Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Star Trek: The Beginning" Teaser Trailer VFX Breakdown

A year or so ago, after watching the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, I was excited about the reinvigoration of the of the Star Trek franchise.

Being a CG artist, I am also always looking for ways to practice and increase my skills. I thought, "What if I was in charge of reinvigorating Star Trek?" What would my first teaser trailer look like?

So, I decided to find out. During my down time, I began to work on CG assets, some loaned to me by very generous and talented CG artists from across the web. Below, I present a look at the creation of the VFX in this fan created Star Trek: The Beginning Teaser Trailer.

In the first shot, we see two starfleet officers riding a turbolift up a launch tower, similar to one you would see at Cape Canaveral in Florida. This shot is a combination of CGI and of live action plates. The two actors scene in it are actually two of my coworkers. They were shot on a green chroma key wall where I work at separate times.

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The background turbolift and launch tower are fully CG creations. The far background of the San Francisco skyline is a stock photo acquired from, an excellent free stock photography site. As a matter of fact, all San Francisco skylines featured were aquired from there.

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The next shot, we see some metal doors opening to reveal a gantry hallway leading up to a launching pad. Like the previous shot, both of my coworkers were shot on greenscreen, and placed into a fully CG shot. The only other real element is the steam coming out of the end of the gantry to the left, and that was aquired at

The shot after that, we see the newly designed Enterprise sitting in the shipyard in San Francisco Bay. This shot is fully CG except for the background skyline and some of the steam elements, again, from Detonation Films.

Next, we see a shot of the Enterprise's secondary hull, which has not yet been attached to the primary hull, undergoing some zero-g plate welding. This shot is once again fully digital except for the earth in the background which is a NASA image obtained at

This next shot should be interesting to some Trekkies. It depects the saucer being launched from San Francisco Bay into space. For this, I wanted to evoke a very NASA like feel to the launch, complete with smoking billows to each side. However, I could not create a convicning scale and look with CG volumetric smoke. Instead, I choose to use images I found of huge volcanic pyroclastic flows, cut out the smoke, rotate into position, and animate their billowing using After Effect's Mesh Warp tool. This is a techinique I learned from Mark Christiansen's Adobe After Effects CS4 Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techinques. Whew, that's a mouthful.

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Also, the water in the still shot was perfectly still, so I replaced the water in the bay with CG water so that the water would have movement.

Original Plate
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CG Water
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Next up is the teaser reveal of the Enterprise from the rear in drydock, while in orbit around Earth. For this shot, I used the wonderful CG models of Dan Uyeno (Enterprise/Drydock) and Rafael Dominguez Estrada (Galileo 7 shuttlecraft). Again, the Earth is an image from NASA composited into this otherwise fully digital shot.

Of particular interest to me personally in this shot, is the digital recreation of the anamorphic lens flare seen in this shot. It is made of highly custom compositing operations using luma matte tricks and various other filters such as Knoll Light Factory.

Anamorphic Lens Flare
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The final shot in the trailer is the reveal of the Enterprise fully from the front, and its subsequent jump to warp. This shot is simple, but also offered room to learn about new techniques. One thing I did, was create a 2D matte painting of Jupiter in Photoshop using a Cassini image as base. The streaking light of the ship during the warp jump were achieved using Mental Ray and 32-bit rendering that allowed me to create of the overbrights required for this effect.

Enteprise leaving the Solar System (Jupiter and moons in background)
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Well, that's a quick rundown of the shots. I hope this has been informative. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. The link is in the upper right hand corner of my blog. You can also watch this trailer below, but please go to YouTube and click the HD button to watch it in it's HD glory.


Martin Klekner said...

I love it! The fan film community never stops suprising me. Flawless job., Pixel.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Top notch work again Daniel !!!!!!

Anonymous said...

i want to have your babies

Brandon Adams said...

This is extraordinary. How long did it take you to put it together?

Unknown said...

This is breathtaking! I wasn't quite sure what the saucer launch was at first but I love the idea of it now. Thank you for sharing this, this is truly incredible work!

Past Expiry said...
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Robert said...

This was awsome i thought the james doohan voice was very touching and nicely done. over all you get a 10 for that one well done.

Robert said...

I thought this was very well thought out and i thought the James Doohan voice was very touching. you defo get a 10 out 10 for that trailer. Are you working on any others?

Loken said...

Fantastic work! I loved it.