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

Starship rising from the ocean in Star Trek into Darkness

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 as it appears in Star Trek into Darkness

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

A Klingon from the new Star Trek reboot

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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