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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

CGI, or computer-generated imaging (or imagery), is a relatively advanced method of producing on-screen illusory effects to depict imaginary events and/or settings. It is a form of "visual effects" (occasionally abbreviated as "VFX"), a term used to distinguish between effects generated or composited in post-production (usually with computers, nowadays) and effects created live on the set during filming, which are referred to as "special effects" ("SFX")[1]Traditional methods of producing visual effects include such techniques as construction of physical studio models or miniatures and the like, manipulation of film elements in post-production, use of motion control photography and matte-painting. Most Star Trek productions used traditional methods of creating VFX; it was not until the advent of Star Trek: Enterprise that these methods were abandoned altogether, in favor of CGI.

note:
  1. The distinction between SFX and VFX is a relatively new one, introduced in the early 1990s. The distinction was felt necessary due to the growing influence of the use of computers, first as aid in post-production editing and later as generator of visual effects themselves. Prior to the 1990s, from the very beginning of the motion picture industry, all such effects were invariably referred to as "special effects". Acceptance of the distinction was a slow one, particularly among the effects staffers born and bred with the traditional methods of effects production, as the traditional usage of the term was so well established, and has led in several period publications to considerable confusion as the two terms were used interchangeably. The publications of the Starlog Press, for example, never adopted the term "visual effects", whereas the articles of the magazine Cinefantastique, covering the subject, "invented" the term "Special Visual Effects". Yet, by the second half of the 2000s the distinction between the two has become firmly established.

Use

Antares CGI mesh
CG mesh of the Antares
Federation Alliance fleet
CG Federation and Romulan starships in "Tears of the Prophets"

The very first CGI used in Star Trek was in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where Lucasfilm Graphics Group, then a subsidiary of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), was responsible for the Genesis effect. The Graphics Group later evolved into Pixar, in 1986.

Very limited CGI was used in the next four Star Trek films and Star Trek: The Next Generation, due to the expense of creating CGI effects at the time, though producers Robert Justman and Edward K. Milkis investigated the feasibility of applying CGI to the new television show. Justman recalled, "Eddie Milkis and I investigated the possibility of generating everything on the computer. We had great reservations about it, because it still didn't have the reality. The surface treatment wasn't totally believable [remark: Justman is referring to a CGI refit-Constitution-class that was commissioned for evaluation]; we could have gotten by, it would have been acceptable, but it wasn't satisfactory." (Star Trek: The Next Generation USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints, booklet, p. 14; Cinefex, issue 37, p. 10) Milkis declined the prospect of adopting CGI for another reason. He commented, "It was incredibly good, and it took some real thinking on our part, but ultimately we decided that if something ever happened to that company and they couldn't deliver, then we'd have nothing. We were very concerned about that and ultimately they did go out of business." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, p. 11)

Tentative beginnings

Of the Star Trek production team, David Stipes as well as – at a later time, to a lesser degree – Mitch Suskin, Dan Curry, and Ronald B. Moore were the foremost advocates of applying CGI, Stipes already overseeing some of its earliest applications during the sixth season of TNG. Stipes had lobbied, in vain, for a CGI version of the USS Enterprise-D during that season. He explained, "On 'The Chase' we were all over the galaxy – warp here and warp there – and I have basically the one or two jumps to warp that we had in stock. When TNG was started, the first bits of material were shot at ILM and they shot the original jump to warp with slit scan and streak photography. That served us very well for seven years, but it was very difficult to do and expensive. I had been pushing to build a CGI Enterprise, but no one wanted to incur the expense at that point so I lived with the stock shots." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 79) In regard to the the costs, he later remarked, "The approach to the visual effects work was based upon models and motion control photography. We were limited by track lengths and sizes of the models. I began looking at the software available at the time. As I remember, the leading software was about $40,000 a module and you needed three or four different modules to possibly do any film quality work." [1]

Aside from the perceived cost issue, there was also the barrier of reluctance of accepting the new technology by producers and visual effects artists who were born and bred in the true and tried traditional methods of producing VFX, such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Visual Effects Supervisor, Gary Hutzel. "It's prohibitively expensive for Deep Space Nine," he said. "Dan set out with Star Trek: Voyager to create a new look, but we have a show that's established. And nobody's going to accept a CGI Defiant that has that kind of texture to it, so we're forced to create really photo-realistic CGI elements that have to be consistent with the look of our show – and it's expensive. Plus I prefer to photograph the ships, especially a beautiful ship like the Defiant, or the station." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 105, p. 57) Essentially speaking for all of them, DS9's Visual Effects Producer, Robert Legato, put it very succinctly: "It looks too pristine. I don't believe it." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, No. 3/4, p. 105)

There were other, practical reasons, as well, for resisting the adoption of the new technology, as Doug Drexler explained in Hutzel's case, who held on to the traditional methods well after CGI was accepted by his colleagues:

"I'll tell you why Gary held out on CG for so long. When you hire a CGI facility to create your visual effects, it represents a loss of control for the VFX supervisor. Especially for someone like Gary, who is a card carrying DP, and accustomed to shooting his own footage.
"When your shots are being created at a facility, you tell them what you want, and when you come back, you hope it looks like what you are expecting. Not only that, the bureaucracy at the facility can be slow moving, and if you need a change, it could take days to get the wheels turning.
"That is why The visual effects for Battlestar Galactica, which is Gary's show, are in house. Gary runs the CGI from top to bottom, without the middleman. Gary Hutzel is one damned amazing guy. Now he gets his CGI exactly the way he wants it, without any bureaucracy, egos, facility overhead or games. Gary did use some CGI on DS9, but it was always a struggle for him to get what he wanted.
"Ultimately, CGI... if you have a set up like Gary... is faster, cheaper, and can look better. The models never wear out, internal lighting never needs to be changed, alterations are a snap, you don't need a teamster to pick it up from the warehouse and drive it to the stage either. I can go on." [2]
Still, it were companies like Digital Magic, along with Rhythm & Hues and Santa Barbara Studios, who kept on experimenting for the television franchise on a more regular basis with the new technique, that by that time was making a rapid entry in the industry. Illustrative of this was Magic's employees Joe Conti and Tim McHugh's first use of the LightWave 3D software in creating the Anaphasic lifeform for TNG: "Sub Rosa"

Early CGI for Star Trek
Genesis effect San Francisco bar 1, Star Trek III Time warp effects experienced by crew of HMS Bounty Crystalline Entity encounters the Enterprise-D, original
Genesis Device effect by Lucasfilm Graphics Group
(Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Denizens of the 23rd century playing a computer game by ILM
(Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Time warp effects by ILM
(Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
Crystalline Entity by The Post Group
(TNG: "Datalore")
Junior is born Praxis exploding Martia morphing Comet
Junior by Rhythm & Hues
(TNG: "Galaxy's Child")
Destruction of Praxis by ILM
(Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
Martia morphing by ILM
(Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
Comet in title sequence by Santa Barbara Studios
(DS9: "Emissary")
Bajoran wormhole BajoranWormholeinside Odo morphing Detria system
Exterior wormhole by Rhythm & Hues
(DS9: "Emissary")
Interior wormhole by Rhythm & Hues
(DS9: "Emissary")
Odo morphing by VisionArt Design & Animation
(DS9: "Emissary")
Detrian system by Digital Magic
(TNG: "Ship in a Bottle")
Riker experiences a schizophrenic episode Odo attacks Mora Anaphasic lifeform USS Enterprise-D parallels a rogue comet
Shattering effect by Digital Magic
(TNG: "Frame of Mind")
Odo as a "blob" alien by Video Image
(DS9: "The Alternate")
Anaphasic lifeform by Digital Magic
(TNG: "Sub Rosa")
Comet by Santa Barbara Studios
(TNG: "Masks")
D'Arsay archive freed from icy enclosure D'Arsay archive Plasma stream Emergent lifeform
D'Arsay archive freed from icy enclosure by Santa Barbara Studios
(TNG: "Masks")
D'Arsay archive by Santa Barbara Studios
(TNG: "Masks")
Plasma stream by Digital Magic
(TNG: "Eye of the Beholder")
Emergent lifeform by Amblin Imaging
(TNG: "Emergence")
Prior to Star Trek Generations

Acceptance

A December 1993 Christmas party, thrown by NewTek (the company that owns and markets the LightWave 3D software), provided a key moment for overcoming the Star Trek producers' resistance to CGI, when Stipes met the animators of Amblin Imaging. Amblin's John Gross recalled, "David was always interested in getting 3-D incorporated into Star Trek. He saw the benefits of that probably before many of the other producers over there did. And so we invited him over here and showed him the facility and when Voyager came up he saw the opportunity to get this stuff involved. He and Dan Curry came by and we talked about what we can do and showed them some examples and eventually we gave them a bid to build a virtual Voyager." To prove their skills, Gross and Grant Bouchet took some stock footage of a Maquis raider with the accompanying motion control data, provided by the studio, and added some CGI ships. They matched flight movements so perfectly that Star Trek producers were unable to distinguish between the physical models and CGI models. Vice-president John Parenteau related further, "That meant a lot to Dan Curry, because Dan was weary. I think he had some bad experiences with CGI in the past and didn't feel it was quite there yet. But when we turned out their flight tests and people couldn't tell the difference, Dan started to realize that maybe we have finally conquered whatever barrier there had been before." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 80)

The cost of CGI production dropped dramatically after LightWave 3D became commercially available, off-the-shelf, in 1994. Although both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager had already implemented CGI in their title sequences (created in 1992 and 1994, respectively), they both started their runs predominantly using traditional visual effects methods but transitioned to regular use of CGI in the late 1990s. The transition to CGI was completed in 1997, during DS9's sixth season and Voyager's fourth season; Voyager took the lead, having been unofficially designated as a testbed for the technology, and DS9 followed suit. Deep Space Nine was particularly well served by CGI in its last two seasons, allowing the series to showcase Dominion War battle scenes that would have been impossible using models.

The visual effects of Star Trek: Enterprise were almost exclusively achieved using CGI (for example, virtually all exterior ship shots were digitally rendered), as with the Star Trek movies from Star Trek: Insurrection onward. Cost-effectiveness by that time had reached a level that made CBS Studios take the decision, in 2005, to retroactively apply CGI to Star Trek: The Original Series for virtually all its exterior VFX shots, resulting in the 2006 remastered version of TOS.

For the movies, it was Star Trek Generations that marked the true breakthrough of CGI. Up until then, CGI in motion pictures was employed in isolated instances on a limited scale but, in Generations, CGI was used throughout the movie as an integral part for a wider variety of effects. Still, the amount of work in creating them was such that, to ease their workload, ILM solicited the help of other effects houses, such as Digital Magic and Santa Barbara Studios. By the time Star Trek: Insurrection went into pre-production, it was decided that the VFX for the entirety of the production would be created in CGI. However, in a last-minute decision, the film's VFX supervisors decided to create the scene that shows the destruction of the Son'a collector in motion control photography with physical studio models, because they believed that the scene could not yet be done convincingly in CGI. (Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, 1999, issues 34-35) Similarly, in Star Trek Nemesis, a scene in which the USS Enterprise-E rams the Scimitar was achieved with physical models and motion control. (Cinefex, issue 93, pp. 107-109)

Putting the technique in perspective

The perceived low cost of CGI has been put more in perspective by Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz – at the time, modeler and effects supervisor at Foundation Imaging. He commented, "I think the cost-effectiveness of it came slowly into play. A lot of people say, 'CGI is a lot cheaper, isn't it,' but the way I like to think of it is that CGI is not cheaper necessarily, but you get a lot more for your money and you can tweak it a lot more. They [the producers] like that, because with motion control if they had a complex shot that had a small problem it would be very, very expensive to go back and reshoot all the elements. But in fact I don't like to use the word 'cheaper'; CGI is more versatile, far more cost-effective." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, p. 47)

The versatility that Lebowitz referred to came into play, especially, once the CGI model is finished and loaded onto a server. An example of the kinds of live-action shots that CGI would typically be used to enhance is an explosion which was originally done by pyrotechnics, stock footage of which was shot and later inserted in the post-production stage of whatever production it was deemed necessary. This technique was often used for the Star Trek films and TNG. The only options open to editors of those days were size, placement and intensity. In CGI, once an explosion has been modeled, the original file can be manipulated (with embedded-or-not software) to change such elements as intensity, color, direction, size or movement. Essentially, the original shot can be changed completely beyond recognition and be inserted anywhere in a frame – since, nowadays, productions are edited digitally, quite literally by a click of a mouse-button. This versatility has been proven exceptionally useful for the producers of Star Trek in kitbashing CGI studio models. Whenever a script called for a new design but – due to time or budgetary restraints – a design of such newness was not feasible, existing CGI models of starships were used, as they were easily adaptable into another type of ship, a method frequently employed during VOY (1) and ENT (2). Using CGI also meant that pre-production evaluation shots of VFX, by visual effects supervisors, could be done on a computer screen instead of having it played out in real-time, thereby (in the process) eliminating the need for physical camera test models.

Computer software

CGI made its tentative entry into the motion picture industry in the 1970s, in movies like Futureworld, Star Wars, Alien, The Black Hole, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In most cases, the CGI was limited, 3D wire-frame models, aptly used as computer displays. The Genesis Device effect sequence, created by Lucasfilm Graphics Group on their own in-house developed software for The Wrath of Khan, was not only a CGI first for Star Trek, but was also the very first fully CGI-realized 3D sequence – not being a wire-frame but rather a full-textured 3D representation – ever to be shown in the motion picture business. CGI was generated using computer programs, developed at universities or by in-house programmers of VFX companies, meaning that interchangeability was non-existent. The first solid 3D CG models were featured in the movies Tron and The Last Starfighter. Though, in the first case, critically acclaimed, the movies were considered commercial failures and convinced directors and producers of the time that CGI could only be used in instances where effects were supposed to look like computer images.

Things changed dramatically in 1993, when the movie Jurassic Park was released and the TV series Babylon 5 premiered. Modelers at ILM and Foundation Imaging used the commercially-released (in 1990) first version of the LightWave 3D software package (then called "Video Toaster Suite", a hardware/software combination; the software was, from 1994 onward, available as a stand-alone application) to create life-like convincing 3D CG imagery. The success of both productions meant the definitive breakthrough of CGI in the motion picture business and LightWave and its successive versions has become the premiere software package for its creation. The list of productions having used LightWave since 1993 is impressive [3] and within a decade, traditional methods of producing VFX were relegated to the fringes.

The LightWave 3D software was firstly tentatively introduced into the Star Trek franchise by Digital Magic's Joe Conti and Tim McHugh in creating the Anaphasic lifeform in TNG: "Sub Rosa". All companies who provided CGI for later seasons of DS9, VOY, and the entirety of ENT used a version of LightWave. This greatly improved production efficiency, since computer files were easily interchangeable between the companies' platforms (the co-operation between Foundation Imaging and Digital Muse for the production of DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels" is a prime example of this).

Interchangeability of CGI files created on different software platforms is often possible, but it almost always means a fair amount of reprogramming and reconstructing, as Digital Muse experienced when ILM turned over their ship models, made for Star Trek: First Contact, for use in DS9. For some companies, it is then more expedient to newly construct a CG model from the ground up. "ILM actually released their Enterprise database to us, which was very nice of them. It was very helpful in the beginning, because we had all these animatics to create. However, their Enterprise was a fairly low-resolution model, and while we originally thought, 'Maybe we can just add to this database', that process became more trouble than it was worth, so we had Viewpoint Data Labs come down and actually redigitize the Enterprise using the original miniature," stated Santa Barbara Studio's effects supervisor, John Grower, in preparation of Star Trek: Insurrection. (American Cinematographer, January 1999, p. 41) Appearing in three movies – for which four different CGI companies provided the VFX, each using different software – the CG version of the Sovereign-class was built from scratch no less than three times. Michael Stetson, who had to rebuild the Jem'Hadar fighter in LightWave from the VisionArt files for "Sacrifice of Angels", gave another example: "I don't remember where exactly the original model came from, but I believe we got it as a .obj file that was a mess when it was imported into LightWave (version 5.5ish back in '97) I had a couple of days to make it usable in Lightwave3D which involved seriously cleaning up the geometry (I think the original might have been NURBS) and redoing the texture map since LW didn't have UV mapping back then." [4]

However, as supervisor Bruce Branit of Digital Muse explained, referring to "Sacrifice of Angels", sometimes the effort of transferring CGI files to another software format was worthwhile:

"It was the first time that anyone had actually assembled the entire Starfleet fleet in CG. Normally there were always a few ships they used for CG, and they pulled models out, and did motion control. Due to the nature of the show, there was no way they could do it with motion control. There was not enough time and not enough money. They were talking about having fifty to a hundred Starfleet vessels on screen at one time, and there was no way to pull that off in traditional ways. So we were a collecting point for anything that had been done in CG before. We brought the digital models in and converted them to LightWave, which is our rendering package of choice. The Enterprise-D had been done before, but in something else, so we were able to bring the geometry in, and bring some of the maps in, but we had to rebuild it. We had all the ingredients, so we could put it together much more quickly than building it from scratch. So now we have folders with the entire fleet all lined up in the same form, so we can just load a Reliant, we can load a Defiant, we can load an Excelsior, whenever we need it. That was the first real challenge, to get all that stuff in order, and to fill the garage with useable ships." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 64)
Tackling the ILM models, done for Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact, in an early stage, Digital Muse was able to showcase the upgraded versions already in DS9: "Call to Arms". Visual Effects Supervisor for those episodes, David Stipes, has expressed his contentment at the time over this decision to do so, "Yes, we did do a lot with CGI this year. CGI is a good solution for the wild FLEET(!) battle shots that have been written into the show. I could not have done those shows with motion control with the time and money available. The ILM ships have been through several CG companies and through several program translations. The surface details have been somewhat corrupted. We cleaned up the Akira ship for this show. In time the others will be repaired. As for Reliant (Miranda class) ships...I really love the design and I like to use them. I would beat up more Galaxy Class ships but the producers are not so fond of my destructive desires. So I destroy Excelsiors. (I love my job!)" [5]

Amblin model with missing textures
The Amblin Imaging CGI model in the title sequence showing its missing texture

Even interchangeability of CGI files generated on the same software platforms was sometimes not without its problems, as John Gross remembered, in respect to transferring the CG version of the USS Voyager from one version of LightWave to another:

"There are six shots in the opening title sequence, three of them had the CG ship that we built; the other three have the practical model. The three that had the CG ship were the one where it goes by the sun, the one where it goes through the smoky, particle stuff, and the last one, where it jumps to warp. (...) We always use beta software [rem: meaning a new version of LightWave which, at the time, was available on two different computer systems, Amiga being the hardware component of the 1990 "Video Toaster Suite" package], which means there tend to be some bugs. As we were modeling Voyager, some of it was being done in the Amiga version; some was being done on the SGI version. If you transferred the model between the different systems, the textures – effectively the paint on the ship – would get lost. That happens in the final shot where the belly tips up toward us and Voyager goes to warp. It's something you don't really pick out unless you know it's there, but if you look at the bottom of the ship there are these three darker patches that aren't supposed to be there – it's where there are some ports and hull plating. That made it into the title sequence. Nobody said anything, and we never mentioned it!" (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 3, p. 112)

Adam Lebowitz, no doubt speaking from experience, estimated that it will take six to twelve months of study in one's spare time to master the LightWave software. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, p. 51) As a consequence, designers and modelers like Doug Drexler, John Knoll, and Larry Tan made the transition from the traditional way of producing VFX to CGI.

The aforementioned "Sacrifice of Angels" episode was a pivotal moment for televised Star Trek. When – in 1997, during the pre-production of sixth season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – it became clear that events would lead up to the massive climatic battle in the episode, visual effects supervisors were aware that that battle was impossible to realize using traditional motion-control photography. "The problem is that motion control is about shooting one ship at a time, one pass at a time. There was just no way we could have done it. We just didn't have enough time or money," Stipes explained. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 501) In order to pull this off, it was decided to complete the transition to CGI. Due to the scale of the project, it was decided to divide the workload up between Digital Muse, who would transform the Federation starships to CGI, and Foundation Imaging, who were responsible for the alien ships. Part of the process was the decision to greatly improve efficiency by employing one software format only, LightWave 3D. This entailed turning over existing CGI models, done in other software formats, to Digital Muse for re-programming and re-rendering in "LightWave", including the ILM models done for Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact. David Lombardi, of Digital Muse, recalled:

"The "Sacrifice of Angels" was actually the first real major digital undertaking; not only was it a huge amount of digital shots for Star Trek, it was about 40 shots per house. It was a huge space battle. Up until then, the largest battle they'd [had] was, I think, a Borg battle, Wolf 359, back in Next Generation, where you saw at most three or four ships, on the screen at any given moment. What the producers wanted for The Sacrifice of Angels was something where you saw two, three hundred ships on screen. At that time, none of the ships were built in CG, so between Foundation and Muse we split up the workload. Quite a few of the ships we built from scratch; some of the other ones came in as partially translated models from the film, from ILM. Those models were not readily usable in the format we needed, so we kind of used them as templates and rebuilt them almost from scratch. A good month was spent rebuilding and creating the entire fleet." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 10, p. 67)
Alex Jaeger has commented in this regard, "Actually ILM was using Electric Image for animation and Form-Z for the models of these ships back then." [6]

Though LightWave, till the 2000s, has been a prime software package for generating CGI, it has been by no means the only software available in that era; in fact the majority of Star Trek films did not sport CGI generated by LightWave. ILM used a myriad of software, often in conjunction with each other, both developed in-house and off-the-shelf and has not used LightWave for Star Trek since Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Santa Barbara Studios used in-house-developed software (Dynamation) in conjunction with off-the-shelf software (WaveFront, ViewPoint, and Maya, which went on to become a major CGI software package as well) to create the spatial phenomena in the title sequence of VOY and the VFX in Star Trek: Insurrection, whereas VisionArt used two packages, called "Prisms" and "Ice", from SideFx Software (which may explain why their services were no longer called upon after DS9's fifth season, when the studio continued with the LightWave-using Digital Muse and Foundation, at least for televised Star Trek). [X]wbm Of the later films, only the CGI in Star Trek Nemesis, and parts of Star Trek was done in LightWave.

Computer hardware

CGI companies require a lower capital lay-out than full-fledged production companies, as Lebowitz elaborates:

"At Foundation, most of our workstations are regular off-the-shelf PC's [prices of which dropped sharply in the 1990s] – the same as anyone reading the magazine probably has. Fast Pentiums with lots of RAM (286 megs or more) is about average. We don't need a lot of hard disc space, since all the frames get stored on a massive server. The render engines, which create all the animation frames, are a mix of Pentium computers and DEC Alphas (a faster PC). Other equipment includes videocards with Open GL, a mode that lets you preview LightWave scenes in a sort [of] 'rough draft' mode in real time. All our machines also sport 'Perception' cards from DPS, which allow us to compile the final frames into full screen video playback. We also have a soda machine with a built-in icemaker!" (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, p. 47)
The relative low capital lay-out (essentially only office space and computers), however, was also partly responsible for the high turnover in number of CGI companies, especially in the early days. As easy as it was to start up a company, it was also as easy to close down companies in such situations as slow business (Amblin, Foundation) or hostile take-overs (Digital Muse). In case of bankruptcy, a specific problem arises, as Lebowitz showed in response to being asked if Star Trek: Voyager could be transferred to High Definition. "When Foundation closed down, the servers – along with the content – were auctioned off. Much of the content may have been saved by artists who worked on the series, but it would have to be tracked down. No matter how you slice it, it would be a considerable amount of work to re-integrate the entire Voyager visual effects server and re-render the FX in HD. In addition, although the series was shot on film, the entire post-production process was finished on NTSC video; to create an HD episode of Voyager, Paramount would have to go back to the vaults, re-transfer the film and re-built the episodes from scratch using the original editing data – if THOSE files still existed." [7] In a similar, earlier case with Digital Muse, Paramount had good sense to retain ownership of the contents, and the entirety of the contents from Digital Muse's server was transferred, one-on-one, to the servers of its successor, Eden FX.

Building a CG model

John Gross of Digital Muse breaks down the procedure of building a CG model:

"If we get a design from the Trek Art Department, we might get just a ¾ perspective drawing, or we may get all sides. It really depends on whether the ship is a "hero" (one that will be seen a lot and close up) model or not. At that point, the artist assigned to modeling it will start breaking it down into its basic shapes and start creating it in the computer. Sometimes they'll start with a shape that is close (like a box) and start adding geometry and reshaping it to fit. Sometimes, they will have to create it polygon by polygon. Once the geometry is created, then it has to be surfaced to look real. This is where we'll add weathering, decals and the like to make it look like a real vessel. For almost all of the ships we built for DS9, there was an existing practical model to begin with. In the beginning of Voyager, there were existing models, but by the end, everything was CG. For the new series, Enterprise, everything will be CG. If a practical model does exist, that model will generally get delivered to us so we can have the real thing there to base the CG version upon. This was a lot of fun for DS9, because a lot of real models came through our shop. Things like the Reliant and Enterprise-A from Wrath of Kahn, the Defiant, the Excelsior, Ferengi ships and Cardassians, At one point, I think we had about 8 models in house as we were building the CG fleet for DS9." [8]

Building

From wire-frame to CGI effect
Wire model for TNG-Masks D'Arsay archive freed from icy enclosure
An early wire-frame model by Santa Barbara Studios...
...resulting in this final shot
Wire model for Star Trek-Voyager USS Voyager in Nekrit Expanse
A far more sophisticated wire-frame model by Amblin Imaging
...resulting in this shot

A CGI effect conceived as a 3D solid object, whether it was a starship, structure, solid lifeform or a celestial object, normally started out life as a wire-frame model or 3D Mesh as it is also referred to. As the name already suggests, it is a simplified computer model defining the contours of the model in question. The more refined the wire-frame was (meaning the more contour lines the computer model has), the more refined the final CGI model was to become.

In case of existing studio models, some companies like Santa Barbara Studios, Amblin Imaging and Digital Domain hired specialized companies like Viewpoint DataLabs International, Inc. or Cyberscan, who digitally scanned the physical models to construct a wire-frame CGI model, a process sometimes referred to as digitizing, whether or not clad with a nondescript smooth skin generated for example as NURBS. In the 1990s, one method of digitally scanning, entailed the application of an electronic stylus at regular intervals to a physical object, in this case the studio models. The contact points were electronically registered and loaded into a computer, where the points were digitally connected with the contour lines, eventually resulting in a 3D wire-frame model. The more contact points were registered, the more refined the wire-frame model would be. At the time, given the then level of sophistication of the computer packages, this was a vastly time-saving method in comparison to creating a wire-frame model freehand. Final application of skin, called mapping, and animation were, in the case of Star Trek, done at the effects houses themselves, using photographs taken from the actual physical studio models, loaded into the computer programs. The CGI models, for example, of the Galaxy-class, Intrepid-class, and Sovereign-class were thus conceived. A far more advanced variation of digitizing, called roto-animation, applied to humans or even animals, is still employed in the motion picture industry. This variation registers the natural movement of actual living beings, and is digitally imbued in the CGI models of, typically, alien lifeforms, in order to give them more naturally looking on-screen movement. Well-known examples of CGI lifeforms being animated this way are the Jar-Jar Binks character from the Star Wars franchise, and the Gollem character from the Lord of the Rings franchise. In the Star Trek franchise it were the Star Trek: Enterprise aliens Xindi-Insectoids [9] and the Gorn (ENT Season 4 DVD-special feature "Inside the "Mirror" Episodes") that were animated using roto-animation.

In the case of new models, the meshes were created in the respective software modules freehand from either the design drawings or the actual physical studio models themselves. Gross' statement about the ¾ perspective drawings is reminiscent of a remark John Eaves made. "Most of the time with models all you need is a three-quarter view," he stated, "and a couple of three-quarter angles on different parts of the ship." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 2, p. 22) Speaking for televised Star Trek, three-quarter views were preferred by some CG modelers, since they could load those drawings directly into their computers and build the meshes directly onto them, they already conveying a sense of three-dimensionality: in essence, cutting corners.

Rendering and animation

D'arsay archive CGI model by Santa Barbara Studios
D'Arsay archive CGI model in various build-up stages; wire-frame, mapping, rendering and lighting

Once a model was built, the finished model was loaded into dedicated software, embedded into modules of a larger software package or not, for mapping, lighting, and animation (imbuing the CG model with movement), a process referred to as rendering and animation (if the software was part of a larger software package: loaded into a rendering engine). The term "rendering" is often incorrectly used to describe the whole creation process of a CGI effect, whereas it is only meant to describe the mapping and lighting stage, animation being a separate stage. Rendering and animation was the process of building up the CGI image in every single frame of a sequence and was, given the state of the technology in the early days, a time consuming process, requiring massive amounts of processing power. One of the earliest Star Trek CGI sequences, that of the time warp effect in The Voyage Home, though only about thirty seconds long, took weeks to render. (Industrial Light & Magic: Into the Digital Realm, p. 113) Even ten years later, at the time of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, computer technology was still at a state, that multiple computer units were necessary to speed up the process. Digital Muse's John Gross explained:

"Let's say the client needs five seconds of Voyager going from right to left. The artist will set up a scene where he makes a key frame, and maybe some frames in between; basically, the machine will generate all those in-between frames. The artist saves out the scene, and then that scene gets sent to the render farm. We render everything at film rates to match the look of the show, so in case of a five-second shot that's 24 frames a second times five, which is 120. The computer allocates those frames and says "OK, machines, render this scene"; machine one gets frame one, machine to gets frame two, and so forth, and once the first one is done rendering frame one then it takes the next frame, which maybe frame 40. Each one gets saved to the network, and when they're all done, the next morning or whatever, the frames are sitting on the network, and we lay them off to a digital disc recorder so we can play them back in real time. If everything looks good, we send it to tape and send it off to the client."
Elaborating on the term "render farm", Gross continued, ""Everybody calls it a render farm. Its basically a bunch of machines [Digital Muse has 50] that are just sitting there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "I render a frame; I get a new one. Until I crash." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 11, p. 112)

Other CGI effects

While many CGI effects started out as solid, 3D objects – constructed, at first, as wire-frame meshes – not all CGI effects originated as such. Effects like water, clouds, rain, fire, dust, vapor, hair, and such could not be realized by building wire-frame models, but were rather created by using particle-generator programs. A pioneer program for creating these kinds of effects was Santa Barbara Studios' Dynamation software program, later embedded as a module in the Maya software package, an alternative to LightWave 3D. It was this software that created much of the title sequence of Star Trek: Voyager. Such was its importance that a later version of Dynamation earned developer Jim Hourihan an "Academy Award for Technical Achievement" in 1996.

More static vistas such as long views of landscapes, cities and space vistas were traditionally done as matte paintings. However, the advent of paint computer programs like Microsoft Paint or Adobe Photoshop (though far more advanced computer software is used in the motion picture business, as they are able to manipulate 2D images into 3D imagery), meant that many matte artists traded their glass canvasses and brushes for a computer mouse and screen. John Grower stated in this regard to the main title sequence of Voyager, in the section where the namesake starship flies over an icy moon, "This foreground moon was actually a matte painting done by Craig Mullins, but then we took the matte painting and mapped it onto three-dimensional geometry, so it became a 3-D matte painting. We painted what's called a height-map that's a black-and-white map in which the bright parts extend closer toward you, and the dark parts get pushed back. You're essentially painting and creating three-dimensional geometry by playing with the contrast between white and black. You place the painting onto this geometry, and now you have a three-dimensional surface that you can rotate. You can have perspective happen within the painting." (Star Trek Monthly issue 10, p. 15) Once constructed, these kind of effects were loaded into the rendering software. In some cases, 3D models of landscapes were first rendered and then refined by digital "overpainting" to act as scene backdrops. Max Gabl created many such effects for the remastered version of TOS.

Durability of CG models

After CGI was introduced in the production of movies and television shows, a further advantage besides versatility, economics and practicality, was believed to be the longer endurance of the CGI models over their physical counterparts, as is evidenced by a remark Doug Drexler made at the time. "Having been one of the poor slobs once covered with paint and glue, there is a wonderfulness to actually seeing something that you have created right there in front of you. But it's ultimately not worth it. Physical models fall apart, age poorly and their surfaces are not infinitely and nearly instantly adjustable. To look realistic, they need to be enormous and therefore unwieldly. Their lighting systems break down and are not easily repaired, their electrical systems can short out and often create interference messing up motion control equipment; seriously, the list goes on and on. Finally, miniatures just can't match CGI for visual quality. Even the expensive and gigantic Enterprise-E model had problems; in First Contact, I could make out tooling marks on the hull. Meanwhile, in many shots of the large Enterprise-D model, you can see the bumps in the paint." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 148, p. 51) While practice has backed up Drexler in regard to the first three arguments, reality, however, has proven to be more stubborn in regard to the argument of longevity. Technological advances in software and ineptitude at the studios in handling their property (amongst others in the situation described above in Foundation's case), have to this day caused CGI models to be of a far more fleeting nature than physical models. Lebowitz explained:

"When a CGI company is hired to do FX for a production, in theory all the assets they create are property of the studio. A smart studio should probably ask for regular backups of data for a variety of reasons, most important of which would be safety backups and potentially the need to re-create the work elsewhere.
"However, this rarely happens, most probably because it's just not anyone's assigned job. Who asks for the data? Who checks it? Where do they store it? Who keeps the records? All this would need to be answered and a process implemented and in most cases, either no one has thought it through or wanted to spearhead a new headache. Even if the data was backed up, if someone wanted to load up a spaceship model ten years later, success would be hard to come by. Do they have the right software? Since no two companies ever name their hard drives with the same letters or use the same directory structure, will the new user know where to find the files when their computer tells them, 'can't find G:/spaceship/wingtip/test/nogood/deleteme/finalimages/nosecone.png?'
"Even if all the ducks are in a row, often times the CG company, knowing full well the data they provide might be used to cut them out of the picture [rem: as has been the case with VisionArt], will purposely not make it easy for the studio. Sure, they'll provide the models as asked, but not the setup/assembly files (hey, setup files are technically NOT the model). All this means is that the more time passes, the less likely it will be to re-create CG scenes. If all the data and the directory structure on a company's hard drive remains untouched, it's fine, but the moment you start to back stuff up and clear it off the server, your chances of success begin to dwindle.
"Some companies have hired data management specialists to protect against this sort of thing [....] However, since it means more money and something else to worry about, this is the exception rather than the rule [....] Unless companies are more stringent about their data management in the future, I'm afraid there will always be a dozen reasons why the data can be 'lost' forever.
"The irony of all this is that when the switch was made from physical models to CG, everyone assumed we had entered a golden era when models would no longer fall apart in a warehouse somewhere, never to be used again. 'We have CG now, things last forever!' If only." [10]
Even the initially optimistic Drexler eventually came around to Lebowitz's points of view, "Does Paramount get sent the models for whatever future use they might have in mind? Does the effects company keep specific archives of their projects? Or will it just be the hope that some artist who used to work on the show has kept something that he personally worked on? Mostly 2 and three. My guess is that if these ships are ever resurrected, they'll get rebuilt to take advantage of what we have learned since then. (...) It's because it's intangible. Most people do not understand how it works, and are even a little intimidated by it. How do you make policy about something that is such an unknown. Pixels, polys? Files? Layout? Content? Huh?" [11]

As irony would have it, it was the same economics that were part of the reasons for the introduction of CGI that would also be responsible for the fleeting nature of the CGI models, as studios were not willing to pay for the upkeep of the computer files, once the original production was in-the-can. This drawback had become quite obvious when Paramount released the remastered DVD and Blu-ray editions of the feature films during 2009 and 2010. In the case of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, only the original theatrical release could be remastered, as the computer files used by Foundation Imaging for the Director's Edition were no longer available. Likewise, when CBS embarked upon the remastering project of The Next Generation-series in 2012, it found that the files of one of the earliest CGI-effects, that of the Crystalline Entity, no longer existed. The effect had to be recreated at CBS Digital. [12]

CGI suppliers to Star Trek

The volatility of the CGI suppliers' market as well as the early lack of some sort of industry standard in the 1990s made the producers wary of relying solely on one supplier. At any given time, at least two CGI companies were employed, as insurance. It was not until the second season of ENT that the market was sufficiently settled down for the producers to rely on one supplier solely (namely, Eden FX).

Note: CGI vendors as chronologically employed.
CGI vendor Production Contributions Citation
Industrial Light & Magic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Genesis effect[1] American Cinematographer, issue October 1982, pp. 1038-1050
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Computer game graphics Cinefex, issue 18, p. 52
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Time warp effects Cinefex, issue 29, p. 17
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Destruction of Praxis; floating Klingon blood; morphing effects of Martia Cinefex, issue February 1992, pp. 40-60
Star Trek Generations Whorfin-class; Excelsior-class; Galaxy-class; warp effect; destruction of the Amargosa star and Veridian III; Nexus American Cinematographer, issue April 1995, pp. 78-88; Cinefex, issue 61, pp. 62-77
DS9 Season 34 Bajoran lightship; Alien Freighter; Work Bee Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 237, 335
Star Trek: First Contact Several Federation shipclasses; temporal vortex American Cinematographer, issue December 1996, pp. 68-74; Cinefex, issue 69, pp. 98-119
Star Trek Cinefex, issue 118, pp. 40-71
The Post Group TNG Season 1 Crystalline Entity Star Trek: Communicator, issue 148, p. 49
Rhythm & Hues TNG Season 4 Junior (spaceborne lifeform) Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion
DS9 Season 1 Wormhole effects Cinefantastique, vol 24 #3/4, pp. 79-82
Digital Magic TNG Season 57 Shattering effect in "Frame of Mind"; spacial phenomena in "Ship in a Bottle"; anaphasic lifeform in "Sub Rosa"; plasma stream in "Eye of the Beholder" Cinefantastique, issue 97, Vol 24 #3/4, pp. 79-82
Star Trek Generations Transporter effects Cinefex, issue 61, March 1995, pp. 62-77
Santa Barbara Studios TNG Season 7 D'Arsay archive and spacial phenomena in "Masks" Cinefantastique, Vol. 25, No.6/Vol. 26, #1, p. 58
DS9 Season 1 Meteor effects in title sequence Cinefantastique, Vol 25 #6/Vol 26 #1, pp. 44-111
VOY Season 1 - 3 Intrepid-class; spacial phenomena and effects Cinefantastique,Vol 27 #4/5, pp. 32-115
Star Trek Generations Bottle sequence at christening; Stellar cartography department; graphics Cinefex, issue 61, March 1995, pp. 62-77
Star Trek: Insurrection Sovereign-class; Federation shuttles; Son'a shipclasses; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles American Cinematographer, issue April 1995, pp. 78-88; Cinefex, issue 77, pp. 68-95
Amblin Imaging TNG Season 7 Emergent lifeform in "Emergence" Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (third edition)
VOY Season 1 - 2 Intrepid-class; spacial phenomena and effects Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #4/5, pp. 32-115
VisionArt Design & Animation DS9 Season 1 - 5 Defiant-class; Danube-class; Jem'Hadar battle cruiser; Odo's morphing; spacial phenomena and effects Cinefantastique, Vol 25 #6/Vol 26 #1, pp. 44-111 and Vol 27 #4/5 1996, pp. 32-115
Star Trek: First Contact T'Plana-Hath (starship) Cinefex, issue 69, p. 118
Video Image DS9 Season 2 Odo as a "blob" alien in "The Alternate" Cinefantastique, Vol 25 #6/Vol 26 #1, pp. 44-111
Foundation Imaging DS9 Season 5 - 7 Ships; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles; species Cinefantastique, Vol 30 #9/10, pp. 32-111 and Vol 32 #4/5, pp. 32-101
VOY Season 3 - 7 Ships; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles; species Cinefantastique, Vol 31 #11, pp. 24-55; Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, pp. 46-51
ENT Season 1 Ships; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles; species Star Trek: The Magazine, Volume 3, issue 7, pp. 42-49
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition) Constitution-class; spacial phenomena and effects Star Trek: The Magazine, Volume 2, issue 8, pp. 52-60
Digital Muse DS9 Season 5 - 7 Ships; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles; species Cinefantastique, Vol 30 #9/10, pp. 32-111; Vol 32 #4/5 2000, pp. 32-101
VOY Season 3 - 7 Ships; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles; species Cinefantastique, Vol 30 #9/10, pp. 32-111; Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 19, pp. 82-89
Star Trek: Insurrection trailer Cinefex, issue 77, p. 75
Station X Studios DS9 Season 7 Deep Space 9 Cinefantastique, Vol 32, No.4/5, p. 91
Blue Sky/VIFX Star Trek: Insurrection Planet bound effects, Federation holoship American Cinematographer', issue January 1999, pp. 40-46; Cinefex, issue 77, April 1999, pp. 68-95; Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, Issue 34, pp. 24-31
Eden FX VOY Season 7 Ships; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles; species Star Trek: The Magazine, volume 1, issue 24, pp. 53-58
ENT Season 1 - 4 Ships; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles; species Star Trek: The Magazine, volume 2, issue 10, pp. 24-30 and volume 3, issue 9, pp. 50-57
Strange Engine ENT Season 1 CGI Visual Effects composite shots Star Trek: The Magazine, volume 3, issue 7, pp. 42-49
Digital Domain Star Trek Nemesis Ships; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles Cinefex, issue 93, pp. 88-111
CBS Digital Star Trek: The Original Series Remastered Ships; spacial phenomena and effects; space battles; species
  1. subcontracted to Graphics Group of Lucasfilm Computer Division

CGI starships, stations and structures

Starship First appearance Original CGI vendor Citation
Star Trek films
Refit Constitution-class Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition) Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8, pp. 52-60; Drex Files
Class F shuttlecraft Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition) Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine, Volume 2, issue 8, pp. 52-60
Refit Excelsior-class Star Trek Generations ILM American Cinematographer, April 1995, pp. 78-88; Cinefex, issue 61, pp. 62-77
Whorfin-class Star Trek Generations ILM American Cinematographer, April 1995, pp. 78-88
Galaxy-class[1] Star Trek Generations ILM American Cinematographer, April 1995, pp. 78-88; Cinefantastique, Vol 30 #9/10 1998, pp. 32-111; Cinefex, March 1995, pp. 62-77; Cinefex, March 1997, pp. 98-119
Sovereign-class[2] Star Trek: First Contact ILM American Cinematographer, December 1996, pp. 68-74; American Cinematographer, January 1999, pp. 40-46
Akira-class Star Trek: First Contact ILM American Cinematographer, December 1996, pp. 68-74; Cinefex, issue 69, pp. 98-119; Drex Files; Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, pp. 119-123
Miranda-class[3] Star Trek: First Contact ILM Cinefex, issue 69, pp. 98-119
Norway-class Star Trek: First Contact' ILM American Cinematographer, December 1996, pp. 68-74; Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, pp. 119-123
Oberth-class Star Trek: First Contact ILM Cinefex, issue 69, pp. 98-119
Saber-class[4] Star Trek: First Contact ILM American Cinematographer, December 1996, pp. 68-74; Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, pp. 119-123; Drex Files
Steamrunner-class[5] Star Trek: First Contact ILM American Cinematographer, December 1996, pp. 68-74; Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, pp. 119-123; Drex Files
Sovereign-type escape pod Star Trek: First Contact ILM Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, pp. 119-123; Eavesdropping
Template:ShipType Star Trek: First Contact VisionArt Design & Animation Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, pp. 119-123; Eavesdropping
Sovereign-class[6] Star Trek: Insurrection Digital Muse Cinefex, April 1999, pp. 68-95; Drex Files
Sovereign-class[7] Star Trek: Insurrection Santa Barbara Studios American Cinematographer, January 1999, pp. 40-46; Cinefex, issue 77, pp. 68-95; Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 34, pp. 24-31
Ru'afo's flagship Star Trek: Insurrection Santa Barbara Studios American Cinematographer, January 1999, p. 41; Eavesdropping
Federation mission scoutship Star Trek: Insurrection Santa Barbara Studios Cinefex, issue 77, p. 72
Type-11 shuttlecraft Star Trek: Insurrection Santa Barbara Studios Cinefex, issue 77, p. 72
Federation holoship Star Trek: Insurrection co-built at Blue Sky/VIFX and Santa Barbara Studios American Cinematographer, January 1999, pp. 40-46; Cinefex, issue 77, p. 83; Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 34, p. 29
Son'a battle cruiser Star Trek: Insurrection Santa Barbara Studios American Cinematographer, January 1999, p. 41; Cinefex, issue 77, pp. 68-95; Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 34, pp. 18-23
Son'a collector Star Trek: Insurrection Santa Barbara Studios American Cinematographer, January 1999, pp. 40-46; Cinefex, issue 77, pp. 68-95; Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 35, pp. 24-31
Cousteau Star Trek: Insurrection Santa Barbara Studios Cinefex, issue 77, p. 72
Son'a shuttle Star Trek: Insurrection Blue Sky/VIFX American Cinematographer, January 1999, pp. 40-46; Cinefex, issue 77, pp. 68-95; Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 34, pp. 24-31
Template:ShipType Star Trek Nemesis Digital Domain Cinefex, issue 93, pp. 88-111; Eavesdropping
Scimitar Star Trek Nemesis Digital Domain Cinefex, issue 93, pp. 88-111; Eavesdropping
Drydock-type Star Trek Nemesis Digital Domain Cinefex, issue 93, pp. 88-111; Eavesdropping
Romulan capital Star Trek Nemesis Digital Domain Cinefex, issue 93, pp. 88-111
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Refit Constitution-class[8] n/a n/a Star Trek: The Next Generation USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints, booklet, p. 14; Cinefex, issue 37, p. 10
D'Arsay archive[9] TNG: "Masks" Santa Barbara Studios Cinefantastique, Vol. 25, No.6/Vol. 26, No. 1, p. 58
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Bajoran lightship[10] DS9: "Explorers" ILM Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 237
Defiant-class[11] DS9: "The Way of the Warrior" VisionArt American Cinematographer, pp. 68-74; Cinefantastique, Vol 30 #9/10, pp. 32-111
Danube-class[12] DS9: "The Way of the Warrior" VisionArt
Alien Freighter[13] DS9: "The Way of the Warrior" ILM Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 335
Work Bee DS9: "The Way of the Warrior" ILM Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 335
Jem'Hadar battle cruiser[14] DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow" VisionArt Cinefantastique, Vol 29 #6/7, p. 39; Stipes' Universe
Klingon Bird-of-Prey[15] DS9: "Call to Arms" Rhythm & Hues Cinefantastique, Vol 32 #4/5, pp. 32-101
Jem'Hadar fighter[16] DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow" VisionArt Drex Files
Excelsior-class DS9: "Favor the Bold" Digital Muse David Lombardi
Federation attack fighter DS9: "Favor the Bold" Digital Muse Cinefantastique, Vol.30, No.9/10, pp. 64-65
Vor'cha-class DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels" Foundation Imaging Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 32, p. 55
Galor-class DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels" Foundation Imaging Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 32, p. 55; Drex Files
Hideki-class DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels" Foundation Imaging Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 32, p. 55
Jem'Hadar battleship[17] DS9: "Valiant" Digital Muse Drex Files; Stipes' Universe
Chaffee-type shuttlepod[18] DS9: "The Sound of Her Voice" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
Bajoran assault vessel DS9: "Shadows and Symbols" Digital Muse Drex Files
Bajoran interceptor DS9: "Shadows and Symbols" Digital Muse Drex Files
Bajoran raider[19] DS9: "Shadows and Symbols" Digital Muse Drex Files
Karemma starship[20] DS9: "Shadows and Symbols" Digital Muse Drex Files
Breen warship[21] DS9: "Penumbra" Digital Muse Eavesdropping
K't'inga-class DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
Cardassian Workbee[22] DS9: "Tacking Into the Wind" Digital Muse Drex Files
Deep Space 9[23] DS9: "What You Leave Behind" Station X Studios Cinefantastique, Vol.32, No.4/5, p. 91
Star Trek: Voyager
Intrepid-class[24] n/a Santa Barbara Studios Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, pp. 72-75, 79-81
Intrepid-class[25] VOY: "Caretaker" Amblin Imaging Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, pp. 72-75, 79-81; Drex Files
Repto-humanoid vessel[26] VOY: "Parturition" Amblin Imaging Drex Files
Akritirian patrol ship VOY: "The Chute" Digital Muse Drex Files
Swarm species vessel VOY: "The Swarm" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, pp. 46-47, 49
Borg cube VOY: "Unity" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
Orbital tether VOY: "Rise" Digital Magic VOY Season 5 DVD special feature "Ships of the Delta Quadrant"
Voth research vessel VOY: "Distant Origin" Foundation Imaging VOY Season 5 DVD special feature "Ships of the Delta Quadrant"
Voth city ship VOY: "Distant Origin" Foundation Imaging VOY Season 5 DVD special feature "Ships of the Delta Quadrant"
Species 8472 bioship VOY: "Scorpion" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, pp. 48, 51
Template:ShipType VOY: "The Raven" Foundation Imaging VOY Season 5 DVD special feature "Ships of the Delta Quadrant"
Srivani vessel VOY: "Scientific Method" Foundation Imaging
Zahl starship VOY: "Year of Hell" Foundation Imaging Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models,issue 32, p. 51
Mawasi cruiser VOY: "Year of Hell" Foundation Imaging Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models,issue 32, p. 51
Nihydron warship VOY: "Year of Hell" Foundation Imaging Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models,issue 32, p. 51
Prometheus-class VOY: "Message in a Bottle" Foundation Imaging Liquid guitars
Nebula-class VOY: "Message in a Bottle" Foundation Imaging Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models,issue 32, p. 54; Drex Files
D'deridex-class[27] VOY: "Message in a Bottle" Foundation Imaging
Hirogen communications network VOY: "Message in a Bottle" Foundation Imaging
Hirogen warship VOY: "Hunters" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
Dauntless-class VOY: "Hope and Fear" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: Action!, pp. 45-47
Malon export vessel, eleventh gradient VOY: "Night" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
Night alien ship VOY: "Night" Foundation Imaging
Devore warship VOY: "Counterpoint" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
Borg Queen's vessel VOY: "Dark Frontier" Foundation Imaging Liquid guitars; Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models International, issue 41, p.25
Chaotic space hulk VOY: "The Fight" Digital Muse Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 10, p. 71; Drex Files
Malon export vessel VOY: "Juggernaut" Foundation IUmaging VOY Season 5 DVD special feature "Ships of the Delta Quadrant"
Template:ShipType VOY: "Relativity" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, p. 50
Drydock type VOY: "Relativity" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, p. 50; Liquid guitars
Nova-class[28] VOY: "Equinox" Digital Muse Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 14, p. 21
Assault-class VOY: "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
Delta Flyer escape pod VOY: "Good Shepherd" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
Borg tactical cube VOY: "Unimatrix Zero" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
D'Kora-class VOY: "Inside Man" Eden FX Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 24, p. 54
Subspace warhead VOY: "Human Error" Eden FX Drex Files
SC-4 VOY: "Endgame" Foundation Imaging Drex Files
Star Trek Enterprise
NX-class ENT: "Broken Bow" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 9, pp. 50-57; Drex Files
Inspection pod[29] ENT: "Broken Bow" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 10, pp. 24-30; Drex Files
Suurok-class ENT: "Breaking the Ice" Eden FX Drex Files
Echo Two ENT: "Silent Enemy" Eden FX Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 7, pp. 42-49
Zobral's shuttle ENT: "Desert Crossing" Eden FX Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 7, pp. 42-49
Zobral's encampment ENT: "Desert Crossing" Eden FX Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 7, pp. 42-49
Romulan Bird-of-Prey (22nd century) ENT: "Minefield" Eden FX Drex Files
Wisp ship ENT: "The Crossing" Eden FX Drex Files; Eavesdropping
NX-Alpha ENT: "First Flight" Eden FX Liquid guitars
Template:ShipType ENT: "The Expanse" Eden FX Drex Files; Eavesdropping
"Warp Delta" ENT: "The Expanse" Eden FX Drex Files
Osaarian merchant ship ENT: "Anomaly" Eden FX Eavesdropping
Tret's containment vessel ENT: "Extinction" Eden FX Eavesdropping
Xindi-Insectoid starship ENT: "Twilight" Eden FX Eavesdropping
Template:ShipType ENT: "Storm Front" Eden FX Eavesdropping
Template:ShipClass ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly" Eden FX Drex Files
Tholian asteroid dock ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly" Eden FX Drex Files
Note: The remark "upgraded" refers to the reprogramming and remapping of CGI models originally done in software other than LightWave 3D (or an older version thereof) into this format.
  1. upgraded at Digital Muse for DS9: "Call to Arms", again upgraded at Eden FX for ENT: "These Are the Voyages...")
  2. this version only used in this film
  3. upgraded at Digital Muse for "Favor the Bold"
  4. upgraded at Digital Muse for "Call to Arms"
  5. upgraded at Digital Muse for "Call to Arms"
  6. this version only in trailer
  7. upgraded at Digital Domain for Star Trek Nemesis
  8. Pre-production evaluation version, neither used nor seen
  9. the very first model in the Star Trek-franchise which had no physical production counterpart
  10. the first new starship design for Deep Space Nine only conceived as CGI and its first CGI starship
  11. upgraded at ILM for Star Trek: First Contact, again upgraded at Digital Muse
  12. premiered in renewed title sequence of DS9 Season 4
  13. the second DS9 ship design conceived as CGI only
  14. upgraded at Foundation Imaging for "Sacrifice of Angels"
  15. built at Rhythm & Hues at for a Star Trek: The Experience attraction, upgraded at Foundation Imaging for "Sacrifice of Angels"
  16. upgraded at Foundation Imaging for "Sacrifice of Angels"
  17. the third DS9 ship-design conceived as CGI only
  18. the fourth DS9 ship design conceived as CGI only
  19. adapted several times at Eden FX to represent vessels of different affiliations
  20. adapted at Foundation Imaging to represent vessels of different affiliations
  21. co-built in-house and at Digital Muse, the fifth new ship-design only conceived as CGI
  22. upgraded at Foundation Imaging to represent an Imhotep ship
  23. only seen in the very last shot of the very last scene of the DS9 series
  24. back-up version, eventually never used
  25. several times upgraded at Foundation Imaging to various ends
  26. the first new ship for VOY only conceived as CGI, adapted several times at Foundation Imaging to represent vessels of different affiliations
  27. upgraded at Digital Muse for DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil"
  28. upgraded at Foundation Imaging for VOY: "Endgame"
  29. upgraded at Eden FX as Vissian stratopod for ENT: "Cogenitor"

CGI species

Lifeform First appearance Original CGI vendor Citation
Star Trek films
Ba'ku kolibri Star Trek: Insurrection Blue Sky/VIFX American Cinematographer, January 1999, p. 44
Rhyl Star Trek: Insurrection Blue Sky/VIFX American Cinematographer, January 1999, p. 45-46
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Crystalline Entity[1] TNG: "Datalore" The Post Group Star Trek: Communicator issue 148, p. 49
Junior's species TNG: "Galaxy's Child" Rhythm & Hues Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 156
Coalescent organism TNG: "Aquiel" unknown Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 233; TNG Season 6 DVD special feature "Select Historical Data Year Six"
Anaphasic lifeform TNG: "Sub Rosa" Digital Magic Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 281
Emergent lifeform TNG: "Emergence" Amblin Imaging Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 296
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Founders in liquid and morphing state[2] DS9: "Emissary" VisionArt Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 11, pp. 88-93
Founder as spacefaring lifeform (Laas) DS9: "Chimera" Digital Muse Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 11, pp. 88-93
Star Trek Voyager
Nacene[3] VOY: "Caretaker" Amblin Imaging
Nucleogenic cloud being VOY: "The Cloud" Santa Barbara Studios Star Trek: Communicator issue 105, p. 57
Photonic lifeform VOY: "Heroes and Demons" Digital Magic Star Trek: Communicator issue 105, p. 57
Space-dwelling lifeform VOY: "Elogium" Santa Barbara Studios Star Trek: Communicator issue 105, p. 56
Hyper-evolved Human[4] VOY: "Threshold" Pacific Ocean Post VOY Season 2 DVD special feature "Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2"
Hanonian land eel VOY: "Basics, Part I" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, pp. 46-51
Macrovirus VOY: "Macrocosm" Foundation Imaging VOY Season 3 DVD' special feature "Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 3"
Species 8472 VOY: "Scorpion" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, pp. 46-51
Bevvox VOY: "Think Tank" Digital Muse
Nucleogenic lifeform VOY: "Equinox" Santa Barbara Studios Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 18, p. 23
Ba'neth VOY: "Riddles" Digital Muse Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 18, pp. 27-28
Human-Klingon Hybrid VOY: "Lineage" Eden FX
Star Trek: Enterprise
"Shroomies" ENT: "Silent Enemy" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 7, pp. 42-49; Drex Files
Targ ENT: "Sleeping Dogs" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 9, pp. 50-57
Drayjin[5] ENT: "Rogue Planet" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 7, pp. 42-49
Wraith ENT: "Rogue Planet" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 7, pp. 42-49
Symbiotic lifeform ENT: "Vox Sola" Foundation Imaging Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 7, pp. 42-49
Wisp[6] ENT: "The Crossing" Eden FX
Xindi-Aquatic ENT: "The Council" Eden FX Drex Files
Xindi-Insectoid ENT: "The Council" Eden FX Drex Files
Sehlat ENT: "The Forge" Eden FX
Tholian ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly" Eden FX
Gorn ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" Eden FX ENT Season 4 DVD special feature "Inside the "Mirror" Episodes"
Notes:
  1. Recreated at CBS Digital for the 2012 Blu-ray release
  2. Upgraded at Digital Muse
  3. Suspiria built at VisionArt
  4. Only newborns, first CGI species for the series
  5. Upgraded from the Targ CG model
  6. Built as non-corporeal

Further reading

External link

Computer-generated imagery at Wikipedia

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