Way, way back in the footloose and fancy-free year of 2001, fellow Star Trek visual effects alum Rob Bonchune and I created renderings for a book called “Starship Spotter,” a guidebook to the magnificent flying machines of the Trek universe. We were both CG Supervisors on Voyager at the time and used the actual computer models from the various Trek series to liven up the book with all sort of tasty imagery.
Each ship featured a two-page, full color rendering, accompanied by a black and white wireframe image and technical specifications (painstakingly researched and deduced by Trek mega-sleuths Jon Lane & Alex Rosenzweig).
As you can see from the reviews on Amazon, the book had a lukewarm reception for largely two reasons: print quality and that damn fold down the middle! When Rob and I first saw final copies of the book, we were just as surprised as anyone by the dark, murky images on display – they sure didn’t look like that on our screens! Sadly, that had to be chalked up to a learning experience we shared with Pocket Books: images on a computer monitor look very different when they end up in print.
As far as the spine of the book providing a lovely fold down the middle of every ship, it was an issue that just didn’t become apparent until we actually had the book in our hands, opened it up and went, “uh oh.” We were bummed and wished we could have personally provided new & better renders for everyone who bought the book! As fans ourselves, we totally understood people’s frustration and disappointment. It was with a heavy heart that we went on our all-expenses paid, world-wide book signing tour, dodging groupies and covergirls every step of the way (or did we just hitch-hike to a Star Trek convention in Jersey? I really can’t remember).
In any case, I was sifting through the cavernous archives here at the Mojoplex and ran across something I had totally forgotten about – the “long lost” color wireframe renders from the Starship Spotter Sessions. I think it was just after we submitted our final images that I was monkeying around with Lightwave (our 3D animation software) and found a neat way to combine the look of wireframe and color, shaded renders. The results looked something like this:
Pretty cool, huh? It almost looks like the hull plating has been removed and you’re just seeing the super-structure and inner workings of the ship. In reality what you’re looking at are the rendered edges-only of the forward facing polygons of the model, but by rendering in a “realistic” mode (wireframes are usually done in a special “wireframe” mode), you retain color information and the shading from lights!
Rob and I both got very excited by what looked like a hi-tech “cutaway” render and quickly got on the phone to Pocket Books, asking if we could redo all the wireframes like this and resubmit them. Sadly, the deadline that had just passed was the real, true, seriously-this-time deadline (unlike the other five we had missed) so it was just too late. Still, I was having fun with my “new toy” for rendering these ships so I went ahead and did a bunch of them, just because.
So here they are, the never-before-seen Starship Spotter color wireframes. Feel free to download and drool over them and, if you’re one of the fans who bought the book and were let down, I hope that in some small way this can make it up to you.
[note that if you click on these images, they will be displayed in super hi-res: suitable for wallpaper, printing, or sticking your nose up against the screen so you can tell us how the anti-matter reactor is in the wrong place]
Maybe one of these days we’ll get around to doing something like this for Battlestar Galactica. Anyone interested? Leave a comment!