Video of the Day: Evolution of the Star Trek Warp Effect

One of the cooler new effects in the 2009 Star Trek movie was the "go to warp" effect. The video of the day looks at how the warp effect has changed over the last three decades in the eleven Star Trek feature films. Check it out below.


Evolution of Warp

Compiled by Gizmodo (adding Star Trek 2009 effect to original YouTube video from 2008)

POLL What’s your favorite warp effect?

You can break the history of the warp effect into eras. The Motion Picture had “the tunnel”, the rest of the TOS era movies went with “the streak”, Generations and First Contact used “the stretch”, while the last two TNG era films had a kind of “accelerator” effect, and finally in Star Trek 2009 the ships just “shot” into warp. So which is your fave?


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First!! ?? That’s cool.

Nice flare!

I liked the ‘stretch’ the that the D and E did (though the E seemed to lose it in the end for some dumb reason)

The 1979 Warp Effect is definitely the best! So Disco!!!

I like the Motion Picture in the sense that all the rainbow lines makes it seem like some sort of tunnel is being generated. I like TNG because of the actually warping/stretching of the ship, and I like how the nacelles in the latest movie seem to shift around a smidgen before going warp.

Yes, original movies were the best (I, II, III, IV). Next best would be JJ’s.

I never understood The Next Gen movies (ENT-E) warp. It was awful. Smoke contrails coming from the warp nacelles? Really?? It was really odd, and unimpressive.

Plus, the sounds effects that they used for TMP were impressive, too.. Loud and bold and powerful. The sound makes a huge difference, too (even though there shouldn’t be any sound in space) LOL

Third! Nice optical effects in the first movies, i love the prism effects on those too.

The Star Trek 2009 was also nice, but reminds me a little bit too much of “Galaxy Quest”, i don´t know why, maybe it´s the camera angle.

Thinking on this, there´s tons of similarities between Star Trek 2009 and Galaxy Quest, besides the basic fact they´re both Trek parodies.

No NX-01 Enterprise warp?

#8, how the heck is 2009 a Trek Parody if it’s Trek?

That was one sexy video.

The D’s will always hold a special place in my heard. Nacelle flash, stretch, flash of light. mmhmm. The E lost the nacelle flash, which is a shame. That being said I do love the early warp effect too. and the new one is fine. hell, I like ’em all!

TMP Warp effect rules!


I liked the TOS moives AFTER TMP when they didn’t sort of create the hole and drive into like TMP.

Capt Mike of the Terran Empire

I like the Warp effect of treks 2 through 6. Tng was good along with Ds9 and Voyager. Enterprise was good as well. Trek09 was good but not the best.

It would’ve been better to show the primary hell stretching out before warp (from the Bridge POV)that we see once Sulu learns how to drive in ST09.

My favorite part about the TMP visual is that we go to warp along with the Enterprise, but we just can’t keep up and are left in it’s dust!

I added a poll.

I like the TWOK ‘streak’ and the new movie ‘pop’ effects best. I do agree that it would be nice to see that distant flash with the new effect.

I love light tunnels!

They are all awesome in their own right… however, nitpick alert…… Sorry Tony cos i know u hate em….

My thought on the Warp Effect was that they had their differences due to the the tech on the ships becoming more advanced therefore the style of the warp effect would differ. (this ties in with special effects & budgets etc).. however. In Enterprise the NX01 would Warp out like a TNG style vessel as would the Phoenix in First Contact…

It just disrupts continuity in my opinion…… They could have easily kept the same style of warp effect prone to that timeline.

“One of the cooler new effects in the 2009 Star Trek movie was the “go to warp” effect. ”

Too bad that effect was 40 years too late. Star Wars invented the hyperspace effect back in ’77, remember?

The TMP warp was and is the best. From the deeply resonating sound effects, to the prism tunnel to the thunderous (no pun intended) flash bang at the end. The TNG warp effect was the only one that came close to something as dramatic and exciting ever since.

i personal thought the warp in trek 5 was the best it had nice blend of colour with a movement never before or since top that with a tention underplayed that with some humor………….im sorry just shitting you T.M.P the best but i do like trek 09 move for its speed than grace and the way it feel like its ripping for space and not saling throu it so not star trek but i do like it

Still think the original Motion Picture effect is the best after all these years. It really gives the impression that space is being twisted and the light gets broken down.

Reminds me of a “Galaxy Defractor” filter I once had on a SLR camera…used to love getting “warp effect” shots in London.

gotta go with the tunnelin TMP- i dont know whats scientifically hypothesized to be more correct, but I thought that one was the best

Was it ever explained why the warp effect changed during the movie in Star Trek II? The first effect looked like a cheap, imitation of the beautiful warp jump from the TMP.

Trek 09’s warp effect was pretty darn awesome. Its gotta be the best one.

Damn. That clip at the end reminded me how terrible GIacchino’s version of the ST theme is.

As for the effect: I prefer the ST09 version, because if warp were possible, that’s probably the closest to what it would look like: gone in the blink of an eye. (Assuming it’s even possible to see a ship inside a warp field.)

As much as I like the TNG stretch, I’d have to vote for the TMP effect. It just seemed more like an event than just a plain old special effect (see Insurrection & Nemesis).

Also, a fun little question for you scientists and nitpickers out there: when we see the Enterprise (or any sci-fi ship for that matter) traveling faster than light (traveling at speed, not the going-to-warp effect), shouldn’t the ship be invisible? I mean, technically they are traveling faster than light… so they shouldn’t still be within the visible spectrum, right? Not that I don’t enjoy seeing those beautiful ships… just asking… :)

I always liked the Nemesis one the best just because I thought it was the most, well at least potentially, realistic. It didn’t just instantly break the warp barrier and there was a plasma trail. I think had they added a warp flash to the ST09 effect it would of been awesome, but they didn’t which kinda disappointed me.

Star Trek II all the way!

#29 The ships in Star Trek don’t go faster than light. It’s the warp field that distorts spacetime around a ship, but the ship inside still travels below the speed of light.

Destroyer Of Virgins!

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn! I saw this on YouTube eons ago………………………………………………

I wish they had the “going to warp” scene from TNG 2.1 “The Child” where you see it from inside Ten-Forward.

Now let’s compare transporter beams ;)
They had a new effect in each series and almost every movie…

Why does the video cut out at the end?

The TNG effect is the best. The stretch really suggests something Einsteinian as the ship accelerates and ultimately outruns the light we see it with. The flash of light was carried over from TMP after not being used in any of the movies Roddenberry didn’t produce. I suspect the TNG effect is probably what Roddenberry intended for TMP, minus the rainbow tunnel which today looks a bit “1970s disco”.

The streaks suggest the same idea as the stretch but must have been a lot easier to do. The stretch, I recall, was created in-camera with trick photography (it’s actually on the film negative, not a post-production effect) and was extremely difficult for ILM to achieve, which is why TNG used the same three stock clips for the whole series.

There’s no excuse for the Enterprise E losing the stretch in its later appearances, because it must be easier to do the effect with a CG model, one would think!


Oh, okay. You’re right, Schultz. I totally forgot about the whole warp field distortion thing in Trek. Anyway, it would be novel to see a sci-fi ship with a kind of Predator cloaking effect when it’s traveling faster than light—a faint outline of the ship set against a streak or tunnel of light. That would be interesting—well, if it hasn’t already been done…

Although ST-TMP’s was the most elegant and visually appealing, I had to go with 2009’s ‘shot’ because it looks (and feels) the fastest!

It’s a kind of ‘punch-you-in-the-gut’ warp drive that feels really primal;
gotta love it!

@8: Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical.
@10: We learn by doing.

You know, they bird of pray going into warp in earth’s atmosphere in Star Trek IV is a bad idea on so many levels! lol

From a physics stand-point, the “jump” effect of the FTL drives in BSG are top-notch. A warp device would require little or zero movement by the ship and probably shouldn’t even be described as an engine in the conventional sense of a propulsion device.

That said, the effect in ST09 was pretty damn cool.

Now this is a fun and awesome look back. My favorites still are the Enterprise-A from Voyage Home and the Enterprise-D in Generations (finally saw what that ship could do). I hated what they did with Enterprise-E in Nemesis. Too much like…drag racing. The last movie has it much more like a hot rod, but it fits the film well.

TMP really stands out as one of the original Enterprises first on-screen depiction of really doing something incredible that was treated so lightly in the original series. The way it left a trail of light behind it and how it catches up to the source is really cool, especially when there’s a big bang that makes the ship completely vanish. And of course, the sound effects are spectacular. THAT is warp speed. TWOK, TSFS & TVH was kind of toned down a bit with the removal of multi-lighted tunnel, but when you see the ship flying past you at warp speed, it’s the best. First Contact I have a soft spot with it’s stretching of the Enterprise E. It really gives the sense of speed and sense of toying around with light. Nemesis however is a different story. I’m not a fan of the smoke trails leaving the nacelles or the fact that there is no light distortion at all in the effects. Pretty lackluster. ST09 could have been good, but somethings just don’t sit well with me. Take the shot of the fleet going into warp. The angle at which we see it is pretty lackluster, and what we do see is nothing but ships just jumping into warp a lot like “Star Wars” with them being shot into warp rather than going into warp, complete with a mechanical like sound to go along with it. The sound effects of the Enterprise flying passed us in whatever that tunnel… Read more »

I agree about the lack of a FTL flash in ST09. I always assumed it was similar to when there is a sonic boom when an object breaks the sound barrier. It makes sense if an object would make a loud sound when breaking the sound barrier, then it would create a bright flash of light when breaking the light barrier (relatively speaking of course, since it is actually space which is moving and not the ship itself)

^40. I agree the BSG look seems more “probable” but since it depicts instantaneous travel it wouldn’t work for Star Trek, which tells stories that occur during hours or days-long travel between stars. I think Star Trek’s concept is that the warp drive creates a bubble of “subspace” that contains the ship, while the impulse engines continue to provide the thrust but to much greater effect relative to space outside the warp bubble.

‘The tunnel’ would be the most scientifically accurate (as in ‘tunneling’ through normal space inside a warp shell), and it was the most entertaining. But, just like a bullet, ‘the shot’ is short, to the point, and final – it just says, “I’m gone right NOW, and I ain’t coming back.”. And I always thought ‘the stretch’ is what would happen if you kicked off your warp drive inside a planet’s gravitational field. You’d stretch – all the way to infinity. And stay there.

I think the best part of the warp effect in the latest movie was the view from inside the ship. Rarely did we every see a first-person perspective from inside the ship going to warp (I can think of a few times in TNG in Ten-Forward), but Trek ’09’s view from the bridge, as the primary hull starts to stretch out, was spectacular. Wish I could have seen it in IMAX.

No warp jumps in Trek VI: Undiscovered Country?
And one other visual that’s not included here, but I think is the best warp F/X shot ever: TMP, when the Enterprise reaches Warp 7. There’s an exterior shot within the ‘tunnel’ effect that is just spectacular. The Big E never looked better.

I voted for the motion picture effect…but…I prefer it minus the tunneling. What I loved about it, and the first time they use it in Star Trek 2, is that it stretches out the actual lights on the ship….whereas in the later TOS movies, they simply painted on red and blue streaks…which looked fake and cheap to me.

Anyway, TMP minus the tunnel.

It’s all about “the shot.”

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