B5 flashback #1: building the central corridor

Welcome to the first Babylon Five flashback!  I served as a visual effects artist and supervisor on the series when it was with Foundation Imaging (we began work on the original pilot in 1992 and continued through the end of season three).  B5 was my “big break” and I will be digging through my archives – and memory – to bring you stories and neat stuff that has been gathering dust since…. well, since The Gathering!  For this first installment, I bring you a few photos from my personal collection.

This was taken in late June of 1992 at Santa Clarita Studios (the series was shot in North Hollywood, but Valencia was the home of the pilot).  Foundation Imaging (the visual effects facility formed to create the computer generated space scenes for the show) was a short walk from the sound stages, so I took the opportunity to document the construction of the central corridor, our biggest set.


Note the curve upwards at the end of the corridor; this was meant to simulate the curvature of the station (when the set was finished, a forced perspective painting was put at the far end to simulate the corridor continuing up and into the distance).  I think I’m the only person who grabbed any photos of the sets being constructed, so this may be the first time anyone has seen images from this early in the series’ life.

This is the very first time the set was illuminated with stage lighting; it was a basic test to make sure everything was working so the director of photography could begin tweaking it for the final look.  The pilot had a very moody, cinematic feel (note the shafts of light, a result of filling the set with smoke).  When the show was moved to North Hollywood, the main corridor’s lighting became a little more flat and sterile, mostly due to the time and budget constraints of a weekly series (more complex lighting generally takes more time to shoot).

I hope you enjoyed our first peek into B5’s past… next time we’ll take a look at a visual effects miniature (that’s right, CGI fans – a miniature) that was never used!

[Note that you can click to view and/or save these images in hi-res]

21 Responses to “B5 flashback #1: building the central corridor”

  1. May 6, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Hey Mojo –

    Thanks for starting the blog and posting the B5 stuff – I miss the viewing parties at your place!

  2. May 6, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Very nice “blast from the past” — Thanks for putting these up, Mojo. I hope you are doing well – I’m subscribed to your feed so I won’t miss any of this stuff.

    BTW do you still have a “Viva Las Vegas” room?

  3. May 6, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks Mojo! I’m was a major fanboy for B5 and still consider it the best show I ever saw (though being in my impressionable twenties might have had something to do with it.) I still lend my B5 DVDs to friends that missed it first time around and Need To See It. I enjoy BSG too, but the writing isn’t up to B5’s (IMHO) — too touchy-feely-for-no-good-reason, but still a good show…

    I look forward to more posts on B5, thanks! :)

  4. May 6, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Oh this will be excellent – It will be great personally for me to check out all this behind the scenes stuff of where – in my opinion – all the Good SF made a welcome return – B5 definitely set the standard to follow.

  5. 5 darthmojo
    May 6, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Brian: BSG is too “touchy feely?” The writing isn’t up to B5 standards? I have to admit, I do agree with you, but let me offer a suggestion: put down the DVDs of the 1978 original and start watching the NEW Galactica.

  6. 6 leprecon
    May 7, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Looking forward to more flash backs on B5 and some of the other stuff you’d been involved in. Glad to see you finally get some sort of web presence!

    Lee Whiteside

  7. 7 Byong
    May 7, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing the B5 stuff. I love the show and look forward to more posts.

  8. May 8, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Great to see this blog and the B5 archives. I hope you’ll be back to Shore Leave or Farpoint in the future.

  9. May 8, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! I have to agree with everyone here. What a sweet flashback! I still have to agree with Brian Smith. B5 will always be my #1 sci-fi show. However, BSG could have made a strong running for it, if they’d slow down the plot every now and then; take away the endless stressful seriousness; and work in one or two humorous episodes. I like BSG alot. Just the show can become too stressful to watch at times.

    Thanks for the post! This is great!

  10. 10 Geoff
    May 8, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Maybe they should get Rebo and Zooty in there to lighten things up a bit. No thanks.

  11. 11 darthmojo
    May 8, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks for the comments guys, it’s been fun dusting off my archives. I still have some neat stuff in store. I’d love to come back to Shore Leave, write them and demand it!

  12. 12 Tommy
    May 10, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    thanks so much for posting these pictures and sharing your memories. I have to agree that Babylon 5 will always be my favourite show because it’s a fluke that Joe got to tell the whole story. When Battlestar Galactica came along I honestly believed it had to pedigree to surpass B5. Unfortunately the lack of a story plan and the show meandered aimlessly once out of the safe confines of the original series story ideas has hurt the show badly. It also didn’t help having Ron Moore going off to work on a spin-off leaving the show in the hands of lesser writers… And the less said about Battlestar Iraq-tica the better.

    I’m all for character drama woven into the story plot Babylon 5 and Farscape are perfect examples of this. BSG seems to have gone too far into the characters and not enough plot. Three-dimensional characters are essential but we don’t need to see every excruciating character moment. It also wouldn’t hurt to keep the cameras still for a little while, have they ever heard of steady cam? I wouldn’t mind if it was once in a while but it every single minute of every single episode.

    Speaking of every single episode we are constantly reminded that the Cylon is have a plan at the beginning of every episode (at least up until the end of season three when I last watched). Nothing could be further from the truth and I must admit I can’t wait to see what lame idea they used to try and tie things together as if they knew what they were doing from the beginning.

    I agree the series needs its dose of humour which was provided at the beginning but has since just gone so grim and depressing. I also think they have hurt the series by not making the characters particularly likeable. Two compare with a non science fiction show “the Shield” where the lead characters do some really shady things, they are still made likeable. BSG’s just doesn’t make me care for any of them and in all honesty I couldn’t care less what happens to one fracking one of them… oh yeah Mother fracker is the daftest most awful swearword replacement I have ever heard, I grimace every time they use it. In my opinion Farscape has the best replacement vocabulary of any science-fiction TV show.

    By the way guys is there any more news on more Lost Tales?

  13. 13 darthmojo
    May 10, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Holy Frak Tommy you should frakkin’ get your own motherfrakkin blog instead of posting long, frakkin diatribes as comments!

    B5 was a great series but let’s not look at it through rose colored glasses. The overall story arc was wonderful, but if you think JMS didn’t change it as he went along you’re deluding yourself – the “one, cohesive story from start to finish” didn’t exist on B5 any more than it does on BSG. In fact JMS changed the conclusion of B5 simply because “after five years the fans deserve a happy ending.”

    And you seriously want MORE “Lost Tales?” I think most people agree that first DVD should have stayed lost.

    In fact B5 should have been over halfway through the fourth season when the PRIMARY PLOT LINE CAME TO AN END!! I’ve always joked that if JMS had written Star Wars the Death Star would have blown up 90 minutes into the movie.

    Like it or not, BSG is the best Sci-Fi since B5. Done.

  14. 14 Aj
    May 12, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Hey Mojo. Good to hear you’re doing good. Your site, of course, rocks! I still think the coolest crew jackets were the first season black levi type jackets you guys wore to Condor in San Diego during year one. Those black-sleeved letterman’s jackets that came aong later were just _wrong_. ;)

  15. 15 John Watker
    May 16, 2008 at 7:49 am

    Agreed that B5 began to run out of steam during the fifth year; but it did rebound nicely towards the end with the Centauri arc and farewell episodes. That being said, the biggest problem with B5 was that JMS got a little too self-indulgent with the dialog, a trait that is obnoxiously evident in the Lost Tales DVD. But when JMS says he had the series planned out, I believe it. He made changes, but at least they were thoughtful changes. And I did like that we got to see the fallout from the main story-arc, as opposed to a series like DS9 which ended the war in the last episode. (Not to mention Voyager, which only got home in the last 30 seconds of the final episode!)

    As for BSG, just explain to me what the point is suppose to be again? The show is a downer, and has become too predictable in it’s sense of anomie. I also can’t help but think that up until this point there’s been no direction, and that the writer’s are simply doing things ’cause they seem cool at the time. That worries me because there may be no decent payoff to any of this, as nothing seems to be planned.

    Grittiness and prurient adult situations don’t make a good show, but I suspect that these things (unheard of in television Sci-Fi for the most part) account for more of BSG’s critical appeal than actual quality. Of course, this rant is coming from a jackass who’ll be spending his Friday nights watching new episodes of Battlestar Galactica. When did I turn into one of those fans that complains out of one side of his mouth?

  16. 16 Tommy
    May 20, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Sorry I had no idea comments had to be short.

    I realise J M S made tweaks to improve the story (or necessary adjustments for the loss of certain characters ) but like John Walker said he always had an overall plan, and the only reason the 5th season wasn’t in the same league as the previous two seasons was because as we know J M S condensed the story down to fit as much as possible into series 4.

    Hell yes I seriously want more Lost Tales, the Babylon 5 universe has so much more to offer, so many stories yet to be told, mysteries to be uncovered and I think you’ll find more Babylon 5 fans’ wanting more Lost Tales, even those less than impressed with this first volume. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the Lost Tales but given its low budget I think J M S did extremely well. Sure the first tale could have been paced better and obviously needed a larger cast. Regardless it was still entertaining and had so many positives from the stunning CGI to the terrific performances by the guest stars, it was well written and wonderfully scored. The second tale was far better containing all the above positive attributes plus adding some typical Babylon 5 humour while opening up new storylines and potentially filling us in on what happened to Sheridan’s son David. Besides mediocre Babylon 5 is usually better than most contemporary sci-fi, definitely better than BSG season three but then even Stargate SG 1 series 10 creamed the once great Battlestar Galactica.

    Babylon 5 always had many threads and there were so much more than just the shadow war. To end it there without the earth Civil War after building the story arc since the first series… Ha ha you’re pulling my leg.

    Seriously though had BSG been cancelled after series 2 you could be right, it could have been the best sci-fi since Babylon 5. However I still think it pales in comparison to Farscape and as great as the first season, mini-series and parts of season 2 of BSG I rate Firefly higher.

  17. 17 James Avalos
    May 21, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Great Pictures !! I Love B5,miss that its not on the air,truly unique show !!

  18. 18 B5_Obsessed
    May 21, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Hey Mojo,

    Great segment. I noticed your rabid fandom of BSG in one of the posts above, so let me ask ya:

    There is a scene of a raider ship being taken out by the B5 defense grid in Season one of B5 that looks just like the oft-recycled Cylon raider destruction in the original BSG. Was that intentional?

  19. 19 darthmojo
    May 21, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Obsessed, congratulations on being the FIRST PERSON EVER to notice the “homage” to Galactica in the first season B5 episode “Raiding Party.” We noticed early on that, from the back, the Raider ships closely resembled Cylon Raiders. Since the B5 turrets were also an homage to the BSG design, we felt it appropriate to give a nod to Galactica and re-create the most famous stock shot in sci-fi TV history :-)

  20. 20 B5_Obsessed
    May 21, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    First ever? Really?

    To quote Dieter of SPROCKETS fame, “It has all the subtlety of a flying mallet.”

    Raider weaves diagonally across screen chased by tracer fire, blows up in upper left corner and explodes out toward the center of the screen. I noticed this back in 93, and again when the DVDs came out. I had this question passed along to jms years back and he said HE didn’t place any homage to BSG in there, so I steadfastly maintained that one of those wacky FX guys did it just for kicks.

    Congratulations on your career successes and all the great work put forth by Ron Thornton and the Foundation team over the years (his DAVE School class did a great job on New Voyages).

    Thanks for responding. I’ll be sure to check back for more B5 nostalgia.

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May 2008

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