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.