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Musings & Interests of David Stipes
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  • Revised Galactica.TV 2009 interview: Marcel Damen & David Stipes

    Posted on October 10th, 2022 dstipes No comments

    Part 1 of 2009 interview. The original online Galactica.TV website postings appear to be lost. This article was recreated from transcriptions generated during the original interview between David Stipes and Marcel Damen. Minor editing was done for info corrections, clarity, and updates. Galactica.TV questions in boldface type are by Marcel Damen.


    You started creating your own visual effects for movies at a young age. What brought this about? What movie made such an impression on you to get you involved in this field?

    That’s pretty straightforward, King Kong and The Son of Kong. When I was in the third or fourth grade, the films were shown on television. I was amazed. I didn’t know what was going on exactly, but I knew something was. So I asked my mom, “How did they get King Kong to do all this stuff?” and she said, “Oh, David, it’s a trained chimpanzee.” Well, of course, they didn’t look or move like chimpanzees, and I thought, “That’s not right.” So even though I was very young, I knew something was going on, and it wasn’t what my mom said.

    So it fascinated me. When I was about eleven, I discovered Famous Monsters of Filmland, Forrest J Ackerman’s magazine. Forry wrote about Willis O’Brien, King Kong, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and Ray Harryhausen. I thought, “Wow! This is terrific.”

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  • A Point of Light in the Stars.

    Posted on April 29th, 2021 dstipes No comments

    A unique effects solution to a Star Trek send-off

    Deep Space Nine, the space station, was always a physical model except for the last shot of the series. For the final episode, “What you leave behind,” the last shot in the script called for a camera pull-back from Jake and Kira out a DS-9 window and away until the station was just another point of light in the stars.

    The challenges of this shot were enormous.  We had to film a live-action camera zoom-out from Jake and Kira in the window on the set and later match that move and extend it to an infinite pull-back from a model.  Using the existing DS-9 model was going to be a problem.

    Cameraman Stephen Lebed with 6 ft DS-9

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  • Creating a dramatic Star Trek starship smackdown

    Posted on March 28th, 2020 dstipes No comments

    Destroying spaceships was one of the more interesting challenges on the Star Trek TV shows. The default approach was to superimpose some gasoline fireballs over the spaceship miniature and then dissolve the model out and call it a day. Early on after I arrived at Star Trek I did experiment with what were supposed to be thermonuclear explosions with bright flashes and shock waves. It was effective in the scenes but a bit unsatisfying.

    When the story allowed I would try to make the shot a bit more fun with what I called “visual shorthand.”  I was looking for what quickly communicated visually that a starship was in trouble.

    As I originally pondered this I wondered what was a real-world visual correlate to spaceships being destroyed. To me, the best comparison was a huge military ship in combat. I most often thought of the Bismarck sinking in 1941.


    After a massive battle, the Bismarck roll over onto its side and sank.

    This is an example of how an artist’s life experiences can affect their work. My awareness of the Bismarck capsizing is a direct result of building a model for a middle school history class. I proudly showed my model of the Bismarck to my instructor.


    Being a typical young teenager I had not done my research and had constructed the model sinking by the bow like the Titanic. My instructor complimented my model and then informed me that the Bismarck actually sank by rolling over or capsizing. My embarrassment etched the experience into my memory for me to draw up many years later for Star Trek.

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  • Voyage Trekkers: The Great Hall VFX

    Posted on March 15th, 2019 dstipes No comments

    This is another guest article by Diane Cook from 2011.  It is slightly revised with Diane’s permission.

    At the end of July (2011), David once again asked if I would like to help him on another one of Nathan Blackwell’s web series, Voyage Trekkers. The premise for this show is not a parody of Star Trek, but homage to all sci-fi. The twist being, “With all the starships in the galaxy, somebody’s gotta be the worst”…or as the tagline goes, “These are the voyages that don’t make the captain’s log”.

    Blackwell gave us the footage for episode nine, “Fabulous Technology”, filmed entirely with green screen background. David chose to do physical models for these shots instead of digital. I was in charge of making the models, while David was responsible for prop designs and post-production effects.

    Our assignment was to create a columned great hall similar to one in Star Wars (c).

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  • Multi-pass photography of miniature spaceships for Star Trek

    Posted on February 18th, 2019 dstipes No comments


    For Star Trek, the original series, the model of the Enterprise was shot in one pass at live action speed over blue screen.  Live filming and blue screen exposure requirements necessitated a more open f/stop so focus was shallow when close to small models.


    The TOS Enterprise model was huge at about eleven feet long.

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