Movie Miniatures, Props, and Such...

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Movie Miniatures, Props, and Such...

Post by GeorgeC » December 9th, 2010, 1:05 am

Thought I'd put this here....


For years, I've been a fan of spaceship designs from the Star Trek and Star Wars films.

Hands down, my favorite spaceship model design is the refit Starship Enterprise NCC-1701 from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). An elegantly design, extremely detailed and well-painted miniature (the main 'hero' model is actually 8 feet in length and weighs 200 pouunds[!]), it takes the basics of the original Starship Enteprise from the 1960s TV series, distills those basics, adds its own flairs (aft-swept nacelle pylons, noticeable weapons mounts and docking ports), and gets rid of what I consider the original design's weak points => weak looking nacelle struts, lack of detail for noticeable weapons mounts, and the more obvious Christmas tree lights in the nacelle caps.

(I love the original NCC-1701 design but it's only today with superior lighting and better paints that the design can be fully realized. Ironically, the original 11-foot has never seen these improvements but they have been realized with recreated CG versions of the 11-footer. They prove that sometimes all an old design needs for general improvement is a new paint job and better lighting!)

As for Star Wars, the iconic ship designs are definitely from the first Trilogy and bear the stamps of Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston and the rest of the ILM/design staff.. The most iconic Star Wars vessel is definitely the Millennium Falcon followed by the X-Wing and TIE-series fighters. Vader's signature TIE-fighter is really the only individual fighter in the first three films. For that matter, I generally appreciate the Imperial designs to the Rebel Alliance... The Rebels have no cruisers to equal the Imperial Star Destroyers, let alone anything that matches the iconic original Death Star!


Here's a link to a fansite.... http://ncc1701.us/index.html

This guy obviously has some money to burn but has collected some neat pieces from the different Star Trek series. Notable in his collection are the enlarged portions of the Enterprise Refit/A and the Enterprise-D. A favorite of mine is the forward enlarged bit of the Enterprise that was repeatedly scarred in Trek II, III, and VI. Classic model indeed!



Glossary Terms -- applies to Models and Props

Hero = a prop or model that conforms to an ideal. This should be the form of a weapon or ship that's iconic and appears the most in advertising and official tie-in books.

Screen-Used = exactly what it means. A prop or model that was shot and appears in the final movie edit. Screen-Used props and models can command very high prices in the collector's markets at auction.

Stunt = a prop or model built for action sequences. This may or not be a 'Hero' item. Stunts regularly get destroyed during the course of filming depending on the needs of the production.

The Reliant starship in Star Trek II has both Hero and Stunt models. The Hero model was preserved after filming and used to represent various Reliant-class (re: Miranda-class) Starships over the courses of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and the Trek movie series.

Full Reliant models were built to be blown up as well as enlarged sections for detailed destruction (like the enlarged Enterprise sections). Scale models of this design with various modifications were being built and blown up during the production of DS9.

Some Stunt props actually evolve into near-Hero status. For instance, Mark Hamilll actually used three different lightsaber handles during the production of Return of the Jedi. One 'Stunt' handle with blade was a reuse of an Obi-Wan Kenobi stunt handle from the original Star Wars. This handle was also used for training both Prowse and Hamill in their choreographed duels for both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. This 'first' stunt handle appears prominently in Luke's holographed message to Jabba and peeks out the head of Artoo's dome just before it catapults into Luke's hand during The Battle of the Sarlacc Pit.

A second 'stunt' saber handle appears noticeably after Luke defeats Vader in their duel on the Death Star II. It has a projected cylindrical knob through the emitter and a knurled knob near the pommel at the handle's base. It also a Graflex clamp equipped with electrical strip like the TESB sabers.

The third Luke saber seen in ROTJ is actually the second 'Luke saber' handle seen in the film and the one with clearest presentation on-screen. This is the lightsaber handed to Vader by an Imperial officer after Luke gives himself up. (Vader and Luke are seen in a gantryway that leads from a parked AT-AT/snow walker.) This was what Luke's saber was clearly intended to look like and be the actual Hero prop but because of production schedules and the necessities of stills (mustn't destroy the Hero prop!) it ended up being part of the "evolving onscreen" saber handle saga! :lol:

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Re: Movie Miniatures, Props, and Such...

Post by Ben » December 10th, 2010, 7:19 am

GeorgeC wrote:Hands down, my favorite spaceship model design is the refit Starship Enterprise NCC-1701 from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
And we had PLENTY of time to look at it, and then look at it again. And again... ;)

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Re: Movie Miniatures, Props, and Such...

Post by droosan » December 10th, 2010, 3:58 pm

This is a subject near and dear to my heart, since it is very much related to what I do for a living .. the main difference being that the models which I sculpt and paint tend to be created on a computer. However, the process is much the same; in fact, many of my mentors when I first started in the business had previously been physical prop and miniature makers .. and -- had I come to Hollywood just a few years sooner -- I myself might have been crafting models out of resin & sculpey, rather than pixels. At least, for a short time. :wink:

-----------------------------

I had the good fortune to examine the 'hero' model of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-A at close range while working at Foundation Imaging, a little over ten years ago; it had been loaned to the studio to assist with the production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Cut (on which I did not work; I was a model-maker on Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future at that time). It is indeed a gorgeous model, and likewise IMO the most elegant of the 'Enterprise' designs.

I have also been privileged to visit the Apogee stages in the San Fernando Valley, where much of the miniature effects work for the first Star Wars was filmed (along with a good many other VFX classics) .. there, I was allowed to view the Rebel blockade runner, the Mig-31 Firefox, the SpaceBall-1/Mega Maid, and many other random miniatures.

While working at Lightstorm briefly on Avatar, I got to see the actual stop-motion armatures of the T-100 exoskeleton and the power-loader from Aliens. At another company, which was located in the attic of an old warehouse in Burbank, a minor exploration of the warehouse's contents one afternoon yielded some (badly decomposing) Gremlin armatures.

But perhaps the coolest thing I've been allowed to see -- and (very briefly!) hold in my hands was one of the original armatures of King Kong, which was brought to a screening of the 1933 film by Forrest Ackerman. 8)

-----------------------------

My personal favorite spaceship model..? Probably the Cygnus from The Black Hole .. which (sadly) no longer exists. Apparently, sometime during the 1980's, the intricate and fragile 12-foot-long Cygnus model was crated-up and shipped across the country -- by train! -- for display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. When the crate was opened, a billion tiny pieces poured out. :cry:

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Post by Ben » December 10th, 2010, 7:21 pm

"We...are going...through!"

Or, maybe not. That's a sad story, I've always loved the Cygnus (and the movie, for any faults) myself too. :)

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Re: Movie Miniatures, Props, and Such...

Post by droosan » December 10th, 2010, 7:29 pm

Happily, the 'hero' Palomino model still exists; it is displayed in the exit hall of "The Great Movie Ride" at the Disney M-G-M Studios park in Orlando.

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Post by Ben » December 10th, 2010, 7:33 pm

Do you know if V.I.N.CENT and Old Bob still wander around anywhere, taking on Captain S.T.A.R.?

I would hate to think they're just rust buckets now... :(

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Re: Movie Miniatures, Props, and Such...

Post by droosan » December 10th, 2010, 7:38 pm

I've no idea of the robots' fates. But I do have a friend who'd worked at Disney, back when; I'll ask if he knows, next time I see him. :)

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Re: Movie Miniatures, Props, and Such...

Post by GeorgeC » December 10th, 2010, 10:52 pm

Ben wrote:
GeorgeC wrote:Hands down, my favorite spaceship model design is the refit Starship Enterprise NCC-1701 from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
And we had PLENTY of time to look at it, and then look at it again. And again... ;)

I didn't say I liked the movie....! :wink:

In fact, ST:TMP is my least favorite of the first six movies.

Yep, I liked Trek V better than Trek I!

At least we got to see a reunion of the cast, the best Enterprise ever designed, and great music by the late Jerry Goldsmith.

The other stuff..... Yeah, it's a movie to put insomniacs to sleep, for sure!

ON THE OTHER HAND, those looks at the Enterprise were great and it goes to show what TLC in design, miniature building, lighting, AND especially model-painting will get you. The Reft Big E is one of the most convincing models on- and off-screen!

I loved it...

I'll be real disappointed if 2273 rolls around and that Ship isn't orbiting the Earth for real!
There are some images that are just that inspiring!



Droo,

One thing you have to admit about the Refit E is that the Hero model is really well-built.

That thing has lasted over 30 years now and last I heard was still structurally sound. It needs some decals and touch-up (from what I saw of it in some photos post-retirement) and hopefully the new owner will take care of it.

My understanding is an individual bought it at the auction Paramount had 4 years ago for what I still consider a criminally low winning bid for that model (!) -- $240,000(!). (The fact that the inferior Enterprise-D got a half-million bid still rankles me...) It could easily be worth at least a million dollars. What's happening with it now, I don't know. I think the new owner was obligated to let it travel around the world on Star Trek tours before it was sent back to him. There were probably similar arrangements from other miniatures and props auctioned, too.

I hope someday most of the classic ship miniatures from movies go on permanent public display. There ought to be a museum for this sort of thing!

*********

The parties I'm really disappointed in are the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) and Ed Miarecki. NASM DID NOT take good care of the original 11-foot Enterprise model from the first series... They took it out of the crates Paramount sent it in without documenting its condition and last touch-up detailing. (Word from the modelers was that they added details to the Enterprise through the run of Star Trek:TOS.)

For years, that model hung in an out-of-place setting in the NASM with all kinds of inaccuracies and "bailed-wire, Duct-tape fixes." Not a good way to take care of an icon... (They proved it wasn't a one-time occurrence. What happened with the Enola Gay when it originally went on display rightly embarrassed the museum. Thank goodness the Wright-Patt AF museum doesn't engage in political stupidity like that. They just present their museum pieces in historical context instead of PC like some other musems do...)

The paint jobs since then have in effect destroyed the integrity of its detailing. Miarecki did a fine job restoring its lighting and nacelle cap details but essentially overpainted everything except the top of the dish which was the only part of the Ship left in original condition (paint-jobwise!). Miarecki did not paint the Ship in the proper main coating. Later research proved he was dead-wrong on the primary color. Physically looking at the model as it was photographed in the 1960s and in the few behind-the-scenes photos of it during production pretty much implies Miarecki did sloppy research or very little at all before restoration work. It's been rumored that few high-placed Trek technical artists told Miarecki a few things but they were ignored... the situation infuriated them and it's still a source of bad feelings years later.

The 11-footer is currently displayed in a large transparent case on the first floor of the NASM giftshop. There have been cracks starting to form on the bridge area of the saucer and a few of the decals are now chipped, too. NASM has done nothing to my knowledge about restoration/repair work needed since 1992.

NASM, as usual, is embarrassed by science fiction material even though it brought them the largest crowds they have ever seen in that museum!


P.S. -- After reading the new book about "The Making of The Empire Strikes Back," I know a little bit about Apogee.

It was basically founded by original ILM team members who didn't want to move north (from LA) with Lucas to Marin County where ILM was permanently based. Another part of this story is that Lucas and John Dykstra didn't see eye-to-eye and Lucas didn't want Dykstra to be part of ILM after Star Wars wrapped. The guys loyal to Dykstra also stayed behind.

A funny thing is that before serious modeling FX work started on Empire, the Apogee crew were renting the ILM equipment used for Star Wars for work on Battlestar Galactica! Lucas hated this because he felt Galactica was a rip-off of Star Wars and I think he might have felt secondly offended by Dykstra, too. At any rate, once the rental lapsed, the ILM equipment was shipped north to the new ILM facility and put straight to work on The Empire Strikes Back...

My feeling -- Lucas felt he could copyright the future which you can't do. You can only show up superficial imitators by being a greater success with story and characters. Star Wars had (both versions of) Galactica beat by a mile! (Yeah, sadly even the Star Wars prequels are better than the original Galactica and its reimagined utterly bland version.)

The original Galactica was as much a rip-off of Star Wars as (the Fawcett Comics) Captain Marvel was a Superman rip-off. It may have had superficial similarities but it was a totally different beast in the end.
Last edited by GeorgeC on December 10th, 2010, 11:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Movie Miniatures, Props, and Such...

Post by Randall » December 10th, 2010, 11:14 pm

GeorgeC wrote: In fact, ST:TMP is my least favorite of the first six movies.
I thought the DVD Director's Cut made TMP a way better film. But then, I also kinda like Trek V myself. ;)

... not that I'd place either of them above II or VI, of course!

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Post by GeorgeC » December 10th, 2010, 11:36 pm

My favorite Trek's are still II, VI, and III in that order.

IV hasn't aged well in my opinion but is still better than Trek V.

There are only two Star Trek movies worse than The Motionless Picture and they're both TNG movies -- Generations and Insurrection.


Back to Droo --

Looking at those shots of the Cygnus, it's got a nice "industrial" look just like the original NCC-1701 model does.

Too bad about what happened to it but I'd bet a fan will recreate that model full-scale. I know a few people have done smaller recreations of it already.

A lot of modelers are fans of the robots and ships from the original Black Hole....

(R2-D2 is still my favorite robot. It would be nice if a real R2 were built once AI gets advanced enough... I'd like my R2 unit in red!)

When The Black Hole was brand-new, I liked the designs of both Vincent and Maximillian. The designs still aren't bad by today's standards. The Sentry robots -- 'meh.' They're too clumsy and human-like in my opinion. I think enforcer robots have to be scary. I still find the original Cylons creepier than the reimagined versions, for instance.

To be honest, I think a lot of film design work today is lousy. (That was my main issue with the last Trek movie aside from the lack of a good villain.) The golden age for science fiction design really was the late 1970s and early 1980s between the appearance of Star Wars and revival of Star Trek. When guys like Ralph McQuarrie and Andrew Probert left Hollywood or retired, a lot of vital design skills got lost. Star Wars has never been the same after McQuarrie retired, and Trek hasn't had a really good ship design since the Reliant and that's basically cribbing off the Refit E design.



... I still can't believe Disney is going to remake The Black Hole.

We'll see how their enthusiasm for remakes is affected by how well the Tron sequel performs after the 17th.

All the early reviews I've read have not been good...



New words to add to the glossary --

Industrial = a design style influenced more by function/purpose than aesthetics although this is not meant to mean the design can't be attractive. Example: the Enterprise as designed in Star Trek: TOS actually looks like a real spaceship and has a logic about its design whereas many other science fiction designs fail on the basic of logic alone (let alone practicality)... Another way of putting this is that it's NOT enough to make something look pretty it has to look like it will actually work in real life!

Steam-Punk = a design style stressing old/retro-technology. These designs feature some sort of steam engine that enables devices to function. Some steam-punk tech is featured in alternate realities; at other times steam-punk sensibility is reflected in stories set in the past such as the anime feature Steamboy.

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The Pseudo-Science of Warp Speed

Post by GeorgeC » December 12th, 2010, 4:00 am

A plunge into the Nerdy Field just left of the Twilight Zone!

Many pieces of pop culture that have even the slightest science fiction aspects often rest on questionable science. The explanations give for many hero's powers are undoubtedly pseudo-science from the lightning bolt/extra-dimensional energy that gave Barry Allen/Flash II superspeed to the advanced technology of Green Lantern's that seemed like magic.

Marvel didn't even bother with complicated explanations for its superheroes' powers. All their superheroes pretty much got their powers from radiation!
(Stan has admitted for decades he didn't know about science when he wrote their origins...)
Spider-Man -- a radioactive spider bit him and transferred its abilities to him!
The Hulk -- instead of getting cancer from gamma bomb blast, Dr. Banner lives out most modern people's fantasies... his alter-ego smashes everything in sight without feeling guilty about it!!
The Fantastic Four -- never trust an impatient egghead to design a spacecraft; he'll build a fine warpdrive but shielding? Never mind, not important until you fly through a cosmic ray storm!
The X-Men -- half their parents worked around radioactive material of some kind; I guess the potentially cancerous genes that didn't kill them are the kind that give their offspring superpowers???

*******

The science of warp speed in Star Trek is dubious at best. It's not even that well understood in real life!

Warp Speeds in terms of the velocity of light used to be easy to calculate. Just take your Warp Factor (say Warp 3) and cube it! Vc (velocity of light) = W(warp factor)^3 (to the the third exponent power) Warp 3 = 27c (27 times the speed of light)

Around the time TNG started production, Gene Roddenberry got the brilliant idea to make warp speed calculations more difficult. Set Warp 10 as the ultimate limit (aka Eugene's Limit) and make everything else conform to that!

Funny thing that Warp 10... As velocities get over 9.9 every hundredth increase means a lot more speed... It just real unwieldy quickly!

Without further ado, the new Warp Scale Calibration chart from the ST:TNG Technical Manual for the Enterprise-D (1991)!

Image


WOW... This... chart......... really doesn't work!

Further example with velocities of two Enterprises compared just to show you things don't quite match up...! This includes text with the explanation of the new calibration and how the "Old" Warp Scale conforms to the Recalibrated Scale.

Image


Remember, this is the same show (ST:TNG) that declared in an alternate reality that Starships were frequently cruising at Warp 13! Now, how did that happen?


P.S. ---

This was an exercise in the absurd.

I don't think about this stuff when I'm WATCHING the movies! I just want to be entertained and check out the acting. Star Trek is about as scientifically accurate as your average Marvel Comic. Kids that read their science books know this stuff is hokum!

If I really wanted to, I could paint a vivid picture of what WOULD happen if the internal forcefields of the Enterprise that keep gravity at a constant 1G failed...

It ain't pretty!

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Post by Ben » December 12th, 2010, 8:58 am

Um...George...you know this is an animated films board, right? :)

There are plenty of places to talk hardcore Trek theories out there...and at the very least I don't mind a thread discussing the franchise here, but I don't think we need multiple ones, especially on a tangent of a tangent!

I've merged with the previous Trek discussion.

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Post by GeorgeC » December 13th, 2010, 2:46 am

Okay,

I'll stay in this universe... until the next dimensional gate opens!
"Waiter, more champagne...and plenty of ice!"
- Randall/Time Bandits, 14 April 1912, 20 to midnight -- local time

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