Designing The Future
At the beginning of the prologue the camera pans zooms towards a window, looking out at the city of London, year 2259.55. But obviously it’s not a real window to the future – it’s a manufactured digital image that’s designed to not only fit with the aesthetic of the future world that the director has designed for his version of Star Trek, but also one that’s immediately recognizable to the people who have a grasp on what London looks like today. That’s where Roger Guyett, the film’s Visual Effects Supervisor comes in.

“Sometimes we take center stage, like when we were making black holes in the last movie, or they’re doing a space jump, but other times we’re creating worlds around [the cast’s] performances and create this future world,” Guyett told us as he began his presentation, showing clips from the prologue as he talked.

Going into the design of future London, he explained that what goes into it is more than just keeping scattered landmarks and updating everything with a chrome finish and flying cars. Instead the design process incorporates the style and essence of a city as it is today and tries to estimate how it will actually look in the future. “We work very hard in trying to be respectful to the styling of the architecture of a city when you’re trying designing aspects to it,” Guyett said.

That said, the team behind the visual effects did keep parts of the skyline that are currently part of London, including the London Eye and St. Paul's Cathedral (where, funny enough, Guyett’s wife proposed to him).

But just like he said at the start, sometimes the visual effects are just in the background and sometimes they are the star of the show, and movie-goers who go to see the prologue will be treated to both. Following the scenes in London the footage travels far, far away from Earth where the crew of the Enterprise is working to stop an entire planet from being decimated by a giant volcano (which threatens to wipe out the entire surface population). The highlight of this part from an effects perspective is a scene where Spock is trapped on a small rock island surrounded by an ocean made of hot, bubbling lava.

To make the shots possible they constructed a small patch of rock for Quinto to stand on while the surrounding areas were layered and mapped with pools of magma. “The lava itself is just enormous computer simulation,” we learned. “It analyzes all sorts of funny things. It does stuff like temperature, and then the temperature controls the viscosity, and then the viscosity controls the motion, and the computer’s brains are about to explode trying to figure out all these minute little details.”

It’s a job that requires looking at absolutely every detail on the most microscopic scale, and only making that more of a challenge is the fact that Abrams has shot the film both in 3D and using IMAX cameras.

“It’s considerable,” Guyett said when asked how much more effort goes into a project in the dual formats. “It’s like anything like that. There’s more pixels on the screen, bigger format. Certainly everything that we did is true 3D, it’s not converted…it makes a difference.”

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