Everybody loves a good science fiction film. Well, okay, not everybody likes a good science fiction film, but a large portion of the population does. And for this reason, filmakers spend long amounts of time whipping out one sci-fi adventure after another. And because many of the people who enjoy science fiction are fascinated with special effects, and because spaceships don't fly around for the camera everyday. the makers of the films make it common practice to employ a large number of stunning special effects shots.
As mentioned above, most spaceships don't really exist. Models were used extensively in the past, but now computers are steadily replacing them. Star Trek especially has long held on to the traditional model techniques, but in the most recent film, Star Trek: First Contact, they've finally succumbed to the computer bug. All of their ships are fully CG, much like the popular TV show Babylon 5. Babylon 5 has set many of the standards for computer rendered spaceships, known especially for thier stunning space battles. Babylon 5 uses a large degree of computer graphics in their show, since the story line calls for a war waged in outer space. Every time they show the station, either as a segue or as a combatant, there are computer effects involved. The effects are created using NewTek's LightWave, and rendered on a network of 12 Pentiums, 5 DEC Alphas, and 3 Macs.
The spaceships from the films have several advantages over the old models. They can be easily replicated over and over in a shot, meaning bigger space battles involving hundreds, if not thousands, of ships, rather than the models method of one or two and pretending the rest are there. And with mathematical programs to allow the animators to follow the laws of physics when creating their ships, a higher degree of realism is attained, since the ships will bank and turn just like a real ship.
[Image courtesy of the VFXHQ]
As you can see, a whole new world is opening up as computers are used more and more to replace or supplement models shots in outer space science fiction movies and TV shows. Shows like Babylon 5 and movies such as Star Trek: First Contact are only the tip of the iceberg, and in the near future it will be prove that computers have a place in space.
|The Lurker's Guide to Babylon5||Lightwave3D||SoftImage|
|Visual Effects HQ: Star Wars Special Edition||Visual Effects HQ: Industrial Light and Magic||Apple/Macintosh Home Page|
|Silicon Graphics||Digital Equipment Corporation||Visual Effects HQ: Star Trek: First Contact|
|Intel||The Official Babylon 5 Website|
Last Updated August 22, 1996