New Details On Star Trek VFX – Ship Sizes Revealed

There is another one of those industry trade articles on the making of Star Trek, this time focusing on the digital effects created by Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Domain. Although focusing on technical issues, the article has interesting information (including the sizes of a number of ships), plus there are some nice images not previously released.


The full article is at Society of Digital Artists (, here are some interesting bits:

  • ILM did 800 visual effects shots in six months
  • Digital Domain did additional 150 shots in four months
  • no traditional models or miniatures used
  • Dimensions:
    • shuttle: 30 feet long ( handled by ILM)
    • Enterprise: 2,357 feet long (ILM)
    • Narada 5 miles long + drill cable also 5 miles (ILM)
  • Vulcan jump sequence used 250 shots, (ILM)
  • Digital Domain’s work included the engineer bay sequence with pipes
  • DD also worked on ‘robocop’ making him more ‘threatening’ and added Keenser’s metallic eyes

Some of the images in the article:

Some of the images at CG Society

To see the images in larger sizes and read more details, go to

The CG Society article is actually a couple weeks old, but slipped past our notice until a reader sent in a tip (thanks Carl). If you have seen an interesting article covering the making of Trek we haven’t pointed to, please send in the tip.

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beautiful image of the Enterprise

2,357 feet? That’s, like, 714 meters. Holy huge! That’s bigger than the Enterprise-D!

718 meters, rather. Even bigger. :-P

I remain unconvinced of the size of the Enterprise. The visual evidence is inconsistent, but I have a tough time buying the idea that the sensor readings of the Narada allowed Starfleet to progress a century in ship design- bigger than TOS? Sure. Too many external features from Ryan Church’s original design argue against anything over 400 meters in my opinion.

Of course, I’m a Trekkie, not an engineer…

I REALLY, really want the beauty shot of Big E rising out of Titan’s atmosphere with Saturn in the background for my desktop.

Uh, Bob O…. that possible?

Still no direct quote from anyone at ILM…and this is the 5th number to come up from various articles.

You know how large those windows would have to be if the ship is indeed that big.

Imagine in the NEW timeline… how the Enterprise-D or E would look like, It would look soo freaken huge !

I honestly thought if anything it looked just a tad smaller than the original due to the camera angles. Closer inspection allows a dirrect comparison with windows and airlocks which makes it roughly shorter but taller than the original.

Then how big was the Kelvin?

It would seem the Kelvin-class of the 2230s was even bigger than the Classic connies of the 2260s. But wasn’t the Kelvin a colonizer ship with 800 people onboard?

So Nero’s intervention caused the federation to start making ships way bigger soon after the Narada’s intervention. Look at the size of the other ships in the movie.

Maybe when the Narda went back it time, creating an alternate reality/timeline, measurements changed as well? Perhaps a “foot” in this new Star Trek universe is equal to seven feet in the original Star Trek universe?

(Said with loathing sarcasm. Using the excuse of an “alternate timeline” to justify change for change’s sake is unimaginative and ridiculous.)

I like the big ships, since after TNG, all the ships started to get smaller in the Berman era, defiant, voyager, nx-01, I’ll pretend the size is the same as the one in TMP etc.

Cool, but I like the Defiant more.


Ha! Everyone who complained about the NX-01: We never knew how good we had it.

Not that I wouldn’t want the size of the ship to be consistent with earlier movies, but the size doesn’t really matter. Larger engineering doesn’t necessarily equal better engineering, just different. The pyramids were gigantic, the Titanic is still on par with relative sizes of both cruise ships and warships, etc etc.

I agree that the visual evidence with the windows makes that big of a size kind of iffy, but how long the Enterprise is doesn’t impact my enjoyment of the movie in any way. In the 1960s they wanted the Enterprise to be big and powerful for it’s long mission of exploration, so they made it roughly the size of a modern aircraft carrier. The point is big and powerful; the relative difference between the movie and the TV series shouldn’t really matter — at least it doesn’t to me.

Agreed with #13. I mean, come on, just look at the ship as it was *on the screen*. The detailing, everything from airlock hatches to viewports to phaser banks to the windows on the bridge, suggest a ship comparable in size to the TOS and TMP-TUC versions.

To ILM, I call shenanigans! I don’t know what they’re thinking, but it makes no sense whatsoever.

718 meters. no still not the right size. That’s bigger than the E and the ship is only supposed be between 289 and 305. This ship is still too large

The new Enterprise is almost the same as the TOS Enterprise, remember the shot pull back out the bridge view window. Its the same as TOS.

Also those shuttles were not 30 feet long

I know a few guys at ILM…they love the chatter about the new size…becuase it is not really the new size.

People will be very surprised when the official numbers are released.

So, the Narada is bigger than Babylon 5, eh?

@10 – Yeah we get it, the flick has been out for a while, lets move on now….

The ship is obviously large.

And the interiors and windows of the old Enterprises (All of them) never made one damn bit of sense, so I don’t know why people are bothering to compare them.

23. Prologic9 – June 9, 2009

Wrong on multiple fronts. Save for the Defiant the windows on most federations ships were scaled correctly for the size of the ship.

Check any modeling resource for this information.

You’re killing me, ILM Dude! It is funny, though, that they have caught the discussion (actually, it’s harder to miss it these days). I hope they’re not amused by it, though.

BTW… I’m totally in the nuEnterprise=700+ meters camp. Way, yes way. There’s much more evidence that it is than evidence that it is the same (or even slightly larger) than TOS version. But some will never be convinced, even if there ever is a single, definitive, official statement made.

Well of course the Enterprise is that big…just look at the size of the ego of the movies stupid director. Star Trek 12 – The Search For More Lens Flares.

#20: “People will be very surprised when the official numbers are released.”

I think, at this point, people will be very surprised _if_ the official numbers are released, since nobody seems eager to release them :)

But I gotta ask (and I know it’s redundant, but I gotta): why does anyone care? I mean … gah. “Kirk is a douchebag now” seems to me a much juicier nit to pick than “the ship is a funny size.” :)

The ship size…is inconsiquential…

Seriously…this is a new timeline…there is absolutely no guarantee that this timeline will result in anything resembling what we know of from TNG/DS9/VOY/Future of ENT

There may not even be 1701-(insert letters here). The next Enterprise in this universe could just as easily be the NCC-2001…

And from what some folks have been reading in the articles from ILM…for them it wasn’t that big of a change because the ILM guys thought Matt Jefferies design was the size we attribute to the 1701-D and that ship was even bigger than that.

Well I for one have a problem with the Abrams camp claiming credit for the viewscreen/window to justify the bridge being exposed on the top. Matt Jefferies came up with it first in the Pilot episodes. Sadly they scrapped the idea when it went to series. The real shame is CBS-D actually removed the window from the re-mastered CGI model in those episodes.

I think the removal of the window on the CGI ship was purely a move to avoid comparisons to the new movie…due to the ongoing “difficulties” between Paramount Movie Division and CBS-TV Paramount.

26 – Just look at the size of the box office take. The director is not stupid.

So that can make a 1200 foot cruise ship, but a starship that can be in space for a 5 year mission can’t be bigger? Riiiiiiight.

@ 22, how right you are. Here we are, a month after the release and the OCD Trekkies are are still here, trolling.

not even a half mile. thats not that unbelievably big. i always imagined it to be that big or bigger to hold all the necessary technology and machinery as well as crew and passengers.

Yikes — I can’t buy the design of the new Enterprise (no matter how beautiful and spectacular it is) measures the length of the Enterprise-D! That’s just unbelievable and seems physically impossible based on it’s design that it would traverse through space. I can accept that when it is set up side-by-side the original Matt Jeffries design and the refit from TOS that it is and should be comparable to those vessels — regardless of an alternate universe or timeline. Just do a visual match from when we observed the ship being constructed in the teaser…people were walking on the surface of it — the ship “felt” like the size of the original refit. You can stick how many people you want on it — it’s not bigger than the D!

The current number released in this article is approximately twice the length of today’s Nimitz Class aircraft carrier. The numbers were alway a little suspect. The TOS Enterprise was smaller than an aircraft carrier, but only by a slight difference. The crew on the Enterprise: 400 plus. The crew on a modern day aircraft carrier, over 3,000, with room for an airwing of approximately 2,200. Such a large spaceship could handle 10 times the crew originally stated in TOS. Always found the number of people on the ship far too few to sustain the mission. Think the larger E, with a MUCH bigger crew would be more realistic.

Oh, and there would be pipes of some sort, I’m reasonably certain. But let’s face it, that was an aesthetic choice, so let’s move on.

The window is still very visible in the remastered Where No Man Has Gone Before…

I don’t have a problem believing a spaceship CAN be 2000 feet long, I just don’t believe the new E is. With the exception of the first shuttlebay scene every other piece of evidence externally, including the scene when Pike’s shuttle leaves the Enterprise, shows a ship no larger than 400 meters. Further, it doesn’t make sense that Nero’s incursion changes Starfleet shipbuilding techniques to that great extent.

I know it’s a new universe, but that blows the whole TOS connection. The thing is this- the VAST majority of viewers don’t care. I see no reason to change it and befuddle the 4% of us who do. I drank the kool-aid on this movie, and it won’t ruin my appreciation of it if the ship is that size, but it’s a mark against it being a sequel to TOS.

I don’t mind that they’ve decided to “super-size” everything. After all, with giant arcologies and 400-floor office buildings being depicted, this is probably a more muscular Federation than the one we know and love from TOS and spin-off series.

But, yes, the scale is massive by Star Trek standards. In fact, these ships are as big as the ones in Star Wars. Even the orginal timeline’s mightly Borg Cube, which measures 29 cubic kilometers according to Seven of Nine, would look considerably less intimidating in this alternate reality. If these figures match with the models, that would make the Narada roughly half the length of a Super Star Destroyer (with the drill deployed, it is just about the *same* length) and the Enterprise roughly half the length of a regular Imperial Star Destroyer.

Well, that seems to be answer to everyone’s question–whether anyone wants to accept it is the even bigger question.

I don’t have a huge problem with the Enterprise being that big (in fact, it certainly presents the opportunities for more stories: instead of a crew of hundreds it is now thousands).

….but it does present a another problem: How in the hell did they lift something that big off the ground and beyond the stratosphere? … yowsa, that would take an incredible amount of energy … but then (oops) that presents another big argument between the camps on whether the Big E was built on earth or in an orbital drydock.

#26: Whoa, partner… ithat was pretty uncalled for…

Surely your mamma taught you “if you can say nothing nice, say nothing.”

sorry i dont like this size
and I dont like this star trek

the kelvin had 800 + (dont ask)

now with the entire fleet engaged elsewere (dont ask)
forcing them to use cadets (fine for TWOK, but what about the crew on the space station, r they sayin cadets are better. dont ask)

i think its kinda hard to call out several thousand names manualy for cadets to man their ships. i can see dr beckett now. lets take a break. tomorow cadets with names D thru H. lets hope Vulcan can last that long.


Thanks for the pic.

This is getting too crazy around here.

Leave the poor ship alone.

You seem to forget that they had no idea that it was an ambush. All of those cadets were on the way to Vulcan to help the planet cope with an anomaly.

There was a plane crash at Detroit Metro Airport in the 80s and my friends (all in their late teens and early 20s) who were in the Civil Air Patrol were called to provide the Air National Guard with on-site support, so that seasoned Guard members could do things a little more crucial than set flares, direct traffic and maintain perimeters.

You have every right to hate Trek ’09, but I’m curious, why, after a month of being-out, do you still hang-out here to bash the movie? Surely you have something better to do than to visit boards to spread your unhappiness!

41. Enc – June 9, 2009
sorry i dont like this size
and I dont like this star trek

the kelvin had 800 + (dont ask)

now with the entire fleet engaged elsewere (dont ask)
forcing them to use cadets (fine for TWOK, but what about the crew on the space station, r they sayin cadets are better. dont ask)

i think its kinda hard to call out several thousand names manualy for cadets to man their ships. i can see dr beckett now. lets take a break. tomorow cadets with names D thru H. lets hope Vulcan can last that long.

The size thing is so off with the new Enterprise, probably one of the biggest tech errors of the movie, besides the transporters and the entire engineering section.

I agree the size is off! My humble opinion is that the new Constitution classes fall just short of the Excelsior Class.
Paramount has to give the size stats. I say its got to be 600-700 meters long!

#37 – I don’t have the Blu-Ray, just the broadcast SD on DVR and there’s no good shot that shows the detail of the window in WNMHGB. So I would say it is not “very” visible. However, it is definitely not in The Cage which has a nice close up shot of the bridge, and it is supposed to be the same CGI model, much of which was re-used in WNMHGB. But good to know they didn’t eliminate it completely (just created another variation of the Enterprise!).

But it’s interesting that in the ST09 re-designed bridge section, they’ve incorporated and lowered the first bump into the upper slope and kept the same general proportions of the original “top-hat” bridge, with a smaller domed-section on top of that. The bridge itself appears to have at least three stories on top of it based on that promo construction picture that shows the exposed decks. The entire saucer appears to be about 20 stories tall. If that’s true, assuming 10-feet per deck, that’s 200 feet high by almost 1000 feet long in the saucer section alone. That ratio translates to around 2,100+ feet long total and about 500+ feet high total.

Now that’s an extremely rough estimate based on an inexact number of decks in the saucer and their actual height, using a ruler and a printout of the profile, but it’s pretty close to the size given by ILM.

Also, is that construction image of the saucer considered canon since it wasn’t actually in the movie?


700 meters = 2296.587 feet, which is bit smaller than the ILM number.

ILM is not Paramount or Abrams.

Just because their CGI model was designed a certain scale in order to acheive their desired perspective shots doesn’t make that canon in the official Trek fictional context.

That’s like saying that TOS Enterprise was 11 feet long because the shooting model was.

It’s not like the Enterprise is every going to be shown in scale against anything measurable. It’s really not up to the “prop” people to write the script. I await Abrams, Orci or Paramount releasing official specs.

I’m sorry, but I always hated the ADMITTEDLY FAN-DERIVED measurements of the 1701. They never say ONSCREEN how big the ship is. In fact, the only time a starship’s size is ever mentioned on screen is in First Contact. 200 some odd meters long for a crew of 400 just doesn’t seem right when a modern aircraft carrier is about 300 meters long with a crew of 3000. No, just…no. I fully accept the adjusted, and probably more accurate, dimensions for the Enterprise.

Not only did the Kelvin have 800 people on board, they all escaped in about 16 shuttles….

So many things about the plot don’t make sense but they don’t have too because

a) It’s made to be commercial – emphatically not to appeal old-school Trekkers
b) It’s emulating the original Star Wars trilogy: action for actions-sake; keep the audience busy and hope they don’t notice the dodgey plotting.
c) “It’s an alternate time-line.”

For us old school fans there’s Spock prime, colored uniforms and a glimpse of tribble. Take it or leave it.