Daren Dochterman Chat Transcript

By Lisa
December 17, 2001 - 3:21 AM

Last Friday, Daren Dochterman, the visual effects supervisor on the 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Director's Edition' took part in a live chat in the TrekNation chat room.

He answered questions from fans about all aspects of the new edition, as well as his involvment in 'Trekkies' and 'Free Enterprise.' For those unable to attend, we have provided a transcript of the chat below.

The chat was hosted by Lisa and TBonz - thanks go out to TBonz for all her help. Extra special thanks to Darren Dochterman for taking part in the chat.

Lisa: This evening we're really lucky to have Daren Dochterman here to answer questions.

Daren Dochterman: Hi all...

Lisa: Daren worked on the Motion Picture Director's Edition as visual effects supervisor, involved in the creation of the brand new enhanced visual effects on the special edition. That isn't all his involvement with Trek - 1995, he did some illustration work on the Voyager pilot episode 'Caretaker.'

Lisa: He's appeared in the Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) project 'Trekkies' as himself. He also had a role in front of the camera as Tiberius in 'Free Enterprise' the film focusing on two Trek fans and starring William Shatner.

Lisa: He's been involved in producing artwork for many movies, like 'Flubber' and 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas.'

Lisa: Thanks for visiting Daren! Anything to add? ;)

Daren Dochterman: No problem... it's great to be here... nothing much to add... except that I've been a lifelong fan of Trek... and especially of Star Trek: The motion Picture... and it was a big honor and exciting opportunity to work on the Director's edition...

TBonz: Well, many of us have enjoyed the new edition

TBonz: I'm going to toss out a few questions for you now

Daren Dochterman: Great...

WilliamIDIC: Will you be working on the special edition of 'The Wrath of Khan' DVD?

Daren Dochterman: I know that Paramount is planning some type of special edition material for the 'Wrath of Khan,' however, I don't know what manner of material it will be... nor will I be working on it... as far as I know at this point... Who knows what may happen in the future... but as far as New visual effects, I don't think there is much that is needed for TWOK.

Decker: Was there any consideration given to applying the same stochastic filtering process to the TMP negative that was done for the magnificent restoration of 'North by Northwest'? There seems to be an awful lot of scratches and grain visible. Was the cost just too prohibitive?

Daren Dochterman: Paramount was in charge of the transfer... although Mr. Wise and Mike Matessino, Dave Fein, and myself were at the transfer sessions, it was technically handled by the Studio folks... there was supposed to have been a final noise reduction and anti-grain pass... which some was done... but in the end I think it just became a monetary consideration.

Trekfan: I was disappointed with the print transfer of TMP:DE. The film looked scratchy, grainy and less vibrant than many other recent DVD releases of films much, much older than TMP. This is especially evident in the Klingon attack scene at the beginning. Do you know why the film maker chose not to clean up the print of the film before its transfer?

Daren Dochterman: I think I personally would have liked to have seen another pass of dirt removal... but that gets into major money... and there simply wasn't enough budget to allow for it. The original elements were the best that were available... keep in mind that the situation in 1979 was so rushed, that the original negative contained many sections of multi generational degraded shots - those Klingon sequences had up to 30 different element passes and dupes that were rushed to completion... but I think the film looks better than it ever has.

Johan Albrechtsen: What was the very first thing that Robert Wise said, when he saw the newly-restored sequences?

Daren Dochterman: Well, he very much enjoyed the entire process... from first watching the film with us again in 1999, and then discussing things he'd like to revisit... and going over the old storyboards with him... at every stage, he was enthusiastic, and supportive... he simply loved the new stuff as it was coming in... he really got a kick out of visiting Foundation Imaging and seeing the sequences evolve...

Leon: Hello, I have heard that you appeared in the film Free Enterprise. What was the experience like, and where are you in the movie?

Daren Dochterman: It was a lot of fun... the filmmakers, Robert Meyer Burnett and Mark Altman are great friends of mine... and have been for years since they were guests on a radio show I was hosting called "Talk Trek"... and I knew they were working on this film that was loosely based on the lives of them and their group of friends... including me! So... when they finished the script, and were trying to get Shatner interested in it... I read it... and enjoyed it... and I have been known to do a pretty good Shatner impersonation... so... during the script readings with the cast, which Shatner didn't attend... I read the part of Bill Shatner... and it was a lot of fun... so when the big party scene at the end happens, filled with all their "fan" friends... I got to do a little roll as a crazed fan doing a Shatner impersonation to try and impress this spacy waitress...

Charlie Z asks, "If you were to look beyond ST:TMP, which other Trek films call out for "special editions" that would include enhancements for their special effects?"

Daren Dochterman: I think that ST: V - The Final Frontier needs some work in the effects area. I'm sure they spent a lot of time and sweat on it... but it doesn't seem to fit with the other films.

WilliamIDIC: how well did the TMP DVD sell.

Daren Dochterman: Well, from all I've heard, it's been doing much better business than Paramount originally anticipated... I think they were pleasantly surprised by it... I thought there might have been a little more push from the Studio for it... but I'm gratified that it's doing very well on its own... and word of mouth is fantastic... I'm very proud.

TBonz: Well, a few of us here bought it! ;)

Daren Dochterman: I'm glad!

Ronald: You have been the Visual Effects Supervisor for Star Trek: The: Motion Picture. What is exactly what you did? Did you redesign the effects, or changed/added effects. Or did you coordinate a whole team of visual effects people? I intend to become a Visual Effects artist myself, so you'll maybe see me around in Hollywood.

Daren Dochterman: This was a special case... since we were basically going from shots that had already been planned in 1978... My job was to oversee the production of the effects and to make sure they all got done within budget and time... and to make sure that they all fit stylistically within the structure of the film... I was concentrating on Art Direction, timing, composition... etc... the guys and gals over at Foundation are excellent... but this was a case of having one person responsible to Mr. Wise and the production team to maintain the scope and vision of the project... and to make sure everyone "got it". I did actually get to do a couple of shots in the film myself... including a few view screen shots, the travel pod shot, and the interior San francisco tram station. My background is in Storyboarding and Art Direction... so my main contribution was in that area of the effects work...

Lord Garth: Which new effect, in the movie, did you feel the most proud of?

Daren Dochterman: That's like asking which child you love more... lol I'm especially proud of the V'ger reveal shot... it really looks massive... and looks like a real model... I love the new Vulcan shots... Dave Morton at Foundation did those... and we designed the temple to look more like the Vulcan we're used to... and personally, I'm proud of the new tram station... all the trams in there have been replaced with a model I built on the computer...;)

monger: What was the most difficult aspect of working on the DE, in terms of developing the new footage, marrying it with the old and making it seamless. (Great job, by the way!)"

Daren Dochterman: Thanks... the most difficult aspect was making sure that the COG (computer generated) elements looked like they belonged in the film... I was really concerned that the new shots wouldn't stand out as "techno-clean"... I wanted someone who had never seen the film before to not know what shots were done in 1979 and what shots were done in 2000... a lot of that was accomplished through lighting and grain... and thinking out how these shots would have been done if we had used conventional effects techniques...

Yuan: Can you tell us why the original Kirk/Spock spacewalk was not restored or at least included on the DVD as an extra? The scene *was* shot. I've seen photos from it.

Daren Dochterman: That's really a question for the folks at Paramount... we never intended to restore the scene, since Mr. Wise never wanted it in the final picture... the shots we did manage to put in the supplement were there to show what the set looked like and some of the lighting tests... I think the reason for not seeing any of the shots with Actors in them are possibly contractual... but I'm not certain.

Decker: Were you disappointed with the 'Wing-Walk' scene? It's the only FX shot that screams CGI'

Daren Dochterman: Well, I don't really think it screams "CGI"... I think it's just a question of getting used to these new images... :) I think we did our best to make the actual animation of the sensor cube lights look like cel animation that would have been done in '79... and the rest of the shots we treated like matte paintings... which is how they would have done them as well... I'd be interested in what you perceive as being "CG" about it...

Gustavo Leao: Why was the Memory Wall sequence or Shatner/Nimoy spacewalk footage not included in the DVD as an extra or upgraded ?

Daren Dochterman: I think that question was answered above...:)

John Watts: Loved the special edition.Is it possible to do the same thing to the tv series?

Daren Dochterman: Is it possible? I would think it would be... but it would have to be done by someone who honors the look and feel of the original series design, lighting, and shots... and it shouldn't be done just for the sake of "doing something new"... it should be

Daren Dochterman: done to deal with badly duped or noisy/grainy shots that they used over and over again on the show... as to whether it will ever be done... I don't know... I doubt it.

Sarmatian: Was Robert Swarthe (the original animator) consulted on the new animation effects for the V'ger Transcendence?

Daren Dochterman: The new animation effects for the Vger Transcendence shots (the shot before and the new additional 3 seconds of transition added to the enterprise/lens flare shot) were actually scanned from the original moire pattern effect elements... so we used the same elements that they used in the original movie... just re-composited them... And, no... we didn't get to talk to Robert Swarthe... but I love his work... both from TMP and of course, the amazing stuff in 'Close Encounters.'

T.C. Tobias: Were there any new sequences/shots considered for inclusion into the ST:TMP Directors Edition that did not make it onto the final DVD? If so, can you describe them and explain why they were not included?

Daren Dochterman: we had one more shot of the V'ger weapons circling the earth, surrounding it... it was finished and looked gorgeous... but it just didn't fit in with the pacing of the sequence... so we had to drop it... we also had a couple short shots that we did replacing the Klingon Torpedos as they are fired from the aft end of one of the cruisers at the plasma bolt that V'ger is attacking with... when we cut them in, they didn't look right for some reason... so we chose not to include them either. but that's it... everything else that was planned for was put in... (no, we never intended to put the earth behind scotty in the travel pod office window... the earth wouldn't be out there... it's just space... :) )

WilliamIDIC What was your role in 'Trekkies?'

Daren Dochterman: Well, my non speaking role in trekkies is the co-host of the show "talk trek" that they featured in one of the segments... it was a show that was broadcast first locally here in Los Angeles, then nationally on the Cable Radio Network... anyway, I did that show for almost 6 years... weekly... and one week the film crew shot us interviewing Denise Crosby... it was a lot of fun... and I'm glad I didn't say anything stupid that would have been put on film forever.

Henry Rexroad: Excellent work on the TMP DVD. The new visuals are simply astounding. However, I do have one thing I have to complain about.Why was the one scene in the wormhole sequence when the enterprise fires a torpedo not fixed to match the rest of the external shots? Its rather inconsistent, considering the level of detail that you guys put into the rest of the effects, and cleaning up the old ones. btw, both the wormhole explosion scene and the new vger scenes at the end are simply in-frickin-credible. Excellent work!

Daren Dochterman: I don't quite know what you're speaking of... do you mean why didn't we streak the lights and windows in the shot? It boils down to money and time... I'm sure we could have sit down and nit picked every single shot to death... tweaking here and there, but the big question was "was this new shot or element a necessary enough shot to the story and the scope of the picture"... when we asked ourselves that question, it helped us make our priorities those shots that you see in the final film and if you aren't speaking about the streaking of the windows in the one shot... I don't know how to answer...;)

Capt Decker: How closely were Doug Trumball and John Dykstra involved in the process?

Daren Dochterman: Well, it's kind of an interesting situation... we told them about the project... and they were very supportive... and we did show John Dykstra some of the finished shots... but their attitude was that if it was what Bob wanted, then they had no problem with it... and we were going from their original storyboards... so they were all in support of getting the film up to the level that Mr. Wise wanted for it.

Lisa: Are we keeping you too long Daren? ;) We have lots of questions, but we'd hate to keep you away from more spaceships :) [02:08] Daren Dochterman: ha ha... no, this is fun... I can stay for longer...

TBonz: Great!

Lisa: Thank you very much :) [02:08] Aries: Approximately how many minutes in the film consist of CGI scenes?

Daren Dochterman: hmmm... minutes in the film... you know, I don't really know! I'm sure there is someone out there who has timed it... I do know that there are approximately 90 shots that have been altered in some way, whether it is drastic cleanup, or totally re-generated footage...

Lord_Garth: In the original TMP, when Captain Kirk leaves the Enterprise, during the space-suit sequence, the entire set appears exposed. Where there ever any plans to restore this scene?

Daren Dochterman: No, since it was part of the memory wall sequence... and was, unfortunately, inadvertently included in the TV version... but there was a point where I wanted to just goof around and create a still with kirk in the suit, with our new CG enterprise

Daren Dochterman: surrounding him... and have that as a little bonus... but I didn't have the time...

Sarmatian: Why was the new V'ger chamber CGI designed by Stephen Burg, when the original Entity was designed by Syd Mead? Was Mead too expensive to hire for the DE?

Daren Dochterman: We were extremely lucky to get Steve Burg to work on this... most of the people that worked on the project did it for love of the original film... and took major cuts in their rates to do it... We would have loved to bring on every original member of the production crew back... but it just wasn't possible... both from a budget standpoint and a time standpoint... we had only 4 months to do the project... from conceptual work to final cut... and schedules would have been a nightmare to arrange.... but Mr.Mead was at the premiere of the project... and Steve knows him quite well... and Mr. Mead was very happy with the final result...

WilliamIDIC: Do you know, by chance, if there will be an ultra special edition of Robert Wise's "The Day the Earth Stood Still" DVD?

Daren Dochterman: I'm pretty sure there is one in the works... at the very least, they could do a direct re master of the Laserdisc... which has a great commentary by Mr. Wise, and Nick Meyer... but I don't know of any release date for it...

Sarmatian: Was the new CGI rendered at a resolution that would permit theatrical presentation of the DE?

Daren Dochterman: This is a question that is brought up all the time... and many people have been confused by the answers in the past... so I'll set it clear now...
We were always of the mind that this is a FILM... and we were proceeding on the assumption that it belongs on film. All of the effects work and models were built so that they would hold up to film resolution rendering... we prepared from day one to go to film... but the budget wouldn't allow for a film res rendering... so we had to render the shots at D1 resolution... but all of the elements still exist, should the studio want to go further with the project... which I hope they will.

Sarmatian I noticed that the Klingon Attack and Enterprise Drydock sequences are still rather fuzzy. Were *any* of the original 65mm and VistaVision elements shot by EEG and Apogee available for digital recompositing?

Daren Dochterman: Some were, most were not... we scoured the Paramount vaults for any material relating to the Motion Picture... we found it all... and went through it all... Mike Matessino went through every little trim of negative... and there was very little of the film that was used in the movie... we can only assume that the elements were quickly composited together in 1979, and time limits kept the original pieces from being properly catalogued and transferred to the studio... or, there might be another mystery that kept them from being found... but we worked with the best possible elements that we could find... and unfortunately, some of them are a bit fuzzy.

Lisa: I think this is our last question!

Lord Garth: It seems as though most of the original interior of the V'Ger made it through to the DE relatively intact. Were there any changes, however subtle, made?

Daren Dochterman: there is one shot that I did, actually... where Spock goes through the orifice on his jet suit... where I replaced the matte painting of the backlit orifice with an articulated model of the iris closing behind him... that's the only change to the V'ger interior that was made... as far as I can remember...

Lisa: Thank you very very much Daren!

Daren Dochterman: You're very welcome.

TBonz: We've enjoyed this very much

Daren Dochterman: I did too...

Daren Dochterman: any time...

Lisa: Thank you for sticking around to answer all our questions.

Daren Dochterman: I'm just surprised there weren't more!

TBonz: And I very much enjoyed the DVD! :D

Daren Dochterman: I'm glad... I do too!

Lisa: I'll open up the room in a few minutes.

Lisa: So it's going to get pretty chaotic in here - as it usually is ;)

'Star Trek: The Motion picture can be ordered in DVD format here, or in VHS by following this link.

Discuss this news item at Trek BBS!
XML Add TrekToday RSS feed to your news reader or My Yahoo!
Also a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation fan? Then visit CSIFiles.com!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.