Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Ghost VFX has partnered with Paramount+ on the Star Trek franchise since Discovery’s first season with the number of shots steadily increasing each year.
A spin-off from Star Trek: Discovery and a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds follows Captain Christopher Pike and the crew of the USS Enterprise seeking out new civilizations.
As Star Trek expands into the furthest corners of the universe, Ghost VFX, Streamland Media’s visual effects division, is boldly going along at warp speed. Led by VFX Supervisor Ivan Kondrup Jensen, Ghost VFX artists in Copenhagen, with additional support from artists in Vancouver, completed close to 400 shots and over 100 assets for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
“There's no shortage of outlandish and offbeat aliens in the Star Trek universe which makes each episode of each series so much fun to work on,” says VFX Supervisor Ivan Kondrup Jensen. “We demand of ourselves that we raise the bar each time.”
Having received an Emmy® nomination for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Single Episode for Star Trek: Discovery S2 and winning the Award for Su’Kal in S3, Ghost VFX has now completed their work on S4 as well as on the debut season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. For Star Trek: Discovery S4, Ghost VFX completed most of the assets and previz comprising around 150 assets and more than 600 shots. These include the Alshain; introduced for the first time in S4’s premiere “Kobayashi Maru”. The Alshain are creatures with huge wings and masks over their faces that are made out of individual moving butterflies that flutter and emit light. Instead of only adding CG butterflies over the practical actors, to create the Alshains, Ghost VFX opted to replace most of them all together with CG digi doubles.
“Whether it is a spaceship, alien being or galaxy we have to invent and imagine and bring it to life in a believable way,” says Kondrup Jensen.
“The heavier CG approach allowed us to have better light and shadow interaction and would also come in handy in shots that required for the Alshains to fly and move in more dynamic shots,” Kondrup Jensen explains. “The butterflies were created in Houdini as a directable crowd system.” The Ghost VFX teams in Copenhagen and Vancouver board each new season at a very early stage and have been afforded the opportunity to contribute with concept work for unique creatures, environments and effects. “We start with the script and a concept book for every episode and work with the creative leads on the show to pre-visualize and animate key sequences. Often the concepts are very abstract and uniquely creative which really excites us. Like, how exactly does a vessel enter a wormhole, be attacked by antimatter or discover strange parallel universes?”
IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS
One of the biggest challenges on S4 of Discovery was depicting Species 10-C, a Star Trek alien race unlike any other in the franchise. Because they reside in another galaxy beyond the Galactic Barrier, the intriguing Species 10-C weren’t bound by Star Trek's tradition where most aliens are humanoid in appearance. Instead, the abstract jellyfish-like creature is conceived as the size of a USS class spaceship and created using smoke emission and soft tissue simulation. “To make such a large alien appear visually interesting was quite a task,” describes Kondrup Jensen. “We layered in many interior model details that would be hinted within the transparent surfaces adding great detail. We added simulated secondary motion details that would behave and move as being under water and combined the fx with a dark ink in water type of smoke emission that helped tie the layers together.” For this show Ghost VFX completed close to 400 shots and more than 100 assets including a new version of the USS Enterprise and the Enterprise shuttle.
“While The USS Enterprise is a well-established asset, we completely reworked it for the new season. We stayed mostly true to the original design but added much finer model texture and shading details. This proved to be essential as the asset comes under great scrutiny in the series - seen from all possible camera positions and distances. “Very often we’re asked to think outside the box,” adds Kondrup Jensen. “We’re fortunate to have the creative freedom to suggest different ideas than originally presented which makes it such a fun show to work on.”