Musings & Interests of David Stipes
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  • Restoring Terry’s figure with Vis Efx

    Posted on September 12th, 2009 dstipes 20 comments

    Terry Farrell’s contract was up on DS-9 and she was leaving the show. The story going around was that she did not wish to leave but the producers would not grant her contract requests. As the visual effects supervisor, I was on the DS-9 set to oversee the effects needed for her last scenes on the series. Terry was not very happy and was giving tearful goodbye hugs to her production crewmates.

    I have seen actors who were really obnoxious and uncooperative when they didn’t get what they wanted so I was watching Terry with interest as the day unfolded. For every shot when called, she dried her tears, went on set, became her character, Dax, and delivered the best performances she could. She did not give an attitude, whine or make excuses. She did her job.

    To give Terry an exit from the series, the DS-9 writers had bad boy Gul Dukat kill Jadzia Dax in the episode called ‘Tears of the Prophets’. Dukat, possessed by the Pah-wraiths, uses an energy force to lift Dax off the ground then kill her.

    tearsofthephrophets_595

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Digital vs. physical Jem’Hadar

    Posted on June 23rd, 2009 dstipes 14 comments

    In the last posting I shared images of the Jem’Hadar cruiser model. RKW asked for some comparison shots between the physical model and the CGI model used on DS-9.

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    Physical model from episode, "Ties of Blood and Water" (Gary Hutzel, vis efx supervisor)

    As you could see from the photo above and next below, the physical model was pretty good looking and would have been used as long as possible on the series.

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    Physical model from episode, "Call to Arms"

    With season 6 episode  #546,  “Valiant,”  we were forced to create a CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) version of a Jem’Hadar ‘Battleship.’  The main reason was compelled by the story. If possible we would have used the physical model for both the cruiser and the Battleship, with the scale of the model being the only difference. Read the rest of this entry »

  • John Eaves’ Jem’Hadar for DS-9

    Posted on June 20th, 2009 dstipes 20 comments

     

    Jem Hadardesign

    Since John Eaves posted his excellent designs for the DS-9 Jem ‘Hadar battle ship, I thought I would let you see it as a model.  

     

    John’s design translated into a terrific looking model that was fun to light and photograph. Read the rest of this entry »

  • “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: http://johneaves.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/klingon-cloaking-device/

    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.

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    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.

      Read the rest of this entry »

  • Conspiracy bugs (revised)

    Posted on May 25th, 2009 Managed WordPress Migration User 7 comments

    startrek-conspiracypic2

    “Conspiracy” was season-1, episode 25, of  Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Enterprise crew must overcome Starfleet Command officers who are infected by an alien parasite. This episode has the dubious honor of having one or more shots censored as “violent images” by the BBC in England.  It is reported that the episode required a warning before airing in Canada.

    The story required that the parasite climb the leg of an officer then later climb out of the mouth of another fallen human host and attempt to escape.

    Animating the parasite bugs for the episode 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.

    We scheduled the animation time then were told by Dan Curry that the date we were to animate was actually the date they needed the work finished. We scrambled to get the animation set up. Dan had provided frames of the woman opening her mouth so we could line up the parasite’s animation with the actor’s performance. I asked Dan if we could have a bloody slime trail from the woman’s mouth but he didn’t think the producers would like it. I thought it would help sell the horror of the situation but, disappointed, we moved on.

    Dan has also provided a 4ft x 8ft piece of hard Formica flooring to match the set.  It was so big I had to place it on a sheet of Celotex board on my studio concrete floor and animate on my hands and knees.

    The surface was tough so I could not directly pin the model to the floor for the animation process.

    I had to drill through the hard Formica then drive a pin through the parasite’s foot into the Celotex insulation board below. This prevented the feet from sliding around as I animated the body.

    I animated the creature along by twisting the parasite’s body segments in sequence with the legs.

    After a couple of scenes were done, the armature wires broke and the body segment with the last two legs fell off the puppet!  I finished the shot by animating the now two body sections along and making them appear as one creature.

    As I worked, on another stage my assistant, Stephen Lebed, animated the parasite climbing the leg of the main host, Lt. Commander Remick. Stephen faced his own challenges as the creature was difficult to attach and animate effectively on the pants cloth.

    It was a challenge but it was fun and it continues to get comments. This episode is often included on lists of The Next Generation‘s greatest moments.

    Article updated Dec 31, 2018

    Credit: Frame blow-up are from a video by Greg Stone.

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