When word of Star Trek Remastered hit the web last week, very often discussion mented the name Daren Dochterman. It was a reasonable to speculate that Dochterman was inovled in the new project since he was the digital effects supervisor for ‘Director’s Edition’ of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and had recently launced TrekEnhanced a site dedicated to the notion of adding CGI effects to the original series. The speculation of his involvement was so rampant that after the official announcement from CBS, Dochterman issued an official statement to tell fans that although he had pitched, he wasn’t involved. TrekMovie.com decided to give Daren a ring and talk to him about his history with Trek and the new Trek Remastered project.
Trek: A life-long passion
When you talk to Daren Dochterman you are immediately struck with how passionate he is about Star Trek. Since he was a child in the 70s Daren has been inspired by the classic series and still has the working toy communicators to prove it. After working as an illustrator in Hollywood for years Daren immediately starts playing around with the new digital effects tools as they started to hit the market in the 90s. You can just guess what his first test was “The TV Series Enterprise of course,” replied Docterman “I just wanted to see if I could do it.” Over the years as he and the tools got better Daren would continue to go back to his digital Enterprise and make refinements and share it with friends in and around the business. He first got a chance to show it off to people in Paramount when he worked as a concept artist for Star Trek Voyager in 1995.
Dochterman’s early attempts at a CGI TOS Enterprise
Revamping Trek’s first film
Daren’s next connection with Star Trek came in the late 90s. He was working with David Fein and Michael Matessino on the special edition Alien Legacy DVD box set when the idea came up to do the same for the 1979 film Star Trek The Motion Picture. The team approached the film’s original director Robert Wise who had been quite vocal about how he was never satisfied with his final product, believing that Paramount rushed the production. Many planned effects shots never ended up in the final product and Wise had never even seen the film since its release. Wise was enthusiastic about doing a director’s cut for DVD and he convinced Paramount to fund the project; although Paramount had been issuing Trek movies on DVD they had yet to issue ST: TMP. Daren finally got his chance to show the world his fully digital USS Enterprise (this time the ‘refit’ version used in the film) along with close to a hundred new effects shots for the DVD. “It was such a joy to work with those models and see the film finally realized,” said Dochterman. Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director’s Edition was released in 2001 and is now the definitive version of the film and was widely well received by fans and the media.
Dochterman’s Refit Enterprise from ST:TMP Director’s Edition
The passion becomes a pitch
After working on ST:TMP:DE Dochterman went back to his TV series Enterprise model and redid it from the ground up. The idea of giving the Star Trek The Original Series the ‘special edition treatment’ was born, “Now it really started to look real…we could really give Trek a facelift.” In 2003 Dochterman completed (on his own time) a complete test reel for the episode ‘Doomsday Machine’ with new digital effects for both the live action as well as the space shots. Daren’s labor of love was now an official pitch to Paramount starting with a meeting with a VP. The immediate reaction was very positive and eventually the project moved over to the TV Syndication people “I reminded them that the 40th anniversary was coming up and this would be a great present for the fans.” Then like so many things in Hollywood the project “died a Hollywood death,” some exec who had rejected a similar proposal (see last paragraph) years earlier just lumped in Dochterman’s project with that and it was over…or so he thought.
A Shot from Dochterman’s Enhanced ‘Doomsday Machine’ (click for larger version)
A YouTube hit…and another chance
After years of no movement on his project within Paramount, Dochterman decided to share it with the world by creating TrekEnhanced.com. On the site he put up his test reel and a bit of history on him and the project, eventually a fan put a copy up on YouTube and the legend was born. The reaction was very positive with many coming to appreciate how you could take a respectful approach to the old show, but bring it up to date at the same time. Then in June of this year Daren got the call he had been waiting for. Dochterman was asked by Trek Remastered Producer Dave Rossi to come back in and pitch again along with some other effects houses (such as EdenFX who worked on Star Trek: Enterprise and Gary Hutzel who does the work for Battlestar Galactica). In the end CBS Paramount decided to do all the work with their in-house team CBS Digital. Dochterman’s feelings were spelled out in his official statement: “am I disappointed? you bet”, but he is also pragmatic noting that he did not have the staff in place to take on the project immediately and CBS was on a tight schedule. TrekMovie.com asked Dochterman what he thought of the first images that have been released, Dochterman paused and then replied “I want to see it move.” He shows his deep understanding of the project whenever discussing it, asking "I wonder how they are handling the transitions," explaining how so many of the space effects use dissolve effects from the live action. Daren does have a lot of faith in the team behind the project, saying “I am glad that Mike Okuda and Dave (Rossi) are involved, they know Trek and know what is good”
Editor’s Note: Daren will be writing the first of TrekMovie.com’s episode reviews for Star Trek Remastered. Each week we will have a new review from a group of selected Trek and CGI industry experts
YouTube Vid of Dochterman’s test reel, see TrekEnhanced for higher res version
Optimistic for the future of Trek
Although Dochterman isn’t working on Trek Remastered he is keeping busy with multiple projects. This summer alone saw three films he worked on: Poseidon, XMen 3 and Monster House. But Daren still hopes that he can again work on his passion citing the future with JJ Abrams. On Abrams Dochterman says: “Paramount did a smart thing by hiring such a talented guy who clearly is a fan.” Dochterman feels that the Abrams team have the right approach to Trek and is excited about the prospect of (the rumored) return to the Original Series era…and of course that Enterprise.
Dochterman concept art for X-Men 3: The Last Stand
The First Pitch for TOS with CGI
As mentioned previously, the pitch for redoing the old show died in Paramount when an exec saw it as just the same as a previously rejected proposal. That proposal was from 1998 and came from a company called Digital Stream. TrekMovie.com tracked down Tim Weinhold, one of the men behind that proposal. Unlike Dochterman’s proposal Digital Stream had no connection to Paramount. “We just sent them a whole package unsolicited," said Weinhold. The Digital Stream team never got a meeting and had just a couple of polite phone conversations with Paramount, but the answer was ‘no’. The DigitalStream team is no longer together, the company was sold years ago to Canon. Weinhold now runs a new company, Blue Fog Media and works primarily in TV and film licensed replicas (such as swords for ‘Blade’). Weinhold told TrekMovie.com that he didn’t even know that Paramount had finally decided to redo the old show with new graphics saying “hey that’s great, I guess it took them 8 years to come around.”
DigitalStream’s first pitch for TOS w/CGI
A couple more shots from Dochterman’s TrekEnhanced ‘Doomsday Machine’
(click images to see higher res version)
And here is Daren’s version of one of the new effects shots from CBS: (click for full size)
It’s a shame they couldn’t use CGI to drop a new plot into ST:TMP.
Still, the work on that DVD was pretty amazing.
A new plot for ST1!?
Maybe someone here can answer this riddle:
Foundation Imaging (under Daren Dochterman) went through “painstaking” work to make their CG shots in Star Trek The Motion Picture match the original 1979 visuals, even going so far as to add film grain to the new effects. This is old news.
On the other hand, their work was *supposedly* too “low res” for a theatrical re-release of the film, apparently suitable for anamorphic DVD only. This would also make an eventual HD release of the film, in its current form, equally problematic.
Is there any thruth to the latter? If so, why go through that much trouble with the effects only to cheap out by not doing it all the way? ST:TMP is a movie, shouldn’t it have the image resolution of the 70mm film it was shot in? Has DVD changed movies that much?
What does this mean as far as HD is concerned? Would the CG have to be re-rendered? Redone from scratch? Do the computer models still exist?
These are just questions that nag at me whenever someone praises the work done on ST:TMP. :)
Absoloutely. The original one was, shall we say…lacking. A lot.
Samwise: yes, if the CG done for TMP were done at DVD (“SD”) resolution, then they’d have to be re-rendered for an HD release. No idea what still exists…but I’d think you’d want to re-do it from scratch anyway. Even in the few years since the DVD came out, CG technology has grown dramatically.
It’s fun to see the various demo proposals and imagine all the ways these effects could look!
From the official trailer it appears CBS is playing it very safe in fidelity not only to the original models and camera moves but also the original lighting. Because the lighting of live action in TOS is highly stylized, it’s logical the models should not be lit realistically either. Dochterman’s demo seems to propose to light the models more like they looked in TMP, but I wouldn’t question his ability to match the look of the original material if so asked. He certainly pulled it off in TMP.
that is a good question…I have followed up with the team behind ST:TMP:DE and hope to have an answer for you all
Star Trek:TMP,despite being slow paced,had a great plot about the frustration of accumulating knowledge without the revelation of grace and love.The Spock story;His yearning for self knowledge and fufillment was a great parallel to V’ger’s struggle.There’s alot going on in that film…”V’ger seeks the creator”,Spock cries;”We look beyond ourselves to a creator and ask ,who am I”.The end ,I thought was a bit ambiguous.But It did ask great questions.
I guess if you wanted to add more to STTMP you could easily expand on V’ger ransacking the galaxy early on in the film to find the creator.Then at the end have it be some kind of cosmic mediator or something.Then sell it as a Star Trek miniseries.
Seriously why waste money on fake looking CGI Voyager and DS9 and Enterprise looked shocking do it the old fashion way like on TNG pull the model out of satorage and set it up.
Jon C: that’s not a plot, that’s a poem. Which was the big problem with that movie. It was a poem. Very beautiful. But no meat.
What Dochterman proposed was a hell of a lot more interesting than what Trek Remastered will ultimately be.
Of course this is just another opinion among the many others.
I believe TMP may have been done at theatrical resolution, but Paramount did not want a theatrical release.
I could be wrong though.
The thinking behind the Remastered version of the series is that the original effects footage would not hold up at all at HD resolution, while the set elements held up better, not having been through so many damaging photochemical composits to destroy the quality.
By redoing the effects, and younger audience can see it without the ‘bad effects’ baggage.
I have the original series on DVD, and still hold this as the definitive item.
If they foul up Trek Remastered, it will matter little to me, since the originals are easily available.
RE: is STTMP:DE HD or Rescreening Ready
It appears that the answer to that is no. That is why I got when I contacted David Fein (producer on the DE). Apparently the team wanted to do the work but Paramount decided to focus on the immediate delivery for the DVD…here is an except from his message to me
“I\’m incredibly proud of the film\’s edit and effects; our team did a remarkable job. However, this job is not complete until we satisfy Bob\’s wish and a film resolution master completed… a step closer would be HD….While I\’ve insured that all of our production materials are available and ready for us to complete the Director\’s Edition in film or hidef resolution, there is no approved master of the Director\’s Edition for HD release.”
– David Fein
Producer, ST: TMP: DE
I’ve seen (and I have) the ST:TMP-DE DVD. The whole results are superb, of course. ..
Some time ago, I saw David’s ST:Enhanced project version on YouTube… I found it spetacular…! This personal work-of-art was ALL I, for one, always thought it could be done to the old Classic Series to really “enhance” it… I was so delighted that I even got in touch with David to congratulate him.
Now, CBS/Paramount come with this ST:Remastered… I thought “Oh, my God! David got it…!!” but I finally found that David’s proposal had nothing to do with the studio intentions…
I have to say that what I saw of the new remastered Trek was good, was fine, was ok… but I saw only what is in the internet, with “web quality”, as ti say…
Here in Brazil HDTV is still in project to be implemented so I guess we have a long way here to the day we would e really able to wach this new version of Trek…
But, for what I saw of the remastered Trek, I must say that I’d much better prefer the “ST:Enhanced” version of David’s…! As I read commented here, the CBS internal-team CGI effects seem to lack “reality” – if one can say that…! The images are a blast, nice, perfect… but – just from what I saw – they seem to lack “soul”…!! There’s no “life” in there, it seems…!!
It’s a pity… It will be a success, of course (the preview videos an teasers are the best!), but the final result will be a step or three behind it could be (if it seemed more like Trek:Enhanced)…!
This is my opinion.
I made a HUGE mistake myself calling Daren of “David”… !
What a shame…!
now that these films were announced tonite for possible HDdvd release, will they re render the new FX at HD res. or just upconvert them?
That DigitalStream pitch is just nasty compaired to Dochterman’s. Some interesting framing of shots but the models suck. Dochterman’s version is sooooo SUPERIOR on every count.
Initially it seemed impressive, but now I have seen the official trailer of vignettes of the new SFX on the official website I am left a bit dissappointed.
These are not state-of-the-art effects: they are computer game effects. The lighting and surface detail are very low resolution, but most of all everything, especially the Enterprise and shuttles, move unnaturally, as if they have no mass at all. And the lighting scales it to the appearance of a small model, not a ship the good part of 1000 feet long. Admittedly, the remastered Star Wars had the same problem: the Falcon has no mass when landing on Bespin either.
My partner and i clearly have to think far more in that area and find out things i can do over it.