Musings & Interests of David Stipes
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  • “The Emperor’s New Cloak” vfx

    Posted on May 29th, 2009 dstipes 14 comments

    John Eaves has published drawings of the portable cloaking device for Star Trek Deep Space-Nine episode, “The Emperor’s New Cloak” on his blog, Eavesdropping with Johnny at:

    When this episode was photographed I was on set as the vis efx supervisor.  It was decided that since the cloaking device was “cloaked” or invisible, we didn’t need to do any visual effects. I wondered if the pantomime was going to really sell that they had a mechanical device they were stealing. I kept asking if the producers were sure there would not be an effect; that they didn’t want me to take camera measurements and documentation of the set up just in case.  I was repeatedly reassured there would be no visual effects.


    We did set up a rectangle of string that the actors playing Rom and Quark held in their hands. This enabled them to keep some semblance of size and distance between their hands and each other as they moved along.  After all, they were supposed to be carrying a rigid heavy device of a specific size together.  I am so glad we did that.

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  • Conspiracy bugs

    Posted on May 25th, 2009 dstipes 6 comments


    Animating the “bugs” for the episode, “Conspiracy” was my first work on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Visual Effects Supervisor, Dan Curry, brought the job to David Stipes Productions, Inc. in April of 1988. The property master, Alan Sims, had commissioned another company to create the bug.  They had done a fine sculpting job but I realized we would have to re-build it for the stop motion animation.


    The creature was cast in a dense silicone material and was very stiff. The legs were small nubs that were not long enough to reach the floor to propel the creature along.  We set about re-sculpting the creature and giving it longer legs and defining the body segments a bit more.  A plaster mold was made and fitted with a simple wire armature and the creature was cast in rubber.

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  • More Buck Rogers matte shots

    Posted on May 22nd, 2009 dstipes 8 comments
    "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" by Syd Dutton

    "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" by Syd Dutton

    Peter Noble mentioned this matte shot of Buck and Wilma on the walkway. 

    This is again the fine work of Syd Dutton.  Syd told me that he ran the matte split through the guard at the left side of the walk.  The guard is partially painted and partially real.

    This location is the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles.

  • Matte painting masters

    Posted on May 21st, 2009 dstipes 15 comments
    Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

    Buck Rogers in the 25th Century by Syd Dutton

    Matte painting has been a love of mine for years. As a high school student I would look at the California skies and fantasize what steps I would have to take to render them out in paint.  My early dinosaur stop motion experiments often had painted back grounds or elements in the shot.  Over the years I have gathered a few fun matte shots that I can share. 

    This is a painting by Syd Dutton for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979). It was shot at an existing demolition site and employed the “original negative” compositing technique.  This means that the live action was photographed with a masked off (the matte), unexposed section of the frame. This film was not developed immediately, but was returned to the studio where Syd painted the ruins and sky to fit into the unexposed section of the scene.  The negative was run through the camera again and the painting was finally exposed onto the original negative of the live action then developed.

    This provided first generation quality matte painting composites.

  • Will the new cost us the old?

    Posted on May 14th, 2009 dstipes 36 comments
    Copyright 2009 Paramount CBS Studios Inc.

    Copyright 2009 Paramount CBS Studios Inc.

    Star Trek has had a special place in my heart over the years. It was often the most intelligent science fiction show on television at a time when Batman and Lost in Space were considered high quality entertainment.

    While I was appalled at the “Spock’s Brain” episode, I nevertheless tried to get onto the show during its last season. I still remember my 1968 interview with Edward Milkis, the associate producer on the third season of the show.  I was very young and “green” but Mr. Milkis was patient and gave me some encouragement and sent me on my way. 

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