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  • “The Emperor’s New Cloak” vfx

    Posted on May 29th, 2009 dstipes No 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.


    After the show was cut together there was some concern that the audience might not catch what was going on so it was decided that we did indeed need to see the cloaking device phase in and out of visibility. 


    We had to take the full sized prop over to Image G, the motion control vendor that Star Trek used.  A special mount had to be constructed to hold the prop for repeat pass motion control photography. Since no measurements were taken on set, the model had to be positioned frame by frame to line up with the Ferengi’s hands and body positions as they moved through the scene.  The repeatable camera allowed us to shoot multiple passes for production photography and mattes.


    The film was transferred to digital and composited with hand drawn digital mattes to place the device behind the Rom and into Quark’s visible hands.  With a little bit of a dissolve and some animated sparking the cloaking device became visible in the culprit’s hands and the audience got to enjoy the visual gag.


    14 responses to ““The Emperor’s New Cloak” vfx”

    1. Yep. To a much lesser extent, I have dealt with the same stuff.

      “No no no. we dont want any FX shot here. Oh wait, yes we do. Never mind that you had nothing prepared. Do it anyways”

    2. Hey Nathan,

      Oh man!

      Now you are getting a taste of what the business can be!

      Oh, the glamour!

      I love the “nothing prepared. Do it anyways.”

    3. “After the show was cut together there was some concern that the audience might not catch what was going on…”

      Right, because Trekkers are know to be dumb viewers who do not pay attention to details. 😉

    4. Nice.

      No worries, really, no vfx shot will be needed, David. Really.

      Nice save, dude. 😉


    5. Gabriel Naylor

      Wow, nicely done! I know your spidey senses were going off when people we telling you that there wouldn’t need to be VFX for this. That rectangle of string you mentioned, is that something they held?

    6. Hello Gabriel,

      Thank you for the question. I went back into the article and adjusted that paragraph a bit.

      During rehearsals the two actors found it difficult to keep a consistent distance between themselves and between their own hands.

      The string gave them a tactile reference between their hands and to each other so they looked like they were carrying one solid object together.

    7. Hello SebiMeyer,


      I have been on shows where there was a bit of contempt for viewers. DS-9 wasn’t one of them.

      The producers on DS-9 were actually concerned with what the viewers saw and thought. I really think they were hoping to save some money … it was a little gamble on their part.

    8. I’m not a Trekker, but from reading the comments on the other Star Trek blogs, Trekkers seem to be nothing but detail oriented! The stuff they notice is pretty mind boggling.

    9. I so forgot that story Dave,,, haa we sure had a lot of those silly directions come from the top that had to be dealt with later!!! HAAA

    10. Whats happened in the 3rd frame down by Rom’s elbow? It looks like a rectangular shaped chunk of the cloaking device is missing.

    11. David,

      Could you do a thread on the VFX for The Flash?



    12. RKW,

      The device does narrow down at the front. I think it is just a hard angle.

      If we had a bad matte we never saw it. I definitely would not have let that through if I had seen it.

      Peter Noble,

      I would be pleased to add The Flash. Any thing you are especially looking for? The Flash was a surreal show to work on. Maybe I’ll get into some of that as this evolves.

    13. David, re: The Flash,

      The challenges of doing the speed effects in the show would be great when you’ve got the time.

      Many thanks,


    14. I like the fact that if they had planned for it, it would have been cheaper. Funny how that works. “Sure we can do that, you have another 9 grand.” Them: “no, but do it anyway.” Got to love clients.

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