‘Star Trek Into Darkness': The Visual Effects, Weaponry & New Klingon Design

Published 2 years ago by

star trek darkness visual effects Star Trek Into Darkness: The Visual Effects, Weaponry & New Klingon Design

J.J. Abrams is still working quite feverishly on Star Trek into Darkness, and we recently brought you details of the inner workings at his Bad Robot Productions studio. If you haven’t read that article, we were one of a small number of Websites invited to Bad Robot for a Star Trek into Darkness preview event.Click on the link at the beginning of the paragraph for a description of footage  from the film that was screened for us; or, for a spoiler-free description of the opening minutes of the film, head over to our 9-minute Star Trek 2 preview that will be ahead of IMAX prints of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Continuing our coverage, here are details on the VFX, props and wardrobe used in the film…

Visual Effects

london star trek2 Star Trek Into Darkness: The Visual Effects, Weaponry & New Klingon Design

Roger Guyett (visual effects supervisor from ILM) was on hand to give us an overview of the CGI effects in the film. We only had a few minutes with him, but he gave us some interesting tidbits of information about the movie. The previous Star Trek film (which he also worked on) had over 1,000 CGI effects – this sequel will have over 1,400 visual effects shots.

He said that 30-40 minutes of the final film are shot using IMAX cameras. While the fact that the film will be shown in IMAX caused the computer-generated visual effects to be more difficult to create and  longer to produce/render, it opened up opportunities to do some interesting things that take advantage of the larger format.

More and more, CGI is being used to substitute for more “natural” visual effects in order to save money. The amount of “invisible” computer-generated visual effects (effects that aren’t apparent to the audience) have increased dramatically over the last few years (good news for computer graphics artists).

For scenes that take place outdoors in the film, they tried to use natural light as much as possible; if there was a way to create an alien landscape outdoors, that was the first choice instead of using a soundstage. When it came to the look of “future Earth,” they tried to make it look more like a natural evolution of a city’s growth as opposed to some completely outrageous take. This was specifically in reference to a shot of London, which still had some recognizable structures.

Props and Wardrobe

klingons star trek darkness Star Trek Into Darkness: The Visual Effects, Weaponry & New Klingon Design

For the more Trek-geeky, very subtle changes have been made to the communicator, phaser and tricorder. The communicator now has a bit of mesh in the flip cover as a nod to the ones from TOS; the tricorder has some disc-shaped items in the tricorder (again, a nod to the original tricorder); and the phaser now has an electronic motor to flip the muzzle between the “stun” and “kill” settings, along with a shaded trigger portion. In the last film, it was spring loaded and would not work correctly quite often. This new version has a gyro built in to auto-align it to the correct position.

The amount of thought that went into the different aspects of prop and wardrobe design for the film was impressive. Those involved are very respectful of Star Trek that has come before, even though they are putting a new spin on that universe. Starfleet dress uniform details all have a reason/logic behind the design aspects – whether they be within the context of the military aspect of Starfleet, or a tie-in to the classic Star Trek universe.

Similar attention was given to the Klingon battle outfits and weaponry, down to the choice of materials or the detail of adding a potentially lethal pointed end to the butt of their disruptor weapon. Similarly, the Klingon rifle has a lighting effect that reflects that it is powered by some unstable chunk of plutonium (or equivalent radioactive isotope) – liable to explode at any point – and dual bayonet blades protruding from the front of the weapon. And yes, there is a Klingon Bat’leth as well.

Star Trek into Darkness opens on May 17, 2013.

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  1. Klingons shouldn’t have ridged foreheads again yet by this time–plot hole!

    • Nope, Star Trek Enterprise explained why. Klingons were genetically altered to appear human as to let them infiltrate Starfleet and gather intel.

      Now since the first movie included Admiral Archer, or more to the point the beaming of his Prized Beagle, the inclusion allows for the Klingons with ridged foreheads.

      • Didn’t Enterprise explain it that the klingons had a virus spread throughout their race resulting from them trying to augment their genetics in some way? The change lasted for 100 years or so, that’s why Worf was so sensitive when he was asked about it once. Been a long time since I saw Enterprise but I vaguely remember an episode explaining some mishap their race had that resulted in losing the ridge for a while

        • Whoa whoa whoa, is Cumberbatch a genetically altered Klingon, infiltrating Starfleet?

          • Mind = Blown.

            I doubt it because its hinted that he has “mental powers” but that could mean anything. From what i remember the klingons tried to do some augmentation, like the human augments (Khan) and the virus that it used mutated them and thus they lost all the ridges and made them look human, even though it made them superior (i also think it eventually killed most)

            So depending on the timeline, its possible there COULD be some klingons without ridges, and some with.

            • I have to agree with WolvoMS and = here. That’s how I recall it as well. But a REALLY good idea there with the infiltration there! :)

              • I doubt that they even looked into the whole Klingon background story to keep it in line with the canon and established developments. After all, it’s Orci/Kurtzman/Lindelof we are talking about here. They couldn’t even be bothered to look up what a supernova is when they made the first movie, which would have taken all but 5 minutes.

                • @The Lost Winchester.

                  Ah my friend, but you forget one thing. They included Admiral Archer and his prized beagle.

                  So,anything is possible. If they rebooted Star Trek, then they included Enterprise.

                  Which honestly the ship crashing in the bay, does seem to fit the size and design of the NX-Class…..Just saying.

                  • Yeah, but it’s one thing to reference a main character with one of his biggest quirks (if you wanna call a cheese-addicted pet a quirk), and a whole other thing to keep track of individual episodes or even three-episode arcs.

                    Besides, it doesn’t add up very well, anyway. Enterprise is set in the years 2151-2155, while Star Trek was set in 2258. Scott Bakula was 50 in Enterprise Season 4, which would make Star Trek’s Admiral Archer a whoppin’ 158 years old. Possible? With Star Trek medicine: possibly. Likely? Nah… 😉

                    Damn, how geeky was that?

                    • Bones was a 137 Years old aboard the madien Voyage of the Enterprise D. And 145 years old in one of the Next Generation Novels.

                      Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo :)

                    • Sooooooo novels don’t count and 137 is still over two decades younger than 158. A tiny grasshopper in comparison. 😉

                    • Some people are just so hard to please…sheesh :)

                    • That’s me! 😀

                • “The amount of ‘invisible’ computer-generated visual effects (effects that aren’t apparent to the audience) have (sic) increased dramatically over the last few years.”

                  Gimme a break. I’ve never seen a CGI effect that WASN’T apparent. If you want a prime example of CGI’s inherent inferiority, compare Abrams’ CGI Enterprise to the 8′ model Enterprise in TMP (especially the dry-dock scene). It’s like comparing a child’s scrawl to a Rembrandt.

                  • I think you misunderstood what was meant by “invisible” CGI, or I misunderstood you. I thought this meant, for example, covering tattoos or hiding other things as opposed to rendering of spacecraft, etc. while you seem to be evaluating the comment as meaning the CGI is so good that you can’t tell it’s CGI.

                    • Bub: I was referring to CGI, period — whether it’s used to render spacecraft or cover tattoos (the latter being a ridiculous waste of time and money, since an on-set makeup artist could easily do the job in a matter of minutes or even seconds, depending on the tattoo — and it wouldn’t be detectable.)

                      Take a look at the CGI rendering of San Francisco, above. It’s terrible. The manufactured ambient light isn’t even close to natural daylight. Further, the CGI “artist” has rendered glints of sunlight on various skyscrapers, yet added none to SF Bay in the background — which, if you’ll notice, has zero texture at all. And the distance between the Trans America building (the pyramid-shaped building, which exists in real life) and the Golden Gate Bridge is way, way off — I know, because I live in San Francisco and see both structures every day.

                      As much as I love cinematic science fiction, I can’t stand CGI because it is so incredibly, unfathomably lame, and wholly unconvincing. Yet, studios view it as cost-effective. To me, it sacrifices the integrity of the story that’s being told, because each CGI shot reminds me that the filmmakers were too lazy to do their jobs.

                      Real filmmakers don’t use CGI.

              • I see a lot of people pushing the infiltration idea at AICN and so far they haven’t done a very good job of impressing me with it.

            • Yes, they were “infected” according to the Klingons, because the augmented DNA that the original experiments used was actually human DNA, not Klingon DNA. So the loss of ridges was a backfire due to augmented human DNA infecting the Klingons as an airborne virus. This is after they had been working on augmentation for some time to develop the airborn aspect to spreading augmentation

          • @ Gurdian.

            YOU SIR..GO SIT IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM….And do not even think about that!


            • @Jeff W, Haha sorry, can’t stop my mind from thinking about the different possibilities.

        • The ridged Klingon is stil the norm, the virus-induced ridgeless mutation the exception.

          • In the preview before the hobbit, Benedict’s character offered to cure a sick child, maybe manipulating genetics is part of it and he’s Klingons and oh my god I’m so excited. I really just have been super curious as how they’re going to portray Klingons in the movies now, and the whole way they’ve tried to explain away the differences in TOS and the rest of the series is great material for a movie!

        • @WolvoMS

          And you would be correct. It was augment that led to a disease that inflicted all Klingons.

          Most Notable, Kang, Koloth and Kor. Who were agumented and then got their ridges back.

  2. I just hope that the IMAX format will not be carried over to the home release. Those aspect ratio changes in Tron Legacy and The Dark Knight are a distraction at best and more often a big annoyance.

    • In your opinion, yes. In mine, no. I have a 55 inch plasma screen TV that shows IMAX footage beautifully. Also I love the increase in quality and clarity that accompanies the aspect ratio change. I’d rather have the shifting ratio rather than not have the IMAX footage at all.

      • Well, the right thing to do would be making these scenes optional
        with branching. That way the viewer could choose whether he wants to see the full format IMAX scenes or cropped scenes that stay in line with the aspect ratio of the rest of the movie, and everybody would be happy.

        • I agree–I was getting annoyed by the DKR constantly flipping back and forth between aspect ratios every few minutes. People I was watching it with thought there was something wrong with the video

  3. This is a bit ironic, detailing the enhancements to communicators that were beyond the cutting edge in the 60s and in many ways are outpaced by cellphones now.
    Thanks, in part, to Star Trek.
    The 60s look of which is being referenced more in the newer movie.
    Head asplode.

    I suppose a “completely outrageous take” on a future city would be Blade Runner’s Los Angeles of 2019, but a city like that would actually make more sense in the Trek universe of a few hundred years from now, with anti-grav craft making the Vulcan chessboard verticality of it more practical. Blade Runner references Metropolis to an extent, which had airships. The point on the Empire State Building was a blimp dock, until that proved untenable due to wind.
    I like the look of Coruscant from Star Wars, so it’s fine with me if they “replicate” that.

  4. The good news is that we might be figuring out a bit more about the movie when the prequel comic Countdown to Darkness is released next month

  5. Mesh added to the communicator demonstrates
    a level of attention to detail focused on this film.
    One has to be impressed with the respect given
    to the Star Trek heritage and lore of the series.

    Fascinating breakdown of what is happening with
    this production on all fronts here at Screen Rant.
    As a fan of Star Trek it is all much appreciated.

    And it was great to see your name below the title, Vic.

    • Roses are red
      Violets are blue
      The first one was silly
      And this will be too

      • The lot was cast and then you drew
        And Fortune said it should not be you

    • Also advanced technology brought from the future by future Spock. The federation should have an advantage against all enemies.

      • Excellent point, John. The altered timeline
        approach affords just such opportunities.

  6. “‘Future Earth,’ they tried to make it look more like a natural evolution of a city..”

    That’s beautiful, they’re truly keeping the original element of Star Trek; to present a possible futuristic setting.

    I saw the 9min video before “The Hobbit” yesterday and right down to the cars and facilities (a hospital), they did a very good job presenting a possible future of technology.

  7. When would Klingons ever wear a helmet?…they are proud of their battle scars. Once again, and not to my surprise, people blab “the producers/so much respect for previous Trek/blah blah blah”, and yet, we have a Klingon wearing a helmet to keep his pretty face from getting owies amongst other significant irritations. Respect for previous Trek my butt. I HATE this Star Trek reboot trash. Make up your own stories and stop trying to erase Roddenberry’s genius and replace them with your own rip-off version.

    • Yes,Spoken like a true Klingon warrior would think like in Star Trek.I hate these rebots,For example as mentioned these Klingons wouldn’t wear helmets at this time in their history and changing up and disrespecting the canon Jean Roddenberry laid down is beginning to turn me off to Star Trek, so I wouldn’t see the movie or any further spin offs if this charlton rip off stuff doesn’t stop.

    • I suspect the helmets can be explained thusly: Harrison has forged an alliance with the Klingons, and in the film’s climax, Kirk, Spock, and Uhura fight Harrison’s Klingons hand to hand, defeat them, and steal their coats and helmets so as to pass as said Klingons and infiltrate Harrison’s lair — which makes the helmets a contrived storytelling device at the expense of canon. But hey, we’re talking about J.J. “What’s Canon?” Abrams here.

      Whether or not my guess is right, I agree with you: this is “Star Trek” in name only — a cynically dumbed-down exploitation of Roddenberry’s vision, designed to appeal to a generation of post-literate moviegoers by replacing Roddenberry’s thoughtfulness with explosions, lens flares (WTF?), and action for action’s sake. Could someone please set the transporter for deep space and shove Abrams into it?

  8. Bless you for taking a few minutes to publish this. I do believe that there are more desirable solutions.