Ships of the Line

Ships of the Line

 

All the Star Trek Ships in A Tale of Two Galaxies were modelled by Philip Davis, and all the Star Wars ships were modelled by Robert Owens. Most of the animations are joint efforts between the two of us. See‘The Making Of “A Tale of Two Galaxies”’ featurette for more on the CGI development of the vessels and external shots in the movie.

 

USS Hood

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Background

The USS Hood is a United Federation of Planets Starfleet refit Constitution Class vessel. A sister ship to of the USS Enterprise 1701 and later 1701-A, the Hood was still in service shortly after the Khitomer accords were signed. Firstly, I love Star Trek. I chose to make ‘A Tale Of Two Galaxies’ in this Federation time period because I feel that the ships of this era, mainly the refit Constitution and Excelsior class ships are among the most graceful and beautiful, and particularly recognizable, ships ever to grace the silver screen. I also liked the militaristic look and feel of this era’s Starfleet uniform.
It also seemed to me that the fan-film New Voyages was covering (very well ) the crew of the 1960’s series, and episodes of Enterprise and DS9 had glossed over them, and there were plenty of fan films based in the TNG eras. I also remembered hearing about a failed fan bid to launch a Sulu/Excelsior based series some years ago. Only the excellent Voyager episode Flashback (and to some small extent theTNGepisode Cause and Effect) had touched on this era so after modelling the ship I started looking for a name. One jumped at me straight away. I remembered seeing the episode of the Original series ‘The Ultimate Computer’ in which a certain USS Hood was disabled in war games. I also knew there was an Excelsior-class Hood seen in episodes of the later series so I took the leap of faith that the Constitution -class Hood had survived the war games, and had continued serving Starfleet on missions until undergoing a refit just like the Enterprise some 20 years later. She was presumably either destroyed or decommissioned at some point to make room for an Excelsior-class replacement, which may or may not be the same vessel we see in The Next Generation.

 

I couldn’t find any other references to the Constitution Class Hood anywhere so it was perfect – we could base a film on it without messing up any Star Trek canon. The name Hood has particular resonance for me because the Hood was the British Royal Navy flagship sank in the battle of the Atlantic in WWII, with the loss of almost all hands, a battle at which my step-grandfather was present. So, a very British Starship for a very British fan film. Of course it would have been nice to call it HMS Hood instead of USS but you can’t have everything can you?

 

 

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Phaser test render

 

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Various shades of torpedoes.

Modelling notes

This model represents my transition from Lightwave absolute novice to amateur, and it may’ve taken ages but it was rewarding. I was helped loads by having a large scale air fix kit to look at first hand, and learnt loads about Lightwave with Rob’s help and simply reading the manual (bits of it!). There’s even a little arboretum model (see ‘The Making of A Tale Of Two Galaxies’). The saucer was made using a radial array and the engineering hull was made using a multiple rail extrude (with loads of polygons – a decision I would come to regret when modelling the shuttlebay and again later when rendering times became an issue.)
As with all my ships the hull plate details are modelled rather than textured, but there’s a texture and specularity map of the Aztec pattern on the saucer taken from a scan of the one on my model kit. The windows are all smooth-shifted in a bit and have 3 surfaces and different glow settings, and different fractal noise textures, not that it really makes much difference to the finished product. Because the bulk of the movie was set bordering or inside a nebula, I made the ship a little greyer than the Enterprise appears in the movies, so it wouldn’t look like a big pink thing when it was lit in scenes.
After working out the glows for the deflector I looked at the nacelles and decided they needed to be lit in a way similar to the engines of the Next Generation, simply because I felt a slight luminescence looked better! I suppose if someone were moaning about continuity the Hood could’ve been running tests on a prototype engine design which later was retrofitted to the entire fleet. In fact, in the so-far unmade sequal to ‘ATOTG’ we learn that the newly appointed Captain Lo’omis has used his influence to stop the ageing Hood being decommissioned, and she is now a test vessel for new technologies. Anyway, it looks better!

 

B’rel Class Bird of Prey

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Truly an awe-inspiring sight, and frankly a terrifying one if you’re unfortunate enough to be the Captain of a Japanese whaling ship, I was SO looking forward to modelling this ship that when I finally came to it I was a little baffled. I didn’t have a great big toy one to look at, so I plastered the wall with pictures I’d printed off the internet and watched a lot of DS9 episodes. I also had a BOP micro-machine that took pride of place on top of my monitor.
While I was doing this ‘research’ the whole argument about scaling came up – how big is a Bird of Prey? There are countless arguments about this all over the internet (which I won’t go into here) largely because of conflicting sizes of the ship sometimes even with the same ship in the same movie! (See The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home)
I think the animators on the Next Generation simply scaled up the existing BOPs to make them a threat to the Galaxy Class Enterprise in TNG. Because Rob and I were hell-bent on getting all the scales bang on I decided to subscribe to the following theory.
The Bird Of Prey is supposedly a nickname given by Starfleet Officers to a generic shape, but vitally not a specific class, of Klingon ship.

In this film I’m establishing there are at least two sorts, the small fighter-esque one, about the size of the Defiant, maybe 110m long, the B’rel Class Bird of Prey (that General Karloth is based on) {crew about a dozen} and a much larger bomber-esque one, the big K’Vort Class Bird of Prey, maybe 300m long {crew could be in the hundreds} as seen in The Next Generation episodes Yesterday’s Enterprise, Redemption and a few others.
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In our film for clarification the K’vorts are the big ones with their wings flat along the width of the body, and the little B’rel has wings that are angled downward in an attack posture. I think the coolest thing is actually seeing both classes in action together, as this is never seen in Star Trek. What do you think?

 

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Modelling notes

The B’rel took a while, but I was well into my stride and realised quickly that there was no corner cutting, I couldn’t even model half of it and mirror it over because it isn’t symmetrical. Well ok, it’s only the head and neck pipes that aren’t symmetrical. I found a metallic texture and adjusted the colours in Photoshop. This texture in different colours formed the hulls of all three Klingon ships. All the hull panels are stencilled and extruded.

Klingon K’Vort Class Bird Of Prey

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A relatively new addition to the Klingon fleet, and far less manoeuvrable than the B’rel, the K’Vort class cruiser is intended to complement the K’Tinga with heavy artillery and boarding parties. See B’rel for author’s ship notes.

Modelling notes

Basically when I’d finished the B’rel I scaled up the model, flattened the wings and added some detail like more running lights (for a bigger ship), more windows (for a bigger crew), bigger guns on the wing tips, and a red glow under the big pod things where the neck joins the body. The disruptor bolts are the same colour as those of the B’rel, but have more ‘buds’ on them because they erupt from are multiple ba rels on the tips of the wings. There are several other differences, but they’re subtle, the ships had to look similar enough that they were both still Birds of Prey.


K’tinga Class Battlecruiser

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k'tinga_by_philip_davis

 

Well I really went to town here. I love the K’Tinga, a true stalwart in Trek Lore. I didn’t want to make the ship the same dull grey as the original series model was, partly because other ships in our film are grey also, such as the Star Destroyer. I also wanted to make it separate from the K’Vort and the B’rel so I decided I’d earned the right to give my K’Tinga an upgrade. The massive Klingon Emblem on the ventral superstructure is a nod to the Original series.

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Modelling notes

Away went the smooth lines of the ship, I modelled loads of little raised bits across the ship which I think adds to the impression of size.
I tried several colour schemes and was leaning on red but it clashed with the nebula! I remembered you briefly see a K’Tinga from this era in the Voyager episode Flashback, which seemed to be a sort of blue/turquoise, so I tried this colour, and it both complemented the other ships and looked good in the nebula.

And yes, I know the K’Tingas disruptor weapons traditionally come from the upper areas of the superstructure, but I changed it purely for aesthetic reasons. Please don’t be cross! There’d be a better firing arc, and the nacelles would harbour the sort of power that generates disruptor bolts. This would leave the K’Tingas hull free for living quarters, cargo and shuttle bays, livestock pens, all the things a spacefaring Klingon needs.


Tie Fighters

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Rob started by modelling the Tie-Fighter Advance, which serves as Darth Vader’s personal sub-light fighter. Rob then modelled the straighter-wing panels of the regular tie, and before we knew it we had a squadron!
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Tie Fighter 02

 

Master To’Nik’s X-Wing

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As iconic a vessel as any other in the movie, Rob had loads of fun modelling the X-Wing knowing full well he’d get to be the one piloting it. He spent a good while modelling lens flares for the engines, and spent AGES deciding what colour he wanted R5, his droid to be. Rob also modellled a detailed interior cockpit backdrop for the scenes where he speaks to Commmander Loomis via the viewscreen. This is one of only two fully CGI interiors in the movie, the other being the sequence showing Captain Dodge’s coffin torpedo-casing. For a detailed, animated look at the X-Wing development check out ‘The Making of A Tale of Two Galaxies’.

 

The Imperal Star Destroyer Inquisitor

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The most detailed ship in the film, and made to perfect scale with all the other ships, the Imperial Class Inquisitor dwarfs any Federation Starship of this era and represents the fearsome point guard of what may be a massive invasion of the Milky Way. It took Rob something like 6 weeks on and off to model the Inquisitor, and you can see why in the detail in this test render.

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Nebula
It’s safe to assume this isn’t the same nebula that Sulu meets Kang in Flashback (ST VOY), as the chemical composition is different, and it looks different. But Sulu was on a mission charting gaseous anomalies in the Beta Quadrant, so this is just one of plenty he must’ve found.

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Modelling notes

I knew I wanted a thick, pink nebula a bit like the Mutara in “The Wrath of Khan”. Once we’d found a colour and consistency we liked (after many hours of test renders!) we added a couple of lens flares and there you go! In fact the nebula you see in ‘A Tale Of Two Galaxies’ is almost always a flat rendered image that had either been wrapped inside a hemisphere or simply put on a flat box object behind the ships. I would have loved to do the whole film using a real volumetric nebula but we simply didn’t have the time or computing power available to render these scenes.

The Wormhole (quantum fissure)

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Modelling notes

The wormhole was a lot of fun, we didn’t have a clue how do a DS9-esque wormhole, so we simply started from scratch and made it up. Loosely based on the sort of tunnel the Tardis flies through in the Doctor Who credits, we took the hypervoxel settings from the nebula, and put them on an emitter. The wormhole itself is a long tunnel with a luminosity, bump and displacement maps all over the place. Surprisingly the rendering times aren’t too bad, for the tunnel but the volumetrics around the mouth of the wormhole is a different matter. Some of the cloudy shots took at much as two weeks to render.

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The TARDIS

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I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no TARDIS in this film! Actually it was Danielle’ idea, and I just couldn’t resist it. With the resurrection of the Doctor at the BBC I felt he might visit an epic moment in spacetime, just as an observer. The Tardis only took me a few hours to model.

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A nerd’s paradise; the TARDIS and Vader’s Tie Fighter Advance in exact scale to each other. If you get excited by this, it may be advisable to report to sickbay.

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In 2007 when we made the movie there was a 15 minute upload maximum on Youtube forcing us to break the movie into four parts, although it’s only about 35 minutes long. The Youtube version of the movie has been stripped of some of the sound at time of writing because of recent changes to CBS’s attitude toward fan movies – basically we misunderstood the fair usage rights and although all the video is totally original, we had neither the time or expertise to compose an original score. I’ve complained about this, because this was a not-for-profit fan tribute just to show what we could do, and I’ve NEVER monetised it, but the Internet Gods don’t want to know. At time of writing the Dailymotion version of the film hasn’t been affected, and is in one part and higher quality, so this is the best place to watch it.

Watch ‘A Tale of Two Galaxies’ on Youtube now! – click here

Watch ‘A Tale of Two Galaxies’ on Dailymotion now! (higher quality) – click here

PS – Being a one-off, half hour movie with original characters, ATOTG does subscribe to virtually every one of CBS’s new fan-0film guidelines, even if it is by chance. If you work for CBS and Paramount, rather than get the hump over my movie, why not offer me a job?