ILM's effects work in the Star Trek films

Discussion in 'Lucasfilm Ltd. In-Depth Discussion' started by Jack-D-Ripper, Apr 11, 2003.

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  1. Jack-D-Ripper Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2002
    star 2
    What do y'all think of the work ILM did on Star Trek over the years? They did six of the ten films, and I personally think a lot of their very best work can be found in these films, and I feel that ILM were key to the success of Star Trek during the 1980's.

    Sure, while the effects ILM did for Trek, particularly II and III were much more workman-like and nowhere near as elegant and technologically accomplished as the effects from the first Trek film done by EEG, Apogee and RA&A, they nontheless began on a very good note with the spectacular effects done for the battle at the end of Star Trek II, inside the Nebula. Their pioneering use of CGI in the Genesis sequence is also noteworthy. Another high point certainly was the destruction of the Enterprise in Star Trek III, as well as all the designs ILM did in-house for that film: they really gave Star Trek a great new look, while at the same time tying it very firmly to tradition.

    They richly deserved their Oscar for Star Trek IV, the only time a Trek film ever won an Oscar for visual effects. The stuff the creature-shop did with those animatronic, free-swimming Humpback Whale miniatures is absolutely MIND-BLOWING. The by-then-standard spacecraft shots actually had a lot of polish in Star Trek IV, and the whole film has a look all its own. They also did some staggeringly good matte-paintings on that film.

    Star Trek VI was pretty ordinary on the effects front, but was nontheless a good solid effort.

    I found Generations and First Contact, however, to be among the best shows ILM ever did, especially First Contact, although Generations had much better looking planets. The sheer quality of their miniature photography, digital compositing and their CGI, really sets this film apart. I also really like it when the Borg Cube blew up; a green explosion was certainly a nice change, and as always, it's really great seeing real pyro: nothing beats packing a model full of explosives and letting rip....

    Anyway, this is just to get the ball rolling. I'll drop in later if the discussion gets going.

    -JDR.

  2. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    Well the ST4 whales, while done by the ILM creature shop, they did have to bring in Walt Conti to supervise that work, as the creature shop was pretty much in decline then.

    The ST films, in particular 2, 3 and 4 are very outstanding in particular because of the very limited budget they had to work with. I believe all the exteriors in ST3 were done in just one soundstage!!! The problem was that ST: TMP was, while successful, not the huge hit Paramount expected (they wanted Star Wars numbers).

    Of course ST2 is revlutionary as being among the first CG effects of the modern era. It was , if I remember right, the first CG production shot the Lucasfilm Graphics Group accomplished. Much of the work before was R&D and internal test images.
  3. kirkout Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 7, 2002
    star 1
    Uh, NO Trek film has ever won an oscar, for FX or any other category, and that most definitely includes trek 4. In fact, I'm pretty sure that was the first year ILM lost the oscar, to ALIENS.

    I think the whale stuff in that otherwise fairly lame pic is really exceptional, but it sure didn't win anything from the academy!

    I run hot and cold on ILM's trek stuff, mainly cuz I don't like what they designed for the trek universe in ST 3 & 4. They pushed it way too far towards SW IMO.

    Big dif between ST 2 & ST3 -- on KHAN, they were working from Paramount designs (those of Mike Minor), which I found to be far superior to the stuff they coughed up in ST 3, like that awful spacedock monstrosity.

    Also, when they deviated from what Minor supplied on KHAN, they delivered their worst work (the painting of the genesis cave ... if you've ever seen Minor's volcanic bubble filled art, it looks better than the embarassing ILM finished product.)

    I hate what ILM did to the Enterprise paint job, altering it from how it looked on the first movie when Trumbull did it, but have to admit that they did a pretty good job on GEN and FC (the latter, even though I dislike it as a movie nearly as much as the ones Nimoy directed, has got some SUPER miniature work in it, especially the hull walk stuff.) I think FC would have been really awesome if they had let John Knoll keep the lighting more realistic, which he did very well on GENERATIONS.

    I have always thought that one reason ILM hasn't been on the last couple films is that nobody there wants to put up with the anal-retentive producers on trek who insist on all the shots being redone fifty times before signing off on anything.

    If you were an fx supervisor working for Kubrick, I could see acceding to the guy's wishes, cuz he had a genuine eye and true vision, but sublimating your own superior fx supervisor taste to that of a trek producer?!! That is probably akin to Ansel Adams letting Stevie Wonder determine the composition on his photographs!

    I think ILM's best trek-style work was in GALAXY QUEST, myself!
  4. Jack-D-Ripper Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2002
    star 2
    ^Okay, so I guess I stand corrected about the Oscar thing. I don't know why, but I could have SWORN I read something once that mentioned TVH's FX Oscar. Maybe I read wrong. I'll check up on it though.

    -JDR.
  5. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    Oh yeah, it was also the first time ILM wasn't nominated that year. The 1986 nominees were Aliens, Little Shop of Horros and Poltergeist 2, with Aliens winning (much deservedly).

    1986 was a weaker year for ILM, with Trek 4 being the highlight. The other films they worked on were: The Money Pit (minor VFX, just a handful of shot), Labyrinth (ILM was not credited directly but a lot of the matte artists worked on the show), Howard the Duck and The Golden Child.

  6. Attack_of_the_Ewoks Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 8, 2003
    star 4
    ILM's work in First Contact was very impressive. The Enterprise never looked better. The attack on the Borg cube was also very cool. The coolest effect though was the Borg Queen, whose top half lowers into her body. That was great! :D
  7. Jack-D-Ripper Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2002
    star 2
    The Enterprise never looked better.[in First Contact]

    Well, never looked better in an ILM Trek film, IMO. I don't think a starship has EVER looked as good as Doug Trumbull made the Enterprise look in the first Trek film, but that wasn't ILM's effects. I always felt EEG did better work than ILM in the late 70's.

    -JDR.
  8. Happy Ninja Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 6
    IMO, I think that ILM did some of their greatest work on Star Trek, even though there are a lot of Trek haters out there, I think that film SPFX have come a long way due to the work carried out on these projects.

    The "Genesis Wave" in THE WRATH OF KHAN, for example is pinoeering work, and I think that after 21 years, it still holds up very well.

    The "Crash Sequence" in GENERATIONS is outstanding minature work, as far as I'm concerned.

    And as for FIRST CONTACT. I'm so glad they got the contract to do that, because without their work, the film would have suffered. That fight against the Borg is great, but I think that my favourite shot is the very first shot of the film where the camera pulls out of Picard's eye, and just tracks back out towards the edge of the cube. I think I remember reading they did that shot with Patrick Stewart standing in the center of three alcoves, and the camera went WAY back, something like 120 feet!

    Also, I think that you guys should watch the documentry work for THE WRATH OF KHAN, THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, and THE VOYAGE HOME on their DVD's (Also THE MOTION PICTURE even though Apogee Inc. did the FX for that film, it is still very fascinating stuff!). The FX documentrys are great!
  9. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    The Borg cube pullback in Star Trek First Contact was done by Illusion Arts (who also worked on the many matte paintings for Star Trek Nemesis).

    As far as the Trek documentaries on the DVDs I think they are so so, some are downright bad. I mean they barely say anything about the Genesis sequence on the DVD, only towards the end do you get any snippets. For such a groundbreaking moment, just mentioning it on passing was pathetic. I was glad though when they showed old footage of the cloud tank effects which sort of made up for it. They could have cut all the "cutesy" documentaries about space or aliens, and instead put more about the actual productions besides the actor interviews.

    As far as the Enterprises I like the one in Trek VI. Don't know why though.
  10. DarthDork Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2002
    star 2
    Star Trek 6 had better visual and make up effects than Terminator 2.
  11. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    "Star Trek 6 had better visual and make up effects than Terminator 2."

    Now you're just baiting the flames. ;)

  12. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    I bet you he forgot to put a big shiny smile with that ;-).
  13. slimybug Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2001
    star 5
    So let me get this straight. The Films that ILM worked on were Wrath of Kahn, Search For Spock, Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country, Generations, First Contact, and nemesis, while the ones htey didn't were The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier, and Insurrection?
  14. kirkout Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 7, 2002
    star 1
    ^No, ILM had NOTHING to do with NEMESIS, that was mostly Digital Domain, with some Illusion Arts and some tiny bits by a few other folks -- no ILM there (it would have looked a lot better if they had worked on it, I'm sure that great physical model they built for FC would have been used.)

    And ILM DID do a few bits for ST5 TFF, recompositing stock elements from Trek 4 of spacedock exterior and interior.

    The idea Paramount & Winter & co had was that they could use stock shots from the previous pics for MOST of the generic space stuff in ST5 (being careful, I guess, not to show anything that revealed the old 1701 number instead of 1701-A), but supposedly the elements could not be found.

    Whether this is ILM's fault or Paramount's is something I had never been able to figure out, since there are claims that all the elements are stored at Paramount (which perhaps explains how an outtake -- an unused element -- from TMP wound up being used on NextGen's TIN MAN), and counter-claims (somewhat substantiated) that a lot of effects elements never wound up there at all (especially when the story is that Paramount wouldn't pay for storing elements and so Apogee and Future General tossed tons of stuff a few months after TMP wrapped.

    I do know that whether or not they kept the film elements, ILM definitely did keep a number of the models between pictures, but they didn't have all of them ... good example would be the drydock from TMP, which Paramount had in storage, but didn't realize they had in storage (which supports the idea that Paramount doesn't know what it has or what it is doing, which is VERY easy for me to believe.)
  15. slimybug Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2001
    star 5
    Hm. I could have SWORN I heard somewhere that ILM was doing Nemesis.
  16. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    Nope, you can read the whole details about Nemesis in Cinefex. Most of the problems stem from IMDB actually. I believe at one point IMDB had listed ILM as doing the VFX. I clearly remembered that even late last year IMDB had listed both ILM and Digital Domain doing the VFX for T3. DD is not involved in T3. I'm always very skeptical about any IMDB info of projects in development and in production it's very innacurate. Some of the movie gossip sites are also very misleading in this stuff. It's better to check the Cinefex listing or Greg's Previews which is taken from confirmed and official sources.
  17. kirkout Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 7, 2002
    star 1
    You're SO right about IMDB. A few years ago when I did an article on the first X-MEN flick, I called PDI about their involvement on the film (based on the listing on IMDB, which even specified the name of the supervisor there) ... got a huge embarassed silence on the other end of the line and a 'we're not working on that project.'

    I read someplace else recently that IMDB removed a huge hunk of what passed for 'interesting facts' from the STAR TREK part of their site awhile back ... I'm hoping that is as a result of public backlash against all the inaccurate rumor-mongering crap they've put up in the last few years (apparently all you need in order to post info is to register, which must seem way too attractive to some folks with agendas. Unfortunately, you also need to register to complain about these inaccuracies, and I won't do that.)
  18. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Mal is right about IMdb. The really frustrating thing about that is, if you want to know the latest info because you an't tell if it's correct or just wildly inaccurate.

    They still list ILM working on Thunderbirds while it's actually Framestore in England doing it.

    Then they listed Potter 3 about six months before ILM was publicly on the show.

    Sometimes they must just take an extrapolated guess.

    Example: ILM worked on the first three Jurassic Park films so they list JP 4. They did several Trek films, so they list them as working on Trek 9.

    Be wary.
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