'Motion Picture' Fan Questions Answered

By Christian
September 9, 2001 - 5:54 PM

On the 18th of August, Paramount officially announced the 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' Director's Edition DVD and VHS, scheduled for release on the 6th of November. At the same time, the production team graciously agreed to answer a selection of questions from TrekToday readers. Their answers to these questions can be found below.

Hector Lopez: Why did the release date change from Jan. to Nov. and [was] there any computer colorization done to the film to give it a more "Lively" look instead of the gray "Dull" look it had?

David C. Fein, Producer: There were some discussions about the release occurring on 1/7/01, specifically because of the importance of the NCC-1701 registry on the Enterprise. While the film was completed in August of 2000, the entire release was not ready.

In regard to the look of the film, its unfortunate that many films - including 'The Motion Picture' - have been viewed mostly on video, and the transfer of the film is inaccurate to how the film actually looked in the theater. When the film is prepared for theatrical presentation the Director and often the Cinematographer view test prints and have changes made to insure that what they originally designed and shot is how the film will finally appear on the screen. Video transfers of films are usually not given this same careful treatment. It is only over the past ten years or so that SOME film transfers been supervised by the Director and/or Cinematographer and match - as closely as video will allow - the look of the film in the theatrical presentation. Nowadays, the tools for transferring films and matching color have evolved tremendously over the technology employed on earlier transfers and offer superior quality.

Very early in the planning stages of this project, actually before we even approached Paramount about the project, we screened a print of the film and once again appreciated the way the film truly looks. 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition' was transferred under Bob's [Robert Wise's] supervision, and shown to and approved by Cinematographer, Richard Kline.

As for the old ‘gray "Dull" look it had, all I can say is that there was no computer colorization work performed on the film to change the overall appearance, however it is clearly more "Lively" and colorful - and accurate to the way it was intended - than ever before.

JIM: What scene has changed the most from original release to special edition dvd?

Michael Matessino, Restoration Supervisor: In terms of visual effects, there are a few that have completely changed, but in terms of editing, I'd have to say it is the sequence where the V'ger cloud fires at the Enterprise, up through the Enterprise's entry into the cloud. Shots have been rearranged, some things have been removed, others added, and there is also a new effects shot in there. It's a much more engaging scene now.

Sarod: I've always liked the look of the original motion control model of the Enterprise (the spectacular paint job for ST:TMP). I wonder, how difficult was it to duplicate this beautiful pearlish look in Lightwave? Also, how would you comment the original quality of the motion control model and the motion control footage? Did you like the lighting in ST:TMP?

Daren R. Dochterman, Visual Effects Supervisor: We are in total agreement here... the 8' model of the Enterprise refit is an incredible piece of movie magic. The work done by that talented team of artists on ST:TMP remains a benchmark of beauty and scale. Very little of the original painting remains on the shooting model, as subsequent filming methods necessitated drastic reduction of the specularity and shininess on the model... but traces of the opalescent finish can still be seen on certain sections... and it really is a testament to the artistry of that team that they were able to convey such scale and detail in such a relatively small shooting model.

The effects team on the Director's edition, therefore, faced a daunting challenge: How to maintain that scale and quality in the new effects shots while using drastically different "modern" digital effects techniques. The process started with creating a digital model in Lightwave that matched as closely as possible the physical measurements of the original miniature. This was a project taken on by Foundation Imaging's Robert Bonchune, Lee Stringer, and myself. As the digital forms took shape, detailed texture maps were created, matching closely the original color patterns, bump textures, and specular layers that made the shooting model seem so real. Specific attention was paid to the detail on the primary hull, as this section was featured prominently in the new shots, and had to stand up to closer scrutiny on screen. The opalescent texture of the ship really only is highlighted in the film during the drydock sequences... as these are the only scenes where the ship is lit with white light, and the camera is close enough to see the multi-colored panels on the Enterprise's surface. In the Director's Edition, the new CG Enterprise shots take place in the more "bluish" environment of the V'Ger Cloud, and V'Ger interior... so the ambient lighting matches the more monochromatic photography that we see on the Enterprise miniature at that point in the film, so, unfortunately, the multi-colored "kicks" and "glints" on the surface aren't as noticeable.

Careful lighting of each shot is the final "icing on the cake", and is what really creates the reality of a shot. A beautifully created physical miniature or CG model will look horrible if it is not lit properly. Great care was taken in the individual shots to match the lighting style of the surrounding original effects shots. The wonderful "self lighting" of the Enterprise miniature, with it's pools of light apparently coming from spotlights built into the model itself, was duplicated precisely... and really helps convey the scale and beauty of the original shots.

Anonymous: There is an alcove in the recreation deck that Decker points out to Ilia, and it contains pictures of all the ships named Enterprise. The fourth one is a spiral spaceship that has never been referenced since the film, and has only been called the "spaceship Enterprise" in various sources about Trek. Will the new special edition feature this picture digitally replaced by a picture of the ship from the new series, to enhance continuity?

David C. Fein, Producer: There was never any plan to change the pictures in the recreation deck. The Director's Edition was conceived as an opportunity to fine tune the story and enhance the flow of the picture. While other changes were made to the film that that better fit the continuity of Star Trek - such as the appearance of Vulcan - the changes were originally planned for the film during its original production.

Brian Savoie: I am looking forward to the release of the Director's Edition in November. So far I have heard that the film is more intense (generating a PG vs. G) rating and is a tighter film in general. Has the plot direction of the film been changed or are the changes largely aesthetic and tonal? If the plot has changed what types of story elements have been added/removed to cause those changes? Thanks so much for your time, effort and vision devoted to a film you worked on over 20 years ago.

Michael Matessino, Restoration Supervisor: I'd like to answer this question by strongly urging everyone to study more carefully exactly what the ratings mean. A "PG" film does not exclude anyone from attending, it simply suggests that parents check the film out first and make a judgment as to the appropriateness for their own children. Even though 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' was always a story about adults facing a mysterious, threatening entity, with some heady concepts and sexual undertones, I think its original "G" rating is reflective of the fact that the original film wasn't as engaging as was intended. We addressed this in doing 'The Director's Edition,' not with the goal of acquiring a "PG" rating, but once we evaluated the cumulative effect of the finished film, we expected a "PG" and we're very happy about it. So the plot hasn't really changed, but the characters have been emphasized a bit more, which makes what's happening to them more engaging. This, plus the tighter editing and the new sound mix, has resulted in a more intense feeling overall, and again, the "PG" simply means that parents should check it out first.

Shaun Aki: How has Jerry Goldsmith's orchestral score been altered to accommodate the new and altered scenes in the Director's Edition? And how much of the new footage is presented seamlessly with the film rather than as a separate 'cut/additional' scene?

Michael Matessino, Restoration Supervisor: The music score alterations are minimal. While the sequence where Kirk and Scotty fly around the Enterprise is often criticized for its length, we felt that Jerry's music here was so perfect that the scene worked just fine. So for those of you who wanted that scene shortened... Sorry! For other sequences, such as the journey through the cloud and the examination of the V'ger vessel, the music has been very artfully abridged. The new audio mix makes the music sound better than ever. In terms of the amount of additional footage in the film, about six or seven minutes have been added to the theatrical version, most of which appeared in the television version.

Sven Olon: I had read somewhere that Robert Wise wanted to cut much of the "extraneous exposition" out of ST:TMP, but now I hear the DVD cut will be five minutes longer than the original theatrical release. Can you give us some idea of what was cut to streamline the film, and what was added that increased the run-time?

Michael Matessino, Restoration Supervisor: The footage that was added for the television broadcast back in 1983 represented the film's 'lifts.' These scenes were set aside for possible inclusion once the final visual effects shots were in place. The film was premiered before an evaluation could be made as to what effects shots to cut down, and which dialogue scenes to put back in. That process has now taken place with 'The Director's Edition,' so about three to four minutes was trimmed, and about six or seven minutes were put back in. The running time is also lengthened by the full-length overture as well as an extension to the end credit roll. I don't want to spoil all the surprises at this point, so I won't say specifically what's in and what's out, but those who know the film well will find that some of the trims are very subtle. My opinion and hope is that once you see how engaging the film is now, you won't miss anything.

Donn R. Nottage: As is well known, the lack of time given to Mr. Trumbull and Mr. Dykstra to complete optical composting resulted in some rather noticeable matte lines around objects. Have they been digitally cleaned up? And- have those rather abrupt opening credits been improved?

Daren R. Dochterman, Visual Effects Supervisor: Anyone who is familiar with the amazingly tight schedule that faced Doug Trumbull, John Dykstra, and Richard Yuricich to complete the many effects shots for ST:TMP knows that this team of artists did an amazing job of creating beautiful and dramatic shots... in a situation where it was almost unbelievable that the film could be finished on time. The situation on the film was so pressure filled that visual effects shots were being completed, and cut directly into the film "as-is" as late as a few days before the premier of the film. Both Trumbull and Dykstra have commented that, if they were given more time, they would have wanted to "finesse" these shots more... but at the time, they were resolved to "flop it, crop it, or drop it"... and finish the required shots without the usual "tweaking" time.

On the Director's Edition, a good number of these more noticeable shots have been digitally cleaned up to "fix" some of the technical flaws that existed in the original release. For example, several shots that were made using the "front light/back light" matting technique suffered from blotchy, "crumbly" holes in the mattes, obliterating parts of the models, and letting the backgrounds show through the holes in the mattes. Our Compositing Supervisor, Sherry Hitch, was able to fill in these holes digitally, and beautifully restore shots that were victim to the original time schedule. Even today, limitations in budget and time didn't allow for every single shot to be brought in and re-composited... but we were able to attend to some of the more glaring imperfections that have stood out to fans of the original film.

Though beautifully designed, the main title sequence of ST:TMP was always intended to be more than just simple white lettering on a black background hard cut together. The entire main title sequence has been re-made, while still using the original size and style of the titles. Color, and simple transition effects have been used. The main title treatment of 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' itself has also been slightly re-designed, rendered fully and animated... to definitively create a more dramatic introduction to the Director's Edition.

Jim Brown: On the original STMP release and on the video, when Kirk is leaving thru the pressure doors of the Enterprise to follow Spock in his space suite, as he exits the Enterprise you can see the actual stage construction (wood beams, supports, etc.) along the outer edges of the prop/stage. Has this been corrected? Thanks for re-doing what many of us feel is a genuine SCIFI classic. JIM

Daren R. Dochterman, Visual Effects Supervisor: The original theatrical release of ST:TMP actually didn't have this infamous "wooden beams" shot. These shots of Kirk emerging from the primary hull airlock hatch in an earlier version of the Space Suit, were only included in the 1983 Television version, and subsequent video release dubbed the 'Special Longer Version'... This shot was intended to be with the abandoned "Memory Wall" sequence, and as such, does not fit with the final version of the film, as the shots where Spock drifts through the V'Ger orifice and is caught by Kirk outside the ship feature the re-done space suits, and create a continuity problem. As has previously been stated, the shots from the abandoned "Memory Wall" sequence are not included in the final 'Director's Edition,' so no additional effects work have been done on them.

joshua vance: Dear sir, I'm curious whether all visual effects in the film were altered or updated? It seems if not the film would run the risk of appearing as the Special edition of Star Wars did. Every new special effect inserted jumped out at you and drew attention to itself.

David C. Fein, Producer: There was never any intention to alter or update all of the visual effects in the film. Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra's work is amazingly beautiful and awe inspiring. However, we consulted with both men during the production about our goals in fixing some of the flaws (caused by the time crunch alone), and they were very supportive. It's important to understand that the new or altered effects were conceived and designed to match both the style and quality of the effects that were created in 1979. 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition' is a movie, and was not created as an opportunity to showcase unseen footage and new visual effects.

C.Millar: As someone who has enjoyed ST:TMP for over 20 years in its natural form, while I find the prospect of a redone version worthy of some curiosity, I'm disturbed by the prospect of this version being the only version available in the DVD format. Will a historically correct version of this movie be available to watch through the Directors Edition, or will it be released separately at some later time?

Martin Blythe, Paramount Home Entertainment: We have no plans to issue the original version on DVD.

Jim Kormas: I heard a rumour that a scene was shot but deleted from the theatrical release where Kirk has a meeting with Admiral Nogura, is this featured in the Director's edition DVD? If not, why was it not featured in the DVD?

Michael Matessino, Restoration Supervisor: We wondered about that scene ourselves, and all our questions were answered when we found the production memo ordering the Admiral Nogura office set not to be constructed. Pieces built for it, however, ended up being part of the Enterprise cargo bay.

Ryan: Can you post a comparison of a scene from the old TMP and the same scene from the new TMP? Thanks

David C. Fein, Producer: 'The Director's Edition' was not created as a chance to showcase the changes to the film, but an opportunity for audiences to enjoy the overall experience of seeing the film in a more complete form. After the release we'd be happy to discuss or do comparisons of the different versions.

Nils Myers: What were Trumbull and Dykstra's reactions and opinions on the newly added fx and, more importantly, fx they completed but were polished up for this addition?

Michael Matessino, Restoration Supervisor: Both Mr. Trumbull and Mr. Dykstra were very supportive of our efforts with 'The Director's Edition.' They remember all too well the pressure they were under and the kind of concessions they had to make. We used many components of their work, and also their designs and sketches, in creating the new effects. We wanted to make sure that all of the new shots would be able to exist side by side with theirs from twenty-two years ago. Their inspiration was felt through the entire process, and as a result their work looks even better. In some cases, they were perfectly happy to see some of the old shots go!

OM: To what extent were the miniature effects totally redone in CGI? Was this limited to the Enterprise model only, or were the Klingon D-7, Epsilon-9, and Space Dock scenes also redone? Also, what were the determining factors as to which shots got a CGI rework, and which ones were allowed to remain intact?

And a plea: release a lowered-polygon version of the Enterprise CAD files, so we 3D Studio amateurs can really waste more of our lives :-)

Daren R. Dochterman, Visual Effects Supervisor: Throughout the development and production sequences of the Director's Edition, we were constantly reminded of the wonderful work that the original Effects team did on ST:TMP... Their work still stands out as some of the most beautiful and technically proficient ever done on film, and certainly, we think that the Enterprise has never looked better. Very few shots have been "totally redone". Where possible, original plates and elements have been used in the new shots. The most drastic changes take place where the existing shots were drastically different from what had been originally planned... such as the previously released Vulcan Temple shots, beautiful digital matte paintings created by Foundation's David Morton. In all cases, we went back to the original 1979 Storyboards and used those for the template of the new shots. Mr. Wise gave us access to his personal files from the film, and his books of original storyboards were extremely helpful. Only in instances where new shots were necessary for dramatic reasons did we use fully CGI work. The main point here is that any new shots in the Director's Edition were always intended to be in the film... but for reasons of time, could not be included.

Many of these new shots needed the Enterprise in them, so, naturally, we created a CG version of the shooting model. Other models were also built according to the needs of each sequence, including the San Francisco Air Tram, etc. The Klingon Sequence at the beginning of the film needed some optical clean-up, but none of the shots needed to be re-done from scratch. The Epsilon-9 sequence also needed some optical clean-up, but, again, no new motion control work was necessary. There are several shots in the space dock sequence that required attention, but none needed new CG. All the fixes were accomplished using re-compositing techniques and optical clean up.

The determining factors in what got re-worked in CG were basically this... if elements did not exist that corresponded to the necessary new storyboarded shots, they needed to be created new. It was basically decided from a story standpoint... if these new shots were necessary for clarity or from a dramatic standpoint. If at all possible, the original shots were kept intact and enhanced through cleanup and re-compositing.

As to releasing a version of the Enterprise in digital form... I think it would be a great idea to release licensed versions of the Star Trek ships for fans and hobbyists to play around with... Unfortunately, though, it's something we couldn't do without the license from Paramount Pictures. However, that shouldn't stop you from creating your own CG models for your own use... most of the fun of doing your own CG is being able to create a professional looking picture from scratch... Downloading models can be fun, and it is definitely a good way to learn what to do and what not to do when it comes to working in CG. But, to me, most of the fun is building models... whether they be CG, or plastic... and that gives you the chance to really dive in and get everything to look the way YOU want it... It's a powerful thing to do, and technology has put it within our reach to create wonderful images that previously have only been in our imagination.

Anonymous: Will the trailer shown at the ComicCon ever been available online for download?

Martin Blythe, Paramount Home Entertainment: No. Fans should wait for the DVD.

Tracy McKEnzie: Hello, I am beyond happy about this release, my question is, is there any plan for a re-release into theaters for this "new" version?

David C. Fein, Producer: Mounting a theatrical release is an expensive proposition for any studio. At this time I know of no plans for a theatrical re-release of 'The Director's Edition.' What I can tell you is that the biggest hurdle was creating 'The Director's Edition' itself, and we're thankful to Paramount for having the opportunity to complete the film to Bob's satisfaction.

Coma: Were Gene Rodenberry's interests represented in any way during the making of this DVD? How was this done? (ie. through Majel Barret, or another member of the Rodenberry estate)

David C. Fein, Producer: Prior to the start of production we went into Bob's archive and reviewed all of his paperwork and memos on the production. One of the most remarkable discoveries was a series of memos from Gene to Bob describing the changes he would like to see made to the film prior to the international release. Unfortunately there was no opportunity at that time to alter the picture prior to the premiere in foreign markets. Gene's memos were reviewed with Bob and he considered Gene's suggestions while we laid out the plan for the Director's Edition.

Neil Slagle: Which scene was the absolute most enjoyable to edit?

Michael Matessino, Restoration Supervisor: I guess it would have to be the most-changed scene, which is when the V'ger cloud fires at the Enterprise. The more we looked at it, the better we saw we could make it, so we kept coming back to it. That whole process was a great deal of fun.

Henry Rexroad: How did you go about changing the new digital footage so that the picture quality and grain matched the original film footage?

Daren R. Dochterman, Visual Effects Supervisor: A lot of thought and technical issues went in to making our new shots seamlessly integrate with the existing footage. Our feeling was that CG can often have a sterile, "too clean" look... and while that would be ok in some circumstances, in a project like this where new visual effects had to cut directly with visual effects that were made 20 years ago, it was necessary to seriously alter the new shots.

Sherry Hitch, Compositing Supervisor for Foundation Imaging: The procedure I used to try and match the film grain was to actually use film grain from the original and apply it onto the new footage we created in CGI.

To do this, I looked through the raw footage we had, and I needed to find a locked off shot, with no motion, people, or lights flashing. I needed only 1-2 seconds of this type of footage in order to create a "pixel-averaged frame". What the pixel average frame is, is an off-set of 12-15 frames of the sequence where the transparency is slightly decreased on each frame. Then what you wind up with is a frame without any grain, as it essentially "averages out" the frame.

Then I took that 'averaged frame' and using the original footage in which I created the 'average frame' , I pulled a difference matte so that all I had left was grain. Then I would apply the grain on top of the CGI we digitally created.

Anonymous: Was there any live-action footage shot for the original film that was not used in the new DVD? If so, will we ever see it?

BTW, I met Robert Wise years ago when he visited the film school at the university I attended. He was a gracious and down-to-earth person, and I was glad to have met him.

Michael Matessino, Restoration Supervisor: You will see quite a bit of interesting never-before-seen footage included on the DVD and VHS release of 'The Director's Edition.'

Ted Van Duyn: The 1979 version of the film was rated "G", Now the new version is rated "PG". What makes the new version more unsuitable than the 1979 version?

David C. Fein, Producer: While the original film was rated 'G' for general audiences, the 'Director's Edition' is rated 'PG' for 'sci-fi action and mild language'. Essentially, there wasn't anything in the film that might have been frightening or inappropriate in the presentation to anyone (as stated by the MPAA). The 'Director's Edition' is far more compelling and powerful in its presentation, and may be disturbing to young audiences, hence the 'PG' rating.

Our thanks go out to David C. Fein and the rest of the production team for answering these fan questions! 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition' will be released on the 6th of November, but can already be pre-ordered from Amazon.com today.

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