ST:TMP - Lost Footage from the Trench

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies I-X' started by alchemist, Feb 21, 2009.

  1. Trekfan21

    Trekfan21 Commander Red Shirt

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    Probably read this somewhere, but don't recall the answer...

    Were the spacesuits redesigned to fit the needs of the scene after the memory wall segment was scrapped?
     
  2. number6

    number6 Vice Admiral

    Yes.
     
  3. Data Holmes

    Data Holmes Admiral Admiral

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    They still used the "wet suit", they just redesigned the helmet and chest piece...
     
  4. Classic Fan

    Classic Fan Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Wow, thanks for sharing this.

    Its great to finally see footage of this sequence.

    Fantatstic, look forward to Star trekhistory.com being back.
     
  5. QuasarVM

    QuasarVM Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    WOW!!!

    Thanks Dave...

    What you have is *part* of the TMP "Holy Grail"...

    Can't wait to see the footage, but I sure hope the rest of it turns up one day soon...
     
  6. QuasarVM

    QuasarVM Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Since I interviewed Richard Taylor in 2001, I can tell you it WOULD have been something if they had had the technology to finish the sequence as the Abel Team had envisioned it!

    The same can be said for a great many of the visual effects sequences planned for the film.

    It's a real shame these guys never got to finish the film as they had planned it. I'm an Abel Studio fan. They did some beautiful visual effects work over the years. TMP would have been no different with more time and money and solid backing.
     
  7. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    I'd qualify that with a comment about managing the employees. I've interviewed three people who all worked for Abel during TMP, two of whom went over to Dykstra and Trumbull when the project switched. The impression I get from one of these guys is that there was just a ton of drug abuse that was an everyday phenomena, and that was impacting lots of aspects of the operation. This guy mentions he spent most of his time at an adjunct building to stay clear of the drug use (he did most of his work with Con Pederson, who I guess kind of tinkered off on his own, and had a physical gag in mind to use for the bridge probe effect to go over the guy with the xenon tube, something that involved a kind of light sculpture), and that it was seriously high-tension (which figures, since they came from the commercial spot world.)

    I don't think Abel's team could have pulled it off, because they simply didn't have enough folks who understood miniatures. They SHOULD have been able to do all the other lightshow animation stuff, but for reasons unexplained, did not manage that end of things either.

    Mike Minor has mentioned the 'smell' of the Abel operation was wrong, and that they had union problems as well. That last part was true of ILM early on as well. Speaking of ILM, you have a similar situation with ILM on the original STAR WARS. They spend a year setting up, and only have a couple shots to show for it. They have 7 or 8 months to go and need to do the other 350 shots. Well, they pulled it off (with some outside help), but you'd have a hard time believing they could given the output on that first year, where they were building everything and figuring out HOW to do stuff.

    TMP and Abel went through a similar learning curve, but it was at a point in time AFTER the first SW, so the curve should not have been so deep ... they should have been able to generate more product for production to review, and yet there seems to have been a paucity. Brick Price says Abel's group had shot lots of footage, but I'm guessing most of that was test footage, not stuff meant as 'finals.' That would jive with the story that Abel's people shot 16mm tests of klingon ships blowing up, since using 16mm blown up to 35mm in a show like that would probably not cut well at all.

    Also, it should be pointed out that a bunch of what Abel did AFTER the TMP debacle was done using stuff that Paramount paid for with the idea it'd be used for TREK. The Evans & Sutherland preview system, which figured prominently in Abel's TRON effort, was a very pricey item Paramount footed the bill for, yet didn't even try to reclaim from Abel (yet they always stripped Trumbull's op to the bone whenever he wanted to stop working for them, both before TMP and then again before BLADE RUNNER/BRAINSTORM.)

    Conceptually I find a lot of the Abel stuff very appealing. And I think they were going to try to keep with the Vonn Puttkammer and GR stuff about distances ... that you'd see a point of dot blow up into something big during approach (like a really nice version of the FESARIUS approach in CORBOMITE.) But again, it is easy to storyboard that, harder to do it, especially since it is hard to put a good sized model far enough back to make it look like a dot.
     
  8. erastus25

    erastus25 Commodore Commodore

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    Forgive my ignorance, but where would these scenes have fit into the movie?
     
  9. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    trench/memory wall was the original spacewalk when Spock steps out to contact vger. Originally there was no thruster pack stuff, and Spock comes back to save Kirk when Kirk gets attacked by ... well, antibodies. Then they go through this big ass set and Spock mindmelds with a big ball and gets his head zapped. Basically a 7 or 10 minute sequence that got replaced by the shorter one in the movie now.
     
  10. QuasarVM

    QuasarVM Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I can assure you I have zero tolerance for drug abuse (and if this allegation is true, then that is a shame) -- but I also think it's improper to air this kind of dirty laundry. In fact, we have no evidence (since we weren't there) that such was the case, so I would recommend not spreading rumors based on heresay through third parties. However, I might point out that many artists have used drugs and managed to produce great work...allow me to point you to the music industry...lol! Again, I am not glorifying or even accepting this usage. In fact, I condemn it -- IF true.

    Regardless, I was speaking towards the work this firm did with regard to television commercials and the later work you mention -- which I personally found to be exceptional and groundbreaking.

    Others have a right to disagree of course, but I think the collection of Clio awards speaks for itself. Additionally, many of the artists from Abel went on to become directors and visual effects specialists in their own right.

    Having gotten to know Richard Taylor a bit, I came away the idea that Abel was trying to build a kind of FX facility along the line of ILM, but ultimately, they discovered they did not have the support of Paramount or the Trek producers to do this -- especially when things were going badly -- as with the spacewalk footage.

    We may lament the fact that things didn't work out for the Abel team, but I think you and I both agree they had some amazing concepts! Again, they were trying to push the envelope and they were getting mixed signals and levels of support during the production of the film.

    The whole situation sounded like a mess to me, but I came away respecting these guys as artists.

    Again, it's a shame their vision never made it to the screen.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2009
  11. QuasarVM

    QuasarVM Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The spacesuits had thruster nozzles built into them and they had a hand control for the thrusters. You can see this a little more clearly over at the Ottens website in the pictures he has over there. Granted, there was no big thruster pack -- as that was designed during Trumbull's tenure on the film...
     
  12. cardinal biggles

    cardinal biggles will sell no wine before its time Premium Member

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    ^If you watch the added scene with Kirk in the SLV, it looks like the hand control is resting on the chest piece of the suit. Once the airlock doors have closed, Kirk picks up the control in his left hand, and the nozzles light up as he fires the thrusters for the first time.
     
  13. QuasarVM

    QuasarVM Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yep...that's it!
     
  14. cardinal biggles

    cardinal biggles will sell no wine before its time Premium Member

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    Maybe TGT or trevanian can shed some light on this; was Spock's big thruster pack designed at the same time that the spacesuits were redesigned, or was there a period where they thought they still might try to do the memory wall after Abel's company was canned?
     
  15. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    I don't think an Abel employee's remarks -- especially one who has nothing to gain by saying it -- can be considered hearsay in this instance. The guy's name was Steve, and he worked in vfx for a number of years, including a stint at ILM in the early 90s, so it wasn't like he was doing anything daring mentioning the problems to me (we weren't even interviewing about trek, it was about his work as a news stringer photographer.) Really, it was just confirming stuff some TMP amateur researchers had figured was likely, given the times and the issues.

    I haven't read it in decades, but the NEW WEST coverage of the Abel debacle (heavily slanted AGAINST Abel) did, I think, give the impression that there was a lot of misused time and resources (face it, how many times are you going to find a situation where there is a pack of kool-aid with your severance check when you go to punch in for work? Especially not that long after Guyana. They had to do a LOT wrong to make Paramount that crazed.)

    Also it is worth pointing out that Doug Trumbull is on record as saying that the Abel organization was already partially depleted at the time they took on TMP. Many key players on their commercial spots had left, including Dick Alexander and Richard Edlund to ILM to do STAR WARS. Richard Taylor was an art director who had a real vision, and he had wonderful illustrators like Marty Kline and Probert, but that doesn't mean there were the persons on-hand to execute that vision.

    Magicam had issues with Abel, and some of their key guys had worked for him, and they summed up Abel as more of a businessman than a visual effects innovator. That has to be taken with a grain of salt, considering the antagonistic relationship between the two companies during TMP, but it is interesting that in the same interview, the Magicam guys make a point of saying how much respect they have for Richard Taylor, as if to isolate him from the criticism they direct toward the Abel vfx effort (this is in starlog #27.)

    When I did a retrospective on the making of SW in the 90s, I asked John Dykstra about what he knew of the Abel / TMP thing (I ask everybody I come across who worked on TMP about it, just as a matter of course. Maybe someday I'll have as many stories as that Preston guy who has 1600 pages of unpublished manuscript on the film, left over from a big story CFQ never ran.) Roughly, Dykstra said that Abel and/or Taylor were trying to do TOY STORY many years ahead of its time, that they wanted to control and previz every pixel. He said you really have to have a leap of faith when you are pioneering, and if they'd pulled it off, the whole industry would have been changed.

    But if you look at the time lapse between TMP and TOY STORY, and see all the innovation that had to take place between them in order for the latter to even happen, I think that 'leap of faith' Dykstra mentioned is many magnitudes beyond what could have been expected or achieved, no matter how many millions they coaxed from Paramount. By way of comparison, the big deal on SW was motion control, but that had already been done in a mechanical way before -- the SW breakthrough, such as it was, involved putting the operation into manufacturing mode for mass workload. They didn't reinvent the wheel, yet by comparison, most of what was on the Abel plate for TMP seemed to so far beyond a wheel that it could have been a mind-controlled car.

    When I made little zero budget movies, I tried doing very ambitious in-camera fx shots. Sometimes they worked, often they failed miserably, and I might not even be able to finish the film because that part so compromised the whole show. But the difference was, I was only deluding myself - I was the filmmaker as well as the fx guy. In the case of Abel and TMP, they were taking money for these blue-sky notions that they didn't deliver on -- and that single instance did more to damage the reputation of vfx houses than any two or three other over-budget shows in history, IMO.
     
  16. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    Apogee built the new helmets and thruster pack after Trumbull redesigned the sequence and Wise junked the trench/wall stuff. I'm not sure, but I think Marty Kline may have designed that stuff (anybody who has THE ART OF STAR TREK can probably look it up, there are some color sketches in there.)

    Cinefex #1 has Trumbull's recollection of the whole spacewalk as being he convinced Wise to drop it on the basis that it would cost half of the film's total fx budget to just save the spacewalk (paint out wires, etc.) and salvage it enough to include it, but that it stopped the movie dead because it was so slow-moving (I guess slow even compared to the look out the window stuff?)

    So that means the spacewalk was out of the pic by maybe Feb 79, I guess.
     
  17. cardinal biggles

    cardinal biggles will sell no wine before its time Premium Member

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    Say what? :eek:
     
  18. GodThingFormerly

    GodThingFormerly A Different Kind of Asshole

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    Kline started his film career at Apogee and joined ST:TMP (where he designed, amongst other things, the Epsilon 9 station) after RA&A were fired. As far as I know he never worked with Taylor on any project.

    TGT
     
  19. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    You're going to have to find the issue, but the NEW WEST (from summer or spring 79) mentions that Abel employees found koolaid packets where their punchcards were supposed to be. As in you're not just fired, you should kill yourselves. they also blew the surprise of vger being voyager half a year before the movie came out.
     
  20. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    That's what I had thought, but there were illustrations in the PHASE II book from early TMP that seemed to have his signature on them. I don't have it or the ART anymore (big surprise) but if anybody wants to scan the color section in the phase 2 book, looking for various Abel-era art of vger interior/exterior ... (and yeah, I know there is miscaptioned stuff ... they've got what looks like a Mead rendering of vger listed as an early discarded design, and yet it looks like a good version of the thing we got in the DE when Steve Berg did some work to extrapolate the mead exterior.)

    TGT, do you know who did a lot of those black renderings with color lines for the vger interior in the abel era? Is it that David guy? Or somebody I've never heard of?