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Film Effects of Hollywood

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Film Effects of Hollywood, or FILM EFFECTS of Hollywood, Inc. as its proper denomination read, was a visual effects (VFX) company (in the 1960s still referred to as "special effects" or "opticals"), founded and operated by Linwood G. Dunn, which provided visual effects work for the first two seasons of the original Star Trek production, Star Trek: The Original Series.

When the production of the regular series was green-lighted in 1966, after the approval of the second Star Trek pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before", Associate Producer Robert Justman and Post-production Supervisor Edward K. Milkis, soon became aware of the fact that production of the VFX, required on a week-by-week basis, for the series, the most effects-laden television show to date, went far beyond the capacities of the company hitherto responsible for the effects, the Howard Anderson Company. In order to alleviate the work pressure on Anderson, and to keep production on track, they contracted virtually every other independent VFX house in existence at the time to also work on the show; the Westheimer Company, Van der Veer Photo Effects, Cinema Research and Film Effects of Hollywood. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 262) Dunn recalled the specifics of the contract with Desilu, "We negotiated two flat weekly fees, one for use of equipment and another for supervision. Desilu would also cover the actual cost effects production expenses such as salaries of labor personnel, and anything else actually required to get the effects shots done. I chose the personnel and Desilu paid their salaries. That way, if there were script changes or changes in design or execution of shots, that was okay because Desilu was covering all costs on a weekly basis as we went along. They could have flexibility in making changes and we didn't have to worry about about the changes making the work profitable. The only problem was that they were always late getting the sequence to us to work with, so we usually went into overtime to get the shots done in time for airing and they had to cover the overtime costs." (Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #11, p. 71)

Linwood G. Dunn shoots the 11-foot studio model Linwood G. Dunn and crew shoot the 11-foot studio model for Space Seed
Dunn filming the eleven-foot studio model at his company...
...doing the same (r) with his crew for "Space Seed"...
DY-100 and USS Enterprise studio models filmed at Film Effects of Hollywood
...which resulted in the DY-100-class and Enterprise studio models on-stage at Film Effects of Hollywood

Though Film Effects worked on a wider range of visual effects for the show, including a multitude of psychedelic light effects, often seen by the USS Enterprise's crew on the viewscreen, the most signature effects they provided were the exterior shots of the starship studio models, especially those of the Enterprise models. The company, located on North Highland Avenue, Hollywood, was more spacious and better suited to handle, in particular, the large eleven-foot model, than Anderson was. It was exactly the production of footage of the latter which was the reason why Film Effects was brought in as the second additional effects company to work on the series, starting with the eighth episode "Balance of Terror", the first episode that required extensive new footage of the eleven-foot model. Until then the series had made do with the footage already shot by Anderson, supplemented by a small amount of additional footage of the small three-foot model. Anderson, already backlogged on the visuals production for "The Corbomite Maneuver", which was still in post-production when production of "Balance of Terror" started, desperately needed the help. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, 1st. ed. , p. 205) Behind-the-scenes footage of the company's effects work was, albeit circumferentially through Lincoln Enterprises, safeguarded for posterity, especially for "Balance of Terror", "The Galileo Seven" and "Space Seed"

Virtually all exterior starship footage, especially those of the large Enterprise model seen in seasons one, after "The Corbomite Maneuver", and season two, were shot at Film Effects, stock footage of which used extensively in the third season. Notable exceptions were, the footage shot of the three-foot Enterprise model for "Tomorrow is Yesterday", and the footage shot of the Deep Space Station K-7 model for "The Trouble with Tribbles", which were done at Anderson's, not Film Effects. During this time Director of Photography Jerry Finnerman closely cooperated with Film Effects, serving, together with Milkis, as the primary liaisons between the company and Desilu. According to lore, the on a week-by-week basis hired company, was eventually released from providing effects footage for the third season due to budget cuts, the few later new starship exterior shots (such as with the new Klingon D7 class model), again done at Anderson's.

Even though Dunn has hinted at a somewhat troublesome cooperation due to studio eccentricities, the studio itself appeared to have had some serious bones to pick with Film Effects themselves, ultimately coming to a head over the course of April 1967, the pre-production stage of the second season of the Original Series. Justman reported in that month in a memo to Roddenberry, "On April 4th when we had a meeting with the fellows of Lin Dunn's outfit, we insisted at the time that they please get down to work and turn us out the 19 shots we had ordered composited on the Enterprise. There was to be no need for any further delay and the shots could be done well, because of the fact that they [Film Effects] were no longer under pressure in turning out individual shows for us." For some reason the ordered 19 Enterprise shots proved to be too much even for Film Effects as an exasperated Justman reported two weeks later to Roddenberry on a tape recording, "Today is Wednesday, April 19, 1967. Eddie Milkis and I have just returned from the cutting room where we ran two composited blue backing shots of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Don Weed from Lin Dunn's outfit had told us that he had composited four shots, but only sent two over because the other two weren't any good and he wanted to re-do them... We ran both shots in the cutting room with [film editor] John Hanley". Lamenting, Justman further elaborated in detail on what he specifically did not like about the two shots he was presented with:

"One shot was the Enterprise entering frame from Camera Left and proceeding across Frame and exiting out Camera Right. Photography on the Enterprise was fine, but there were no moving stars in the shot, so the Enterprise appeared to move through Frame very slowly. This shot will only be usable after it has been printed down a bit and some blue added so the ship does not flare. We have asked for this shot top be composited also with moving stars, so we can get an impression of much greater speed. Hopefully, the printing down of the shot will also have the effect of eliminating the Matte area, which is apparent around the Miniature.

"Now, let's go on to the other shot we saw tonight. This was a shot of the Enterprise entering from behind Camera Left and heading away from camera at a fairly good clip. There were no moving stars in this shot. The Enterprise was too light in color. It jiggled like crazy after it had entered and continued its erratic movement until it stopped in the B.G. [Background] and just hung there for a while. When questioned about this shot on the phone this evening, Don Weed said, "Well, the fault lies with the original material"! This was said to Eddie Milkis, as if we had furnished the original material and he [Weed] just went ahead and composited it because that's what he had to work with. Nothing was mentioned about the fact that he shot the original material for us. Certainly something should have been said when the original Blue Backing shot was selected as to whether it would composite correctly or not. Additionally, it struck him as a rather novel idea that there should be moving stars in the shot. Evidently, all the experience that Don Weed has accumulated during the past season has been phasered out of existence. If this is the case, he hasn't learned a thing and neither has anyone else over at Film Effects of Hollywood.

"At the present time, I am quite morose. I can see many thousands and thousands of dollars going down the drain – in addition to many days and nights of sweat and toil and heartache. I am in hopes that the balance of the 19 shots will be useable. Certainly 50% of what we saw tonight is unusable. I will have to wait until I have seen more material before I go ahead and do anything. However, if what I have seen and heard today is any indication, we would completely incompetent as film makers and creators if we continued our association with Film Effects of Hollywood."

The rather acid parting remarks Justman made bode ill for Film Effects, and Weed, the primary liaison between Desilu and Film Effects, having made himself unavailable to the studio over the following week, only served to aggravate matters as far as Justman was concerned since Weed steadfastly refused to answer urgent calls from the latter during that period. Only five days later Weed chimed in again. Justman recorded:

"Today is Monday, April 24, 1967. Don Weed showed up about 10:00 a.m. and we ran six more of the 19 shots he is compositing for us... We saw 5 of various Enterprise Fly Bys. One of the shots had some jiggle motions in it, which we shall have to cut away from, and one of the shots had a speed-up and slow-down as the ship headed left to right and exited frame. The one in which the ship exited frame can be fixed by judicious snippings of frame on its slow movement sections. None of the shots that he delivered to us had any moving stars... One of the shots has a problem with stars bleeding through the body of the ship... [Remark: an effect shortly after known as "blue-spill" in VFX cinematography] The one thing missing in the left to right Fly Bys that you will note is that the model was originally photographed and was panned in and out of frame, instead of being dollied in and out of frame [Remark: as Anderson Company had done]. This means there is no changing perspective and we have a slight loss in believability due to the fact that aside from the flashing lights there is no discernible within the model itself. When Anderson photographed the model, he dollied past it so that there was a change on the perspective between the two power pods and various other structural members of the model. This gave it an illusion of life, in that further away portions of the model moved passed us more slowly than the foreground portions of the model. One added thought. Don Weed was going to give us an estimate on how much the Opticals were going to cost on "Catspaw" by the end of last week. He took the script with him the early part of last week and was going to get a budget up on it. We haven't heard anything yet."

Transcripts of his taped recordings, no doubt shared with Roddenberry at the time, made it all but clear that Producer Justman was more than ready to say his goodbyes to Film Effects, actually effected a very short time after, as exemplified in a subsequent, otherwise undated handwritten note, which read, "Discussed all in person with Gene who agreed we should drop Lin Dunn's optical house (Hollywood Film Effects) and do business elsewhere with other optical houses that could deliver what we needed on a timely basis and a price that we could afford." (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two, pp. 18-35) Most ironically however, Justman's misgivings about Film Effects notwithstanding, no further eleven-foot Enterprise model footage was ever to be shot afterwards by any of the other effects companies, and all footage shot by Film Effects by then was yet to be used throughout the remainder of the original series' run. [1]

Film Effects of Hollywood's work on Star Trek was nevertheless nominated for an Emmy Award once, when Linwood G. Dunn was nominated in 1967 for "Individual Achievements in Cinematography", together with Darrell Anderson and Joseph Westheimer.

None of Film Effect's production staff, including Dunn himself for that matter, were ever individually credited for their contributions to The Original Series, instead being officially credited collectively under the company name.

General history Edit

Linwood Dunn, a pioneering innovator in the field of VFX, founded his company in 1946, as he found his talents in increasing demand, not only by RKO Pictures, the company he usually worked for, but by other production companies as well, and he operated his company besides his work for RKO. His company specialized in VFX and optical printing services, including adapting foreign film standards to US standards and the handling of large format films, but served as a research house as well, for the development of cinematographic equipment and techniques, including that of the optical printer, a VFX device, Dunn had developed into a practical piece of cinematographic equipment. RKO Pictures went out of business in 1957 (formally ending its existence in 1959, and with its Hollywood facility, incidentally, adjacent to the Desilu lot, both now part of the Paramount Pictures lot) and from then on Dunn exclusively operated his company, which was strengthened as Dunn managed to firstly lease RKO's special effects department, before definitely acquiring its assets when formal bankruptcy was declared two years later. Productions the company has provided VFX work for in the first two decades of its existence, included the movies Topper (1953), On the Beach (1959), Inherit the Wind (1960), the acclaimed West Side Story (1961), The Searching Eye and Kiss Me, Stupid (both 1964), In Harm's Way, The Great Race, and Ship of Fools (all three 1965), the 1966 movies The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, The Bible: In the Beginning..., and Hawaii, as well as the entire run of the television series The Forest Rangers (1963-1965).

After Star Trek the company continued to provide VFX services to Hollywood productions, such as Airport and Catch-22 (both 1970), The Devil's Rain and "Wonder Woman" (both 1975), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), and the science fiction movie The Shape of Things to Come (1979), as well as the 1978 science fiction television series Project U.F.O.. The movie Alligator (1980) was Film Effects of Hollywood's last recorded credit.

In 1985 Film Effects of Hollywood ended its existence when Linwood Dunn sold off his VFX company to Francis Ford Coppola in order to retire from active effects work. Coppola dismantled the company and utilized the production assets to revitalize his own production company, American Zoetrope. Film Effect's old location was until recently the seat of Fuji Film Motion Picture.


Staffers involved at the time with the production of Star Trek were, among others:

Further readingEdit

  • "Out-of-this-world Special Effects for 'Star Trek'", Rae Moore, American Cinematographer, October 1967, pp. 715-717
  • "Where No Show Had Gone Before", Jan Alan Henderson, American Cinematographer, January 1992, pp. 34-40
  • "Special Visual Effects", Daniel Fiebiger, Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #11, 1996, pp. 64-75

External links Edit

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