Behind the hunt for unseen imagery while making ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Inside the Art & Visual Effects’

What it took to get the book written, including wading through a hard drive of 27,000 images.

Gene Kozicki and Jeff Bond had talked for several years about producing a making-of book about Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Kozicki is a VFX industry veteran who also collects and holds swathes of cinema history, especially on visual effects. Bond is an established author, with experience writing a number of making-of film books.

They had pitched the Trek book idea on and off a couple of times—partly on the back of Kozicki’s inside access to a wealth of unpublished materials on the 1979 film—with no luck.

Image taken from Star Trek The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki, published by Titan Books. TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

However, when Bond began writing a few other making-of books with Titan Books, including one of the more recent Star Trek films, the idea was re-born. Rights-holders CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures signed off on the book—which would eventually become Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Inside the Art & Visual Effects—and the next step was to start gathering materials from what was available.

And those available materials turned out to be…incredible.

“CBS basically said, ‘Anything that we have that you want to use, you can,’” related Kozicki in a Zoom chat with befores & afters. While a lot of this turned out to be relatively common PR material for the film, CBS also helped enable inspection of the archives at Paramount, and this is where things really got rolling.

Image taken from Star Trek The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki, published by Titan Books. TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Warp (hard) drives

“CBS called me up and said that Paramount was going to send over a drive,” recounts Kozicki. “We hooked up the drive they sent over and it was taking forever to load. We opened up one of the thumbnails and the images were huge! They had been scanned in as 4K TIFs. And there were 27,192 files.”

Yep, 27,192 files.

In order to peruse so many files, Kozicki had to wait until they had all been thumbnailed before he could review them again. “It turned out that what Paramount had was almost every roll of film that was shot by the first unit on-set photographer, as well as all the stuff that was shot by the publicity people, known as the key art.”

Image taken from Star Trek The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki, published by Titan Books. TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This material included many different types of imagery related to the film, including storyboards and photos of concept art; another type was early test shots of the Enterprise model. “These actually became the basis of bubblegum cards,” says Kozicki. “The Enterprise on the cards is an overexposed camera test.”

The search for (the head of) Spock

More material would also be uncovered, particularly from people Kozicki affectionately describes as ‘pack rats’, those who had worked on the film or at companies associated with the film and had stored (deliberately and not-so-deliberately) the materials away for years.

Image taken from Star Trek The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki, published by Titan Books. TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

One of those pack rats was Virgil Morano, a staff photographer at Star Trek: The Motion Picture visual effects supervisor Doug Trumbull’s company (which famously, with the aid of Apogee, took over much of the effects of the film from Robert Abel and Associates). Morano had previously been working at Robert Abels on the film, too.

“Virgil shot a lot of camera tests and a lot of lighting tests, as well as beauty stills of the Enterprise and Vulcan shuttle” says Kozicki. “He’s also credited by more than a few people as the guy who came up with the idea to have the mechanical car inspection mirrors on a stand in front of the Enterprise to shine a light into this cluster of mirrors and then have them bounce up into different corners of the Enterprise.”

Image taken from Star Trek The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki, published by Titan Books. TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“I remember going over to Virgil’s house one day and we were going through all of this stuff,” continues Kozicki. “He had original [production illustrator] Robert McCall concept art from the film. And he even had this Spock head from the miniature puppet of Spock in a space suit. I said to him, ‘Holy crap, where’d you get that?’ And he said it was left over in the model shop after the show was done and that he stuck it on the end of a pencil and kept it in his pencil holder on his desk for many years!”

Finding unseen imagery

One thing Kozicki was extremely keen to feature in ‘Inside the Art & Visual Effects’ was concept art by production illustrators Robert McCall and Syd Mead. Although the originals could not be found, they had been photographed and so could be used in the book in a suitable resolution. Then there were some designs of V’Ger that Kozicki knew Richard Taylor from Robert Abels had been behind.

Image taken from Star Trek The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki, published by Titan Books. TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Richard had copies of this, but it was at such a low resolution that I didn’t think it was going to work. However, it turned out the originals had been sold by the auction house Profiles in History, and they still had the catalog listing for that auction on file as Photoshop pages. They pulled it up and it was just enough good enough resolution that we could run with it.”

Late in the process of acquiring material for the book, Kozicki discovered that another former crew member held previously unpublished materials in his basement. It turned out to include slides of an early version of the Klingon ship that had been well documented.

Image taken from Star Trek The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki, published by Titan Books. TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“I referred to it as the missing link version of the Klingon ship,” notes Kozicki. “What they’d done back then is take photos of the models at different stages of their builds and designs and these often made it onto like the model kit boxes or other places. So I recognized the images but didn’t know where they had been from.”

“That was a real find,” marvels Kozicki. “It’s amazing really because I said to this guy, ‘I thought you would have thrown it all out by now,’ and he goes, ‘Oh, well, it’s just been in the basement, but now my wife wants me to get rid of it all.”

Image taken from Star Trek The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki, published by Titan Books. TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

EXTRA: The bonus tale behind a TMP matte painting

When Lola VFX visual effects supervisor Trent Claus heard I was writing a story about ‘Inside the Art and Visual Effects’ book, he contacted me to share the story of an original Star Trek: The Motion Picture matte painting he now owns. The painting by Matthew Yuricich, which is discussed and shown in the book as a final shot, is a painting of the Enterprise, painted to show the crew’s arrival on V’Ger, and sees them disembarking down the hull (the crew was filmed live-action and composited into the matte painting).

This is a photo of the matte painting when it was purchased by Trent Claus, who notes that it was in relatively poor condition.

“As the story goes,” relates Claus, “Yuricich was really under a lot of deadline pressure on a few paintings for the film, including this one. He was never satisfied with his perspective on the hull of the ship, and refined it several times. The painting was placed under camera at least twice–once before Yuricich was ‘done’ and again after he had made a few more alterations. However, the earlier image taken was accidentally used in the final film–not the improved later version!”

Claus was able to speak to Matthew Yuricich’s nice, Anna Yuricich, who checked with her father Richard (Matthew’s brother and photographic effects director of photography on TMP) about the piece, who noted the following:

“With 4 days to go for final neg cut and printing neg creation by the lab, the great old MGM lab, we were in a rush to get the last few shots done which included two matte shot painting fixes from previously approved takes. Fortunately the few shots were in the same reel. Reel 5 of 6. I think the discrepancy in the same painting (which the great detective Gene Kozicki sleuthed out) was one of the last minute repairs. Myself, Douglas [Trumbull], and Matthew wanted to help the painting out as much as possible, all paintings and shots on the movie were rushed! As the take-up-turns the wrong take was cut into the reel and the improved painting was an improvement, but not used.”

Claus had the matte painting professionally restored. In relation to that work, Claus says the original varnish on the painting was applied “too soon for archival purposes, which makes sense since they were in such a rush. Unfortunately, that means the paint and varnish have bonded together and it is impossible to strip the varnish off without damaging the piece. Nonetheless, the entire surface was carefully cleaned by hand, cracks and abrasions were infilled, and the surface was varnished by ConservArt Associates in Culver City, CA.”

Claus says it is possible to see the differences between the final painting and the one in the film primarily in the top silhouette angle of the hull, as well as in the bridge and nacelles. “I’ve had hopes that one of the later restorations of the film would include the adjusted painting, but so far no luck,” Claus adds.

Get bonus VFX material by becoming a befores & afters Patreon member