was already no news by then.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^He was just saying the garbage mattes in 2010 were really obvious. And as I said, garbage mattes are a lot more evident in TV/video transfers than they would've been in the original films as shown in theaters. In the format the effects were made for, they would've looked fine. It was just when they were converted for the small screen that the contrast on the garbage mattes was amplified enough to become noticeable.
     
  14. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, in the theater, 2010's ship VFX looked very very good to me.

    Now when you go inside the ships and find it's like they have fog banks it is so smoked-up, that's a whole other kettle of fish ...
     
  15. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    Just want to first say awesome discussion of classic techniques for VFX. I've been enjoying reading along.

    With a more information limited (composite) SD format like VHS there is certainly truth to this. Moving to higher quality formats like DVD or, even better, a Blu-ray disc should help quite a bit. Assuming of course the film transfer was done properly.

    I think perhaps the bigger issue that reveals garbage mattes, which you alluded to, is that most home TVs are set totally incorrectly if you go by official cinema (and it's close cousin of home theater) standards.

    Most TVs are set to terribly inaccurate and inappropriate levels of color temperature, brightness, contrast, gamma curve, etc. Incorrect brightness and contrast settings would easily overexpose the garbage mattes which would otherwise be relatively hidden.

    When set more appropriately, using a setup disc, or even better, calibrated by a pro home theater calibrator, the garbage mattes will be much less obvious like it was in the movie theater.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Interesting.
     
  17. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    After seeing the original trilogy Star Wars films on TV, I knew what to look for in terms of probable garbage mattes. Next time I saw the films in the theater, sure enough, I could spot them. That said, the first time I actually noticed them was on TV, even after seeing the movies in theaters many times.
     
  18. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    Well yeah I mean realistically, once you know where to look you can find them.

    With the successive tweaks (1997, 2004/2011) that were done to the SW trilogy the noticeability of the garbage mattes have gotten better.

    The versions on cable (primarily on SpikeTV) now are the 2004 versions.
     
  19. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, that really works with a movie that is properly transferred, like Se7en. But a lot of the time films don't look that great using a properly calibrated set. I mean, in order to watch the space scenes in INSURRECTION w/o flinching, I remember having to turn the contrast way way up and bring the brightness down, to get the ship windows to read like something other than fuzzy plain white mailing labels.

    Pete Kuran is a vfx guy who goes all the way back to the original STAR WARS, and I remember in the 90s, after the first THX certified laserdisc of SW came out with all the garbage mattes, reading something from him where he actually had a good explanation for why the video transfers were hotter and thus exposing the garbage mattes. Can't figure out where it was he said it though, and am pretty sure it was a print source, not net. If I come across it, I'll chime back in.
     
  20. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    FYI: things look fine on the Blu-ray of Insurrection.

    One of the great things about Blu-ray is that upon the introduction of the HD formats (initially both HD DVD and Blu-ray) studios slowly started to realized that they have to take their film transfers much more seriously than ever before. The much better resolution and slightly wider color space for HD made poor transfers obvious.

    Please do, I'm always up for a good read about inside technical stuff like that from industry pros :)

    With everything being digital and being sourced from (comparatively) very high quality scans of films and very different standards of data storage than before, AFAIK there isn't really an issue of modern video formats making the content hotter. That was very true when you had the limited resolution (both over all lines of resolution and luma resolution) of composite video sources like VHS and LaserDisc (though it was quite a bit better than VHS).

    It's why TNG when remastered looks amazing and has much more depth and vibrancy to it, the VHS (and DVDs which were sourced from the same analog pro grade video tape masters) have a pale cast to them, often it leans towards purple and the image is generally not very dynamic. All the editing on tape and final dupe to a tape source means the end-product kept losing more and more information from the original filmed segments.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2013