(written from a Production point of view)
Introduced in Star Trek: First Contact, there have been a number of studio models for the Sovereign-class, in the form of the USS Enterprise-E, with surprisingly more make-overs than its limited number of appearances should have justified. Apart from a few specialty models, and subject to an almost continuous refining process of the design, there were also no less than three CGI models constructed of this class, in addition to the build of a physical studio model.
The Sovereign-class starship was designed by John Eaves under final supervision of Herman Zimmerman. While working in the art department of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in August 1995, Zimmermann stopped by Eaves' office and told him, "We're going to start work on a new movie soon. I haven't got a script yet, but we're going to need a new Enterprise. I need some sketches as soon as you can." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 11, p. 43)
Starting designing from his own perspective that the new ship should have a sleek appearance, Eaves was stymied enough at first to pay a visit to Rick Sternbach who had just finished designing the Intrepid-class.
"It was really funny to see how similar the two ships were, in the rough sketches. We thought, 'Wow, this is a nice direction to go-the new Federation design, from Voyager to the Enterprise-E.' I finally asked Rick, 'What does it take to get one of these ships approved? What are the steps? I know design has a lot to do with it, but what other particulars do I need to know?' Well, Rick reached into his desk, pulled out a huge file and threw it atop his desk. It was about two hundred drawings thick! 'This,' he said, 'is what it took get the Voyager approved'. And he opened up the file and showed me sketch after beautiful sketch, each with subtle changes, so that I could see how the shape began, the evolved into the final product. On top of it all, he'd made a little booklet that included the breakdown: all the decks, what the ship could do, how it did what it did. He even had a scale chart comparing the Voyagers's size to other Federation starships. Thanks to Rick's help, I made myself a similar packet for the Enterprise-E," Eaves remembers. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, pp. 86-87)
Imbued with confidence Eaves started to work on his design from the elongated shape of the Galaxy-class he had come up with. Not really liking the shape of the Galaxy-class and wanting it to look sleek, looking good from all angles, he was working towards a design that was evoking memories of Matt Jefferies's classic design. A major part of it was the length of the warp nacelles, "We decided this was a different engine type-faster, yet longer lived-and the longer length of the engines helped to create the desired sleekness." (Cinefex, issue 69, p. 105) Dozens of sketches later, in a process reminiscent of what Jefferies had to go through when he designed the original Enterprise, a final sketch was arrived at in January 1996 which the producers approved.
Such was Eaves' diligence (he experimented with swept forward nacelles, saucer separation and various nacelle lengths as well as alternative designs), that when he was asked after approval to come up with alternative designs, because the producers wanted to be sure they had chosen the right design (also having an early draft mention of a USS Endeavour under consideration), he was able to do so. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 11, pp. 46-50)
Physical studio models Edit
Based on Eaves' sketches, Rick Sternbach drew up detailed blueprints of the model (establishing that the Enterprise-E had 23 decks), which were sent over to Industrial Light & Magic. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, pp. 104-105) However, as production progressed on this and subsequent movies, a further need for additional physical models of the Enterprise-E was identified.
The physical filming model Edit
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Building the "hero" filming model fell to Model Project Supervisor John Goodson and his team, amongst others Chief Modelmakers Kim Smith and Jon Foreman with sub-contractor Ed Miarecki doing work on the pattern or master of the model. Patterns were made out of wood, though some of them were made out of foam, covered with fiberglass and then detailed. From the patterns castings were made that were assembled over a ½ inch aluminum plate armature, designed and constructed by Brian Dewey, in order to construct the 10½ feet studio model. (American Cinematographer, December 1996, p. 68) Eaves kept some of the closest details vague on purpose, in order to allow the "ILM"-staffers to use their own imagination. Detailed questioning however, especially concerning the mounting of the warp nacelles kept Eaves busy making detailed drawings well into spring 1996. In the end Zimmerman requested that Eaves had a small 30×9 ½ inch study model made for reference sake. Another noticeable vagueness Eaves included was the the exact function of the lighted bulge on the underside of the the saucer. Carried over to the Sternbach's blueprints were it was vaguely mentioned as "Turret location area" and onto Drexler's MSD, there identified as forward torpedo launcher assembly, and was shown as such in the movie. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, pp. 106, 97)
Lighting the model was a separate story; Not since Douglas Trumbull had the original Enterprise rigged to emulate self-illumination, had this been done on her successors, nor would it on this one. Again smart exterior lighting from outside would mimic the illusion of self-illumination. Enhancing the effects were the application of small back-lit miniatures still shots of interior sets pasted behind the windows of the model. Not being able to use this technique in the previous movie, Goodson decided to go for it this time around, "We cut sixteen-inch frames for each window, bending them to fit the curve of the hull before gluing and sanding them flush. A laser-cut plex window lens went in, backed with peel-off paper facing outward. Then, behind the plex we mounted quarter-inch-thick acrylic blocks with photographic slides and diffusion glued unto them. The internal illumination fit right behind this, giving us a little neon light-box. After the model was painted, the paper covering the windows was peeled away, revealing backlit images of actual sets, provided by Paramount." (Cinefex, issue 69, p. 105) For the larger windows on the saucer this gadget was not deemed sufficient enough. Extreme miniature sets as backdrop were constructed for these. "We filled that area of the model with tiny, micro-scale furniture, including tables and chairs," Goodson further elaborates. An arboretum, intended to be reminiscent of the refit-Enterprise was also included in the back of the saucer. It was Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll who required this level of detail, or as he has put it, "I think of the Enterprise, with all of its windows, as being like an office building at night–[the windows aren't just] a bunch of flat-lit, glowy squares, but actual rooms with detail and variations in color and texture." (American Cinematographer, December 1996, p. 68) It took Goodson's crew five months to complete the model.
Told that the model had to last the rigors of shooting for at least a couple of movies, Goodson built the model to last. As he commented, "So we built it to last. In fact it was seriously overbuilt, with four five-inch-long bolts attaching the saucer to the main body." With an armature rigged for eight mounting points, electrical plugs were installed for swift changes. "When Kim saw how close the camera would be getting to the model, she realized that even the tiniest bit of over-spray would register like a field of boulders on screen. So we had six people working on the paint job, covering sections with masking tape, trying to get it done as quickly as possible," Goodson further remembers. (Cinefex, issue 69, p. 105) Smith's hard work notwithstanding, she had to revisit her work on a small section on the ventral side of the saucer, as it was decided to use the model for close-up shots of the extra vehicular "walk-on-the-saucer" scene. Originally, it was envisioned to do the scene using a matte painting, and to this end some preliminary work on an enlarged, highly detailed matte painting for matting the backdrop into the scene had already been done. Yet, Smith's work was deemed sufficiently textured and detailed enough for the model to be used instead. (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, p. 116) Visual Effects Director of Photography Marty Rosenberg elaborated,
"The shot starts over the character's shoulders as they come over the edge of the hull and walk toward the deflector dish, which in reality would be several hundred feet away. The shot lasts 10 seconds, and the camera's pulling back the whole time. To make the shot work, we had to get really close to the model: we were probably ⅛" away, Because they're so aerodynamic, the Enterprise models have never had lots of surface detail compared to other spaceships, so we didn't get help in that way for scale. Our painter Jim [sic.] Smith, had to paint this tiny area of the model for several days to make it come close to holding up for its extreme close-up. Even so, being as close as we were, the focus barely held up. We used a tilting lensboard and a wider-angle lens than usual, the shot the deepest stop we could get, f45, and just kept it there as we racked focus. We did an extra motion-control pass wher we put down some little dots on the model to make it easier for the compositors to later match-move the actors onto the hull of the Enterprise. Even on the 10' model, the scale is relatively small: a Human figure is ⅜" tall."Footage of the extras clad in the spacesuits, were in post-productions combined with the footage of the model. (American Cinematographer, December 1996, pp. 70, 72) The scene is prominently featured as the center spread of the 2003 Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendar.
Goodson's assurances notwithstanding, the physical model, measuring 119"×49"×13", was to be used for filming purposes only once, only to appear in First Contact. For Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis, the model was sent over to the respective VFX-houses for mapping and digitizing but nothing more. In the end the model, known as Lot 107, being part of the 40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection auction, estimated at US$8,000-$12,000, was eventually sold on 5 October 2006 with a winning bid of US$100,000 (US$120,000 including buyer's premium). The buyer put the model up for sale immediately afterwards. 
Ultimately, the model ended up in the possession of noted American collector Adam Schneider, who has managed to acquire several more studio models, stemming from the auction. The model was featuered with its current owner in the 2013 documentary, FanAddicts!, Season 1, Episode 3: Star Trek.
Partial physical studio modelsEdit
For the extra vehicular scene on the saucer section in First Contact, two additional models of the deflector dish were constructed at ILM's model shop. A sixteen-inch dish was constructed for the initial shots of the dish lifting off into space, and a second, thirty-inch, dish that was photographed and detonated for its on-screen destruction. (Cinefex, issue 69, p. 116)
An enlarged saucer section was built for the ramming sequence in Star Trek Nemesis. The visual effects supervisors at Digital Domain felt that the close-up scene could only be believably conveyed on screen by physical miniatures so a 1/45 scale saucer section of the Enterprise-E was built as well as a section of the bow of the Scimitar. The eighteen-foot-long saucer was essentially an empty shelled framework covered with sprayed-on polyester bondo with a laminate aluminum foil skin patchwork underneath. The whole was covered with a thin skin of lead, chosen because the soft metal would ripple and bend back on impact. The leading section of the saucer was equipped with an underlying matrix of cardboard compartments, both intended to increase resistance of the lead on impact as well as to show, after retouching, the exposed decks of the ship as she pulls back from the impact with the Scimitar. The model, built by Michael Morgan, Ted van Dorn, and supervisor George Stevens, amongst others, took six weeks to build and weighed five hundred pounds. The model was filled with loose materials that would spill out upon impact to represent debris. The sequence was shot with a high-speed camera and in post-production digitally enhanced by adding and removing elements as well as adding the back-end of the Enterprise. (Cinefex, issue 93, pp. 107-109) 3D Integration Artist Chris Dawson remembered,"The front end of both ships were constructed in large scale and we had the Ent E race along a track to impact with the Scimitar. The Scimitar is banking. It was all very fast and we had to get the Ent as fast as we could. All shot at high-speed to help with the look of the damage when both hit. Then the back end of the ship was added with a CG model and a lot of debris was added with CG, however, a lot that was captured on film was pretty good. We were able to do the sequence three times with replacement/repaired models."  One of the saucer sections wound up as Borg debris in the debris field in the Star Trek: Enterprise second season episode, "Regeneration".
Study model, AMT models and display modelsEdit
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The study model Eaves made as a reference for the ILM modelers also served as a template for one of the golden models that wound up on screen in the display case in the observation lounge in First Contact. "For the "E", I had just finished making a big 28 inch study model for the producers here in LA and for the model guys and gals up at ILM. It was almost too big, but there was no time to sculpt another one so it had to do. Herman asked for 3 of each ship because we were now going to have the smashing of the case scene.", Eaves remembers on his blog.  Molds were taken of his study model and solid resin casts copies were made (since there were multiple takes of the scene). After smoothing out the surfaces the models were gold electroplated at ArtCraft Plating. The models were subsequently smashed when the scene was filmed. For Insurrection the procedure was more or less repeated to the same end, but this time three AMT/Ertl Star Trek model kits (No.6326) were used, solidifying the models by filling them up with resin. They were seen as display models in the observation lounge in Nemesis as a script change caused them not to be used in Insurrection. 
Eaves and the studio initially retained the models but most of them were later sold at various auctions; one was sold as part of a complete set of six in the Profiles in History Hollywood Auction 44 on 15 May 2011 as Lot 1550 for US$11,000 (for the whole set); one sold as part of a complete set of six in Profiles' The Star Trek Auction on 12 December 2001 as Lot 288, estimated at US$10,000-$12,000, again for the whole set, and another one has reportedly been sold in an on-line Sotheby's auction in October 2000. 
For First Contact, Eaves cast a fourth display model to serve as set dressing in Captain Picard's ready room. Made out of solid resin and with only moderate detailing, it was placed on a pedestal next to the entrance on the right side of the door. Ironically, in the theatrical release, only the tip of the saucer section and the shadow of the model, cast on the wall behind Commander Riker, when he discusses Starfleets' orders with Picard at the beginning of the movie, could be discerned. That particular model eventually showed up as Lot 1291 in Profiles' Hollywood Auction 40 of 10-12 June, 2010, estimated at US$3,000 – $5,0000, where it sold for US$3,500. According to the auction description, (although The Secrets of Star Trek: Insurrection – page 86 – stated it was Eaves's own original study model), the model was re-used in the same capacity for Insurrection, but, as stated, due to a late script change, no ready room scenes, though possibly produced, were featured in that movie.
Eaves' study model again would have served a purpose for Nemesis, as it was slated to appear yet again as set dressing for Picard's ready room in the feature, the previous display model apparently being overlooked. However, as Eaves' recalled:
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"Way back in 2001 a lot of the sets for Nemesis would be built and dressed for shooting a day or so before they were needed for filming. One of the biggest issues with getting sets ready for filming trouble is getting the director over to see the sets for approval, This is very true with all shows because everyone's time is spread out where there is an overwhelming amount of work on everyone's plate... Many times he wouldn't be able to show up till the day before or less and any change was a big change in the 11th hour. That's the nature of the beast and we all are on scramble mode till the last shot of the film is done!!!!
"This model is one very big example of this... a few days before the ready room was to be shot all the dressing and lighting was in place. My boss Herman Zimmerman, had me make a display model of the Enterprise-E to have as a part of the dressing. The study model built for ILM on First Contact was used again and was set in the corner of the set... The director walked in and made a hand full of small changes, he caught sight of the Enterprise model in the corner and after looking at it for a moment he turned to Herman and said in a very British accent: I think I would like to have this model CLEA-AH (clear). Herman discussed the major issues of such a request, yet Stuart was very passionate about having a clear ship so the request stood. Herman came back to the office and asked what it would take to make the ship transparent!!!!!! Yikes, I said it would take about four weeks and about $8,000. Holy Cow said Herman and off he went to pitch the heavy news. He came back and said the change was still wanted and to go ahead with making a new “E” This in return postponed being able to shoot the Ready room so other sets had to be quickly finished to fill the Ready Rooms slot. Herman asked If I could make the model but there was no way to do both the art and the model at the same time.
"Herman took the project down stairs to the FX department and the job was given to model maker Gene Rizzardi. Gene took the master pieces of the "E" model from stage and started to sand and buff the pieces smooth as glass. Special platinum rubber molds had to made to accept the clear resins needed to make the ship parts clear... Problem ensued right away with the parts sticking to the molds and the surface of the parts not curing... after multiple attempts regular RTV molds were made and seemed to work better with the resin than the Platinum molds did. Know the issue was casting parts without bubbles in the middle. After many try's Gene got some good pieces and now had to spend a great deal of time sanding and buffing the materiel to a perfect smooth and clear finish. Gene made three or four final pieces as backups, and after all was said and done I believe the models cost to be about $13,000. and took six weeks to complete [remark: which Rizzardi has confirmed ]. The model was placed on the set, filming began and in the end you can kinda see it in the far background of a couple of shots!!!!!
"As short as it was seen in the background it at least made it... The model we made for First Contact is only seen as a shadow on the wall... HAAA! HOLLYWOOD!!!!!! Anyways the behind the scenes crew worked their magic and the finished piece was spectacular..." 
Molds were taken from the study model to cast the transparent acrylic parts to create the desk top models which were used in the feature. "The clear E was made from the Study model we built for First Contact. It's about 28 inches long", Eaves stated.  One of these models was sold as Lot 7450, in the May 2008 It's A Wrap! sale and auction for US$480.00.
The CGI studio models Edit
As stated in the introduction, no less that three (or four depending on one point's of view) different, and separate official digital versions of the Sovereign-class were built for the franchise. Each of them were constructed with specific needs in mind for the respective productions they were conceived for. That there were different builds deemed necessary, was mostly due to the fact that the burgeoning new technique of CGI had not yet gravitated toward something resembling an industry standard around the turn of the millennium.
The ILM CGI version Edit
For the temporal vortex scene in First Contact the effects team originally intended to use the physical model and composite shots of it with the CG vortex. However it was felt that the CG vortex scene would better interact with a CGI model (much like what ILM had done earlier with the USS Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generations) so a digital version of the Enterprise-E was built by Larry Tan at ILM. Since the vortex effects would obscure much of the details of the ship, the model was built at a fairly low resolution. (Cinefex, issue 69, p. 110) ILM used a particle renderer software package, called RenderMan (a direct descendant of the Loren Carpenter developed "Reyes" software), to automatically create interactive lighting as well as shadowing onto the particles themselves and onto the geometry of the CGI model of the Enterprise, as she entered into the vortex. (American Cinematographer, December 1996, p. 70)
According to John Eaves the CGI model was also used in an extreme close-up, "I think one of the first big shots [wherein] you see the CG model [of the Enterprise] is when you have the Defiant being attacked, and the Enterprise flies over. I think that was one of their [ILM's] very first CG shots [in the film]." (Star Trek: First Contact (Special Edition) DVD special feature, "The Art of First Contact") If Eaves is correct in his recollection, and though counterintuitive, the close-up use of a low resolution digital model is not that much of a stretch, as motion blur in that specific shot would have obscured the lack of detail on the model in the shot. Incidentally, the battle damaged Defiant itself was in this feature a CGI model (Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, p. 123), and having the scene entirely constructed in CGI would have made sense from a production point of view.
The Insurrection CGI version Edit
For Insurrection, the producers decided to complete the transition into the digital realm and that this would be the first movie completely without the time honored motion control model photography. This meant that the first order of business was to redo the CGI model of the Enterprise-E, since ILM's version was too low resolution. Digital Muse was one of the companies who made a bid to the model and went even as far as to have a complete model(X) built by David Lombardi.  Digital Muse lost out on the bid, but a passing shot of the model was used in the teaser trailer for Star Trek Insurrection, which otherwise used recycled footage of the Enterprise-D from the previous Star Trek Generations outing for the other (combat) shots. (Cinefex, No.77, p. 75) The model itself was later featured on the covers of the 2003 Ships of the Line calendar and the 2008 Greater than the Sum novel.
Santa Barbara Studios (SBS), the effects house that won the bid for Insurrection, was very mindful of task given to them. "ILM actually released their Enterprise database to us, which was very nice of them," Effects Supervisor John Grower said. "It was very helpful in the beginning, because we had all these animatics to create. However, their Enterprise was a fairly low-resolution model, and while we originally thought, 'Maybe we can just add to this database', that process became more trouble than it was worth, so we had Viewpoint Data Labs come down and actually re-digitize the Enterprise using the original miniature." (American Cinematographer, January 1999, p. 41) Since there were many models to make in CGI for the movie, it was decided very early on that, due to time restraints, the Enterprise-E would not be modified, though Eaves had modifications in mind.
Part of the reason why Santa Barbara Studios ultimately did not make use of the ILM model was that SBS used a different CGI sotware package, Maya. ILM's Alex Jaeger has commented in this regard, "Actually ILM was using Electric Image for animation and Form-Z for the models of these ships back then." (X)
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That enabled SBS to sub-contract the digitization of the the Enterprise-E to Viewpoint. Having access to the actual studio model, the model was scanned (which was at the time a time-saving method compared to building the model in CGI from scratch) and turned into a NURB model. Viewpoint's Vice President of Production Walter Noot found the task daunting, "Jayme Olsen handled the actual digitizing of the starship miniature. That was an enormous job in itself, but then there was the issue of reconciling the digitized data with blueprints provided by Paramount. We were terrified that Trekkies would spot the slightest variance between our ship and the stage miniature seen in the previous film. If there was a bit of droopiness in the physical model, we had to forgo cleaning it up and instead make sure our CG model reflected that. Plus the ship was a compound-curve nightmare – all bevels and edges had to remain nicely rounded, no matter how close the camera got to the ship. An insane level of accuracy was involved" (Cinefex, issue 77, pp. 71-72) Senior Digital Sculptor Jason Turner headed an eight man team to transform the resulting scan data into a single NURB model, using various software packages in combination with in-house developed tools. "With a NURB model you can dial in any desired resolution level because it is mathematical, not polygonal. It simplified everything because we didn't to build two or three separate models, each with its own resolution level. And it was smooth – no faceting. The challenge with this approach was to keep the model light, because it's easy to do incredible-looking stuff that winds up killing you in the memory department. We utilized trims and blends to keep the model weight down while still retaining accuracy.", Noot continued. (Cinefex, issue 77, p. 72)
Viewpoint's model was then turned over to SBS for detailing, mapping and animation. For this SBS had dozens of close-up photos taken of the actual studio model to be mapped onto the CGI-model digitally. "We shot countless textures off the ILM miniature for the the CG model, then assign a dedicated team to the ship – an approach we tried to use for other ships in the show when possible," Grower remembers. (Cinefex, issue 77, p. 72), adding, "We shot about 50 2¼" negs of the model, then pieced them all back together on the computer and applied them to this giant wireframe of the ship. We then painted out the seams and parts that didn't match colorwise." (American Cinematographer, January 1999, p. 41) Lead Modeler Eric Saindon and Executive Producer Bruce Jones were amongst the "dedicated" team who constructed the model. Orthographic views of the SBS model were published in Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 11, p. 50. Two slight modifications were done by the CG-team of SBS, smoothing out the bottom of the captain's yacht and adding aft torpedo launchers on the lowest aft of the secondary hull (though included in the blueprints and originally intended as tractor beam emitters, it was not on the physical model), or as Eaves put it, "Being an already established starship, nothing was done to alter the main lines of what had already been seen on the screen, and careful measures where taken when we were creating the Captain's yacht out of the under-saucer torpedo launcher, so as to maintain continuity." 
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As to for the captain's yacht, eventually named Cousteau, Eaves had not taken its existence into account when he originally designed the Sovereign class, but found himself lucky when he was called upon to find a berthing place for it on his design,
"Well I'll have to tell you more about the lucky accident of this working out the way it did!!! I had just started on DS9 when we started working on First Contact and I had never seen an episode of Voyager and only two or three episodes of TNG so I didn't even know that a captains yacht was a new design element to Federation Starships. The Torpedo Launcher on the E was basically a new shape for the dome seen on the previous Enterprises and it just made for a perfect place for a main launcher, My Yacht education didn't come till we started to work on Insurrection and and looking at was on the D and Voyager it only made sense to try and manipulate that launcher area into the Yacht, The lines worked out perfectly so as much as it looks like it was intentional it was incredible luck with how the lines worked and how easy it was to make a Yacht bay out of the lower section of the launcher. had I known more earlier, the design would have happened on FC so I'm the one to blame for drafting something in after the fact." 
While John Eaves did not have the leeway to perform modifications onto the model he had in mind, he was however called upon, apart from the captain's yacht, to design a warp core ejection sequence for the Enterprise-E as specified in scene 193 of the script. Eaves dutifully complied, completing his design in April 1998, basing his ideas on a drawing Doug Drexler made, "The hazard lights would come on all around the hatch like a warning beacon. The first door is an explosive bolts, so it would blow free, and then a four-point door would open up to the chamber. Finally, the main seal would close again, and all of the plasma would escape out through the vents." Eaves, a consummate movie buff, has later clarified from where he got his inspiration, having stated, "And we have also a scene where the warp core gets ejected. So we get to redesign the entire underbelly of the Enterprise-E to have this giant warp core eject. And we had designed all the hatches, all the emergency lights, all the plasma vents, everything we needed to get that core out. And budget-wise or time-wise, the shot was never shot. You almost have a verbal description. You can see the the core out in the Briar Patch. But design-wise we'd come up with all these really unique little ways for this core to blow out, kind of heavily based on James Cameron's Aliens, when you have the big hatches open up for the Drop Ship, and you have all of these fantastic caution labels and the red spinning lights. So we tried to recreate that, that type of look. That it's a very hazardous area of the ship." (Star Trek: Insurrection (Special Edition DVD) – special feature, "The Art of Insurrection") Yet, Eaves carefully laid-out sequence was not as near enough featured as he had envisioned in the eventual depiction as shown in the feature, which solicited this remark at the time, "The shot was out yesterday, it's back in today. Who knows where it will go from there?". (The Secrets of Star Trek Insurrection, pp. 178-179) Years later, Eaves reminisced,
"One of the big story points in ST Insurrection was the ejection of the Enterprise Warp Core. It was a huge scene full of action and suspence, dramatic dialogue and awesome acting opportunities for Frakes and Burton. Well if you saw the film it didn't exactly turn out that way. This production was an odd one on a bunch of levels, mostly frustrating levels... There were a lot of "what the heck's", and "why didn’t that make it's" and "wholly cow you've got to be kidding's" and "your a bunch of giant dog scratcher's" and an awful lot of GOOGER-FLUEGGENS!!!! Anyways the task was to draw up the ejection system for the "E's" warp core. Being a HUGE fan of Ron Cobb (who I payed Homage to in these drawings) always drew the greatest escape hatches and heavy space doors for example his work in, Alien, Aliens, and The Abyss.
"For the "E" we first designated a spot on the under belly of the ship approximately where it was drawn in the cutaway poster from First Contact. Next there were to be a series of exploding hatches and 4 point retractable port doors followed by a big scene of warning lights and venting plasma. VFX wise the core would be ejected with traces of glitter and metal fragments. when we were at the screening of the film not of this had been shot and was only mentioned in anticlimactic dialog. I want to say it was budget but I know there was more behind it than that!!! HAAAAAAAAAAA! I wish I could accent this dialogue (here's a quick safety notice).
"I am not gripping if it comes across that way, as I am writing I am jokingly laughing so read it in a funny not cranky way!!! OK so from there the core itself had to be drawn and it was a quick sketch with very little feedback and was passed thru on the first pass. The fun drawing was of the exterior of the ship where I had a little extra time to do a color rendering... Doug Drexler liked this one so I gave him the original marker sketch. For point of interest, In most if not all movies and shows the design process is usually what establishes the budget, story advancement, and the pacing, many, many drawings and scenes are created and shot only to be discarded in the end. Thanks to the extras on DVD’s, the internet and blogs all of this stuff has a chance to come out of the closet." 
In 2015 Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection project manager Ben Robinson has indicated that the original model computer files of the Insurrection version were no longer in existence, due to Paramount Pictures's failure to maintain ownership over these, as well as due to Santa Barbara Studios' own demise, "Never found the CG models from Insurrection... so we're rebuilding them! Makes me feel like Dan Curry." , he explained, "I'm working on this [remark: Son'a ships for the Collection] at the moment. It's tricky because the company that made the CG - Santa Barbara Studios didn't archive them and used their own software. Nothing is impossible though and I do have perfect reference [remark: referring to renders he had received for the The Magazine years earlier]." 
The Nemesis CGI version Edit
For Nemesis, Eaves got the chance to do the modifications he had in mind. "When that model was done, we got to go out and take pictures of it and there were a lot of little areas where I thought, 'If I had to do over, I'd change a couple of things.' Our original design was a very sleek, sweet profile, but when the miniature was completed-even though the work was beautiful and looked great on film-some of that sleekness had not translated over. So when this show came up, and they were going to be making entirely new CG models, I talked to Peter Lauritson and he said, 'Go ahead and make all the chances you want'," Eaves remembers. (Cinefex, issue 93, p. 104) The Enterprise-E was slightly modified to make her look more streamlined like his original design drawings intended. Extensions were added on the rear of the saucer along the inside edge of each impulse engine, which were then blended into the upper secondary hull. The warp engines were raised up by 1.3% and moved forward slightly by 3.5% (in theory making her in-universe about twelve meters shorter than before, 673 meters instead of 685 meters ), to give the ship a sleeker profile when looking at her from the side. The warp engine support pylons were also modified slightly to appear more streamlined. And the forward part of the secondary hull just under the navigational deflector dish was pulled up tighter and curvier to the dish itself.
Since the script had the Enterprise primarily attacked from behind and above, Eaves also had to design aft facing weaponry, which he had not done originally, to justify the fire exchanges. For this he added four phaser strips on the trailing edge of the warp pylons on the dorsal and ventral surfaces, a twin torpedo launcher on the saucer superstructure aft of the bridge, directly above deck 3 and a single launcher on the spine of the ventral surface above the aft shuttlebay.
Eaves further noted on the redesign:
"About this time Star Trek: The Magazine was being produced out of the UK. and they had sent over their version of the E plans for future magazine art and articles. Their art department was phenomenal with all that they did, and for the "E" they really beautifully represented all the various views of the ship. When Nemesis came along there were to be changes and detail additions to the E and the CG work was moving from Santa Barbara to Digital Domain and a whole new group of 3D and practical modellers were ready to take the reigns. With these changes came a request to alter the ship's lines a bit to bring the new ship closer to the original lines from the sketch. Approval was granted, but was to be in two parts. For the E seen in the majority of the film, the drawings provided by Star Trek The Magazine were used to do the subtle line changes, with the additional weapons and launcher details added. The digital model files were provided from Santa Barbera and all was thrown into the lap of Jay Barton at Digital Domain. Jay made a fantastic model and put a beautiful and moody paint scheme on the new retro-ed E." 
The in LightWave 3D re-rendered CGI model was made up of 1.3 million polygons and 65 image maps, gleaned from newly-taken pictures of the physical studio model, essentially using the same methodology as employed for the previous movie.  Apart from Barton, Digital Modeler Randy Sharp also worked on the model. (X)
At the time of Nemesis, it was by no means certain that, that feature would be the last installment involving the TNG crew. John Eaves, operating from this assumption, had further modifications on his Enterprise-E design in mind, to wit, application of the "Aztec pattern" (the interlocking hull plate pattern on the saucer section, introduced on the refit Constitution-class Eight-foot studio model). As Eaves put it, he wanted to have
"(...) two versions of the "E" with an Aztec paint job that was designed to tie the Sovereign class starship to its predecessors, the Enterprise "A" through the "D". Way back in 2001 when we were working on all the concepts for the film, the "E" was going to be rendered in 3D by Jay Barton at Digital Domain. Nemesis offered us the chance to tweak the ship a little, and it was a great time working with Jay on all the new and extra details. At the time I could barely turn on a computer so everything I did was done on paper with pen, pencil, ink and paint. I would send over roughs to Jay and he would add on the new weaponry as the script would call for. We also were allowed to mess with the lines and dimensions of various sections of the ship and in doing so were able to make some subtle changes to areas that I wanted to fix from the original concept drawings.
"In the beginning months of production, Nemesis was going to be #10 in the film series and the 4th with the TNG crew. There was no mention that this was going to be the end of the TNG crew or the "E" so we were all working on not only the current film but what would possibly be the next film. The Enterprise-E gets hammered majorly throughout Nemesis ending with some final shots of the ship being repaired in space-dock. When my boss, Herman, and I were working on the dock and the repair views of the ship, we thought it would be cool to have the Aztec paint job be a part of the finished ship. I did one rough sketch of the aztec patterns, as well as all the new plans for the exteriors of the retro'd "E". These renderings were shelved and were waiting for the next production meeting to get approval or notes on any changes needed... The next big meeting came a few weeks later, and Herman took all the new drawings with him. When he came back he said that he didn’t think they would be needed because the rumors were that Nemesis was most likely going to be the last Trek film.
"It all was starting to gel at this point because we were already seeing used sets getting thrown away instead of being sent back to storage. It seemed odd, but the sets were beat and had been used many times before so we all thought that there would just be new things to build come the next show. Sadly, this would never happen..." 
Derivative franchise uses of the CGI models Edit
Like Lombardi's version, but unlike SBS's version, Digital Domain's CGI model was later prominently featured in and on the by the franchise licensed print publications, most notably the Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendars and their book derivatives. Incidentally, designer Eaves also made several Sovereign-class contributions to these publication, but lacking the computer skills to do so in CGI, he submitted his entries as paintings. Lombardi's version was recognizable, aside from missing the Nemesis modifications, by the fact that his model lacked the escape pod hatches on the ventral side of the secondary hull of his model, which were featured on all other models, including the original physical one. His version has been prominently featured in the 2010 reference book USS Enterprise Owners' Workshop Manual.
As the aforementioned Ben Robinson had two detailed CGI models of the Sovereign-class at his disposal for the The Official Starships Collection project, he eventually saw no need to have the Insurrection version rebuild, and both Lombardi's version (orthographic views) and Digital Domain's version (beauty shots) were prominently featured in the corresponding magazines and book of that project.
Related topics Edit
- "The Evolution of the Enterprise-E", Pamela Roller & John Eaves, Star Trek: Communicator issue 113, pp. 52-57, August/September 1997
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, May 1998
- "Behind the Scenes: Designing the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE NCC-1701-E", Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 11, pp. 43-50, March 2003
- Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 21, 2014