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Studio model

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A studio model (or filming model, as it is also referred to) is a type of scale miniature used in the Star Trek live-action series and films to represent various (inanimate) objects, craft or ships. Strictly speaking, the term is applicable to all the types hereafter mentioned.

Filming model

In practice, the terms studio model and filming model (the latter of which is more relevant to this case) have been reserved for those miniatures that served as the primary models used for filming in productions. As far as repetitive productions were concerned, a further distinction was sometimes made in:

  • DY-100 and USS Enterprise studio models filmed at Film Effects of Hollywood

    "Hero" (USS Enterprise), and "Guest" model (Botany Bay) on stage at Film Effects of Hollywood

    "Hero" models – intended for regular use – represented the best miniatures, used for beauty shots and close angles. These were typically the largest, most detailed and best-made models.
  • "Guest" models – intended for unique or irregular use – were often made more simply and cheaply. In many cases, they were repainted or modified for reuse as other ships in later episodes.

In some cases, footage of a model was reused as a stock element, and simply referred to as a different ship. Time and cost considerations were the primary reason for such reuse. According to model maker Gregory Jein (in an interview appearing in TNG Season 3 DVD special features), the art department typically had three to four weeks to design and create each model, during the run of a series – sometimes less time. It should be noted that on these occasions, detailing and finishing quality of the filming models would rarely have gotten the seal of approval of professional model makers of, for example, display models for museums. Professional modeler Jason Eaton, who restored the McKinley-type studio model for the auction winner of the model, has noted in this respect, "(...)it NEVER ceases to shock me how rough some of these models are, under close scrutiny. I know they're made under impossible deadlines, but man, some of those seam lines and bubbles in the castings made me cringe, when I left things untouched... you have to match what you're making to what exists!!" [1] The practical reason for this was that in the pre-High Definition television age, a high level of quality detailing would have taken up more time, and thus more money, and was not necessary anyway, as it would not have been discernible on-screen. The build of a (hero) model during the pre-production stage of a television series (due to the larger amount of expected close-ups), or a model for a movie (due to the greater demands made of the model for big screen requirements), was a different story altogether, typically taking up considerably more time. The six-foot USS Enterprise-D model for example, took three months to build, discounting the design stage, whereas the movie Enterprise took a whopping 14 months to complete from start to finish. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 207)

Although the term "studio model" traditionally has been used to refer to physical miniatures, the advent of Computer Generated Imaging (CGI for short) in the 1990s (most notably thanks to the series Babylon 5), meant that the definition had to be expanded to include CGI models as well

Building a physical filming model

There were basically two methods of building used in the movie industry of constructing filming miniatures and both have been used in the Star Trek franchise:

  • Classical build-up method: This has been the most common way of building a studio model and has been used in the industry from its very inception, right up to the advent of CGI. Essentially, it is almost the same method as someone building a commercial model kit, starting from the inside, applying parts and details as one goes along. Traditionally, wood has been the material of choice and has been used well into the 1960s. Models could be made out of massive wood (such as the three-foot Enterprise and the D7-Class) or, if internal lighting was required, the wood was hollowed out (for instance, in the case of the secondary hull, bridge and nacelles of the eleven-foot Enterprise). New materials like plastics and fiberglass became available in the 1960s and 1970s and largely replaced wood as the premiere construction material, because they became cheaper, easier and faster to work with. Vacuum-formed parts typically were applied to an armature framework (needed for internal strength and often as a mounting point for filming), resulting in models that were lighter than if they were made out of wood. The saucer section of the eleven-foot Enterprise was the first piece constructed this way and the movie Enterprise was a complete build around an armature. Apart from producing custom-made vacuum-formed parts, parts from any and all commercially available model kits could also be applied to construct a studio model (for example, the long range shuttle and the original Borg cube). This method of building resulted in a one-of-a-kind model and has been used to produce the models for TOS and the Star Trek films.
Production of vacuum formed parts is a technique borrowed from the model kit industry. A negative mold is produced, in which heated plastic is poured. The air between the plastic and mold is sucked out to achieve a perfect fit. Once the plastic has cooled, the part, called a cast, is removed from the mold. Contrary to the model kit industry, which uses very expensive metal molds, model makers in the movie industry normally make their molds out of cheap, baked clay, since the part needed is often a one-off. An additional advantage is that details such as grid-lines can be inscribed before the mold is baked. The mold is often destroyed when the cast is removed from it.
  • Master-Mold-Cast method: This method became viable when newer composite materials started to become economically available in the late 1970s (not without risks, as several model makers would die from the chemical effects from working with these materials as attested to by several colleagues in 2011 (Sense of Scale, disc 1), early 1980s. The first stage using this method was the production of a master, sometimes also referred to as a template or as a pattern. The master was a solid rudimentary (part of the) model, typically made out of Styrofoam, clay or a combination thereof. It was then used to produce a negative mold. Contrary to the molds normally used to produce vacuum-formed parts, this mold was made out of a flexible material, like silicone rubber. Into this mold, heated material such as acrylic plastic, resin or fiberglass was poured, resulting – after cooling off – in a positive cast. These cast were then assembled, often around an aluminum armature, into a complete model. At first glance, this seemed like a more elaborate method of building a studio model, but there were distinct advantages compared to the classical method of build-up.
    • In some cases, detailing of the model could be sped up. Whereas detailing on a classical build-up could be time-consuming, detailing on a master could be quick and dirty, using everyday items like masking tape, pins, paper clips and such. If clay was used, details could be carved in. Either way, the details would be permanently imprinted onto the mold. In the case of the six-foot USS Enterprise-D model, which (together with the two-feet model) was among the first Star Trek models to be produced this way, a translucent material was used to produce the casts. The parts were painted and, where lighted windows were supposed to be, the paint was merely scraped away (or, if used, masking tape was removed after painting) to allow the internal lighting to shine through, a vastly time-saving method compared to drilling out holes, normally used up until then, when constructing a model the classic way.
    • A major advantage of this method, which was more of an issue in television productions (due to its repetitive nature), was reproducibility. Since the molds were made out of a flexible material, they could be easily and more importantly undamaged, removed from the casts and used over and over again. As the masters were usually too damaged after use, they were normally discarded but it was the molds that were to become the working capital of the model maker. They could be used to quickly produce copies and replacement parts to various ends. For example, the molds of the two-foot Enterprise-D and Enterprise-C were used to produce the Niagara-class and Freedom-class; the molds of the four-foot Enterprise-D were used to construct parts for the Nebula-class studio model, a break-away model for TNG: "Cause and Effect" and a limited, commercially available production-run of twelve for the Viacom Entertainment Store, as were the molds for the D'deridex-class, also serving for the construction of a second studio model.
The first known model-maker who employed an early variant of the method for the Star Trek franchise was Brick Price's Movie Miniatures, in constructing the abandoned Phase II Enterprise model. Price retained the molds of the model when he was pulled from the project in 1978 and has used them since, to produce several display models for the Planet Hollywood restaurant franchise in the 1990s. This method of constructing a studio model has been the method of choice of Gregory Jein and Tony Meininger, and the vast majority of models for televised Star Trek (beginning with TNG) were constructed this way. It was possible to retro-apply the method to existing models, using them as master. Molds were taken from the original D7 model for Star Trek: Phase II and from the USS Grissom model to produce the SS Vico. However, there was a realistic chance to damage the original models (it is conceivable that the repaint performed on the D7 model in 1977 was done to repair damage when the mold was removed).
Chronicle of a filming model build at Industrial Light & Magic using the Master-Mold-Cast method
Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build full-scale plans studied by Bill Concannom and Ease Owyeung Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build aluminum armature Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build master with station points USS Enterprise-D studio model master
Concannom (l) and Owyeung studying the 1:1 plans
Aluminum armature for the saucer section
Secondary hull master with plexiglass station points (ribs)
Seeds filling in the ribs of the secondary hull master with high density polyfoam
Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build primary hull master with station points filled with foam Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build master secondary hull with station points filled with clay and sanded down Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build master secondary hull details applied by Howie Weed Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build master primary hull details applied
Primary hull master filled with foam before sanding down
Secondary hull master filled with clay and sculpted down to station points
Secondary hull master detailed with masking tape by Weed
Detailing the primary hull master with masking tape
Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build master secondary hull details applied by Gregory Jein, Howie Weed, and Bill George Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build master secondary hull with coated with bondo before sanded down USS Enterprise-D studio model mold and cast Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build cast primary hull detailed by Ease Owyeung
Jein, Weed and George inscribing details onto the master of the secondary hull
Secondary hull master in stabilizing intermediate stage coated with Bondo before sanded down
Casey and Owyeung pulling off a mold from the transparent cast of the primary hull
Owyeung detailing the cast of the top primary hull
Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build cast primary hull detailed by pre-painting masking tape Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build cast primary hull with neon lighting added Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build cast primary hull with arrmature installed Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build cast secondary hull assembled by Bill Concannom
Cast (top half) primary hull applied with pre-painting masking tape
Cast (top half) primary hull endowed with neon lighting
Primary hull cast with armature installed
Concannom assembles the secondary hull casts
Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build complete assembled cast primary hull given primary coat of paint by Bill George Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build nearly completed primary hull finetuned by Bill George Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build cast secondary hull almost completed finetuned by Bill George Galaxy class USS Enterprise-D studio model build cast secondary hull almost completed finetuned by Ease Owyeung
George giving the assembled primary hull its first primer paint coat
George finetuning the nearly complete primary hull
Almost completed secondary hull finetuned by George it is by Owyeung
Galaxy-class USS Enterprise-1701-D

Costs of building a physical filming model

Usually, Hollywood production companies are loathe to divulge details on costs of productions, publicly. While aggregates are often published, details such as specific costs of, for example, studio models are not. The Star Trek franchise therein is no exception. Yet, over the years, some figures of studio model construction costs have come to light and, as happenstance had it, of arguably the three most signature vessels of the franchise, coincidentally spanning a period of twenty years plus, providing some insight into the development of technique advancement and the differences between a model for television productions or feature productions.

What does it cost to construct a physical filming model for Star Trek ?
Model Year of construction Cost in dollars 1965 adjusted[1] costs 1978 adjusted costs 1987 adjusted costs 2006 adjusted costs 2010 adjusted costs Notes
USS Enterprise 19641965 >$6,600[2] $6,600 >$13,137 >$23,375 >$41,631 >$46,125 Total costs, incl. construction and modifications, for both the three-, and eleven foot models.
refit – USS Enterprise 1978 $150,000[3] $75,362 $150,000 $266,908 $475,362
$521,616 Unclear if the costs for the abandoned Phase II model are included.
USS Enterprise-D 1987 $75,000[5] $21,177 $42,192 $75,000 $133,575
Sold for:
$146,572 Aggregated costs for both the two- and six feet studio models
  1. Dollar Times Inflation Calculator
  2. Star Trek: Communicator issue 132, 2001, pp. 51, 53
  3. The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 207
  4. Sold by the studio at the 2006 40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection auction
  5. Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p.12

Building a CGI filming model

In a remark, reminiscent of the one that Jein made in respect to physicals studio models, John Gross of Eden FX, stated that it took on average two- to four weeks to construct a new CGI studio model for an ongoing Star Trek television production. [2] For further information,

Studio model types other than filming models

Aside from the filming models that were primarily used for the actual filming of a production, there were several other types of studio models in use in the industry, constructed on occasion to specific ends.

Study model

USS Excelsior study model by Nilo Rodis as USS Alka-Selsior

Excelsior-class study model, a direction not taken...

USS Alka-Selsior

...yet still showing up on screen

A study model or concept model, as it is also sometimes referred to, is behind-the-scenes nomenclature for a rough miniature built to study how a particular design might look in three dimensions and will normally lead up to the full-fledged studio models. Study models could be extremely crude, sometimes made of illustration or foam core board, or sometimes cobbled together from found objects, or sculpted from foam or other substances. Often crudely detailed, they were not meant to be used in actual productions, but to evaluate a design from all angles, before moving forward with or scrapping the design. However, they could be detailed enough for them to occasionally end up on camera when a need arose in a pinch of having them appear in the background of a shot where their limitations would not be apparent, such as the proto-Nebula-class and the various proto-Excelsiors.

Federation Holoship study model

Scanning model of the Federation Holoship

Even in the CGI age, study models are occasionally constructed as a visual aid for designers and programmers and/or as a scanning model for digitizing. Examples were the study model built for Star Trek: First Contact of the T'Plana-Hath and the Federation holoship model and Son'a collector for Star Trek: Insurrection. Daren Dochterman elaborated in this respect, "Physical models are often built even when the final product will be CG… in some cases, it's to show producers and others the item in question in a real world context because sometimes a picture on a screen just doesn't make an impact like a real life item does... and on other occasions, it's done to give an in-house model crew something to do to justify billing the production company for it... and to maintain its existence. I'm not saying that was the case here, as I really just don't know... but when I was on the Chronicles of Riddick, we had an in-house model crew led by the great Greg Jein building models of all the ships that we were designing for 3d... the impact of having them in real life was very inspiring for both the crew, and the studio head...." [3] Jim Key added, when he wrote up an article on the making of Insurrection, "I was equally comforted by another comment that both Jim Rygiel and Carlyle Livingston made to me–essentially how they both strive to have maquettes built for pre-visualization, and the importance of study models and/or scanning models. Though many times now the finished form may be in CG, these physical representations still serve their purpose when seeking approvals, since they hide nothing and reveal nook and cranny." (Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 34, p. 31) As to underscore Key's comment, it was only when the producers were presented with the scanning model of the "Federation Holoship", that a design flaw was detected.


USS Curry

The heavily kit-bashed model, USS Curry

The term "kit-bash" is a behind-the-scenes term used to describe a ship or a station created by the production staff from already existing parts of other ship, and station studio models, and/or additional model kits (not necessarily Star Trek-related). Kit-bashing has been a common method for creating filming models in the science fiction genre, such as in the movie Alien, where they served as the hero models. In Star Trek, however, kit-bash models served primarily as (deep) background elements, the method lending itself for quick and cheap assembly when additional elements were required in a very short time.

The vast majority of ships seen in the aftermath of Battle of Wolf 359, in TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", and at the Surplus Depot Z15, in "Unification I", were kit-bashes. Among the Federation classes shown there that are designated 'kit-bashes' were the New Orleans-class, Springfield-class, Cheyenne-class and the proto-Nebula, using parts from various model kits, whereas the Freedom-class and Niagara-class were kit-bashed from parts derived from Gregory Jein, Inc.'s own, already existing production assets. Several other kit-bashes were also built for DS9: "A Time to Stand" (including the Centaur-type, Template:ShipType and Yeager-type), again using parts from model kits.

Kit-bashing has also expanded to CGI. Examples of CGI kit-bashes were the Intrepid-type and Nebula-class, which were constructed out of existing parts of the CGI-Template:ShipClass and CGI-Galaxy-class respectively. In addition to designs seen on screen, non-canon Star Trek games featured kit-bashed designs.

Breakaway model

Destroying the Saratoga

Preparing one of the breakaway models of the USS Saratoga for destruction

A breakaway model is a model specifically built for on-screen destruction. Models of this kind were typically built for destruction scenes, when it was felt that a convincing destruction could not be achieved through various procedures in post-production, like matting stock footage of explosions over shots of studio models, and when it was deemed that the master models were too valuable for destruction. Normally built at a smaller scale with lighter materials and constructed in such a way that debris would fly off easily, these models were packed with pyrotechnics to be detonated at the directors will. Normal procedure was that those models were suspended from the ceiling and that shots of them were taken by a high-speed camera directly underneath, to emulate normal dispersion of explosions. Typically, several models were made, in order to have the best shot possible. Break-away models for Star Trek included the Miranda-class (DS9: "Emissary"), the Galaxy-class ("Cause and Effect") and both versions of the Borg cube ("The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" and First Contact).

Advances in CGI have made breakaway models increasingly obsolete.

Camera test model

Typical camera test model Apollo class

A typical foam-core camera test model (Apollo class in this case)

A camera test model, also known as a pre-visualization model, is a model usually made out of cheap material like paper, cardboard, foam-core or wood, modeled after existing studio models. Detailing varied from very crude to moderate, since they were never intended to appear on-screen. They were typically used by camera teams as visual aids to set up camera shots in pre-production planning before final shooting. Advantages using test models were that the production staff did not have to handle the usually heavier filming models, or as Doug Drexler once jokingly put it, "You only pulled out the big models once you pretty much knew what you needed" [4], and that wear and tear to those models was reduced. Most of the Star Trek filming models had one or more test model counterparts. Licensed, commercially available models and model kits were known to have fulfilled this role, as well. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 148, p. 48) Examples of these were the AMT Star Trek model kits of the Template:ShipClass, two of which being sold at auction.[5] [6]

Constitution class refit landingbay camera test model

Animatics of the Guido-II and Enterprise shuttlebay in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Sovereign class Captain's Yacht Cousteau animatics deployment sequence

CGI animatics of the Cousteau deployment in Star Trek: Insurrection

A very closely related use of these models, was their use in the so-called "animatics". Animatics was a behind-the-scenes term used to denominate short clippings of footage especially shot at the behest of directors and/or visual effects supervisors for evaluation purposes. This footage was normally shot for ascertaining if storyboarded sequences, typically visual effects scenes, came across on-screen as intended. As this footage was essentially only intended for evaluation purposes, visual effects were stripped to their barest necessities, and as such physical models were only marginally required to approximate their appearances in the final production. It was in this specific use that "pre-visualization model" has become the more commonly used term. The advent of CGI has not abolished the use of animatics, they being a too valuable tool for directors and supervisors. On the contrary, CGI has made it easier to employ the tool. The moment the bare essentials of a CGI model is assembled, i.e. the wire-frame model, "light" versions of the model were typically employed for these pre-evaluation purposes."Light", as in light of RAM-memory computer requirements, in this respect typically basic versions of CGI models as later employed in productions, but without detailing such as texturing, rendering or lighting, often preliminary wire-frame models, clad with a non-nondescript skin.

USS Pasteur with inscale Negh'Var class test models

USS Pasteur studio model with in-scale Negh'Var warship camera test models

Not only a very useful aid for camera teams, directors, and VFX supervisors in the pre-CGI age, physical test models were also useful aids for post-production compositors of visual effects shots. As physical filming models were very rarely built in scale to each other, test models were often quickly built in scale with the filming model of the week they were supposed to interact with. Footage was shot with these in-scale models relative to each other in pre-production evaluation filming. The footage was then handed over to the compositors as visual aid in compositing the final shots, by superimposing appropriately scaled footage of the corresponding studio model over the footage of the test model. The more commonly used Star Trek models had several variously scaled test model counterparts. With respect to whichever filming model they were supposed to interact with, test models were occasionally annotated with remarks such as "Scale to..." on the test models themselves, as was evidenced on several of the numerous test models that were sold in the 2006–2008 wave of Star Trek auctions.

Matt Jefferies pre-visualization model of the USS Enterprise interior sets

Jefferies' model of the USS Enterprise interior sets

Several styrofoam test models were also constructed of interior sets – prior to definitive, full-scale construction – throughout the run of the Star Trek franchise. Apart from being an aid in establishing camera angles, they were also an aid in evaluating a set design and, as such, in these cases, the functions of a test model and study model greatly overlapped. Examples of interior set test models were the models for the Template:ShipClass bridge [7], the interiors of Deep Space 9 [8] [9], stellar cartography [10], and the Template:ShipClass bridge [11], among others. The oldest known such model, was the (cardboard) pre-visualization model Matt Jefferies constructed in 1966 of the interiors sets for the original Enterprise as an orientation aid for directors and cameramen. (Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook, pp. 94-112)

With the advent of CGI, the physical test model has become a redundant aid.


Constitution class shuttlebay maquette

Datin's shuttlebay maquette, arguably the first of its kind

Occasionally used to refer to all other types of studio models, the French-derived term maquette is usually reserved to signify scaled models of immobile structures, such as interiors and buildings, landscape miniatures or planet miniatures, intended specifically for on-screen use. As such, they are not to be confused with camera test models of interiors (not for on-screen use) and/or sets (full scale constructions for actors to interact with, in real time). Typically, they are constructed out of time and/or budgetary considerations or if an intended setting is deemed too imaginary to realize using existing sets or real life settings. While perhaps not being perceived as "glamorous" as their starship counterparts, and thus less publicized about, maquettes have been utilized during most of the run of the Star Trek franchise.

One of the earliest, if not the earliest, examples of such models used in the franchise was Richard C. Datin's model of the USS Enterprise's shuttlebay. He constructed this model in 1966, for the TOS episode "The Galileo Seven". Greg Jein repeated this in 1989 with the shuttlebay for the refit-configuration for use in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Mars model

Doug Drexler with the maquette for "Lifesigns"

As for buildings, generic futuristic-looking building models were often constructed to be positioned in front of a matte painting, to give the scene additional depth on-screen when filmed, as was the case in the Mars vista scene in VOY: "Lifesigns". Some of those models were featured in the TNG Season 2 DVD, Disc 6, "Inside Starfleet Archives"–special, and in it, it was discerned that they were usually built with whatever materials were on hand. Other examples were the models of Starfleet Headquarters (DS9: "Paradise Lost") and the building blown up in VOY: "The Killing Game, Part II". Though well into the CGI age, that building was built because, as Dan Curry explained, "When it comes to blowing up buildings, models still look far more convincing than CGI, simply because there's so many details to be included in such a sequence. This is why, for the Voyager Nazi episode, we built a 15-foot miniature building to blow up." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 148, p. 49) Numerous building models were sold during the 2006-2008 wave of Star Trek auctions.

Earth Studio model prepared by ILM staffer Frank Ordaz

The Earth maquette being prepared by ILM's staffer Frank Ordaz

Planet miniatures were a rarity within the Star Trek franchise as (full view) planets were traditionally executed either as matte paintings or, from the mid-1990s onward as CGI-effects. Yet, on rare occasions, most notably by ILM, they were executed as physical studio models, the Genesis planet in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and the Moon and Earth (night, and day view) models in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock being prime examples.

Mordan IV maquette with creators Mike Okuda and Rick Sternbach

Mordan IV cityscape maquette with builders Mike Okuda and Rick Sternbach

As far as landscape miniatures were concerned, they were also utilized in the Star Trek franchise. Though long views were usually executed as matte-painting effects, there were instances where the producers felt that the added three-dimensionality of a model could enhance an intended effect of depth perception. One of the earliest examples was the Deneb IV, or rather Farpoint Station, landscape model for TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint". This maquette was constructed by Greg Jein. Though he is usually associated with his starship studio model builds, landscape miniatures were actually a specialty of his. As a matter of fact, his work on a fairground maquette in the film 1941 won him a "Best Visual Effects Academy Award" nomination. Jein and his company also constructed the landscape miniature of the barren landscape Sisko experienced, after entering the Bajoran wormhole, in DS9: "The Emissary". (Movie Magic (TV series), "Models and Miniatures: A Model of Perfection"–documentary) To come across believably on-screen, landscape miniatures and (for that matter) the other interior maquette types tend to be quite large, and due to their size, none of these are known to have survived, to date.

Curry's remark in the regard of the "The Killing Game, Part II" maquette notwithstanding, by 2011, the maquette has been superseded by CGI, as far as television and movie productions are concerned.

Demise of the physical studio model

As touched upon in the previous sections, the craft of physical studio model building has been increasingly relegated to the fringes in the motion picture business, due to versatility, increased sophistication, and the cost effectiveness of CGI. For the Star Trek franchise, the years 1997 to 1998 (during which DS9 Season 6, VOY Season 4 and Star Trek: Insurrection were produced) marked the completion of the full transition from physical studio model building to CGI studio model building. In 2004, Senior Illustrator and Designer Doug Drexler summarized, "Having been one of the poor slobs once covered with paint and glue, there is a wonderfulness to actually seeing something that you have created right there in front of you. But it's ultimately not worth it. Physical models fall apart, age poorly and their surfaces are not infinitely and nearly instantly adjustable. To look realistic, they need to be enormous and therefore unwieldly. Their lighting systems break down and are not easily repaired, their electrical systems can short out and often create interference messing up motion control equipment; seriously, the list goes on and on. Finally, miniatures just can't match CGI for visual quality. Even the expensive and gigantic Enterprise-E model had problems; in First Contact, I could make out tooling marks on the hull. Meanwhile, in many shots of the large Enterprise-D model, you can see the bumps in the paint." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 148, p. 51)

While there is no denying the arguments stated by Drexler, Star Trek visual effects staff members, born and bred with the traditional methods, have met the introduction of the new technology with mixed feelings, as numerous production staffers have commented upon.

  • Dan Curry (Visual Effects Producer) in 1996:
    "It will come to be one of the dominant ways to achieve visual effects in the future. But I feel that the days of the miniature are not completely gone. There are some people, at least in our generation of filmmakers, who are more comfortable with miniatures. Just the fact that they're really there, you can light them, and there's a certain reality about them, forces CGI to be very, very careful to be like that. One of the observations I have about CGI is that the people who do it well, do it really well, but a lot of people who work in that field have backgrounds in mathematics and computers, and not necessarily in photography and fine arts. They may not have the [best] relationship with how things really look, which comes from standing out in a field and painting a landscape. One of the best ways of understanding light is by spending time looking at it [....] For me, the future would be a matter of speed. For us, who have worked with these ships, we can get right up to it and say, 'I'd like to see it from right here.' When you work with CGI, because you start off with wireframes, there's a lot more compromises in the exactness of angles and what's going on with the lighting than there is in a miniature, simply because you can see it here. It's not quite the same. But I think CGI will become probably the dominant technique of creating visual effects. I don't know what year that will be, but it certainly looks it's going to go that way." (Star Trek: The Next Generation USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints, booklet, pp. 14-15)
  • Greg Jein (Model Builder) in 1996:
    "Photography didn't kill art, like portrait painting or illustration; and similarly, I'm sure there will always be a need for models. Right now there are some things that CGI can't do, but given enough time and money, they will accomplish, say, explosions, and things like that. It's a question Dave Allen and I were talking about. Stop-motion animators are running out of business, too. That has happened very fast, but I'm more into the tactile thing, so I'd rather be playing with goo than punching a keyboard. It's amazing, some of the stuff that came out this past year. My God, If they go the way they've been going, then CGI will become both economical and a mainstay of television production, especially. In feature production they still have a way to go. As far as miniatures are concerned, I'll remain optimistic for the time being." (Star Trek: The Next Generation USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints, booklet, pp. 14-15)
  • Rick Sternbach (Senior Illustrator/Technical Consultant) in 1999:
    "Certainly for television CGI is very cost effective, and for many effects in features, CGI can accomplish what models cannot. I would think that miniatures will likely be around for some time, since even the latest USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E for First Contact was a ten-foot long model build by ILM, and extensive use of miniatures highlighted the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. Cost considerations and visual effects aside, there is something immensely satisfying in seeing one's five-view drawings come to life as a real, three-dimensional object to ogle at and admire the workmanship, and to point to all the neat fiddly bits and wonder, "Hmmm...what if I put a Type XI phaser emitter over here and that'll leave room for a quantum microtorpedo launcher over there..."." (Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, issue 36, April 1999, p. 34)
  • Alex Jaeger (Visual Effects Art Director) in 2004:
    "When you build a practical model, you have reality working for you. You don't have to worry whether it is going to look real or not, because it will as long as you put enough details on it." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 148, p. 51)
  • John Eaves (Senior Illustrator) in 2004:
    "There is a place for both. CGI takes all the hard edges off and blends the VFX elements together flawlessly. But models still have a look and weight that CGI doesn't [....] Models will always have a place in my heart." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 148, p. 51)

The hopes of the production staffers that physical models would somehow remain in a niche capacity notwithstanding, by 2011, the craft has all but disappeared from the motion picture and television industry, though it has remained in frequent existence for the fabrication of display models for museums, corporations, defense contractors, and the like.

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