Star Trek Collection: "Blocks" around Ships...?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mike Grell, Dec 30, 2001.

  1. Mike Grell

    Mike Grell Agent

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    Hello all - I recently purchased the 9-disc Star Trek set of movies, and am finding that on a few scenes, specifically shots with a star background and a ship, that there's a very dominant 'block' around the ships, as if they were pasted onto the background on a rectangle. The block follows the ship as it moves, giving the scene quite an overall cheesy effect.

    Has anyone else seen this? (My apologies if there's already been a thread - did a search, but got numerous pages of matches...)

    Thanks!

    Mike
     
  2. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    Which movies are you seeing this in? I'm going to take a stab that you might be seeing it in Star Treks 2, 3 or 4. This is a problem with some special effects films in the early 80s.

    You're almost literally correct - the ships were pasted into the scene. The ships were filmed against a blue screen, and often by motion control, so the camera actually moved around the model. Because of the various extraneous stuff that might have ended up in the model shot, they "cropped" out everything outside the general rectangular area around the ship before compositing with the background. This is a very cursory example of blue screen effects - there are other steps (and other techniques) involved I won't go into here.

    Generally, when these boxes show up in the finished product, it's due to a problem with contrast or black level. I first noticed these types of things watching The Empire Strikes Back on VHS in 1984, an eon ago in the technology of film-to-video transfer. They can do a much better job getting accurate black levels today.

    One thing you might want to check is if you have your monitor calibrated with something like Video Essentials. If you set your monitor to the recommended black level, you should see less (or none!) of those slight boxes around the ships.
     
  3. Jon D

    Jon D Stunt Coordinator

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    Derek said it all, it's in the technique. The block effect usually isn't too bad, or it's invisible, when an object is viewed against a starfield. Throw in a background such as a planet or a star destroyer, and those boxes stick out like a sore thumb. It's kinda amusing to see them, in my opinion. Gives me that whole "ahh, the good old days of visual effects" feeling.
     
  4. Mike Grell

    Mike Grell Agent

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    Well! That sure explains it! [​IMG] Those are the exact films where I saw the 'blocking' around the ships. Not all scenes, mind you, but most. And as Don pointed out, when you put the brightness of a planet in the scene, then it begins to look comical.
    Derek, after reading your post, I checked my black levels etc on my set, and have confirmed they are to spec (had them professionaly done, but did my own review using VE). I'll just ignore it when I see it...
    I'm working my way through the Star Trek movies, in order, one at a time... just finished The Voyage Home... the "probe" that visits earth sure enough had a nice boxing effect in scenes where it was small enough to be entirely on the screen.
    O'well!
    I'm surprised that there was nothing they could do while transferring them to DVD to help correct this. Or, perhaps there was, but it was not cost justifiable? Hmmm.
    Anyways, at least now I know what it is, and can snicker instead of feeling like there's something wrong in my setup.
    Thanks for your replies!!
     
  5. Christian Dolan

    Christian Dolan Stunt Coordinator

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    If anyone cares, those are called "junk mattes". They are (were) quick mattes made to block out things like wires and poles in the bluescreen process.

    -Christian
     
  6. Doug Pyle

    Doug Pyle Second Unit

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    Variations you may find are not flaws, but enhance the unique quality of the product.
     
  7. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  8. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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  9. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Good point. I suspect recompositing is only an option if the original elements have been retained and are still in good shape. And I'll bet that doesn't happen often.
    M.
     
  10. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Second Unit

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    Those mattes have always annoyed me in the original Star Wars, especially in the scene where the Tie Fighters are attacking the Millennium Falcon. When the Special Edition came out, I was really disappointed to see that the mattes were still visible.
    Lucas can make Greedo shoot first, but he can't clean up some butt-ugly mattes? Where are this man's priorities?
     
  11. Jaxon's Dad

    Jaxon's Dad Supporting Actor

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    There is also Matte Junk in Star Trek: Generations. I believe that it only appears once in the whole film. At the beginning of Chaptr 9("Stellar Cartography"), there is a visible grey-ish block around the Enterpise-D as it enters the foreground from the upper left and moves away into the distance. The matte junk was first visible to me with the VHS of Generations and I must say that the DVD does improve(?) the image quality so that now the offending block is barely visible. However, it is still there.
     

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