It was the end of 1996, I had just finished high school and was discovering visual effects – in particular, the coverage of vfx in Cinefex – and then, Star Trek: First Contact came out.
There are some incredible vfx shots in the film. The opening pull-back from Captain Picard. The ship to ship battles. The Borg cube. But there is one single stunner of a shot by ILM – the assembly of the Borg queen – that blew me away. It wasn’t until reading more about ILM’s work on the shot on Todd Vaziri’s VFX HQ and then in Cinefex that I could really appreciate just how much work went into it, but in the cinema I knew the sequence was something special from a vfx perspective.
Why, though? In some ways it was not groundbreaking character animation/rendering, or any other kind of brand new tech. The reason, I think, is that the shot is just such a classic trick shot and a brilliant combination of clever practical photography, some CG and plenty of paint/clean-up and compositing – but without being over the top. It was exactly what the new digital tools and techniques just gaining prominence should have been used for at the time (and not always were).
On one of the DVD releases, visual effects supervisor John Knoll describes in detail how the scene was film and how the vfx was achieved. Check it out below.
Happy 20th anniversary, Star Trek: First Contact.