JJ Abrams Talks Star Trek Post Production

One of JJ Abrams objectives for the new Star Trek movie, was to make it feel as ‘real’ as possible. This manifested itself in many ways, and in a new interview with Post Magazine, the director talks about shooting the movie on film, his post production process, and of course…lens flares. See below for excerpts.  


JJ Talks Post

Abrams on why he shot on film and not digitally:

I knew this movie would have a great deal of computer generated visual effects in it and I knew that’s the reason Star Wars films have been shot with a great deal of blue- or greenscreen and digitally, and I was nervous about that. I wanted this film to feel distinct from those. I didn’t want to have a given about how many effects would be created. I didn’t want there to be this artiface to the movie, even though it’s called Star Trek, even though it’s a fantasy future sci-fi. I wanted it to feel as sort of tangible and gritty and real as possible.
As [DP] Dan Mindle said, he wanted it to have guts. And so for me the approach to the movie was, I wanted wherever we could to be practical and to be analog, because there was going to be a whole bunch of virtual and digital, so wherever we could add the realism by literally making it real I thought would help the aesthetics. So we built sets and found locations as much as possible and dressed them or extended sets.

JJ on Star Trek’s ubiquitous lens flares:

We added them on the set, not post, because I wanted to give the film that sense of unpredictability. There’s something about lens flares — beyond the aesthetic of ‘the future’s so bright you can’t contain it in the frame.’ I wanted that beautiful interaction between light and glass that you can’t control, to add to the tangible analog human imperfect quality that’s increasingly hard to find in these kind of films.

JJ on the post production process:

I love it, and the ability to look at the material and make the best version of the movie based on that as opposed to trying to make the best version of what was in the script is magical and exciting. It can be frustrating when the shortcomings of my directing require us to be acrobatic in the edit, but the answers are wildly satisfying, when you figure out what to cut and how to bridge sequences, or what shots to use from scenes that have nothing to do with what you intended. That’s miraculous to me.

Much more from JJ Abrams on post production at postmagazine.com

JJ on the set with his actors


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The mans got flare…


You can see Chris Pine`s butt crack… LOL

The movie definitely looked cool, no question. And little to no obvious “green screen” footage, which kept it nice and grounded, despite it’s sci-fi nature. One of the main things I disliked about the Prequels was the whole “video game” feel, which Star Trek didn’t really suffer from. It suffered from plot, but hey, it looked good anyway.

I Dont see but crack. I see lower back but not but crack. Did you zoom in and look :)

I think this movie needs more……..COW BELL!!!

Why are you people even looking?!

JJ did not lie when he said he was not a fan of Star Trek, nor does he lie when he says that he went for “guts” in this film. He succeeded in violating the most important virtues Roddenberry tried to portray in Trek and eliminating “brains” from character’s virtues.

With this film’s spectacular SFX glorification of violence, ignorant cariciture of logic, and that it will represent ST to a new generation, I watched with tears at JJ’s success. May his fabulous wealth from working on this movie prove of some benefit.

I suppose he does have a flair for lens flares.

I didn’t mind them at all.

I love that he used film, and those wacky “sets” that have fallen out of vogue. The CGI was for the most part seamless, the shot when we zoom out of the viewscreen, loop round the bridge then see the Big E upside down just felt so *real*.

The fact we’d been on the bridge moments before just sold it.

I really liked the look on this, and I didn’t think I would. I even liked the lens flares, the iBridge the Enterprise manouvering and the shuttlebay. Engineering still leaves me perplexed but I’ll live.

But yeah (swinging back towards topic) I thought for a relatively new director, he made some bold decisions and he was, for the most part, spot on. Lens flares may date this a little, we’ll see if he gets aped or not, but it was pretty solid stuff directorially.

The man has flair and can do a keyboard solo like no bodies business! I love this movie. I look at this movie like the first X-Men movie. This movie is a good introduction for people who are not fans of Star Trek. Since the characters have been reintroduced they can not focus on the story. So here is to hoping that for the sequel we get something close quality to X2: X-Men United and The Dark Knight.

They added the lens flares. Reminds me of the Original Andromeda Strain. In the movie they spent millions adding potholes to the road leading to the Wildfire complex.

#8 – no he didn’t
go back and watch some TOS

That was a rather informative interview.

I mostly like the part (in the extended article) regarding the ambient “ping” noise’s. I always thought they were very important to establish that perfect Trek feel and I’m always amazed how little of it you can hear in the old films. I remember saying to my friend, before the film came out, “Those sounds better be the first thing we hear.” It’s just the perfect way of announcing: This is Star Trek.

When the first TOS box set came out i’d fall asleep listing to the bridge sounds, since they wisely added them to the menu screens.

Good call Mr. Burt.

Truly, i know it seems like a small thing, but my appreciation of the new film may have taken a large plunge if the bridge ambient noise weren’t so prevalent.

Did i mention I’m CRAZY about sounds?

Maybe he went to far with the “analogue” approach (ie.engineering setpiece and a lens flare or two too far) but a brave worthy approach to ultra high budget film making, and it (mostly) works incredibly, enjoyably, well…

JJ, you hit a home run with this movie! Please direct the next one!!!!

He mentions there were some good effects in the prison sequence.

Again I’m putting my vote in for an extended DVD cut of the film to include Baby Spock, Rura Penthe and whatever other scraps they have laying around.

I love the style of this movie. I love the new look of the Bridge. (And I’m an original fan of the Original Series, who loves the Original Bridge. This one looks so shiny and functional, though!) I love that they went to such lengths to both update the look, make it feel real, and yet add those beloved touches like familiar sounds – all while taking the story to a place budget never let it go before. This is the Star Trek I’ve always wanted to see.
I can’t wait for the sequel, and I too hope JJ directs!


sure a lot of us want to see those. But Id like to know what effects the writters strike ( or lack there of) had on the editing process. It’s not the cut scenes being restored that i want to se. But rather the writters strike ver I want to see. ie shoot only whats scripted, edit and release. what the film have been if we got it the way it was scripted.

Yeah and it’s open season for the hatters again.. wow 8.. was the church shut and that’s why your here posting?

Despite my feelings about the guy I cannot deny he made a great film.

Its not my all time favourite Trek movie but it is a fantastic movie. I guess the thing I have to do is to stop comparing it to the past Treks and treat it on its own merits and treat it as a separate entity, a new canon universe.

I loved Chris Pine but still prefer William Shatner as Kirk, I love Quinto but adore Nimoy as Spock. That does not mean I dont like the new actors, they are great but its hard to beat what you grew up loving.

I am not going to stop loving the past 5 series and movies

JJ Abrams objective to make it feel as ‘real’ as possible: fail

Abrams on why he shot on film and not digitally: fail

JJ on Star Trek’s ubiquitous lens flares: fail

Thought the lens flares and shaky cam stuff possibly would have a negative effect on the film before seeing it. It worked very well IMO.

23… you mamaging to make a post any one is the slightest bit interested in : fail

Wow what a fantastic critic you are.. a guy like JJ and the crew do all the creative stuff.. and your talents run to summing it up in one word.. what a star you are..

There seems to be an empathsis on making things too real these days. There is an escapism element in shows to get you away from the real world.

However I did feel the science in this film was more hkey than in previous Trek.

I did feel that this Trek had stronger Character moments than plot. Wrath of Khan and Undiscovered Country had stronger stories

I meant to say hokey in number 26

Im yust back from my second time i saw the film.
the film is now in it’s 4th weak in a Land called Slovenija and the Theater was half Full. That’s great for a sci-fi movie like Star trek.

And sorry for my bad Eanglish ;)

JJ’s idea on the lens flares just didn’t work. Honestly they were distracting the first time I watched the movie. DON”T DO IT AGAIN!

17: I agree. Mr. Abrams THANK YOU!

28.. Welcome.. and your English is great my friend.. glad you enjoyed the film..


i dissagree
update the look?
looks like you (and others) have a differant view of “update the look”
to me its more like a complete redsign. sure they kept the command chair – helm – elevaotr – viewscreen relationship. but glass plates, podium stations even the xtra staions in front of helm have no place there. lighted floor plates under the capt chair? WTF

this is not the star trek ive wanted to see.

that extra door (out to the rest of the ship on that deck) enh wrong.
mayb. maybe put it on the front port of the viewscreen. puting the bridge on what looked like deck 3?

this is not the star trek ive wanted to see.


The only time the movie was gritty and real was during the Kelvin sequence. After which “grit” was replaced with “satire” for the rest of the movie.

I still loved the movie, but how exactly was reviving TOS cheesyness supposed to make the movie more “real”? It had completely the opposite effect and made for a fun fantasy space adventure instead of our “real future”.

I sure hope J.J. takes Lucas’ advice once again and kills off Jar Jar binks in the next Trek movie. (By JarJar, I mean the childish, movie-ruining atmosphere!)

I loved the lens flares. They made it seem more real. I think they might become a signature of JJ.

Ben Burtt is a great sound designer; glad he made it into the production…

…but not surprising, after the fact, to learn that he was an after though…

I saw NO satire in the new film.

Are you sure you’re using the correct word?

” a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn”

Gulliver’s Travels or A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift being the ultimate example.

We all know that that every feature film is the directors vision, he or she do what they feel is artistic and/or pleasing to their eyes. For the most part the film is shot beautifully and the scope is tremendous. However, I do not feel that the lens flares and moving camera is needed in this film. It would have been a lot better to see it with out those effects that some people copy now to make a film seem realistic. But this is just my opinion and not meant to degrade the film for what it is, another Star Trek film that we all have been waiting for since 2002. It does need to stand on it own and not be compered to what TOS started since we cannot go back with the same actors being young again (that would be real sci fi) to start over. This film, hopefully, will start a new chapter or course in the world of Star Trek that we all can enjoy for another 40+ years.

33 – Re: Gritty?? FULL AGREEMENT

JJ, Great Movie.


Please hold the lens flares on the sequel.

the lense flares werent as bad as i thought theyd be. but id still prefer to go with out.
As to their reason or a real look . it sounds too much like old dated films of over 30 odd yrs ago. use of natural light, poorly lit scenes and camers pointed directly into the sun or light source. dated is right. :)

i do like the real look of firefly, BSG use of hand held camers and yes light sources. much better then the ‘real’ look JJ gave us.

Gotta love them lens flares, more for part deux please

this looks more like standing on its own. on its own outside the previous trek canon. and thats what irks me. and any future production will also ignore it only to use it as a ref or some kind of sodomised homage (sp).

sure the court involved in this movie had no plans for such. and wish well for the franchise and the next team. But more likely is that the next team (from the direction of paramount or who ever has the rights) will continue to make another star trek (2009) like this one and want to continue with the sucsess they have.

sure we could continue another 40 years. another movie or two. find a charactor people react to and build tv show off of. Enterprise or not. I just dont want it to be a new canon/timeline/alt universe.

As someone not technically minded. Can someone tell me what the difference is between shooting on film and shooting digitally? Thanks :)

re: lense flares

I’ve seen it 4 times. IMHO they don’t detract at all. In fact, just the opposite. I think it gave the scenes a more realistic view, like I was there or watching a live news feed. Or watching a documentary film. And some of you guys act like they were used constantly, they weren’t. The effect was chosen for specific scenes, which really worked. Again, IMHO.


stand in front of a screen door.

sure your eyes might have a better picture. BUT the tech has progressed beyond human sight. larger spectrum of colors etc

@ #8

I am as stuck to the cannon as they come, but even I realize that J.J. hasn’t screwed up Roddenberry’s vision. Now, if you want late 60’s and early 70’s social commentaries in a movie made in 2008/9, I am sorry but you are asking for a lot. There was a time and place for those commentaries….the 60’s and 70’s. Times have changed and the message has changed.

In the middle of an economic down turn, yeah, people want to see things blow up and random violence on screen…basically because they know someone they want to attack and the film is a release for them. STAR TREK has been and STILL IS a release for people, be it in a massive message to the audience, or a way for them to keep from losing their minds.

No, Burnt, J.J. hasn’t destroyed Star Trek….he has just given the audience what they wanted and needed, a release from reality and a STAR TREK film which was unlikely to be made after (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Nemesis.


Damn. 4 times

I’m more of a 1 time person myself.

46 i dont know about 8

but i would like the social commentaries of 2000’s

no. the message is optimism and that hasnt changed. the commentary is of an issue and the issues today can be told. The TOS had their ‘dirty stinking half white’ now we have a black president.. what topic should Star Trek comment on now? PTSD? maybe obortion docotrs? male on male physical intimacy?

the message is optimism.
the comentary is on a topic
the topic is today.

I recall JJ saying that there were on-the-set changes he would have liked to have made to the script to tweak it and make it better but couldn’t because of the writer’s strike.

Does anyone know what those changes were?



thats what i was asking in regards to a dvd release including the cut footage.

but IIRC the strike ended a couple days beore the end of principle phtotography and b4 the end of 2nd unit. so its a good question.
did he gat a chance then to make some changes.

RE: the cuting room floor.
would those changes be a violation of the strike should it have lasted longer?