Sunday, May 5, 2013

Photographic Effects

This is a post born largely out of ignorance. I understand the basics of how Star Trek's special effects were produced -different visual effects houses around Hollywood were commissioned to produce the special effects shots for each episode- but I'm not really sure how that worked on a week by week basis. When Cinema Research Corp. made the effects for Miri were they supplied with pre-shot footage of the duplicate Earth globe, star fields, and the Enterprise and just asked to combine the footage to make the final shot? Or, did they make the globe, and combine it with stock footage of the Enterprise.

I first started wondering about this while watching Mirror, Mirror (Van De Veer Photo Effects). The transporter effect seemed cruder than in other episodes with a noticeable black line almost like a drop shadow around the landing party as they beam up to the Enterprise. In the episode which follows in production order, The Deadly Years (Westheimer Company), the drop shadow effect is still present, presumably a legacy of the optical printing process, but it is nowhere near as pronounced. Since then I've come to suspect the more visible black line is actually a result of the colour grading, as the colours in Mirror, Mirror are more vivid than in The Deadly Years, but it did get me wondering about the differences between the work of each effects house.

Mirror, Mirror
The Deadly Years
The result is the list below showing which companies worked on which episodes, in production order, and there are patterns to the list which fit with stories from other sources. Inside Star Trek by Herbert Solow and Robert Justman recounts a disastrous screening of months of work by Howard Anderson Co, only one moth before Star Trek was due to air. The result was, “six good shots and some others that were partially usable,” when asked where all the other shots were Darrell Anderson, “began to shake. He jumped to his feet, screaming, “You'll never make your first airdate.” Bursting into tears he ran out of the room, still screaming...” “We later found out he had been working both day and night for months, trying to satisfy our needs. That afternoon Darrell went to Palm Springs for a rest cure.”

Sure enough the list shows Howard Anderson Co. is credited for photographic effects for the first six episodes made, with the exception of Mudd's Women (Westheimer Company). Then after a credit for The Menagerie Part II, presumably due to the use of footage from The Cage, they are not used again until halfway through season two. Film Effects Of Hollywood and Westheimer Company handle the majority of the effects for the rest of the first season. Film Effects Of Hollywood are not used after the first year. Inside Star Trek says, “its costs were too high for a television budget.” They were responsible for many of the ambitious first season matte paintings; Starbase 11 in Court Martial and The Menagerie Part I, Eminiar VII in A Taste Of Armageddon, and Janus VI from The Devil In The Dark.

Cinema Research Corp. initially keep producing a blue transporter effect, rather than a yellow one. It can be seen in Miri, The Doomsday Machine, and The Gamesters Of Triskelion before someone obviously has a word and their next episode The Omega Glory has the standard yellow coloured effect. In The Doomsday Machine they also don't hold Kirk frozen on the transporter pad for quite long enough when he beams back from the Constellation. He begins moving while still partially transparent from the cross fade effect. Still he was in a hurry to get to the bridge. 
The Doomsday Machine

The Gamesters Of Triskelion
The Omega Glory
For some reason Effects Unlimited only ever worked on one story, Who Mourns For Adonais? The episode is unusual in that it features effects combining live action elements, Apollo's hand grabbing the Enterprise and the shot of him towering over the landing party, so possibly Effects Unlimited brought some unique skills to the production which were never needed again.

Howard Anderson Co
Pilot: The Cage
1x01: Where No Man Has Gone Before
1x02: The Corbomite Maneuver
1x04: The Enemy Within
1x05: The Man Trap
1x06: The Naked Time
1x07: Charlie X
1x16: The Menagerie Part II
2x13: The Trouble With Tribbles
2x21: By Any Other Name
2x24: The Ultimate Computer
3x02: Elaan Of Troyius
3x04:The Enterprise Incident
3x10:For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky
3x14:That Which Survives
3x16:Whom Gods Destroy
3x20:The Way To Eden

Westheimer Company
1x03: Mudd's Women
1x09: What Are Little Girls Made Of?
1x10: Dagger Of The Mind
1x12: The Conscience Of The King
1x17:Shore Leave
1x21: Tomorrow Is Yesterday
1x24: Space Seed
1x25: This Side Of Paradise
1x27: Errand Of Mercy
1x29: Operation - - Annihilate!
2x01: Catspaw
2x02: Metamorphosis
2x05: Amok Time
2x08: The Changeling
2x09: The Apple
2x11: The Deadly Years
2x15: Journey To Babel
2x18: Obsession
2x20: A Piece Of The Action
2x23: Patterns Of Force
3x01: Spectre Of The Gun
3x06: Spock's Brain
3x08: The Empath
3x11: Day Of The Dove
3x15: Let That Be Your Last Battlefield
3x17: The Mark Of Gideon
3x21: Requiem For Methuselah
3x24: Turnabout Intruder

Film Effects Of Hollywood
1x08: Balance Of Terror
1x13: The Galileo Seven
1x14: Court Martial
1x15: The Menagerie Part I
1x18: The Squire Of Gothos
1x20: The Alternative Factor
1x22: The Return Of The Archons
1x23: A Taste Of Armageddon
1x26: The Devil In The Dark
1x28: The City On The Edge Of Forever

Cimema Research Corp 1x11:Miri
2x06: The Doomsday Machine
2x17: The Gamesters Of Triskelion
2x25: The Omega Glory
3x07: Is There In Truth No Beauty
3x13: Wink Of An Eye
3x19: The Cloud Minders
3x23: All Our Yesterdays

Van Der Veer Photo Effects
2x03: Friday's Child
2x07: Wolf In The Fold
2x10: Mirror, Mirror
2x12: I, Mudd
2x14: Bread And Circuses
2x16: A Private Little War
2x19: The Immunity Syndrome
2x22: Return To Tomorrow
2x26: Assignment: Earth
3x03: The Paradise Syndrome
3x05: And The Children Shall Lead
3x09: The Tholian Web
3x12: Plato's Stepchildren
3x18: The Lights Of Zetar
3x22: The Savage Curtain

Effects Unlimited
2x04: Who Mourns For Adonais?

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