Dan Curry Speaks on 'Enterprise' Ending

By Michelle
March 1, 2005 - 7:27 PM

Long-time Star Trek visual effects supervisor Dan Curry said that he was going through a "bittersweet" period, looking forward to new projects but saying goodbye to the crew of Star Trek: Enterprise "that has become family for us over the years."

In an appearance on February 25th at Humboldt State University, written up at Soul of Star Trek, Curry discussed his history with the franchise from the pilot of Star Trek: The Next Generation (which he expected to be a four-month job) until the present, when he is working on what is expected to be the last episode of Star Trek for perhaps several years. He noted that many on the crew were already looking for new employment, though they were committed to making the finale with the same quality invested in the past many years' episodes.

Curry said that of all the series since Next Gen, Enterprise has been his favourite to work on: "It's set earlier in time so things are little more rough and tumble, it's really a fun cast to work with, and over time the relationship of the cast and the crew members has evolved to the point where we are like family. So it's the most emotionally satisfying just because of the quality of the people I work with." He also said that the development of visual effects during his 18 years at Star Trek...we pioneered a lot of things that became standard techniques in features. We were the very first visual effects show to have video tape as our final product rather than film...my job has gone from director of photography and compositing supervisor, to sort of an orchestra conductor of a team of virtuoso digital artists."

Curry explained the difference between visual and special effects, saying that special effects happen on the set, like explosions or doors bursting open, while visual effects "are making a synthetic reality out of pieces that were photographed at different times and recombining them into something new." Often the two go together, like a visual effect enhancing the look of a fire on the set. In times past, visual effects were largely dependent on models, but increasingly now they involve computers. He showed Emmy-winning footage from Enterprise's "Countdown", mentioning that he based the aquatic Xindi species on "a little known dinosaur, the Mososaurus."

"In Star Trek we try to recognize that story is king and that the visual effects only exist to serve the story, so when we create the shot we try to use the philsophy that if this were a real event...how would a great cinematographer photograph this event in a way that would delight and viscerally involve the audience?" he asked. "We try to help the audience share the experience that the characters are going through." Curry also explained the pre-production process and the budget meetings, saying, "When the producers recover from cardiac arrest, we go back and say, we can trim this, instead of six ship shots here we can tell that story with 3, maybe we don't have to blow up a fifteen story building, we can blow up a five story building, and basically get it down to doabilty."

Though Paramount has announced plans for neither a new series nor an eleventh feature film, Curry said he thought there would likely be a 40th anniversary Star Trek TV special in 2006, and perhaps another documentary focusing on the evolution of special effects. Many more details from his talk, including his educational background and advice to would-be-effects technicians, may be found at Soul of Star Trek.

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