Musings & Interests of David Stipes
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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.

     

    Previously I wrote about the glass tabletop approach to spaceship shots on Star Trek where the ships were filmed predominantly level for maximum readability and recognition.

    To better dramatize the destruction I would violate the glass tabletop and tilt the ships over as if they were capsizing.

    My two favorite examples are from “Valiant” episode number 146 and “Sacrifice of Angels” episode number 130.

     

    When the ships were hit they would roll over like a dying dreadnought on the high seas.

     

    As the starships capsized the hull would burn away revealing the inner structure and then followed by the ever-popular fireball explosions.

     

    In a couple of instances, we would have the ship do a huge jolt from the blast and then come apart in tilting pieces or in one case the ship began to tumble from an impact in the front. They were effective visually and had a strong visceral impact.

     

     

    Of course, none of my fanciful destruction scenes would have happened without the talents of the CGI artists at Digital Muse and Foundation Imaging. With a smackdown team like this, the poor spaceships didn’t have a chance!

     

    Star Trek and all related elements ™, ® & © 2020 Paramount Pictures / CBS Studios Inc.
    Photographs and media are used for educational purposes only. 
    No copyright infringement is intended.
  • Digital vs. physical Jem’Hadar

    Posted on June 23rd, 2009 dstipes No 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.

    bloodandwater_moco_575_corrected

    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.

    calltoarms_501-corrected_575

    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 No 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 »

  • Romance, Deep Space Nine style

    Posted on May 1st, 2009 dstipes No comments

    Romance between a “changeling” and a “solid” was not going to be easy on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. For the episode, “Chimera,” Odo and Kira decided to take their relationship to a new level. Because she was a solid, Kira could never “meld” into oneness with the changeling, Odo, so they did the next best thing which was ….  what? 

    At this point the DS9 production team was stumped. What could Odo do?

    “Uh, anybody have any ideas?”  “How about Odo becoming a cloud and snowing on Kira?”  Nope. The women in the production thought it too cold sounding.  “Kira could snuggle into Odo as he morphs into a pillow or a blanket.”    Hmmm, Odo would have to morph through his goo state to become a pillow or blanket.  That didn’t sound warm or cozy. Nothing suggested felt visually beautiful or romantic. So production filming began without this sequence finalized.

      Read the rest of this entry »

  • How to use a Perspective Cube

    Posted on April 14th, 2009 dstipes No comments

    New visual effects students often have difficulty with the concept and application of the “perspective cube.”  A perspective cube is a well constructed box with accurate parallel edges and right angles.  Usually it is white with black lines along the edges. Typical construction materials would be white foam core and one inch black paper tape along the edges. 

    The cube size is somewhat to taste and per your transportation restrictions but it should not be too small. Most appear to be 12″ x 12″ x 12″   or 18″ x 18″ x 18″.   I suggest using whole inch measurements and make all side equal as that facilitates quicker set up and ease of reproduction in a Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) environment if needed. 

    picture1The perspective cube can be used for multiple reasons. Today we will use the perspective cube to find a horizon line that can’t be seen.  

    Suppose you are on location where mountains or vegetation blocks your view of a horizon line and you have no other man-made structures to run perspective lines from to find a vanishing point and horizon line. 

       Read the rest of this entry »

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