Star Trek TMP Drydock Departure – 40th Anniversary Exploration and CGI Redux (Vlog #07)

December 2019 is the 40th anniversary of Star Trek the motion picture and I’ve chosen to honor the anniversary by kicking off the one-year countdown with a new CGI production of the entire earth departure chapter from the original film. So today, I’m gonna take you behind the scenes and walk you through the production details. We’ll end the vlog with over three minutes of newly familiar TMP action. The motion-picture chapter that I refer to comprises several sequences that were broken down separately for this production. It begins will the pre-launch sequence. This is then followed by the power-up sequence. If you watched last year’s Star Trek II UNITY vlogs, then you should have good memory for this part of the movie. The third segment is the actual drydock departure sequence. For me… this part of the project is the most memorable… because it required the most hours to wrap and was associated with some interesting and revealing analyses… which I’ll cover later in this vlog. The fourth and final segment of production involved the impulse travel shots. This, too, is one of the more important parts of the production… because considerable editing changes were brought to bear on the finished work. Alright, I lied a little bit. This opening sequence also was very important to me. Many people are going to watch these shots, either favorably or critically… completely ignorant of how much work was required just for the first shot in this sequence. You see, the freely available CG models of the Enterprise don’t come with detachable panels or interiors. I had to learn the digital equivalent of kit bashing. I can only describe the results as a miracle of persistence, because when it comes to structural modeling, I’m out of my comfort zone. The pre-launch sequence is intended to be faithful to the original film, but I did identify one area for improvement: shot number two. The original action is just lights turning off. But I thought having the gangway retract was a perfectly fitting enhancement for the anniversary. So later, you’ll see the gangway blinking and retracting for safe clearance. This sequence, too, is meant to be faithful to the original film. So I used the same shot compositions and camera angles to the best of my abilities. I did, however, make a deliberate choice to dial back the depth-of-field effects excessive use of DOF can create a sense of miniaturization, and on this point the original… cinematography got it wrong. Why would you film a large, expensive studio model of a starship… only to have it appear like a toy? And to all you DouglasTrumbull fans who now feel vicariously slighted and can’t resist to tell me off in the comments: First, I admire and appreciate Trumball’s contribution to motion pictures. Second… I’m never going to be Doug.
And third, there are tissues in the lobby. Yeah, I hate to break it to you, but the original drydock departure sequence in The Motion Picture is the… 1979 equivalent of today’s fake news. You know… I have a long editing history with this movie, going back to 2010, and I had long suspected there was something funky going on. But it wasn’t until later, when I began rigging my own shots as an animator, that I fully understood all the smoke and mirrors. The plot begins in pre-production, when I first noticed that Prologic9’s… drydock mesh isn’t properly scaled against Dennis Bailey’s Enterprise mesh, and vice-versa, since neither… Individual is obligated to care about such things. No problem though, because it’s a simple matter to scale stuff in CGI environments. And once I had drydock properly scaled down and aligned with the gangway hatch… I was puzzled by the results because the distance between… the edge of the saucer and the edge of drydock was only about 30 meters. So at this point, I start second-guessing myself and questioning whether I knew what I was doing. The departure sequence is much too long for this distance to be correct. If we ignore the first shot, where the enterprise just starts edging forward… there are still four shots all showing the enterprise moving steadily for 18.5 seconds. It’s only after 19 seconds when the saucer first begins to clear the structure. So what’s going on here? It can’t possibly take this long
to move 30 meters. Well, images from the actual studio rig… confirm that my corrective scaling and alignment work were necessary. The distance to begin clearing drydock
really is about 30 meters. This shot is therefore the smoking gun. It shows roughly how the Enterprise was parked before it began moving. So the problem is that either the shots were cut out of order or shots two, three, four… five and six we’re capturing the Enterprise at the same moment at time, but at different angles. In either case… we never saw the Enterprise clear drydock
in real time. But we can. For the first time, you will see the Enterprise properly animated from parked to departed using the same music… same distance traveled and same footage length. Now, my editing solution to the sequence
removes one shot… so while sequence length is still identical,
the shot progression is now very different. Though, I suspect most viewers are going to lose track of these differences and hardly notice them. A secondary feature of this work is that the earth orbit views are also presented in real-time. They are also camera accurate.
The original… 1979 shots are somewhat peculiar in this regard because there are shots where the earth should be visible but is not… and shots where the earth should not be visible, but is.
The starfield rotations are also a problem in the 1979 film… because often times there just aren’t any.
You can see this problem… most notably in the sunrise flyby shot, where only the sun is animated and the earth and starfield are… inexplicably locked together. However, if you watch closely today… you will see that everything is now in constant
real-time motion throughout all the visuals. “Impulse power Mr. Sulu.
Ahead warp point five.” Our chapter ends with the Enterprise cruising through the solar system at sublight speed. Now, the fact that we are traveling on impulse is a big deal if you’re an editor… because later I’ll dissect what I believe is a huge mistake in the original film. The first notable change in this sequence concerns the bridge viewscreen. That earth visual looks a bit dated… so this work includes new viewscreen visuals. I also brought in that moon to cue the end of the shot, as if to signal that the Enterprise had officially left the earth system. This scene is cut in real-time… meaning there are no passage-of-time devices to help the audience skip ahead. So, the fact that we arrive at Jupiter just moments after Sulu switches to forward view is a big problem. I don’t think anyone really knows
what 0.5 warp is… but let’s be forgiving and just assume that it’s roughly half the speed of light. Well, Jupiter is a full 30 light minutes from Earth… and there is nothing in this scene
to indicate that an entire hour has passed. Remember, if you’re traveling at the speed of light then you’d need an hour to reach a destination 30 light minutes away. But wait, it gets even worse!
After this scene concludes… we learn that 1.8 hours has elapsed
since the Enterprise left drydock. “Captain’s log: Stardate 7412.6,
1.8 hours from launch.” “In order to intercept the intruder at the earliest possible time, we must now risk engaging warp drive while still within the solar system.” Bullshit! If the Enterprise had reached Jupiter in the previous scene, that at those speeds it is no longer in the solar system… after 1.8 hours of flight. I know I’m not the only fan who has picked up on this problem. And here’s the math
just to show that this stuff is real So let’s be very generous again and pretend that the Enterprise had been traveling at warp 0.5 for… five minutes when it approaches Jupiter. The actual time telegraphed in the movie is barely a minute, so I’m being quite forgiving here. 1.8 hours corresponds to… 108 minutes. 108 minutes therefore represents… 21.6 one-way trips to Jupiter.
The smallest earth-Jupiter distance is roughly… 588 million kilometers,
so when Kirk issues his captain’s log… 1.8 hours into the mission… the Enterprise has traveled a distance of
21.6 trips times the distance of each trip, or… 12 billion, 700 million, eight hundred thousand kilometers. And what is the estimated radius of the known solar system? Holy crap! It’s only 4.5 billion kilometers. The Enterprise has, in fact, left the solar system almost threefold. For the story and scene transitions to make sense, we fans hope that the Enterprise is in the vicinity of the outer asteroids. If we recall back to our high-school astronomy, that’s Jupiter’s neighborhood. In other words… we want to be near Jupiter in this scene, not the previous scene. So, if we didn’t reach Jupiter in the previous scene, then how far should we have traveled for a more believable and accurate storyline? That’s obvious. Mars is the more sensible choice. Alright… so this is the point where I disappear and let you enjoy the action. If you appreciate my animation and editing work… Go ahead and beast on that like button. Yu can also support this channel more generally by becoming a deLimited Productions subscriber and… supporting the dP Facebook community. Speaking of Facebook, what are you doing for the 40th anniversary? Don’t be a slacker fan!
Get busy on something: artwork maybe, models… animation, or any kind of audio or visual commemoration. Because we’ve created a Facebook group specifically for this purpose. To all you Star Trek movie fans, happy 40th anniversary. The Motion Picture, love it or hate it… is the one that started it all.
Until next time, this is Anti-Matter.

About the author


  1. Loved the astronomical distance stuff, the research and the editing… but ultimately models really are better

  2. Very good the one thing that bugs me is when the light arm at time index 13:10 swings away and goes dim but yet there is still a circular light pattern on the engineering hull maybe edit that. Surprised it wasn't caught.

  3. Seriously well done. Imagine if you could go back in time with todays tech and skill! Keep up the good work 🙂

  4. knowing where drydock is in orbit and space station i think you see dry dock as it leaves orbit knowing dry dock is where mir space station is there for you about to see the main space station coming in to view and dry dock just spect and on main screen the space station is just about dot or just barely on screen knowing the size..

  5. Actually Voyager 1, ironic I know, has found that the heliopause, the end of the Sun being the primary influence on the environment, is 121 AU, 18 billion km from the sun. So by your calculation the Enterprise would have still been in the system, well past the orbit of most Trans Neptunian Objects but still technically in the system.

  6. It’s also possible that 1/2 impulse is not – in fact – 0.5c, but is more like 0.25c (.5 squared). It’s more likely that 1/2 impulse is just a throttle setting (and we do see a Sulu manipulating a handle that resembles a throttle.) As for Jupiter, well, the Enterprise is a science/exploratory vessel – they should have the equivalent of a good optical telescope on board, with both optical and digital zoom much like most any cell phone cam today (just much larger.) Sulu may have had a desire to see Jupiter close up, and so set the main view screen magnification – maybe he just wanted to get a good shot of Jupiter’s big red spot for posterity.

  7. Question will you release this in a screen saver format so I can put it on my desktop. I would love to have this scene in the background when I'm not using my computer.

  8. I don't think the depth of focus thing was an artistic choice. They had to use a special lens to get close enough to the model to get the sense of scale that they wanted in the shots. I have read that they actually wished they had a BIGGER filming model so they wouldn't have had to use that lens. You, of course, are not limited by optics so your render is probably closer to what they would have been able to do if they had a larger filming model.

  9. I thought the wormhole asteroid was a Kuiper belt object and Kirk issued his log entry after passing Jupiter. But it's your gig.

  10. a true fan work.accurate and very sensitive to the original in EVERY WAY.WELL DONE..WELL FUCKING DONE

  11. your hard work is appreciated. the refit USS Enterprise is so beautiful & she looks even more amazing & elegant. i really REALLY REALLY hope they re-release Star Trek The Motion Picture at the cinema for it's anniversary. even though i was only 8 in 1979 I desperately wanted to see this movie at the picture house. used to watch Star Trek on BBC2 & loved every moment but alas I missed out on the big first Star Trek movie & had to wait for it on tv. given that the new Disney Star Wars train wreck is out in December 2019 it's unlikely I'll ever get the chance to see this epic Trek adventure on the big screen. i'm certain the V'ger flyover sequence with it's eerie musical score would be amazing in a modern cinema.

  12. I just realize that this is the only movie where Kirk actually follows dock departure procedures and uses thrusters rather than impulse.

  13. l agree on how your work is appreciated, but there is another side to the issue here you don't seem to be allowing for, IT'S ONLY A MOVIE not a science project. Now granted they took some liberty's with the facts (as they always do), but from the average fan's point of view we were just happy as hell Star Trek was back. And the other side of the coin the studios point of view……."How much are we going to make on this?" They must have been happy, after all we got 5 more movies.

  14. I am building a 3D model of the TOS Enterprise and hope to have a short animation by the 40th anniversary.

  15. 30 people who gave this thumbs down died in the Transporter malfunction before Enterprise departed from Drydock…

  16. In the 60's/70's Sci Fi could be pretty loose with concepts of time and distance since there wasn't a great deal of technical knowledge about even our own solar system. Voyager 1 only launched the year of this movie's release and wouldn't be sending us back stunning pics and data for some time. Space is big. Really big. There was actually no reason for the ship to pass Jupiter at all really except to give us a grand shot of the Enterprise booping around the place and sort of establish that its not yet in deep space. I know, there's dialogue to that effect to but one reinforces the other.

    A lot of the issues with the Enterprise in drydock or the sequence of shots can be chalked up to artistic choices on a really tight productions schedule. There was one hero model and one camera for shots and many passes necessary for each of those so they had to just go with what came out looking good. It's to their credit that it doesn't look awful and that revisiting it 40 years later it still looks beautiful in spite of it's flaws. There was still an attempt at attention to detail that you might say fell short but those little things… sometimes you just don't sweat it because a lot of the techniques were being developed literally as they were filming and sometimes stuff worked and sometimes it didn't. It's art, not science, and because it's art everyone can disagree about how a shot should have progressed or been staged and yet everyone can be right.

    Now that original shot where they exit the ship from a forward hatch to go say Hi to V'Ger… yeah somebody let that slide and even my 10 year old eyeballs recoiled in horror at the warped perspective of it.

  17. Excellent work. Star Trek TMP often gets a bad rap in the media and I don't think it's deserved at all. I really loved that movie and I'm glad I'm not the only one out there who appreciates it.

  18. Nice but maybe u answered your own question about the travel to Jupiter maybe sulu slingshots around the inner planets to get a boost in speed

  19. I think the impulse sequence was meant to be time-lapse and not in real time. I don't think they did a good job of conveying that but it would make sense at least to me since the captains log indicates that 1.8 hours had elapsed since launch and it would so line up with the math at least in my view

  20. I never did get the warning about engaging warp drive in system. Never was a problem any other time.

  21. While I work in the biz today, I grew up with these movies. They were in my time. You make some great points and continuity issues, but really! It’s just a movie and for 1979 it was pretty dam good. Remember, Star Wars came out in 1976 and this was the decade of space age movies on the cusp new technology making them. It’s not easy making a move, commercials are easy, but motion pictures were a different story back then. I still say they did a great job!

  22. Don't know much about CGI , space-travel or film-making, but it's pretty good entertainment no matter how you look at it. Yes, there probably are errors made. But. I imagine it's hard to keep the concrete science in tune with the dramatic flow of the film itself.

  23. Amazing recreation!!! Makes more sense!! A huge thumbs up! You need to be hired to recreate all of the effects from.all.of the original movies! Especially the horrible, rushed effects on The Final frontier.

  24. Shouldn't there be huge cities and space yards orbiting Mars? Millions of people should be living and working there by that time period.

  25. The radius of the Solar System is FAR greater than the 4.5 Billion KM you stated… that would be the average distance to Neptune orbit. But the Solar System does not end at Neptune, it continues for roughly another 14 billion km, to the Heliopause, the point where the Interstellar "wind" overpowers the Solar Wind coming from the Sun. But even there would not the absoulte "end" of the Solar System; if we marked the limit of the Solar System as the point where the Sun no longer attracts objects with its gravitational pull, we have to go another 1-3 light years into deep space.

  26. RE: Depth of field effect. I think that is Robert Wise choice, not a Trumbell choice. Wise use blurred non focus areas alot in his films. Watch West Side Story when Tony and Maria are moving closer and closer before the kiss at the dance hall scene. There others as well . . . . . .

  27. Looks good. I thought I would not like the Mar/Jupiter substitution, but the quality of the work changed my mind. Well done delimited. looking forward to the rest of the scenes!

  28. Wow! What a terrific recreation and analysis of the Enterprise and its spatial surroundings. I have watched "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" many times, but never really paid much attention to the details you streamline in your wonderful video. I love that not only you recreated the sequence through CGI, but also how you managed to recreate the accuracy where the Enterprise should be within the Solar System with the proper planets. And all set to the classic Jerry Goldsmith score. My favorite recreation here is seeing the Enterprise set against the Earth and sunrise –– absolutely stunning and detail! I applaud your diligent work and style. Congratulations!

  29. The enterprise seams to be missing the pearlesent finish of the original miniature. Might I suggest looking at the Wiley Coyote model for texturing ideas to produce this effect

  30. A brilliantly rendered revision of the scenes. Thank you for the time and effort you put into this.

    Thank you also for your explanations of each scene. I remember having a problem with Enterprise reaching Jupiter too soon in the original scenes. I even had arguments with others over that point.

  31. Excellent work! Dennis Bailey's Enterprise is still the top dog of all refit models. I'd love to work with it some day.

  32. Does the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud help if included as part of the solar system? I am not an scientist so just a thought.

  33. Kudos on the Moon and Mars woosh-bys. They look great, and they do help correct some of the time errors. Great work!

  34. I had been wondering if STtMP was ready for the same CG upgrade that revitalized TOS eps. The footages you present seems minimal in improving the original…perhaps all it needed was a digital clean-up.

  35. May I ask how you obtained Dennis Bailey's model? I'd sure love to play with it myself: 😊

    Very nice work, in any event.

  36. It looks great and the Mars edit is fantastic. I kind of always assumed that it took them about an hour and a half to get to Jupiter, regardless of screen time and they tried to go to warp shortly afterwards. If Jupiter is about 45 light minutes away, it works out just about perfectly.

    While the CGI may lack the little imperfections that make it stand up to some tight close-ups compared to a quality physical model, I thought your shot of the Enterprise moving across Earth with the sun rising was fantastic. And the detail in the windows at the rear of the saucer as the impulse drive comes online was a cool touch. Very well done.

  37. I’m pretty sure that 1.8 hours is not 108 minutes as you said considering there’s only 60 minutes in an hour.. or have I misheard that ?

  38. not to be harshing on your mellow…….but you forgot something totally fundamental………doppler, that's like red-shift/blue-shift, earth in "departure angle" should look redder, get what i'm sayin'?

  39. Regarding asteroids…ever hear of Centuars? They are asteroids in the outer solar system…far beyond the orbit of Jupiter. They could also be Kuiper belt objects, because, there is no definition here regarding where the edge of the solar system is located. It isn't necessarily at Pluto's orbit. Also, I consider the ship going from Earth's orbit to Jupiter as not a continuous scene, but more a summarized one for image interest.

  40. Something that does not get commented upon very often in reflecting on ST-TMP is how restrained William Shatner is in this film. I really appreciate how much he has to convey with facial expressions, body language, or a glance. Captain Kirk has been described as egotistical and charismatic but if you read Gene Rodenberry's novelization of the film, you get a picture of an intelligent and capable leader who is dedicated to his ship, his crew, and the United Federation of Planets. Given the right director and the right script, William Shatner really conveys Captain Kirk's character elegantly.

  41. Maybe someone can explain; they can't engage Warp drive until they're out of the Solar System.
    But they engaged Warp drive as soon as they left Earth.
    Either you're warping space or you aren't, even at .5.


  43. warp 0.5? No wonder this movie was so long! Gee, Admiral! Just take your time to save the Earth. No real rush.

  44. Robert Abel & Associates were infamous in their crap special effects and failure to timely deliver on TMP. And I consider this to be Robert Wise's worst directorial effort, and the lack of proper editing made this film dog slow (coasting and CGI scenery… close up reaction shot… more coasting and CGI… more reaction closeups)… and don't get me started on the wooden performances (James Doohan and DeForest Kelley seemed to be the only ones who brought anything to the job… and the audience chuckle at the Wil Decker moose knuckle shot at the first theater showing just had me shaking my head at how that possibly got through… about the only thing that they got right was the refit/redesign itself… except that Sulu now controls precise propulsion power through a throttle?

  45. Stunning work, and I love how you not only recreated, but added the little extra details (like the retracting walkway and the addition of the moon on the viewscreen) it’s those almost invisible “blink and you would miss” moments that trick the brain that extra notch. 😁

  46. Dude! ya… that was much better… OG shots were good for their time, but even as a kid, I thought… Wait.. Jupiter? That quick?

  47. I was 11 when i saw this movie, and that docked enterprise, was the coolest thing I've ever seen. I hope to relive that experience, if one more time.

  48. Thank you for including the Mars shot. I always felt it was missing from the original cut. We need the lights of the Mars communities, but that is only an oversight. I have heard that you have redone Star Trek V, do you have a link? Thanks again.

  49. Saw this sunday, and i forgot how good this movie was. Seeing it 40 yrs later, it had a 2001 a space odysse feel to it. I wouldn't change a thing because that's what gives it it's original feel. Making changes is ok, but it doesn't necessarily make it better… It just makes it different. And that's ok too.

  50. It's like i wouldn't want to see an improvement to "Angry Red Planet". I love the (flaws) and that generation's depiction of the future. Awesome job just the same. 😄

  51. Speaking of awesome films. Myself and family have called fathom events, suggesting they bring "The Empire Strikes Back" to the big screen again. Your help would be GREATLY appreciated. Btw… I would freak out!!!

  52. While I agree with your time/distance theory. Upon leaving dry dock, Kirk is obsessed with speed to intercept the intruder. But, Scotty is having equation problems. So, what if Kirk hits the inter planets for close fly by to help speed the enterprise up with out having to go to warp.

  53. Sorry…I’ll take the original over this one. I think TMP is the best of the bunch. III and IV are runner ups. And regarding timing leaving dry dock and the solar system? I really don’t care. It’s a beautiful piece of film making…and after 40 years…everytime I see it I love it! I wouldn’t change a thing.

  54. 9:14 – According to the original scriptwriters' "bible" for the TV series, Warp .5 calculates out to the same as 0.125 times the speed of light or roughly 83,827,079 miles per hour. Jupiter is about 365,000,000 miles from Earth at its closest point, so a little over 4 hours travel time minimum. At least it isn't as bad as Star Trek 5 – if they could travel at emergency warp 9 the whole trip, it would take around 36 years to reach the center of the galaxy, and another 36 years to get back.

  55. I feel that the Jupiter fly-by was included because Voyagers 1 and 2 has sent back those amazing pictures of the planet 6 to 9 months before ST: TMP's release, so those images were still fresh in the public's mind.

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