TNG’s Visual Effects: Behind the Scenes of “The Wounded”

Our article on Tuesday going behind-the-scenes of TNG's visual effects from the episode "The Child" met with a good response, so we're continuing the series with an analysis of another episode. Last month, we brought you an exclusive look at an early workprint copy of Season 4's "The Wounded", with additional scenes, missing music, and several unfinished visual effects shots. Today, we're digging into those missing visual effects with an exclusive before-and-after video comparison, along with a scene-by-scene breakdown of the technical processes used to complete each scene!

We have used two versions of "The Wounded" in this presentation: a production-era workprint VHS tape dated November 26, 1990, and final version of the episode from the 2002 DVD release.

1990 Workprint 2002 DVD

ACT ONE, SCENE 11: The original 35mm background plate of Marc Alaimo as Gul Macet is used by itself in the workprint for the offline edit. In the completed video master and subsequent DVD release, the background element is properly composited with the foreground plate of the actors on the bridge filmed against bluescreen. The blue color is "keyed out," making the viewscreen area transparent to the footage behind it.

ACT ONE, SCENE 13: In the workprint, the original background plate of John Hancock as Admiral Haden is used alone when editing the sequence. In the finished shot, the footage is resized and skewed to fit the screen of the desktop monitor. In this case, it was not necessary to use a bluescreen because no objects in the foreground pass in front of the monitor screen.

ACT ONE, SCENE 16: The workprint uses a simple dissolve for the Cardassians beaming-in. In the finished shot, the standard transporter effect is used. An overall "shower" of streaks is wiped down over the actors, which then dissolves to a more confined version. A semi-transparent hold-out matte is created by an artist in the shape of the actors.

This matte "holds-out" the background to allow the familiar shimmering points of light of the transporter effect to be seen just inside the body. Then another dissolve and wipe reveals the final residual chest cavity layer which, in turn, is slowly dissolved away.

ACT TWO, SCENE 28A: In the workprint, the foreground plate is used of the actors on the bridge filmed against bluescreen. As with scene 11, in the finished shot the blue color is later "keyed out," making the viewscreen area transparent to the footage behind it - in this case, an animated sequence illustrating the relative positions of the Phoenix and her Cardassian target.

ACT THREE, SCENE 36: Another bluescreen shot used without VFX in the workprint. The warp effect outside the Ten Forward windows was accomplished using streak photography.

ACT FIVE, SCENE 46A: As in scenes 11 & 28A, the workprint uses the foreground plate of the actors on the bridge filmed against bluescreen. In the completed shot, the Phoenix miniature was  filmed separately at Image G and later composited into the keyed viewscreeen area, along with its various lighting passes.

The ship is layered on top of a standard, "head on" warp effect that was first created by Industrial Light and Magic during the production of "Encounter at Farpoint".

ACT FIVE, SCENE 47: In the workprint, an over-the-shoulder shot of Patrick Stewart on the bridge with a chroma-key blue viewscreen quickly dissolves to the background plate of Bob Gunton as Benjamin Maxwell that will eventually be used as the composited element in the finished shot.

ACT FIVE, SCENES 47A & 48: The workprint begins with an over-the-shoulder shot of Bob Gunton looking out of Maxwell's ready room window, complete with his actual reflection on the glass. Next we see a shot of the outside corridor and Colm Meaney as O'Brien slowly dissolves in - a placeholder for a never completed transporter effect, eventually cut from the episode all together.As we return to the ready room, the finished shot is revealed: the 4-foot Enterprise miniature, filmed separately at Image G, is composited into the keyed window area along with its various lighting passes on top of background stars. Gunton's reflection is carefully maintained during the chroma-keying.

ACT FIVE, SCENE 50: Much like scene 36, we have another bluescreen shot used without VFX in the workprint. The warp effect outside the observation lounge windows was again accomplished using streak photography.

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Stay tuned to TrekCore as we have several more workprint analyses to come, including a special look at the use of widescreen photography on The Next Generation! What do you think about the use of visual effects in "The Wounded"? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/james.rye.1441 James Rye

    Nice article, I’m really looking forward to the peice about the use of widescreen photography. Wouldn’t it be great if TBOBW could be presented in widescreen (I know it’d be a lot of work to remove random elements and to fix the VFX). I’m interested to know more about the use of VFX in TNG – for example the sort of machines that were used, the limitations with resolution and colour etc… I’m also interested in knowing the different methods that would be employed between Star Trek series.

    Also, perhaps some terms could be explained in more detail, I’d also like to see examples of less successful FX, for example the use of blu-screen in Star Trek 3 has resulted in some spillage of blue light on the model.

    Anyway, thanks again for this breakdown. If anyone is interested, I am reviewing all the Trek movies on my blog in the buildup to Star Trek Into Darkness.

    http://ryesofthegeek.wordpress.com/

    • archer9234

      Spillage of blue onto objects is called bleeding. It’s usually caused by the intense brightness of the blue screen cloth and lights. easily noticeable during some Star Trek TMP’s dock shots. It can be limited by either moving the blue screen further back. Or to fight it with foreground lights. Another option is to do two passes. One with it on and one with it off. The Motion Picture did this with the Viewscreen. Also, changing the framerate of films to 29.97 for TV’s causes junk mattes to become visible. When normally they aren’t. During the fly-by shot of the BOP in Star Trek IV.

      Nowadays, with computer choma keying. Bleeding can be removed. By shifting the color out.

      Type of machines to do the effects don’t vary that much. In the TOS days. Everything was done at the film level, chemically. Physically handling the negative. It’s why any effects work. Ranging from ship shots, to the commercial dissolves is really grainy. To finalize effects they had to make multiple copies of the scene. Degrading the shot. You copy the shot onto more celluloid. The grain will be added on top of the other grain.

      TNG-VGR used a tape system. It was far more faster to use than film. But its draw back was the lack of resolution. But since we didn’t care or understand about HD in those days, it wasn’t cared about. Movies were left 4-8k (digital equivalent to 35mm & 65-70mm celluloid) resolution because they’re projected on a 40 foot screen. You need the quality.

      Model photography was done on film. Same as primary shooting. Since TV and film just used the same camera’s. It was simpler then to switch over to video tape cameras. Lucky for us. Since this made the shows possible to remaster. CGI was used through out the 3 shows. Like the Crystal entitiy, various screens. Like in the child. The space baby in Galaxy’s child. And replaced the ENT D in Generations. Since doing the warp effect was easier as CGI. To do the effect in the show. They used a camera to “scan” the model, to distort it. CGI also made it possible to do more crazier movments with the ships. And make huge space battles in DS9 possible.

      Filming models would take so long, it’s extremely hard to shot a ton of ships. It’s why the Excelsior model was reused over and over again. And why in the Wounded we only saw maps describing scenes.

      • http://www.facebook.com/james.rye.1441 James Rye

        Thanks Archer – some informative stuff there.

        • archer9234

          You’re welcome. Effects are a personal passion.

      • Silver83

        Interesting arcticle.Thanks. Though you were wrong regarding Hercules (always 32mm) and Xena (16mm only in first season). And Herc wasn’t really a low budget show. It cost about 1,5 Million and was shot in New Zealand so they got twice the value for the money.

        • archer9234

          They said in the commentary season 1 was 16mm on Herc. Maybe they where refereing to the 5 TV movies. Then switched to better cameras.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.dentremont Andrew d’Entremont

    I like how they were able to maintain Maxwell’s reflection in his ready room window after keying out the blue screen.

    • BrianRoskamp

      My guess was that it wasn’t “maintained” as suggested, but rather another layer to the chroma-keying process

      • http://www.facebook.com/justin.olson.3388 Justin Olson

        Looking at it again, it appears you’re probably right. The performance doesn’t exactly match. They probably turned off the lights illuminating the bluesceen and filmed a pass just for the reflection. I’ll have TrekCore modify the article. Thanks!

        • archer9234

          Ah yeah. I remember this video. Helped me out in some college courses.

    • Dr. Cheis

      Even today it blows my mind that they can do stuff like that.

  • Gilbetron

    Really cool. It’s interesting that, obviously, in the case of this episode we don’t have access to the blu-ray, and yet the blu-ray version provided interesting comparisons in your breakdown of effects in “The Child.” My first thought was that it would be interesting to revisit this episode to see how the eventual blu-ray differs/improves in subtle ways from the DVD version. Then it occurred to me that *all* of the episodes released on blu-ray so far must have some effect variations/improvements, so in theory TrekCore could do comparison articles for everything. :) But of course that would be a fairly mind-blowing amount of work. Though I think that effort would be met with a great deal of appreciation!

    • Pat Suwalski

      You must not be aware that exactly that is going on. See ex-astris-scientia.org for episode by episode breakdowns based on trekcore’s screenshots.

      • trekcore

        Indeed we have an affiliation with EAS to compare remastered with original versions, however that is more based on describing the differences. I understand what Gilbetron is referring to – videos showing the differences. It’s something we would love to do eventually but it’s a matter of prioritizing. We have a LOT of cool stuff coming up, and there’s little space to make room for new stuff in our crazy schedules! But one day – for sure!

        • Gilbetron

          Indeed, it’s no complaint that you haven’t gotten to it. I couldn’t be happier with all the great continuing content you produce This is definitely my first stop every morning when I get to my computer!

          (Also, I had never really plumbed the depths of EAS before this, so yeah, there was some cool analysis there I hadn’t seen before. Thanks for the tip, Pat Suwalski.)