There were two main concept artists for the new Star Trek feature film. In the last few weeks Ryan Church has posted a couple his designs on his site. Now James Clyne has joined in, by putting up over two dozen pieces of Star Trek concept art on his site. TrekMovie talked exclusively to Clyne about his work. See below for his sketches and what lies behind them.
Trek designer shows his concepts
The visualization of the new Star Trek movie started with two veteran concept illustrators, James Clyne and Ryan Church. Working with production designer Scott Chambliss, the pair stated in early 2007. Clyne tells TrekMovie that he is “proud” he and Church “had the opportunity to do the first visualizations of the new Star Trek." The pair also worked closely with director JJ Abrams. It was their task to work with Trek’s past while also envisioning something new. Clyne notes:
It was a lot of fun. JJ was fantastic to work with and very approachable. Throwing ideas was really collaborative…JJ wanted us to explore new visuals because he wanted to create a whole new world and reinvigorate Star Trek, which he did.
In the end Clyne ended up working on the project for over a year, staying on after the concepts were done to art direct the designers at ILM as they came up with the CGI models. Clyne took TrekMovie step by step through the parts of the film that were his responsibility…
One of Clyne’s major contributions to the Star Trek movie was the design of Nero’s Narada. Clyne came up with the concept art for the externals and internals for the Romulan ship. The artist tells TrekMovie that he mostly had a blank page and that there was no detailed description for the ship in the script beyond calling it the ‘Battleship Narada’ and that it was from the future and not a traditional looking Romulan ship. JJ Abrams directed Clyne to create something ‘never seen before’ and said he wanted something ‘threatening looking’ which is what he got.
According to Clyne, he envisioned that because the ship was traveling through time (what he thought was back and forth through time), and that it had ‘contracted some kind of virus, so the ship became like an organism.’ As for the size of the ship, Clyne notes "there was a lot of debate about that, it is massive, but not as big as V’ger."
Clyne tells TrekMovie that some involved with the film, including some designers at ILM, had thought that the ship moved like a squid with the points moving forward, so on some sketches he had to note which end was the rear and even draw arrows on it some times. Clyne says "I thought it was more menacing to have the spikes forward."
Clyne was also responsible for designing the interiors for the Narada as well. As you can see from the sketches, the ship was supposed to have hand rails.
Clyne also designed the drilling rig, which was a major set piece for the feature film. In order to help out with the ILM team, Clyne also built a real ‘rudimentary model’ of the drilling platform.
The exterior of the USS Kelvin was designed by Clyne’s collaborator Ryan Church (who also designed the Jellyfish and the USS Enterprise), however Clyne was responsible for the interiors, including the bridge, corridors, the turbolift and the shuttlebay. Regarding the look, Clyne said Abrams and production designer Scott Chambliss wanted the Kelvin (originally called ‘Iowa’) to be more like traditional Star Trek designs, but also to be more ‘functional’ and have "more of a battleship aesthetic." Clyne said he drew inspiration from the TOS bridge, the bridge of the USS Reliant from Wrath of Khan and current military ships and submarines. Clyne admits that even though he was familiar and liked the Star Trek TV series and films, he didn’t consider himself an expert. However, he says that Paramount actually had a ‘Star Trek expert’ on staff who would “pore over the designs to keep us in check.”
Vulcan architecture and vistas
Clyne was also tasked with designing the vistas of planet Vulcan. Clyne used Vasquez Rocks and SkyRose Chapel as the basis for his designs, as both locations had already been selected to be used for the Vulcan scenes. Clyne came up with the idea for the ‘hanging buildings’ which were used in the final film. Clyne tells TrekMovie that it was originally planned for Vulcan to have a heavier atmosphere and red sky, but as we know Vulcan ended up with a blue sky (although Bob Orci contends Vulcan’s sky is ‘seasonal’).
Clyne also did concept art for a number of Space shots in Star Trek. This first one shows the destruction of the fleet at Vulcan. Clyne tells TrekMovie that this shot was done early in the process and before there were new designs to draw on and so Clyne looked to Trek’s past, including the NX-01, the original TOS Enterprise and the USS Reliant.
Clyne also tells TrekMovie that he has some additional designs that have not been released yet from scenes that were cut from the film. Clyne was responsible for the designs for the Klingon Prison Rura Penthe (which was a redressed industrial location). He also designed (and they built), a special bike for Sarek, used in the Vulcan scenes. There were also additional sketches for Spock’s home on Vulcan. Hopefully these designs will be revealed by Clyne at a later date.
Clyne did reveal an extra tidbit about his work. One of this many projects working on the Star Trek film was to design the cool new Burger King glasses (and their packaging).
Clyne designed the Star Trek glasses
Clyne’s work will next be seen in the James Cameron film Avatar, which comes out later this year and he is currently at work on a new 20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.
More on James at his official site.