25
Apr
09

sci-ficandy: stan lee says…

excelsiordm_poster

As we get closer and closer to the rebirth of our beloved Star Trek (two weeks and counting), I can detect the early stages of an illness, slowly brewing inside me.  But this particular viral strain does not manifest itself through elevated temperature, cold sweats or even a mild cough; no, the symptoms of this pesky bug can be far worse – in the past week alone, I’ve found myself dusting off a Phaser, replacing the batteries in an old Communicator toy and, believe it or not, actually watching episodes of Enterprise  (just to see if there were any good ones).   Try as I might, calls to 911 have proved fruitless – even the most skilled EMT on earth can’t do a thing for a patient exhibiting the signs of Star Trek Fever

It was only a few short weeks ago that I firmly stood my ground that this new movie was going to suck.  The pretty-boy cast, the Apple store bridge and JJ Abrams bragging about the “powerhouse writing team of MI:3  and Transformers” were just a few of the reasons I felt we were in for little more than two hours of action movie cliches and mindless visual effects.

But then there was the surprise “Wrath of Khan” showing in Texas; that surprised me big time.  Studios simply do not have public screenings a month in advance unless they are sure they have a winner.  And to an audience of die-hard Trek  fans?  That takes a serious pair of transparent aluminum balls.

Now the mainstream press reviews are trickling in and they have been overwhelmingly positive.   Have Paramount pulled a fast one on us?  Did they manage to very carefully plant the seeds of lowered expectations, only now to watch us gasp in awe as a towering tree of almighty Star Trek  springs from the ground?

Whatever the outcome, for the first time I’m letting myself get excited.  Maybe I’ll regret it but, for now, it’s fun to be an optomistic Star Trek  fan again!

To commemorate this auspicious occasion, I’ve rendered up a new image of the USS Excelsior, in a handy wallpaper size format for all of you who are in dire need of new starship porn:

 excelsiordm_20091

 

 This render is of a never-before-seen model created by Lightwave guru Ed Giddings (click here to see more of his handiwork).  A few years back, when I was working on a Star Trek  book for Simon & Schuster, I hired Ed to help out with modeling chores.  The CGI Excelsior model we had used on DS9 wasn’t very detailed, so I asked Ed to create a new one.  Armed with a ton of reference photos of the physical model, he went to work, sending me daily progress images, upon which I would scribble notes and make suggestions (click below to see a few examples of how merciless I was):

 

exc-notes1

 

notes-picture2

 

After a few weeks, Ed put the finishing touches on what is easily the best CG model of the Excelsior to date, matching the studio model rivet by rivet.

So please, enjoy the fruits of his labor and my current Star Trek-induced fever.  Who knows, if enough people ask, maybe I’ll keep posting new renders of Trek  ships.  Leave your requests in the comments section, keep your fingers crossed and remember to live long and prosper!

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38 Responses to “sci-ficandy: stan lee says…”


  1. 1 Dave C
    April 25, 2009 at 5:08 am

    Wow, that certainly is a beaut. I’d be more than willing to see more ships given the treatment you gave Excelsior there ;)

    As for the new Trek movie? Being Privileged enough to see it at the UK Premiere, you have nothing to worry about. The movie is a blast, and I loved every second of it. Yes, it is on a much grander scale than any of the previous films but the essence of Trek remains.

    It feels an awful lot like Deep Space Nine truth be told…

  2. 2 ety3
    April 25, 2009 at 5:44 am

    Very nice stuff, as always. I enjoyed your book despite the “gutter” which sucked up a decent percentage of the pictures.

    Requests … hmmm. I’m always game for more TOS 1701. A K’t’inga-class battlecruiser would be nice. I’d love to see some DS9 coolness (my favorite modern Trek series always seems to get short shrift). How about the Ambassador-class starship? That’s one we haven’t seen much of.

  3. 3 Centurion005
    April 25, 2009 at 6:12 am

    I know your not all about BSG.But here is a couple of things The new movie looks like its heavly inspired by bsg. Especially the enterprise hallway which looks suspiciously like the Galactica’s. An interesting fact. If you put the Galactica and and any Enterprise side by side. The Galactica dwarfs them all! The Enterprise is tiny in comparison.

    Also another trek/bsg goodie.
    Its a schematic I found of a trekified Galactica.

    http://www.scifi-meshes.com/forums/2d-gallery/36923-battlestar-class-u-s-s-galactica-schematics.html

    and

    http://www.scifi-meshes.com/forums/2d-wips/42-u-s-s-galactica-battlestar-class.html

    You have to freely register to the forum to see the pics.
    Mabey someone will make a 3d model of it?

  4. 4 MaxDefiant
    April 25, 2009 at 6:24 am

    I for one would love to see more render’s of past beauties like the excelsior. The only thing I would ask is that you save out your wallpaper size JPEGs at a higher quality and a couple different sizes. I loved the shots of the excelsior class ship and Defiant in the DS9 episode where they were hunting Eddington. Which excelsior model was that? Oh, and you were right to be merciless on him! :-)

  5. April 25, 2009 at 8:41 am

    I have to admit, without a comparison pic I don’t see the problem at point 8. But whatever process you and Ed used, that end result was well worth it.

    If you’ll excuse me, I need to go find my lower jaw. ;)

  6. 6 Buckaroohawk
    April 25, 2009 at 9:37 am

    More Trek rendered images? Hmmm…let me think. Yes, Please!!!
    And while we’re on the subject, more BSG stuff would be okay, too.
    Heck, I’ll look at CGI renders of Space: 1999 and/or Buck Rogers, for that matter.
    It don’t matter to me.

    By the way, glad you seem to be recovering well from your surgery. I hope you’re feeling okay.

    And there is no cure for Star Trek Fever. I caught it in 1972 and have never recovered.

  7. 7 Martin Fisher
    April 25, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Pretty please, can I see more pics of the Enterprise refit from the the first 6 movies. It’s still the best of all the Enterprise designs and a timeless ship. And a couple of the Enterprise-E would be nice as well :) Thanks!

  8. 8 Dan
    April 25, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I sincerely hope that the movie is done well. The trailer seemed somewhat devoid of the maturity and soul that characterizes the best of Trek. But trailers can be misleading and I will keep an open mind.

    Even if it comes out very badly, it won’t be as bad as the epic fail that was the BSG finale. It is T+1 month and I am still bitter about the ridiculous let’s-all-live-like-cavemen ending. No matter what mistakes JJ Abrams may make, he won’t do anything that dumb.

  9. 10 spiffariffic
    April 25, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    The Excelsior is easily my favorite Trek ship and that model of her is amazing. All I ask is a few more shots of such a beautiful ship.

  10. 11 Andric
    April 25, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Wow, this is beautiful. Definitely keep posting new renders of ST ships! BSG ships, too ;) Personally, I’m a big fan of TMP era ships… Constitution class, Miranda Class…. just love those designs. As an aspiring 3D artist, these kinds of posts make me salivate. Give me your knowledge, Mojo!

    I, too, have been a long-time skeptic about the new ST film…. But after recently getting hooked on Lost, and after seeing the trailers, I think maybe Abrams & Co. can pull it off. I’m totally stoked.

  11. 12 Fred M.
    April 25, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    One ship design renders in existence from Trek is the Ambassador class (1701-C type). Always loved that design for some reason but rarely got any solid glimpses after Yesterday’s Enterprise.

  12. 13 Maurice Molyneaux
    April 26, 2009 at 3:06 am

    Andrew Timson: The thing I see that the number of the rings in the grid doesn’t match the physical model, which is probably what 8 was.

  13. April 26, 2009 at 3:42 am

    Thanks Mojo, I’ve been looking for a trek related desktop, how timely

    in other news, my arms hurt from carrying lots of milk.

  14. April 26, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Seeing fans who were more skeptical than I was coming out of screenings of the new movie saying it’s better than TWoK is extremely encouraging. About a year ago I was really worried, now I’m jumping up and down with excitement. I just hope that if they do a sequel (seems pretty likely) they think a lot harder about some of the design decisions. Regardless of its place within Trek canon and whatnot, I just don’t think the Enterprise looks very good and neither does the bridge. Probably wishful thinking but I hope it gets a refit.

    Also, if they do a sequel it MUST be called “Star Trek 12: So Very Tired” and have Scotty struggling to reach the controls.

    Render-wise, I’d love to see an aft/underside view of the Akira. A new model was built for that as well, wasn’t it?

  15. April 26, 2009 at 8:54 am

    I was fortunate to be at the now-legendary unofficial, surprise Austin premiere of STAR TREK (disclosure: I’m co-founder of Fantastic Fest, which co-sponsored/presented), and would be more than happy to trade answers to any questions about the film for more Star Trek ship renders! ;-) More Excelsior, Ambassador, and Constitution-refit hi-res desktop renders would be awesome and appreciated.

  16. 17 LordZeus
    April 26, 2009 at 10:28 am

    One thing that I didnt like what they did with the Federation ships in startrek is have the bridge in an exposed point at the top. Once the shields are down all an enemy ship would need to do is blow up the bridge to disable the entire ship.I prefer what they did for the Galactica which had the bridge/cic be but deep within the ship so it would be extremely difficult to hit.

  17. 18 Snafu
    April 26, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Huh… Watching that last picture… Did Starfleet engineers really put the saucer section’s top strobe light just in front of the observation lounge windows?

    A couple of things:

    As much as I love the Excelsior, there is something about her textures I’ve always found troubling: while the Enterprise and the Reliant’s aztecs look really orderly and fine, Excelsior’s read as too broken or dirty. The different shapes one sees are too random and sort of careless (see the ones in the blue/gray areas around the bridge: they look like chipped off paint instead of any sort of rational pattern). This is even far worse in the Enterprise-E’s. Could that be due to budgets and available time to do the paintjob at the time of their debuts (as per Cinefex, The E-E final design arrived somewhat late to the ILMers)?

    About running lights and so: when creating them in the computer, do you place the light sources where they would naturally be, or do you create a set of light sources around the ship to create the effect? I ask this because ST:TMP’s Enterprise’s self-illumination, specially at the saucer section, always looked fuller and less “gradienty” than what we got to see in the CG ships for the different Trek series.

    Anyway: absolutely looking forward to watching the new Trek movie (knowing my country, Spaim, it will last two weeks at the cinema at most. Trekkies/Trekkers are an endangered species here nowadays :). And mightily interested in seeing what ILM did after all these years off the franchise.

  18. 19 Dan H
    April 26, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Mojo,

    I don’t care what universe you decide to play with (BSG, ST, B5, seaQuest, whatever), just PLEASE more porn like what you posted above.

    Please?

  19. 21 darthmojo
    April 27, 2009 at 12:56 am

    CENTURION: I’d love to see the BSG-style Star Trek ship you linked to, but the images are only available to members of the site. Can you find a link to an image that ordinary people can access?

    DAVE C: I’m glad you liked the movie, I’m VERY curious to see how to all comes together. Most of JJ Abrham’s comments have left me puzzled and nothing in the trailers has made me think they were on the right path, so it’s going to be a huge surprise to see how the final product is so different from the impression I’ve gotten. I mean come on, JJ has been saying how much he always prefered STAR WARS to STAR TREK so he was going to try and make TREK more like STAR WARS by giving it more special effects. How can anyone be expected to have faith with stuff like that being said? And for me, the bottom line has been the writers – they guys who wrote MI3 and TRANSFORMERS? Do these movies showcase the kind of talent needed to tell an intelligent, character-driven film? My prediction was that this new movie would be entertaining, but not good; it would be a standard, sci-fi action adventure, but not good STAR TREK. But everything I’m hearing points towards me being wrong, and I would SO love to be wrong about this one!

    MAX: I think over the next two weeks you guys will be seeing a lot more TREK renders. What can I say, I’m in the mood! I’m not sure which DS9 episode you are referring to, but as far as I know there was only one CG model of the Excelsior used in the series. However, it is possible that the episode you’re talking about made use of the physical model; how can you tell? The easiest way is to figure out if the episode was before or after “Sacrafice of Angels;” This show was the turning point for Star Trek – after “SOA,” the TREK producers insisted that all visual effects from that point forward were required to be CGI. Most spaceship shots before “SOA” on DS9 were model shots.

    DAN: I hope you’re right! I agree with your comments about the TREK trailer but, as you said, sometimes trailers can be misleading. My favorite case in point is FIGHT CLUB. The trailers for that movie made it look like nothing more than a lowest-common-denomenator movie about tough guys beating each other up. Obviously the film turned out to be far more interesting and mature, but the studios WANTED people to think it was just a fun action movie. Hopefully that’s what’s happening with TREK!

    SPIFF: I’ll see what I can do.

    JPEARSE: Yes, the AKira is definitely a fan favorite. I have the model ILM sent us after “First Contact,” and we used it in several VOYAGER episodes, most notable “Message In A Bottle” if I remember correctly. It’s not super detailed, but I’ll see if I can throw together some renders of that and the other “First Contact” ships ILM invented for the movie.

    SNAFU: I agree about the less than spectacular shift in the nature of the aztek patterns… I think it was a case of change for the sake of change, not necessarily because they were making it better. Personally, I think if JJ really wanted to make people happy, the Enterprise for this new film would just be the refit from ST:TMP and call it a day. Fans (for the most part) universally agree this is simply the best version of the ship ever put on film – everything after that was simply change for the sake of wanting to make a new ship.

    DAN: Right, more porn. Gotcha.

  20. 22 Snafu
    April 27, 2009 at 5:46 am

    In a way, what’s most promising of having Abrams and co. at the helm is the chance of them becoming the new Nicholas Meyer, who was another outsider.

    We were promised something like that with ST:Nemesis, what with getting the Gladiator guy, money and things, but it seems any originality was heavily watered down by Team Paramount and the very weight of TNG’s lore. This clean break (with TrekVerse backup copy) probably was the only way for any newcomer to exercise his vision to the full.

  21. 23 doubleofive
    April 27, 2009 at 5:51 am

    Perfect. I can’t wait for more Trek renders!

  22. 24 Boris
    April 27, 2009 at 7:53 am

    If you get around to opening the CG models from FC (Akira, Steamrunner, Sabre), could you please remember to write down their ship lengths? Alex Jaeger never worked out the exact numbers, Doug Drexler only has a rough size comparison chart in the Encyclopedia, and David Stipes’ VFX numbers are way too low (see, it’s not like I didn’t try). Since you say the models are actually from ILM, as opposed to having been recreated for SOA, they might contain the most authentic data, assuming they were built to real world.

  23. 25 MaxDefiant
    April 27, 2009 at 8:43 am

    The episode was ‘For the Uniform’ which was Season 5, Episode 13 so it was before SOA. Yeah, I thought it looked great for a CG model… Hhahaa no wonder, it was the physical model! The Defiant also looks great in that epsiode cause they hadn’t switched over to the flawed CG Defiants.

  24. 26 Jonathan Burke (TrekBBS' Praetor)
    April 27, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Beau-tay-ful! :D

  25. April 27, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    For those of you who don’t want to register, here’s a copy of that Star Trek – Battlestar mash-up picture:

    -Brian

  26. 28 Boris
    April 28, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Note that VisionArt had created the occassional non-LightWave CG shot before SOA, while Gary Hutzel continued to shoot miniatures after SOA, until the end of season six or so (“One Little Ship” is a good example), so it’s a little more complicated. I did a lot of research into this, so I can usually tell; without more investigation, I’m not 100% sure that the Excelsior in “For the Uniform” was a model, but it would be more likely.

  27. 29 roycommi
    April 28, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Awesome render! More so than the render i really enjoy seeing the process you guys used to design the excelsior cgi model. Its cool to kind of see the back and forth from the couple of pics that you posted. Great post and am looking forward to more :-D

  28. 30 Epsilon
    April 28, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Thrilled with this render, as Excelsior has been a favorite since Kirk’s proclaimation “My friends… The Great Experiment”! Heck, it’s name even has become my Xbox Live Gamertag how may years later??? (Excelsior2000).

    I’d love to get a render of the Excelsior with the Refit, and if I still was a Lightwave junkie, I would have probably made a side by side flying towards the camera (think the opposite of the shot that ends ST6).

    But… I never had access to the “real deal”…

    Get better, Mojo! Hope everything’s going well since the operation! :)

  29. April 29, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Hell yeah keep posting…

  30. 32 Snafu
    April 29, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Wow! That Starfleetstar Galactica is… is… supercute in a Charlie Brown’d TNG cast drawing kind of way, if you know what I mean :)

  31. 33 earthclanbootstrap
    April 30, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Thanks much Mojo, you just made my day! That is an absolutely gorgeous rendering of Excelsior; I’ve always thought that it was somehow the most… graceful, i guess, of the Starfleet vessels. It’s always looked as much a sculpture as a starship to me. If anything, I’d love to see a few more of her, but I don’t want to seem greedy!

    As far as the new film goes, I’m not going to judge without having seen it, but I can’t help but be a little bit skeptical. J.J. Abrams offhand comments have struck me, as well, as a little off-putting, some of the history scrambling they’ve done in this alternate timeline strike me as ill-conceived and I really just flat out don’t like the design of the Enterprise. But- the proof will be in the pudding -who knows maybe it’s so great that it overcomes all my doubts…

  32. 34 Judd Sandage
    May 5, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    well, I would love to see a higher gualtiy version of this render, use the little slider when saving and move it twords the 9, remove some of the nasty jpeg artifacts, and a 1920×1200 render would be nice as well, for those of use that have a 24inch display. all in all my fav ships are as follows,

    1 NCC-1701 Refit/A still the best as far as I am concerned, its the Enterprise I grew up with.
    2 NCC-1701-C never had enough screen time and it was the original design for the D anyways
    3 NCC-1864 mostly because of TWOK and it seems to have been a popular ship even in TNG(for
    those that don’t know its the Reliant)
    4 NX-2000/NCC-2000 as the other guy said its a classy ship, almost like a sculpture. don’t get
    me started on the Enterprise B, they added crap to it, made it UGLY!!! no thank you
    5 Klingon Bird of Prey…. nuff said
    6 Romulan D’deridex class, its just got that imposing huge look to it.

  33. May 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Hey, I’ve seen the movie today – and it’s great! IMHO one of the best of the series. Not as good as Star Trek VI, but close to II.

    :-))

  34. 36 adallahq
    May 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Starship porn indeed!

    Man what a fantastic render and model of the Excelsior! It is along with the Enterprise-D my absolute favorite Trek ship.

    Thanx so much for that!

    I enjoy any and all ships you throw at us Mojo. Honestly everytime you post a new render it’s like taking a peek into the secret world of CGI Masters.

    Btw, not specifically related to Star Trek, but a more general request. I’d absolutely love to see more insights into the pro CG pipeline and techniques.

    For example, I’d love to see a shot breakdown of Battlestar. I remember seeing it somewhere on the world wide webs at one point, basically explaining through the use of 4 images the process from previz to final comp.

    Things such as are the explosions done in LightWave? Or are they comped in Fusion afterwards? How lighting is used with explosions, how lighting is used in general for the shots, insight into models and their various levels of detail, camera and animation shot design etc.

    Just an article explaining how a shot was done from Modeling to shading/texturing, lighting, animating, comping and render management.

    I’ve loved those types of articles of yours on this blog the most.

    But, of course, it goes unsaid that we love every render you post here, whether Trek, BSG or anything else that flies :)

    Adalla

  35. 37 Fubamushu
    May 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Ridiculously awesome.

  36. 38 R.J.Minnes
    April 11, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Okay a very, very belated reaction to this post, but I just found it…Mojo said:

    [qoute]Yes, the AKira is definitely a fan favorite. I have the model ILM sent us after “First Contact,” and we used it in several VOYAGER episodes, most notable “Message In A Bottle” if I remember correctly. It’s not super detailed, but I’ll see if I can throw together some renders of that and the other “First Contact” ships ILM invented for the movie.[quote]

    If you have those ILM-files you will be a giant amongst men, if by any chance you have the “Norway” files too, many trekkers will go absolutely apeshit, and you will be a god amongst men…


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